If you are reading this post, it's extremely likely that you have an Android device. If you have an Android, it's 100% certain that you want to pluck out your own eyeballs in rage every time you are forced to use the search feature in the Android Market. Even Market alternatives like AppBrain leave a lot to be desired, with sub-optimal search results and a less than beautiful UI. The sad fact that Google, a company that makes most of its revenue from search and ads, can't seem to provide half-decent results is what motivated the folks behind Chomp to get into Android.
Chomp is a market search app, previously available for the iPhone, that made its way to the Android Market today. Unlike AppBrain or its iOS counterpart, the Android version of Chomp forgoes services like app recommendation or social networking and goes straight for relevant search results presented with an eye-pleasing interface.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Chomp co-founder Ben Keighran explains what makes Chomp excel at Market search:
We’ve developed the algorithm that really stands out on Android since search is so bad...It learns the topic and function of every app in the store. And using AI and machine learning, it builds a whole new database of apps.
After giving Chomp a test run, it is clear that if their search algorithm isn't using machine learning or artificial intelligence, at least it's using common sense. As people often don't know the name of the app they are trying to discover, I compared search results for the terms "notes", "contacts", "launcher", and "mail". If you didn't know about K9 or ADW EX, it seems likely you would use a search term for what the app is or does rather than the name. (Qualifier: in Chomp, you scroll sideways to see the rest of the results, so only the first result is visible. I assure you the others were just as relevant as the first.)
Check out the comparisons below:
The most telling result has to be the comparison between Android Market search and Chomp when searching for "mail". The fact that Gmail is the very first result on Chomp while it isn't even on the first page for Market search demonstrates the superiority of Chomp's category-based algorithm.
Clearly, Chomp is leaps and bounds ahead of the Android Market in terms of the relevance of search results. Alongside the results, the combination of attractiveness and functionality of the UI makes this a soon-to-be hit app.
The results page is more than just a list of apps, their star rating and their price. Chomp makes the results page the main page for the app, where you get a screenshot (which you can tap to access all screenshots for that item), a percentage based rating meter, the option to rate the app, a link to read reviews, a preview of the description, links to related categories, the ability to filter results by app type or price and a button to go straight to the app's Market page for a download. This sounds like a lot to take in, but the design makes it easy to process all that information much more quickly than you could scrolling down the app's Market page.
The results page isn't the only place Chomp shines. The home page uses the category based data from its search algorithm to display sample apps from each category. From standard app types like social and entertainment products, to categories like recipe apps and apps on sale, this homepage is a great way to find that app you didn't know you were looking for. You can also expand each category on the home screen to see all the apps tagged with that category. For being as simple as it is, Chomp has clearly had extensive development and testing hours invested into it.
I did manage to find a couple minor quibbles in my time with Chomp. The reviews for apps are limited to one line each, which means if you have a lot to say about an app, or are if you are enthralled by a longer comment from another user, you are going to be cut off mid-sentence. There is also an annoying little notification that pops up whenever you sign in, urging you to review every app you have on your phone. Again, these are really minor issues for a product that actually allows me to search for apps on my phone (without using the browser.)
Overall, I definitely recommend Chomp. It has fantastic search results, a great look, and it's a steal of a deal at the low, low price of... free!
Update: Chomp is currently only available on the Android Market in the U.S.