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Android Market on the Web

By Paul O’Reilly

Google this week finally launched an official web site for its rapidly expanding Android Market. I say “finally” because one of the biggest complaints from Android users has been their inability to search and review the tens of thousands of apps that are now available. Instead, they have been forced to use the limited search options on their phone, or go to a third-party site like Android Apps or AppBrain.

Compare that with the experience of iPhone owners, who can hop online to visit Apple’s shiny App Store and enjoy the synchronized simplicity of iTunes.

In keeping with the open nature of the Android platform – and in contrast to the App Store – the web-based Android Market doesn’t require you to log-in before you begin browsing the apps. You can search by category, check out the featured apps, and scroll through the Top Paid and Top Free lists.

Click on any individual app and you will get a detailed description, screenshots, a video clip, customer ratings and reviews, and a list of other apps from the same developer.

If you decide you want to install an app, you can do it right there from the screen. First, you will need to log-in using the same Google username and password that you use to sync your phone and any other Android devices. When you click on Install, it will allow you to choose which devices you want to install the app on, and give you a list of permissions that the app uses (network access, location, etc.)

Once you click Install again to confirm, the app will be downloaded to your Android phone or tablet. You don’t have to connect the device or even turn it on. Everything will be synced wirelessly.

The web-based Android Market also has a My Market Account feature, which lists all the app downloads for each of your Android devices. Each app is listed by download date, category (shopping, sports, games, etc.), and the price you paid. In my case, it even listed the app downloads for my Droid Incredible before I had to re-set the device to its factory settings late last summer.

There are still a few things that the web-based Android Market won’t let you do; for example, you can’t uninstall an app or create custom lists. But it’s a well-organized and easy-to-use addition to the world of Android apps, and a huge step-up for Google as it continues to battle Apple with a series of highly-competitive mobile devices.

Follow Paul on Twitter @TheTechDad

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