With yesterday's release
of the Android Market Web Store
, the venerable and superlative AppBrain
finally has some competition. At first glance, the services are very similar -- the logos could be cut from the same mold, and both sites use green-and-grey highlights throughout. Even the layout is basically the same!
When you get right down to it, though, there are some marked differences between them. Don't be so quick to jump on the Android Market Web Store bandwagon -- it might be new and shiny, but AppBrain still has a lot of tricks up its sleeve.
The Android Market Web Store
, with its sharp corners, larger icons and muted-grey aesthetic definitely looks more stylish
. But with the same stroke, due to its minimalism, the Android Market displays a lot less information than AppBrain. With Android Market you only see an icon, a name, the developer, and the price. AppBrain, on the other hand, shows the rating, the number of downloads, a brief description, and whether an app was recently updated.
Basically, Android Market doesn't give you a reason
to click through to an app, which is surely a massive flaw. Are developers going to compete to have the most attractive icon...?
It gets a little better on the app's actual page, but AppBrain
still seems to cram a lot more data and functionality than Android Market
into its pages. Android Market has a Tweet button; AppBrain has Twitter, Facebook, Email and Buzz (yes, Google's own site misses a Buzz button; the irony is delicious). AppBrain has direct access to the developer's website. Most importantly, AppBrain shows reviews of the app or game from all over the Web.
Android Market does have a rather nice tabbed interface -- but to be honest, there's nothing wrong with AppBrain's scroll-down approach either.
It almost feels like Google rushed out an early, bare bones version of Android Market...
Installing direct to your Android device
OK, so here's Android Market's stand-out feature: you can push apps straight onto your Android device from the website. You can also buy apps online using the normal Google Checkout process. It's very slick.
AppBrain, however, has told me that it's working hard to enable push-to-phone on its website. Only free apps will be pushable, though -- to buy apps on your PC, you'll need to use the Google site... at least for now.
And here we have the crowning jewel of AppBrain: while Android Market has direct-push-to-phone, AppBrain has something far more important: app discovery. If you can liken the iOS ecosystem to a fastidiously curated walled garden, the Android Market is the Wild West. Short of sorting by 'most popular' there's almost nothing you can do -- unless you use AppBrain.
AppBrain lets you sort by what's hot today, this week, and for all time. You can even see the most popular apps in the UK
, or amongst older people
. The best bit, though, is that AppBrain provides a 'Recommended for you' list
, which presumably takes your installed apps, your demographics, and algorithmicly swirls them together to produce a personalized list of apps.
Finally, to leverage the social graph, AppBrain even lets you connect with Facebook, Twitter and Google
to see what apps your friends have installed. Very cool.
In true capitalistic fashion, it's the consumers that stand to gain the most from the App Brain vs. Android Market competition. Both will be forced to pump out new features, to somehow differentiate itself from the other, which will ultimately lead to better discovery, better monetization for developers, and thus higher quality Android apps in general.