December 12, 2009 | by Ed Clark
Assuming that you pay attention to the notification bar on your Android phone, you’ve seen it. Apps on the Market are being updated constantly, and often the same app will be updated several times in a week. For folks like me with a rooted phone and lots of apps, this is becoming quite a burden. Since I have almost 150 applications on my G1, I regularly see notices like today’s “22 updates available.”
Why don’t I just uninstall a bunch of applications? Well first of all, I paid for them. I admit I have a problem with uninstalling things that I’ve paid for, no matter how rotten they are. Plus, I don’t think that the frustration is limited to folks with rooted phones and huge SD cards. I have a perfect test case in my wife, who has an unrooted phone and only a few things she has downloaded from the Market. The update process has turned her off to the point that she completely ignores update notifications. The only way she gets updates is when I happen to grab her phone and do it for her.
The update process itself is a bit clunky as it connects to the Market, and you can only have two active downloads going at any given time. Then, when the application finally moves from the “downloading” phase to the “installing” phase, the phone becomes unusable for a brief time. Adding to the annoyance is the fact that developer descriptions of what these updates are supposed to accomplish are extremely variable–from very clear to nonexistent.
Two main factors are causing these frequent updates. First and foremost is the release of the Droid, which forced developers to adapt their code that was working in 1.5 and 1.6 versions to incorporate Android 2.0 models. Second is that users are far more demanding than they were in the early days of Android, when a slapped together app with a “home-made” UI was fine. While all of this is a good thing, I am looking forward to a time when updates can be packaged together and downloaded in the background, much like an OS update for Windows or Mac.
It turns out that at least one such a project is in the works: Android-Omnipatcher on the Google code site hopes to be a “universal Android .apk patcher” that can “automatically download and apply patches/fixes for installed apps.” Let’s hope that someone makes it work, and soon. In the meantime I will mentally prepare myself for the next batch of updates.
UPDATE: Richard, the developer of Android-Omnipatcher, says that his application actually has a much narrower focus: “It is a tool for creating and applying user fixes to 3rd party closed source apps. I’ve started working on it cause of my “Google Maps Navigation outside USA fix” – I don’t want to distribute proprietary Google’s code, only fixes and it is what this tool is for.” My apologies to anyone that was misled or had their hopes up. Let me know if you hear of any other new or tools that promise to help fix the Market update madness!!