Android users are about to get a new place to shop.
Verizon Wireless will officially open the doors to its Android V Cast Apps store next week, the carrier has confirmed. The V Cast Apps store will initially launch on the HTC Droid Incredible; a software update will deliver access along with a handful of general improvements to the phone. Other Verizon Android devices will soon follow suit.
So what's Verizon's Android app store really all about, and what'll it mean for you? I spoke with someone from Verizon to get the full scoop.
Verizon's Android App Store and the Android Market
First of all, Verizon's V Cast Apps store won't override Google's main Android Market. The V Cast Apps store will simply be a second option built into devices; Google's Android Market and Verizon's new store will be equally accessible.
"We look at as a complementary store to the other stores that are out there," Verizon Wireless spokesperson Debi Lewis explains.
Verizon actually launched a similar version of its store on BlackBerry phones earlier this year; the configuration on that platform is pretty much the same.
Verizon's Android App Store: The App Selection
Verizon's Android app store will have a few hundred apps to start, I'm told, with heavy growth expected over the months to come. The apps you'll find in Verizon's store may also be available in Google's Android Market; there's nothing preventing developers from offering their programs in both places. It's really up to each individual developer as to what he or she does.
Developers will receive the same 70/30 revenue split from Verizon's V Cast Apps store as they do from Google's Android Market. Verizon does suggest, however, that its store will offer opportunities for "promotion and discoverability" that Google's Market may not provide.
Verizon's Android App Store: The Purchasing Process
A key way in which Verizon's V Cast Apps store will differ from Google's Android Market is in the purchasing process: While the Android Market currently requires you to use Google Checkout for app purchases, Verizon's app store will allow you to have purchases added directly onto your Verizon statement.
With that said, Google appears to preparing to add new payment options into the Android Market, so the comparison may change soon.
Verizon's V Cast Apps store will lack one important purchasing feature that Google's Market provides: In the main Android Market, you can always return an app within 24 hours and receive a full refund of the cost. As of now, Verizon's V Cast Apps store will not offer this option.
Verizon's Android App Store: Beyond the Incredible
Wondering if your Android phone is in line to get access to Verizon's new store? Verizon hasn't compiled any firm list as to which devices will receive it or when, but it sounds like it'll eventually be a fairly standard feature for the carrier's handsets. As of now, Lewis tells me the Droid, Droid X, and Fascinate are all expected to receive store-enabling software updates in the foreseeable future. The Galaxy Tab, meanwhile, will come with the V Cast Apps store preinstalled when it goes on sale later this month.
Verizon's Android App Store: Thoughts and Analysis
All right, those are the facts -- so what's the real deal here? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Ultimately, it all depends on your perspective. Some people, such as the CEO behind a certain competing smartphone platform, have characterized multiple app stores on Android as being a massive disadvantage.
"In addition to Google's own app marketplace, Amazon, Verizon, and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android -- so there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want," Apple's Steve Jobs noted during his company's earnings call in October.
"This is gonna be a mess for both users and developers," he went on to proclaim.
Will it really be a mess, though? As I wrote in a rather impassioned letter to Mr. Jobs last month, "Most markets -- virtual or otherwise -- do allow people to buy products from multiple providers. Choice doesn't lead to chaos." Put into another context, I can buy accessories for my car from the dealer, or I can opt to go to any number of third-party retailers instead. Having options isn't necessarily detrimental.
One final point worth mentioning: Even now, Google's Android Market isn't the exclusive source for Android apps. You can already download and install apps from independent online stores or developers. Android has never been locked down to a single market for applications; what's new with Verizon's effort is really just that it'll come built into devices with the carrier's endorsement.
As for what kind of value it will or won't provide, we'll soon find out.