Hello there! Since this blog is mostly going to be about Android software, I thought it made sense to start talking about those pieces of software that let you view, install, remove, rate, comment and generally play with other software.
Does this remind you of the Android Market? Well of course it does! But not everything ends at the Android Market. We all love its inane limitations, which were imposed for our good of course, but why not try bypassing at least some of them just to see how it feels like?
Actually, the only program I’m going to describe that bypasses any limitations is My Market. I’m not entirely sure what My Market’s purpose is, because it is basically a remake of the standard Market, using your Google credentials to access it (but you can use alternate credentials if you don’t feel comfortable giving it your primary ones), and apparently without a truckload of new features that the standard Market lacks. However, there is one small but important difference: the country and operator you’re going to send to Google, which decides what “apps” are going to be available for you, can be changed by the user: just go to Menu / Settings / Providers, pick your choice, and restart the program.
Price: free, without ads
Highlights: You can pretend your using another [country’s] operator to get more apps
Market replacement that adds:
The possibility to pick which country you “are” from and which operator you “are” using, to change your selection of available apps
List of “uninstalled” apps, to remind you of what you’ve used before
Various filters (by price, by rating…), and sorting by date or popularity
The main defect is that the user interface is suboptimal: it often hangs while loading things and you have to press Back and retry, and when searching, pressing Enter will actually add a newline rather than starting the search.
But how, you’re going to ask, are we going to even know about what applications aren’t normally available to us, since Google kindly hides them from our view completely so we don’t get confused? Well, you could just select a provider in My Market that you know has all, or at least most, of the apps available… or you could use AppBrain.
Just install AppBrain, really: you’re going to want to use it anyway. It has ads, but we can live with that. It’s a neatly done program (more neatly than My Market at any rate, which isn’t a prime example of good UI programming) whose main feature is that it lets you install apps “remotely” from your computer’s web browser. But that’s not really the reason I use it for.
The reasons I use it for include the fact that it apparently lists all applications, without hiding any. When you actually click on them, it opens the normal Market, which might inform you that the app you wanted isn’t actually available [for you]; but then you just use My Market.
Why did I say you’re going to use it anyway? Well, aside from being generally neat, it has a “hot apps” feature that lets you know which programs were most popular in the last hour, day or week, and I’ve found that’s a pretty effective way to find new programs worth installing.
Price: free, with ads
Highlights: lists even apps not available to you
This is not a Market replacement, in that it still calls the normal Market to perform installs. However, it has a few quite interesting features:
it lists not only apps directly available to you, but also those available in other markets (but doesn’t let you install them; you can using My Market)
it has “hot” (popular) apps lists for the current hour, week and day; additionally, there are other criteria for popularity such as being popular in a given country, or in a specific demographic
it has “recommendations” based on the apps you have installed
after making an account on http://appbrain.com it allows marking apps “remotely” on any web browser to be installed later on your phone
The interface is sleek, and the only things that really annoy me about AppBrain is that it has ads, and that it still needs to call the Market to install things (or tell you they can’t be installed).
Another program featuring a similar list is AppAware. To start with, let’s mention that you might want to disable its “sharing” feature, which is enabled by default, and lets other users know what apps you install, update and remove. The setting for that is surprisingly found in Menu / Settings.
When you click on the “Top” button in the bottom toolbar (confusing, isn’t it?), you’ll see a list not too much unlike that of AppBrain, except that it lists top installed, updated and removed applications separately; it additionally lists apps that were installed on your phone model, so you can find out if there’s some exciting mod around for your phone that would not otherwise show up in “top” lists.
Price: free, without ads
Highlights: popular apps list includes what people on your specific phone model install
This is intended to be a “social” market. You have your account and, by default, you tell everyone else what you install, update and remove. It features:
nowcasting of what other people are installing at this very moment, or near you (you need to let it know your location)
hourly, daily and weekly “top” lists similar to those of AppBrain, but with the addition of removed and updated applications, as well as of applications that are popular for your particular device model
“featured apps”, which tries to estimate application quality by comparing the number of installations, updates and removals (not particularly effective in my opinion)
As with AppBrain, I would like it better if this app didn’t go through the Market for installs (since it also can show apps that aren’t actually available to you through the Market), but the interface is nice, if a bit non-standard, and I don’t have any particular complaints about it.
Going back to AppBrain for a moment, another interesting feature it has is that it can recommend apps for you based on what you already have installed. An app that is dedicated to doing the same thing is Market Suggest (a pretty bare-bones app), though I think the quality of AppBrain’s suggestions is better.
Price: free, with ads
Highlights: it tells you apps based on the ones you have installed, and that’s about it
The program, affiliated with the AndroLib site, is extremely simple and it does just one thing: recommend apps for you based on the stuff you have installed, in a similar vein to the AppBrain feature. You can also request additional suggestions based on a particular app.
The interface makes me cringe a bit, and I also fine AppBrain’s suggestions generally more suited to me. I don’t use this application very much.
I’d like to also mention what might be considered a competitor to my blog, AndroidPIT: that’s a site that reviews an Android app each day, and the interesting thing is that it has a pretty lean-and-clean app to read it from Android. The quality of its reviews is varying, but it’s a nice, short daily read.
You can go from the program straight to the Market page for a reviewed app, which makes for a nice seamless experience.