While the T-Mobile G1 is being touted by some as the iPhone killer, the major consensus at this early stage is that, design-wise, Apple still reigns supreme as the clunky Google handset fails to cut the mustard. So what will give the Android platform an edge?
Perhaps Google’s version of Apple’s App Store for the iPhone, which allows users to download and install third-party applications on their handset, will be the deciding factor. The key difference between Android Market and the App Store is wiggle room for developers.
“We chose the term ‘market’ rather than ‘store’ because we feel developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available,” said Eric Chu, Google’s mobile platform programme manager, on the official Android Developer’s Blog.
“Similar to YouTube, content can debut in the marketplace after only three simple steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe your content and publish it.”
In other words, Android Market is a free market. In contrast, Apple reserves the right to reject applications based on certain criteria – the problem is, these criteria are not exactly defined, but it is clear that anything duplicating existing functionality on the iPhone will not be accepted.
A recent case where developer Almerica’s Podcaster app http://www.nextdayoff.com/ was rejected received much media attention because it in fact was disqualified for duplicating functionality with Apple iTunes for the desktop, rather than the handset, which has no built-in service to download and play podcasts.
Another was the Twitterific messaging service, which was rejected due to it having a certain amount of browser functionality thought to overlap with Safari.
There is no doubt that the App Store is highly successful with 10 million applications downloaded over its first weekend of trading, but perhaps third-party developers will see more benefits to the freedom allowed in Google’s model.
The questions are: does a vast quantity of applications at the fingertips of Android users necessarily mean quality, and will the YouTube-like vetting system stop useless, faulty or just plain bad applications from clogging up the marketplace?
By Marie Boran
Pictured:a screenshot of Android Market for the T-Mobile G1