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Summary:

Appsfire, a popular app discovery tool, just got updated to version 2.0 on Android, delivering its handy Appstream tool to Android devices. The move follows announced improvements late Friday to Android Market, which should also help some of the discovery issues for Android users.

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Appsfire, a popular app discovery tool, just got updated to version 2.0 on Android, delivering its handy Appstream tool to Android devices. The move follows Friday’s announcement about improvements to Android Market, which should also help some of the discovery issues for Android users. We still have a ways to go, but it’s nice to see that Android users are getting more tools to wade through the 100,000 apps in Android Market.

Appsfire’s update provides users with a look at the Appstream, a feature that’s been available on the iPhone app, providing a moving wall of icons that highlights featured and hot apps. It’s a little bewildering at first looking at all these icons, some of which are not fully rendered and are represented with the Android icon. But it’s a cool way to see what’s hot right now, what has had a recent price drop and what the top free apps and games are. Ouriel Ohayon, co-founder of Appsfire, told me that the update allows people to discovery “via contextual serendipity,” with suggestions pushed to them, rather than users have to actively search. Appsfire has already won over a lot of users because of the way it catalogs the apps on a user’s phone and then suggests other apps they might like. It also has tools for monitoring top apps over the last 24 hours and provides suggestions from VIPs and other curated lists of top apps from the Web. The latest upgrade allows users to organize their streams but a more robust update early next year will enable users to create their own streams based on their specific interests, Ohayon said.

These changes are noteworthy partially because Google still hasn’t delivered a very satisfying Android Market experience for consumers and developers. Late Friday, however, it announced some updates that will help improve the store for both, though more work needs to be done. Google said it will feature apps at the top of its Android Market home and category pages using a carousel that users can swipe. There are also two new categories for widgets and live wallpapers, as well as an option to see related content on an app details page to discover similar apps. And Google said it will be adding more categories for popular applications and games in the weeks to come.

For developers, Google is upping the size limit of applications to 50 MB from 25 MB to support richer games. And users will now have 15 minutes to ask for a refund, instead of 24 hours, something that has irked developers like Digital Chocolate’s Trip Hawkins, who said the 24-hour policy provides further incentive for users not to pay for games.

As I wrote on Friday, it would be nice if Google came out with its promised online store for Android Market, which would also help with discovery. And it would be good if Google adopted some of Appsfire’s sharing tools for users to spread the word about apps. But I’m sensing more and more that Google understands it needs to raise the app buying experience. Developer evangelist Tim Bray has been talking about improving Android Market, which he said was the number one area of concern for developers. Companies like AppBrain and Appsfire have helped but Google hopefully realizes that it should be more proactive in bettering its store, rather than waiting for third parties to address the need.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

  1. Whereas the Android Market is still inexplicably clumsy and catalog-based, Appsfire does a good job of presenting apps that you might not have found otherwise. A few of the recommendations were spot on.

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  2. [...] problems in Android Market. Recently, Google overhauled the look of the Android Market, making it easier for people to browse content using more categories and additional tools such as finding related apps. For developers, Google has [...]

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  3. [...] application discovery continues to be a challenge but apps abound to help the situation. The latest, App Hunter, focuses solely on free and reduced priced software in the Android Market. [...]

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