As more and more developers submit their apps to the Android Market, it is becoming more challenging to navigate your way through the tens of thousands of options. Though Android 2.3 (aka "Gingerbread) promises to provide cleaner and more user friendly experience, many Android users either don't have 2.3 yet or never will due to phone limitations.
As someone who is familiar with the app stores for Blackberry, iPhone and Android, I can tell you that the Android store has come a long way and is fairly easy to navigate your way through once you learn a few simple shortcuts.
So if you are new to the Android Market or find yourself struggling to find what you are looking for, these tips should get you in and out of the Android store more quickly (unless you just enjoy window shopping!)
- Use the Search tool. If you heard about a great app from some friends or from some Internet forum, press the search tool in the market and type in the name of the app. Don't worry if you can't remember the exact name of the app. Just enter in as much as you can remember of the name or even what the app does.
For example, let's say you heard that Cardio Trainer is a great running app and you decide to install it. But by the time you get around to it, you can't remember the name. Entering just "cardio," "fitness," or "running" will bring up a listing of all the market apps that match your search criteria. I've tested this partial information search and was able to find the app I was looking for. Obviously, the more of the app name you enter the greater likelihood that you will find the exact app, but the search tool is smart enough and powerful enough to bring you results that closely match your criteria. And in case you don't know where the search tool is, just click on the magnifying glass icon or press your menu key and select Search.
- Category Searches. Every app in the Android Market is assigned a specific category.
- Apps on the main screen. When your first launch the Android Market, you will see three sections. The top section will be a scrolling list of some featured apps, the middle section will take you to the app categories, games or cell-provider specific apps, and the bottom section will detail the Android feature apps. I am not certain how an app becomes a featured app, because apps usually listed there are not necessarily the most recently released apps nor those with the highest rating. Regardless of how these apps earned such a prestigious and highly visible location in the Android Market, I've found several apps that I used quite often from the featured list.
- Forums and social media sites. One thing is for sure, people love to share. And (thankfully) one thing that people like to share is information about their favorite apps. If you visit any android forums, you'll probably come across an app review complete with a scan-able bar code. If you have an app like "bar code scanner" installed on your Android phone, you can use it to scan in the bar code directly from your computer's monitor and be taken directly to the Android Market where you can download the app. Many app developers are advertising in print media and including bar codes that you can scan and be directed right to either the Android Market or to a specific web site that provides details about the app.
An Android smart phone without any apps installed is like a computer without any programs. Though the Android Market and all the choices available may be intimidating at first, using these simple tips and spending some time browsing around the market will get you quickly acclimated. Before long, your friends and co-workers will be coming to you for app advice.