Google tonight rolled out a redesigned version of Android Market with an aim to close gaps between its store and Apple's. The update goes beyond showing related apps and now has a carousel on the home screen that better shows highlighted apps. The app pages themselves are also much more streamlined and now show all the information on a single page with the promised content ratings to warn parents of sensitive content.
Gaming is another equal focus and should reduce common complaints about the variety of Android phones. Developers can now target specific screen resolutions and even pixel densities to make sure that only users capable of running an app properly will see it. They can also target OpenGL texture compression formats to support only those phones that can handle a certain minimum texture quality. The limit on APK installers is being bumped up to 50MB to allow for more of the texture detail itself.
Categorization should be handled more effectively and will not only include more categories but cross-posted apps. Those apps with live wallpapers or widgets attached will automatically show up in the relevant wallpaper and widget categories on their own. Refund window are shrinking, however, and will only be allowed within the first 15 minutes after buying an app, Google said.
The updates apply to any Android phone using 1.6 or higher, which should cover nearly every Android user.
All of the steps appear aimed to close gaps with the iOS App Store, which has so far had a relative edge through much heavier promotion of apps and a heavy focus on gaming that divides it into sub-genres. Android Market until lately promoted almost solely based on the date of an app's arrival and made it difficult to learn full details of an app before buying. Game developers have also noted that they often have wildly varying feature and performance expectations between devices, forcing them to either target a broad audience or issue their own warnings about what phones won't work. Some games have had to reduce their art assets to fit the earlier cap.
Google's store is the second largest, at over 100,000 apps, but is still well behind the more than 300,000 of Apple. The search firm is likely to be expanding Android Market's reach not just to sustain the platform's sustained rapid growth but to prepare the way for the first Android 3.0 tablets.