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Why Android needed a client (and why Froyo gives us the next best thing)

If you were like me, you were an Android user who found his/her apps through a multitude of different ways. Whether it was scanning QR codes from this very blog, looking through AppBrain or stumbling upon developers’ sites, you got your apps, you installed them and you enjoyed.

And thank heavens Google changed it.

This week, Google took the chance to introduce us to version 2.2 of its operating system, which brings a richer, healthier marketplace with it. When it comes out for the Droid, we’ll be able to wirelessly sync apps, provide detailed crash reports and ratings to developers and a utilize a robust web API that will let Google Chrome push web content from our big screens to our mobile ones.

However, going into Google I/O, the Android marketplace had seen better days. Though it had just been updated (again) by the boys in Mountain View, the online website was still very much lacking. Users still couldn’t view apps outside of “top free”, “top paid” and “featured” categories, couldn’t sync your phone with a list of apps and the community aspects (such as developer feedback) were non-existent.

I’ll mention community in the loosest sense of the word. It’s ironic that Android users complain about the operating system’s fragmentation while the ecosystem of users shares the same problem. At the moment, on a non-Froyo phone, one can find apps on a number of different sites (AppBrain, ATrackDog, AppAware, DoubleTwist, etc): each one has its own independent ranking and rating system.

Let’s put forth a hypothetical situation: say you’re a developer that’s still ironing out the bugs on his/her application. Users are downloading it through multiple sites and scoring/commenting it appropriately. Doesn’t it seem a bit inefficient to have to keep tabs on multiple sets of comments and statistics? Does a four-and-a-half star rating on one site and a two on another mean your app is crap?

Wouldn’t it just be easier to take comments and bug reports on your own (most often Google Code) developer’s page? Oh wait – not every user is going to know how to do that. They’re going to download it, comment “doesn’t work”, give it a 1 star rating and uninstall it. Very helpful.

A desktop client (or consolidated marketplace, like Google has given us) would give developers an opportunity to interact with their userbase on a more direct basis while providing support in the form of updates or patches. Thankfully, Froyo will bring both the ability to automatically update individual apps, or all of them at once with an Update All button.

And update we shall, considering we now have full access to the store via a web browser. While it’s nice to check out apps from your phone screen, something about it is a little constricting. You can’t view descriptions at a glance, which makes browsing (without necessarily downloading) applications a bit of a chore.

With the new revision of the marketplace, you can look at reviews and sync apps with your phone via a Chrome extension. The extension will push apps (along with browser pages) to your phone, allowing you to download, USB cable free. This is especially handy when you might be stuck somewhere without access to that almighty cable.

(Interestingly enough to note, one could technically make the closest thing to an Android client using Chrome’s “Create Application Shortcuts” feature. Making the Marketplace a stand-alone window (complete with extensions) would allow anyone to find it easily on the desktop without having to sift through bookmarks.)

This is extremely important because it makes Android, in the words of the competition, just work. It simplifies Android features that have the potential to be tricky for people who don’t have the patience to figure out their own problems.

Many still see Android as largely a “nerd” phone – those of you who take the time to modify your phones to your liking appreciate the freedom. The same users competent enough to root/mod their phones surely know how to grab photos off their phone with relative ease, even if your computer doesn’t recognize the device it the first couple times you plug it in.

However, asking my parents (both in their 40’s) to attempt to do this might yield different results. Even my more technologically-competent sister would have trouble finding her way around Motorola’s web interface on my Milestone; where I might tinker for a couple hours (or Google my problem), they might simply just return their phone to the store.

This is not something Android needs if it wishes to grow past a niche market. It needs to just work.

Froyo’s consolidated marketplace is a step in the right direction for Google. While it isn’t a fully featured, syncing client (a la iTunes), it does the next best thing: it gives us the unity we need to move forward and the user-friendliness that will keep Android’s momentum strong, especially with iPhone 4.0 on the horizon.

  • RV

    Hi Everyone, I'm a new Droid owner and still in the process of learning all it's functionality. What can any one tell me about the Font Size issue. There are plenty of comments / blogs regarding the inability to increase the font size. Although my last smart phone Blackberry Storm was a joke, it did allow me to increase the font size.

    Does any one know or heard if this issue will ever be resolved.

    I have a heck of a time reading Gmail. IM's I can handle with a recent download of Handcent. I still have 25 days to decide if I'm keeping the Droid. If I drop it, it would be because of the Font issue.

    Any suggestions?

  • RV

    Hi Everyone, I'm a new Droid owner and still in the process of learning all it's functionality. What can any one tell me about the Font Size issue. There are plenty of comments / blogs regarding the inability to increase the font size. Although my last smart phone Blackberry Storm was a joke, it did allow me to increase the font size.

    Does any one know or heard if this issue will ever be resolved.

    I have a heck of a time reading Gmail. IM's I can handle with a recent download of Handcent. I still have 25 days to decide if I'm keeping the Droid. If I drop it, it would be because of the Font issue.

    Any suggestions?

  • Bruce

    dont know if this is the right room but can anyone tell me about having a phone contact (INCOMING) will roll to voice mail…..or if there is an app that can do this….the stock option (contacts) is not working.

