March 18, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
A T-Mobile executive says the 2,300-app-strong Android Market needs to diminish unwanted content. Though apps in the Android Market are ranked according to popularity and organized into categories, T-Mobile CTO Cole Broadman says, “Users have a hard time searching through that long tail.”
Broadman wants a way to filter-out uninteresting apps, and so do his customers. The Market is not nearly as chaotic or bloated as the iPhone App Store, but that’s because of youth. The App Store got crazy because too many apps perform similar functions or functions that no one really wants. Android’s continued growth could potentially produce similar problems, so it would be beneficial to improve the Market now.
That got me thinking: exactly what can be done to improve the Market?
1. Googlize the search function
Google is a company built on a great search. Android Market? Not so much. Searching for “Chomp SMS” yields no results, but “ChompSMS” (with no spaces) will locate the popular texting app. Google.com search is able to recognize the intention of misspelled words and the Market should be able to do it as well.
2. Add tag support
Categories work well for browsing apps but they can be a little broad at times. If I want a note-taking app beside the most popular AK Notepad, I can’t narrow browsing to just note-takers. I have to go to “Productivity” and filter through to do lists, calculators, and file managers. It would be great if users could browse or search for common tags within categories like “Notes” or “To Do Lists.” This works for blogs, so why not the Market?
3. Tweak popularity system, recommend similar apps
I don’t know what magical algorithm the Market uses to determine what’s most popular. Whatever it is, I hope it can be tweaked. A decent app can earn a bad reputation because users don’t understand the functions or trivial reasons about what they expect. Then there’s the case of highly-ranked apps like Caller ID Lite, which has only 2 and 1/2 stars, that are among the most popular because of a high number of downloads. It would be good to replicate the recommendation system that online retailers use. Amazon tells me people who buy a T-Mobile G1 also buy microSD cards. I wouldn’t mind ShopSavvy recommending a SnapTell download.
4. Create new category/browsing mode for “accessory” apps
We all love those apps within apps – themes, widgets, and complementary features that add on to a main app. There isn’t as much love for the way these apps crowd the market. Anyone who doesn’t use aHome doesn’t need to see the dozens of aHome themes available. It would make sense to create a separate category for these accessory apps to have their own space within the Market.
5. Combine “By Popularity” and “By Date” functions
The Market has displayed practically the same apps since I got my G1 last October. While this may be great for new Android users to find the best apps, I really don’t need to be reminded of the virtues of Weather Channel and MySpace Mobile every day. It would be good if there were a “Most Popular This Week” filter. That way I could see which recently uploaded apps are gaining traction in the Market.
Android’s greatest strength lies in the apps that users can add to their phone. I’d love to see these improvements eventually added to make finding those apps easier. Thankfully, T-Mobile recognizes the need to make the Android Market better. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait forever for them or anyone else to make that happen.