Possible issues with the next Android Market update

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| May 11, 2011

If any one aspect of Android truly represents its profound growth, it would have to be the Market. It has risen from just a few thousand poorly coded applications to well over 200,000 (yes, including widgets and live wallpapers, get over it) apps, varying in quality. Even though they aren't always the prettiest mobile apps available, many of them are highly functional and extend the capabilities of your phone greatly.

Finding new applications or specific ones in an ever-growing sea of 200,000 apps or better can sometimes be difficult. Especially when the search function doesn't always provide the results you were hoping for. Today was day number two at Google's I/O conference in San Fran, and to our surprise, they have graced our ears with confirmation of yet another Market update.

This pending update will provide suggestions like "Users also viewed" and "Users also installed." More narrowed filters for discovery like a Top Developers list, Editor's Choice, trending apps, etc. will be found in the update, too. You will also notice a UI overhaul, which, might I add, looks very polished and sleek. But one of the bigger aspects of the update comes on the developer's side of the fence. The maximum application size will jump from 50MB to a generous 4GB.

The more likely cause for this increase in maximum application size is Google's strong push for tablets and applications support for them. Larger displays with higher resolutions will require more memory for resource images  for applications. Android has also become the home of several high quality games over the past few months, which also require a lot of storage space for graphics.

A change like this could mean a lot of things for the Market and Android experience itself. For one, this will put an end to those pesky, secondary, after-installation downloads (mainly used for games). It could also mean that we might see improvements in the aesthetics of applications. Android apps are notorious for being highly “engineered” and having low or poor quality graphics. With more room to breathe, we can only hope developers will strive to provide us with more polished applications.

While all of this sounds good, there are some serious pitfalls of larger applications downloads to consider.

Most importantly, carriers are beginning to move away from unlimited data plans and towards tiered structures. A vast majority of users have grown used to not having to worry about downloading all the applications they want over 3G. Introducing larger applications for download will likely be the cause of many customers to either reach or exceed their monthly data allowance.

Just imagine running Google's application restore service on a 2GB plan with an application or two over 1GB each. A user will have exceeded their monthly allowance before they even realize it. Though it won't directly be Google's fault – I'm sure they will administer a warning pop-up of some sort – it will likely lead to a slew of upset, data-strained customers. Don't forget to use the Wi-Fis over the 3Gs!

Another big issue that we may possibly encounter is with the application return window. A few months back, Google received a lot of negative feedback over shortening the return window from 24 hours to a mere 15 minutes in an attempt to counteract the piracy and stealing of apps.

Suppose a person buys an application from the Market that is a 4GB download. (For the sake of this example, we will assume the downloader is on a 3G-only network.) A download of this magnitude would easily take a few hours to complete. By the time the download finishes, the return window is long gone. What happens then?

Does Market finalize the purchase after the download finishes, even if it is three or more hours later? If this is the case, then there is nothing to worry about. But the problem is, TechCrunch's explanation is that the developer still has to submit a 50MB application package. They then have two archives of 2GB each. Is the purchase processed after the phone downloads the 50MB package and installs it? Or does the Market wait until the entire application and its resources are finished downloading?

These things just didn't seem to line up well for me. Let's just hope the Android team has considered these potential speed bumps and we don't get stuck with a $10 app we just wanted to test drive. Aside from a few reasons to be wary, I can't wait for the new Market!

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