Google has unveiled a new UI for the Android Market that is set to roll out to Android 2.2+ phones over the next couple weeks. The UI changes are designed to make it easier to find new apps, movies and books, as well as to bring some of the features of the Android Market Web Store to phones.
The Market UI overhaul will bring a new homescreen with easy access to apps, games, movies, and books. When you begin to drill down, you’ll find the usual Categories, Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, and Just In lists that we’ve come to expect, but you’ll also find easy access to an Editor’s Choice list and Staff Picks.
The new UI also highlights Google’s video and books stores, so you can rent video or buy books much easier. Google has also said that they have completely rebuilt the Market app, so the entire experience should be faster and more intuitive than before.
An interesting note that Google casually tossed into the preview video for the new Market is that Google is claiming their bookstore has the “largest collection of digital books” on your phone. Google is still claiming over 3 million books in their store, compared to just under 1 million in the Kindle store.
The Android Market update should automatically be pushed to your device (assuming you’re running Android 2.2+) over the next couple weeks.
The app refund policies of application stores might not differ much around the world, but Taiwan’s capital city Taipei is on its way to set the precedent as it fined Google nearly $35,000 (TW $1,000,000) after the search giant refused to grant a seven-day trial period for paid apps in the country. Taiwan has a strict consumer protection law granting users a 7-day trial for the purchase of goods on the Internet. But it’s not just Google which was asked to change its policy – Apple has reportedly already changed its refund policy for the region.
Currently, users of Google’s Android Market agree to terms of service limiting them to only 15 minutes to decide whether they will use the app or prefer to get a refund. “Google refused to change its rules,” city government’s head of consumer protection Betty Chen stressed. The company responded brusquely by suspending all sales of paid apps to customers in Taiwan, the city government’s official noted. And while the $35,000 fine doesn’t seem like a giant sum for the search behemoth, it sets a precedent, which could repeat itself in other countries. Google hasn’t issued an official response, but is planning on sending US officials to Taiwan. Another, similar fine might follow if the company doesn’t change its policy by July 1st.
Always looking to improve the usability of reviews in the Android Market, Google has added a box that breaks down the ratings an app receives from users. The new statistics reveal the number of users who gave an app a certain number of stars, ranging from 1 to 5. This way, you can read beyond the overall average number of stars received by a certain app to know the true feelings of those who have installed the software on their phone.
The new statistics, found under the screenshot of the app, would seem to be useful for those apps that have not received much feedback and where a few well-placed stars could change the average score. Besides, the average score doesn’t reveal what people are thinking above or below that average. Knowing how many users have ranked an app 1-star or 5-stars could make the difference in whether or not you decide to install it. Of course, you can quickly uninstall something that you don’t like and get a refund, but you will have wasted the one thing in this world that no one gets a refund on…time.
Google is finally rolling out a long-awaited feature that will make developers grin with delight – the ability to access paid apps from Android Market in 99 additional countries now. We only had 14 countries with paid apps so far, so with 113 in total Google will have covered almost any place where debit or credit cards are issued, because, well, that’s how you pay for apps.
A number of people are reporting that paid apps are appearing in Android Market on their phones, priced in local currency, and they bought them using local debit or credit cards, despite that the feature is not supposed to be completely rolled until next week. Before that Android users in these countries were forced to download the goods as .apk files from dark and shady places, if they wanted to have this or that one on their phones.
Furthermore, Android Market is now addressing its app curation issues, by listing Top Paid, Top Free, Editor’s picks, Top Grossing apps and so on. With more than 250 000 applications, it had become an issue finding what’s relevant for you on Android Market, and we are glad to see that Google is charging hard to resolving these problems.
Google’s Android OS has quickly matched the seemingly unbeatable iOS. But their one shortcoming has been the lack of music and movie support in the Android Market, to match the established and polished iTunes storefront.
But Android users are one step closer, now that Google has announced a movie rental service through the Android Market. Rentals begin at US$1.99, but new releases appear to be $3.99 each.
In addition to streaming the films, you can also “pin” them, meaning that you can temporarily save them to your device for offline viewing. While it’s still no iTunes, the Android Movie Market appears to have a wealth of new releases and old favorites.
But the question remains: Are you really interested in renting movies for your mobile device? Obviously, tablet-owners will get greater enjoyment, but they make up a relatively small segment of the total Android population. So perhaps Google is just planning ahead for when their tablet market share grows.
