Android users have been clamoring for an official online Android Market solution for ages, and today, El Goog finally delivered with the Android Market Web Store. Once the issues with the "Sign in" button (clicking it returned an 'Invalid Request' error) were fixed, we didn't think twice about delving in and giving it an in-depth look. Read on for our first impressions!
The front page of market.android.com (aka the Android Market Web Store) is simple, clean, and sexy - just the way we like it. Across the very top, there are links to other Google services (i.e. Gmail, Calendar, Docs, etc.), as well as links to "My Market Account" (more on that below), "My Account," and "Sign out." Below that is the good old Android Market logo and a Search box. Below that, you'll find an iTunes-esque scrolling list of apps.
And that's just the top portion of the page; the right part of the body contains featured apps as well as current best sellers, while the leftmost section includes a list of categories.
One interesting and cool feature is that by clicking on the button under an app's icon, you can buy/install it (more on installation later) without ever leaving the front page. It sounds trivial, but it's actually a quick and convenient way to install an app.
Managing Your Market Account
So what happens if you click the aforementioned "My Market Account" link? You're taken to the following page:
Yep, those are all the apps you've downloaded on all the Android devices you've ever owned. You can also see the date you downloaded the applications as well as their categories, prices, and statuses (i.e. whether they have completed downloading, been refunded, etc).
When you click on the "Settings" tab at the top of the screen, you're taken to a complete list of all the Android devices that have ever accessed the Market via your Google account. You can then change their names and make them invisible in menus (i.e. when you're downloading an app and are asked to select a device to install it on). Pretty nifty, no?
Apps' pages also look great, especially if the developer has created a rectangular thumbnail for his/her application (see the first screenshot for an example of how it's done, or the second picture for an example of what happens when no rectangular thumb is available). Below the app's icon, rating, "Install" button, and rectangular thumbnail, you'll find:
A list of related apps
A list of other apps from the developer
A description of the app
Any videos that might be available
A list of recent updates and what they added
A list of features the app accesses (aka the permissions it needs)
And one more thing: when an app has more than 250,000 downloads, its page now lists the exact number of downloads rather than ">250,000" - a nice touch.
Obviously, clicking the "Install" button allows you to... well, install the app. The process is essentially the same whether you initiate it from the front page of the Web Store or directly from an app's page - you select which device you want to install the application on via a drop-down menu before proceeding to push it to your device by clicking "Install." And bam - it's done, unless, of course, your device takes half an hour or more to install the app, an error both Artem and I encountered (though only occasionally).
It's easy enough to search the Web Store - as should be expected from a search-oriented company - simply type the name of an app into the Search box and select one of the results. If you want tighter control, click the "Search Options" button to sort results by relevance/popularity or to add a price/device compatibility filter.
At the end of the day, the Android Market Web Store is another great way to browse the Market on your computer - and given the fact that Google is behind it, it's almost guaranteed to be the solution most users will end up choosing. And that's not necessarily a bad thing - its UI is dead simple, it's speedy, and it offers a foolproof way to wirelessly push apps from your computer to your phone. I don't know about you, but that's good enough for me.