Earlier today we got an introduction to Google’s upcoming Android OS, codenamed “Honeycomb”, and got to see a lot of pretty, new user-experience elements specifically designed to take advantage of the larger real-estate found on tablets. How these elements may (or may not) apply to smartphones went unanswered — the mere mention of “phones” was conspicuously absent at the event.
Only briefly mentioned was the fact that Honeycomb is Android, and as such, it’s not that much different from other versions that we’re already familiar with. Applications that work for current versions of Android (Froyo and Gingerbread) should work just fine on Honeycomb. Additionally, the method for finding, buying, and installing apps is identical between the two. The Android Market will undoubtedly get a face-lift to look better on larger-screened devices, but it will be the same Market.
The Market has always been a weak-spot for Google. Finding apps has been ironically difficult in the current Market, and today’s announcement should help fix all that. As of today the Android Market is available online, viewable in a desktop browser at http://market.android.com.
The online version of the Market takes advantage of the new images that app developers have been asked to submit, and can showcase more than just screenshots. Developers were also asked to submit YouTube videos of their apps, now people looking for apps have access to those videos. Finding apps is now easier thanks to improved filtering and sorting.
Being a web app means the new Market can take advantage of sharing app links on Twitter. Those reading your recommendation in Twitter on their desktop computer will be linked over to the desktop version of the Market, whereas those clicking through on their Android-powered device will be directed to the Market app.
Leveraging Android “intents”, apps that you select are pushed to your Android, over-the-air. If you have more than one Android you can even direct the installation to a specific device.
Also announced (though not currently available) are in-app purchases via a new SDK. Examples and code will be available shortly. If the user-interface doesn’t change between what we saw today and when the feature is finally released I can see some confusion by end-users as the UI to make an in-app purchase is the same as making a purchase through the Market app itself. It also appears that in-app purchases are non-refundable.
All said, the Market changes announced today are long overdue, but go well beyond what any of us expected. How do you like the new Market website? Let us know in the comments below!