The new Android Market needs fixingMikey 1 comment
Anyone who knows me will also know I unconditionally love Android. It's robust, open, customisable, user friendly and has over a hundred thousand apps and growing.
But as is usually the case with great things, sometimes there's something no-so-perfect holding it back from achieving perfection. In the case of Android, it's the recently revamped Market.
Although the aesthetics are at first an improvement over the previous Market design, usability however seems to have taken a back seat. I've said it on many occasions when it comes to Google products - usability always seems to be an after thought. And it's happening again.
Given this version of the Market runs on Android handsets with varying screen sizes, from my large Samsung Galaxy Tab right down to my partners miniscule Xperia Pro Mini, this particular usability issue is unforgivable. The Update and Uninstall buttons are so close together that it's quite easy to accidentally hit the latter, which I did on my very first session on the new Market app. So If I can accidentally press uninstall on a 7 inch screen running 1024 x 600, what hope does my partner are anyone else have on a small 320 x 240 screen?
We all know Cover Flow, and we all know Apple made it popular. So why is Android using a primitive version of it on the Market home screen? Aside from looking like a convoluted mess thanks to each successive app 'cover' being more transparent than the last, cover flow doesn't work here because you have to be too accurate when you want to flip one at a time. And half the time an attempted flip turns out to be a press instead, taking you to the app page.
Cover flow, has always been IMHO, a useless gimmick that has no place in usable design. Google - please get rid of it.
The 15 minute refund failure
The recent change to the refund window has stirred a lot of people up and rightfully so. I should explain. Previously if you purchased any app, you had a 24 hour to go back to the Market and hit the refund button. This was great because if the app didn't do what you needed it to do or it didn't work as advertised, you could get your money back. A full day is sufficient time to make this decision.
But this didn't always sit well with Android developers, because you could purchase a full app or game and get 24 hours use out of it and no longer need it ever again, and then get a refund.
While I do agree that sucks for developers, Google dropped the ball when they changed this window to just - wait for it - 15 minutes. While anybody with half a brain can see the obvious problem, it's made worse by the fact that they made it 15 minutes from the time of purchase instead of 15 minutes from the time the installation completes.
So what is happening to a lot of people - myself included on 3 occasions now, is that if for some reason your game or app doesn't download right away, the timer is still ticking. In my case the game I bought would not even begin to download until an hour later (over 3G), and by the time it did I had lost any chance of a refund. It turns out the game isn't even compatible with the Galaxy Tab, so it's tough sh*t for me, No refunds. This leads me to the final issue.
Fragmentation - or as it's now more commonly known: 'stealing money from the user'
Developers can specify which versions of Android their apps and games will run on, which means if it doesn't work on let's say the HTC Hero running Android 1.6, then it simply won't show up in the market for people using said handset. This is obviously to prevent people from buying apps/games that won't work on their handset.
The problem is that the accuracy of this is dictated by the app developer, which leaves room for error. In some cases they can just make it best guess. I bought three EA Games for my Galaxy Tab on the Android Market a few days ago and absolutely none of them work, with an 'unsupported device' error displayed when I tried to run Sims 3. The other 2 games still won't download even though they took my money long ago.
Google - Please Fix The Market
I'm not alone in this, particularly about the last point which as burned so many others. It's not rocket science to fix these issues, so what are you waiting for? Heck I'd even be happy to submit a better more usable interface design for the market as long as you change the 15 minute window to something a bit more realistic, and don't start the timer until the app has actually installed.