The only way to share your smartphone’s internet connection with another device, a laptop for example, is to sign up for a tethering service with your carrier and get the feature enabled. Or is it? Some of you may be aware that applications, which allow internet sharing without opting in for an additional subscription, do exist and can spare you from that extra fee. Needless to say, carriers are not too happy about that and have now taken measures against unauthorized tethering.
It seems like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have started blocking wireless tethering applications from the Android Market in an effort to prevent users from sharing their internet wirelessly without paying for that. There is no word whether Sprint will follow their steps soon or not, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the carrier springs into action as well. The very existence of such apps is nothing out of the ordinary since subscribers can be charged anything from $10 to $45 monthly for the premium service. On the other hand, some third-party tethering applications come for free and their only major drawback is that they require a rooted device in order to run.
So, what do you think about carriers implying restrictions on unauthorized wireless tethering? Don’t you think that when subscribers pay for data, they should be able to use it in any way they please? Feel free to let us know in the comments.
Some people would rather deal with one direct party rather than an indirect one when it comes down to buying things, but lucky for Sprint customers, they’ll soon be able to simply charge their accounts for any Android Market purchases.
Following after T-Mobile and AT&T respectively, Sprint is now the next in line to make available to its customers the ability to charge purchases made through the Android Market, directly to their Sprint account. Although it has been rolled out in various stages since April 7th, it should eventually become an option to everyone by tomorrow, April 14th. Interestingly, Corporate Liable customers are automatically opted out from taking part in this new offering, but they can simply reverse it by calling up Sprint customer care or by opting in through their web site.
Naturally, it makes the app purchasing experience a little bit more streamlined – especially when you only have to deal with Sprint. However, you’ll still need to contact either Google, or the 3rd party provider associated with your purchase, for all refunds.
Sony Ericsson officially becomes the first cell phone manufacturer to launch its own app channel in Android Market. It is a carrier-dependent feature, from what we understand, so not everywhere the My Apps option will be replaced by the Sony Ericsson channel, but it should have started rolling out as we speak. My Apps is still there, you just have to hit the menu button to access it, as it seems.
The idea is to group all apps that are specifically designed for the company’s handsets, under one roof. We bet this is a precursor to offering phone-specific apps too (nudge, wink, Sony Ericsson Xperia Play), like exclusive titles for the only Android handset with a dedicated game controller. As per Sony Ericsson, its own Android Market channel will:
” – Provide recommendations to help you find the best games & apps that enhance your Sony Ericsson ‘most entertaining’ experience. – Provide a way to easily find original apps from Sony Ericsson such as Timescape plugins etc. – From time to time offer exclusive games & apps only available in this channel. – Help our developer partners promote their apps & games giving them a highlighted market space to our consumers.”
We are already marking a trend here, with phone and chipset manufacturers, as well as other entities, creating their own tidy little universes inside the ragtag Cosmos of Android Market, all in the name of product differentiation.
We originally told you that the new Angry Birds Rio game was to be an exclusive available for Android only through Amazon’s new application store. But a look at the Angry Birds Facebook page revealed a caption that made it clear that Angry Birds Rio will be available in the Android Market later this week.
There is a major difference between the version of the game on Amazon and the one in the Android Market. It would appear that the caption is telling us that Amazon will retain the exclusive rights to the ad free version of Angry Birds Rio while the Android Market version will be supported by ads.
The caption notes that the Amazon version of the game is free for a limited time, so you can download the game for free from both markets. But once that limited time expires, those who want an ad-free version of the game will have to pay Amazon while those who would rather sit through an advertisement instead of paying for the game can do so through the Android Market.
Despite the seeming predominance of touchscreen-only devices, there are many among us that just love the clamshell form factor. But, unfortunately, smartphone makers don’t perceive a sufficient fanbase to warrant clamshell devices in all markets. And RIM’s BlackBerry Style 9670 and Pearl Flip 8230 aren’t right for everyone.
But leave it to China to get the device we’re yearning for. Sharp has released the SH7218U, known as the SH-01B in Japan, which is a surprisingly powerful Android 2.2 clamshell. It is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7227 600MHz processor, and features 512MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM, a microSD slot, and Wi-Fi.
The SH7218U also features a 3.4-inch 480×854 pixel ASV touchscreen that swivels around to lay screen-side-up. And the front screen is a 1.4-inch 192×64 pixel OLED display for caller ID and phone status. But the real gem of the device is an 8-megapixel camera with an image stabilizer and LED flash.
Sadly, given the unique form factor, the Android Market and Google Mobile Apps aren’t yet supported on this device, but there are a number of custom apps targeted to the Chinese market. It is available in China for 3000 Yuan, or US$457.