Android (s goog) is seeing a load of app downloads to the tune of 4.5 billion so far, according to Google, but it’s sometimes been in spite of the Android Market experience not because of it. Today, Google announced a set of new improvements to Android Market meant to highlight more apps and developers and help guide consumers to relevent content.
This is a good bit of news for developers who are fighting for attention in an Android Market stocked with 200,000 apps. With the store set to pass the Apple App Store (s aapl) later this year, Android developers need more ways to get notice from consumers. And it shows that with changes to algorithms in the app rankings, which seem to factor in more engagement, there are at least more opportunities for new apps to surface to the top, rather than familiar and popular apps. This is also a win for consumers, who also need more tools to discover apps too. The improvements are on the web version of the store but will come soon to the mobile clients.
The improvements include a new set of charts for top new free, top new paid, and top grossing lists, which highlight recent apps in the last 30 days. The lists are more freshly updated and more country specific. Google is also curating its own list of top staff picks on an Editor’s Choice list. This is akin to Apple’s App Store Staff Picks list and spans all the categories. These two improvements are sort of catch-up moves and help fill out the Android Market experience, bringing it more up to speed with the App Store. Android is also adding a Trending section with apps that are seeing a lot of quick growth in daily installs. That should help app makers who are still geared toward trying to get notice through early download success, even if the other chart rankings downplay pure downloads as a ranking factor.
Android isn’t just picking out specific apps, it’s also highlighting successful and consistent publishers. Top developers who have a history of creating quality apps can now be awarded a little icon by their name. About 150 developers are getting that badge. This could create some questions about favoritism and subjectivity if it’s not clear cut why someone is being awarded. Or it could be meaningless if a lot of developers get the honor. But I like the thinking here in giving consumers something like a seal of approval for top app makers.
Google is also trying to get more personal with app recommendations. Now when users decide to install an app, they’ll also get information about apps frequently browsed by people who viewed the same app, and they’ll also see apps that other people tend to install alongside a particular app.
During a developer session, Android executives shared that it is expanding the number of countries where developers can sell apps to 131, up from 32 countries. This is a much needed update that means developers should be able to sell their apps more widely and potentially lean more on paid downloads than advertising and in-app purchases. Developers in June will also be able to bump up the size of their apps to 4 GB from 2 GB. And they’ll also be able to upload multiple versions of an app optimized for different hardware all under one listing.
This is an ongoing project for Android and there’s still more to be done to improve things for Android Market. But clearly, the platform is making strides in becoming a place for people to find and download apps. There’s still work to be done in getting people to spend money in buying apps and paying for things inside the apps. But this is still early yet and Google’s taking the necessary steps in building an increasingly attractive and useful store.