(WIRED) -- Android's explosive growth over the past three years has been a double-edged sword for its apps. On the plus side, there are more of them than ever. On the negative side, there are more of them than ever.
Google on Wednesday announced a slew of updates aimed at improving customers' ability to find and buy apps in the Android Market, as well as developers' ability to sell them.
"The biggest problem we have in the Market is discovery," said Michael Novak, Android engineer for Groupme.com, in an interview. "Google has definitely heard the complaints from people like me, and these new features being rolled out are proof."
Navigability issues have plagued Google's app-shopping system on the customer end, making it hard for people to find the apps they want, or even to realize that there are apps they might be interested in. For their part, developers have complained that it's easier to make money in Apple's App Store than it is in the Android Market.
For customers, finding the most popular apps may get easier with one of the many new lists Google has added, each detailing the top performing apps in specific categories.
The Twitter-esque top "Trending" list, for example, highlights the most-downloaded apps over the past seven days. If an app continues to be among the highest-downloaded over that seven-day period, it will move into either the "Top Paid" or "Top Free" lists, which cover popularity over a 30-day period.
Google's addition of the "also viewed" and "also installed" lists add an interesting social component to the market. It's almost taste-making through app downloads -- if you like a particular application you've installed, you can browse a number of applications also installed by others who installed your particularly enjoyable app.
And while these new list additions make it easier for customers to search for new apps to download, it's also better for app developers who want their apps to be showcased more prominently on the Market. More lists across more categories means more opportunities for a developer's app to be seen by customers. And that means more opportunities to get paid.
Some think progressions like these are long overdue.
"These are features that Apple has had for years," said industry analyst Michael Gartenberg. "These sorts of features are table stakes at this point in the game."
Indeed, Google's Android Market web store, a version of the store that's accessible through your computer's browser, first debuted in February. In contrast, iPhone users have been able to access the App Store by web browser since February 2010.
As Google tackles these problems, the market's patronage continues to expand. Although historically the Android Market's customer base has been focused on the United States and a handful of other countries, Google's "Android developer ecosystem manager" Eric Chu says it's important to pay attention to the burgeoning international market.
Over 60% of the 400,000-plus daily Android device activations are now coming from outside the United States, according to Chu.
Google wants take advantage of this growing international market. Next week, says Chu, Android developers will be able to accept payment from 131 different countries across multiple currencies.
In direct contrast to Apple, however, Google's app store has typically been lauded by open source enthusiasts for its lack of vetting process in accepting apps from developers. Submitting an app to Apple's App Store requires direct approval from the company before the app can be sold to the public. Google's process is more open.
This week has brought a host of different additions and expansions for the Android Market. On Tuesday, Google announced a movie-rental service addition to the market, which allows you to wirelessly stream films to your Android smartphone or tablet devices for a period of up to 24 hours after first renting the film. The current selection ranges in the thousands, with prices starting at $2 for older films and $4 for more-recent releases.
Google TV will receive access to the Android Market for the first time this summer, which may help the ailing television platform garner a larger following. Developers will also receive a Honeycomb 3.1--based software developer kit to begin building Google TV--specific apps at some point in the coming months.
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