Verizon officially unveiled details about the upcoming Droid. The iDon't ad campaign pits the Android-based Droid head-to-head against the formidable iPhone. Based on preliminary predictions the Droid could be a real iPhone contender, but the ultimate success of Droid could be hampered by Android Market.
On paper, the Droid is more than impressive. It boasts a fast processor, a large display with almost double the resolution of the iPhone, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It packs a 5 megapixel camera with flash and zoom, and a GPS into a slick, attractive package that is certainly comparable to the iPhone in terms of aesthetics.
Droid is built on Google's open source Android mobile operating system. Droid is also the first device that will be available with the newest version--Android 2.0 (also referred to as 'Eclair'). The Android operating system is the secret weapon of the Droid, but the Android Market may be the Droid's Achilles heel.
The Apple App Store has been a source of controversy for Apple, but it is also a huge source of revenue and it is one of the many benefits of being an iPhone (or iPod Touch) user. The Apple App Store has more than 100,000 apps, while the Android Market has about ten percent of that.
Quality is better than quantity though, so even 10,000 apps seems like a reasonable number to get things started. But, there is a sort of critical mass of apps that equals 'enough' and the Android Market doesn't feel like its there yet.
Google made substantial improvements to Android Market with the SDK 1.6 (a.k.a. 'Donut') release of Android a few months back. Donut added the ability for developers to include screenshots and descriptions for their applications, and changed the Android Market so users can browse by most recent addition or featured apps, the top paid apps, and the top free apps.
There is still significant room for improvement though. What if I want an app that will convert between various currencies? Should I look under new apps, paid apps, or free apps? The answer is 'none of the above' and 'all of the above' and underscores some glaring issues with the Android Market.
To be fair, the Android Market experience is different from an Android handset than it is on the Android Market web site. But, users should be able to view all of the apps together (in addition to the three views available now), and Android Market needs a search function (Google does search for a living so that shouldn't be a problem). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Android Market needs to categorize the apps and enable users to browse by type of app such as games, productivity, etc.
The issues with Android Market don't just impact the Verizon Droid either. There is an explosion of Android-based mobile devices launching including the Motorola Cliq and the Samsung Behold II. With so many capable devices coming out, Google should make it a priority to optimize the Android Market experience (on the Web as well as the handsets) and the open source developer community should embrace Android and start cranking out apps for the platform.
Still, for being the new kid on the block Android has made some pretty impressive progress. The Android Market may not be the Apple App Store, but it still seems more functional and intuitive than competing app stores like Blackberry App World, or the Palm apps site (although those app stores at least categorize the apps).
The Android invasion has begun and the Android operating system is quickly capturing smart phone market share. It remains to be seen if the Droid, or any other Android-based device, can actually be an iPhone killer, but one thing that will be critical to the success of Android-based smart phones is a robust and diverse collection of apps in Android Market.
At least Android Market has a fart app- that is a sure sign that things are on the right track.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com .