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Hands-on with the new Android Market app, and where you can get it

It's only been a day since the Android team announced the rollout for the Android Market update, which would bring new app categories, new developer options, and a sleeker interface -- but leave it to the Android community to get ahold of the updated package early.

The APK was posted in a thread at the XDA Developers forum, and was promptly put to the test by dozens of devs and users alike. Before we go any further, please heed this warning: playing with system software like this could result in an unusable market app (or worse), so be sure you know what you're doing before you try, and always back up your phone first!

Users who have not flashed their phones with custom ROMs should be able to install the APK with minimal effort, but there are just as many reports of the app force-closing as there are of it running. Many users have had to reflash their phones with a backup just to get a working Market again. For example, I use CyanogenMod on my phone, so I wasn't able to simply install the APK through the usual means (it simply would not install).

Many other users had the same problem, as running custom ROMs is one of the best things about owning an Android phone, so it wasn't long before somebody repackaged the APK as an "update" ZIP for those users to flash onto their phones instead, using tools like ROM Manager. I did this, using the update file from this post in the above-mentioned thread, and it worked perfectly.

More info and screenshot-gallery after the break.

The first thing you'll notice is the massive green carousel now residing at the top of the Market. It may just be me, but the app also seemed to take a tad bit longer to load than before the update.

The carousel is just as easy on the eyes as was expected, but it also takes up significantly more screen-area than I had previously thought. We're talking about an area roughly one-third the length of a screen in portrait mode, and the entire left half in landscape mode! But bulkiness aside, the app runs quite smoothly with the carousel doing its thing, and flipping through the apps displayed on it is painless.

The next thing you may notice, if you, like me, were especially excited by the prospect of added categories cleaning up the messiest parts of the Market, is that they aren't there yet. The Market client app may be updated, but the app collection itself hasn't been changed yet on Google's end. I expect the new categories to begin showing up sometime soon, as more people begin to get the Market update through the more traditional means.

The menu's also been changed, though I don't really see the point. Where it used to say "Downloads," it now says "My Apps." "Notifications" has been replaced by "Settings," which consists of ...notifications. There are no additional settings. Otherwise the app functions just as it did.

To be honest, the new interface looks a bit like something you'd see on an Xbox, but there's no doubt that it's nicer-looking than its previous versions. Scroll through the images in the gallery below to get a feel for it, and expect the update to hit your phone sometime in the next two weeks if you aren't planning on installing it yourself.

Android Market - Updated (Dec 2010)

Tags: android, android market, AndroidMarket, apk, app market, AppMarket, apps, cellphone, cyanogenmod, google, hands-on