  • Atrain

    I loved the key note but i wonder what Verizon will do about the tethering and WiFi hot spot…. I think that the smartest thing to do is watch what the other carriers are doing and decide that way… Hopefully we will get to keep it :)

  • Justin

    Video aside, anyone get the urge to go and get some frozen yogurt?

  • kealapono

    what web site are you talking about?

  • http://twitter.com/Josefism Josef Cook

    OK. So Froyo is bringing “a robust web API that will let Google Chrome push web content from our big screens to our mobile ones”. But what about the opposite?

    I want to be able to throw a webpage from my phone's browser to my desktop. Or long-press a link on the phone and select “Send target to desktop”. When is that feature coming? (Or does it already exist in some app that I'm unaware of?)

  • http://thisisjohncoffey.com GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    Punch Vic in the face? Why? He's doing so much for us all. I'd much rather shake his hand than sock him in the face.

    {{-_-}}

  • Krc

    The feature that allows the wireless syncing of apps isn't even available for Nexus One users with Froyo, right? I mean, I can't wait for this feature to hit the Droid, but isn't this not supposed to come out until like Gingerbread or something?

    • nerdrow
      • Krc

        Nah, I meant wireless syncing of apps from the Market to the phone. I saw the Chrome to Phone thing. I thought Chrome to Phone just pushed web pages and maps to the phone. The reason I'm confused, and thought that Chrome to Phone isn't what we need, is because there is still no way to browse applications for the market on the web that I'm aware of just yet.

  • http://jeffcoons.info/ Jeff Coons

    Great post. I would love to see more stuff like this on DL.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Glad to oblige, good sir.

  • StephanC

    On my droid, i get o

  • boostfreak

    … he is using an apple??? hahaha way to go google FAIL

    • mo

      And whats wrong with using a mac?

      I can understand the two companies being competetive, but ive never gotten the
      apple bashing i see from this website.

      Android has always reminded me of apples os, even the apple drawer is a direct copy of a feature in apples os 9(tabbed folders)

      • Mrpicolas

        I think Steve jobs may have a job for ya as an email respondant LOL..
        Jk: -)

      • Octotron

        This site is not about apple… Now do you get it?

        Also, everything Apple has done is a direct copy of Xerox. (GUI)

        So what?

    • BA_Carroll

      FAIL? Why? Because Google has their own laptop out?

  • Mrpicolas

    Push appsand media does it for me if I am away and my wife uploads pics of the kids she can push them to my phone and it will automatically open showing me them no fb or twitter to deal with

  • Chris

    Am I alone in wanting to punch this guy in the face?

    • rals

      Why?

      • boostfreak

        i think he means the video guy

        • jstell

          Yes. He is talking about the guy in the video. The video guy's douchebaggery knows no bounds.

    • Mrpicolas

      Who me?

    • http://www.myspace.com/abrielband Tim-o-tato

      I dont know man. If you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all.
      This shows your lack of appreciation for a site like this by posting such an immature comment.
      Maybe you should take the day off :-/

      • Doolidg

        He spoke what was on his mind….nothing wrong with that…we all have an opinion..
        In my opinion you just attacked him, calling him immature, and telling him he has no appreciation for this site..WTF? Take your own advice there buddy….
        Who put you in charge? I hate this guys reviews too, now what?

        • http://www.myspace.com/abrielband Tim-o-tato

          You're totally right. I keep forgetting I'm in America now lol
          Maybe if his comment was more detailed as to why he wants to punch him in the face
          that would have made it more acceptable :-P

          Either way, I'm not defending this guys review (if that's what it was), I was just hoping for more constructive criticism from the guy. I'm sure you know what I mean.
          Good day

          • Doolidg

            ??

        • Octotron

          Children… learn to play nice or you are going to get put in time out :)

          • Doolidg

            Lol.. Ok…ok…white flag

      • Chris

        Tim,

        I was referring to the guy in the video…not this site. He just struck the wrong chord in me….he seemed fake, over-exaggerated and just annoying. He was NOT selling me on FroYo, rather he was aggravating me to the point of turning off the video.

        • http://www.myspace.com/abrielband Tim-o-tato

          Ooooooooooooooooooooo, gotcha. Well then ya, I'm sure you're not alone.
          I thought you were going after Matt…my bad.

        • Doolidg

          And hes always like that….kinda creepy

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I was hurt there, for a second.

          • http://twitter.com/Heynewgirl Katherine

            Gasp, I hope you don't think your parents are old, and the most 40yr olds are not technically inclined. You gave me a heart attack. I know there was a poll before on how many female users viewed this site. Maybe we should do one again and one with age groups that would be interesting

          • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

            Not trying to generalize, or call anyone old :P. Was just going by examples around me.

    • jstell

      If you're referring to the guy in video (Vic Gondotra)? Then, NO, you are not alone in wanting to punch him in the face. I love my DROID and what Google is doing with their mobile OS, but he does come across as having a superiority-complex and being extremely arrogant throughout the video. Vic is kind of like our very own Steve Jobs (Although Jobs is an even bigger arrogant-douchebag, if that's even possible ;-)

      Just my opinion after watching many Google I/O and Apple WWDC Youtube videos with keynote speeches.

      • Chris

        Yes, exactly!! Vic Gondotra….def a superiority complex and just an awkward public speaker. I almost don't want to buy google now because of him as their rep.