Recently I wrote about my week with a Motorola Droid running Froyo, thus foregoing my iPhone 4 during that time period. I cited the former as a worthy competitor, and that I could see myself moving to an Android device if Apple or AT&T were not an option due to one or both falling from my good graces. That article received very interesting comments, some of which were very insightful that actually enhanced my usage of the Droid, others were from readers whom obviously didn’t read the entire article.That being said, in this comparison of the App Store and the Android Marketplace think about the entire article and what is being said before tagging me an Apple “fanboy”. Let’s get to it.

The Apple App store had a elementary head start on the Android marketplace simply because they have been around longer, but there are some aspects that stand out both on the positive side, as well as the negative. Some of the obvious problems are also the most annoying. The Android Marketplace had some catching up to do, and has done a pretty good job at it in a short period of time. Still there are some things that I like, and others that need improvement.

Viewing & Oraganization

Organization has left a bit to be desired in the Apple App store, and I think this is a byproduct of the exponential growth that took place in a short period of time. Apps are classified into categories such as games, productivity, entertainment, and educational just to name a few. The problem lies in that there are so many applications in each category I rarely see apps that are past the third page. I am certain there are great apps on subsequent pages that I just never get to see. I know, each category has the top rated and highest grossing but that just doesn’t seem to cut it for me.

The Android Marketplace is also classified by categories yet limits itself to a list of top paid, top free, and just in apps in each category. After that the scrolling list just seems endless and in fact I never did get to the end in any category before loosing interest.

The best thing the App store has going for it in viewing and organization is that I can easily view a lot of information about each application from iTunes on my computer, which, if nothing else, is much more comfortable and pleasing to the eye than on my handset.

The Android Marketplace on the other hand implements a no frills Website that gives you a small sampling of apps in each category and politely tells you to use your handset to explore more. This is not only inconvenient as an Android user, but a terrible marketing strategy. Imagine a novice smartphone user debating which platform to purchase, and during their due diligence check out the App Store in iTunes and the limited website for Android Marketplace, oh, and since they haven’t purchased a handset yet can’t explore the entire Marketplace. I’m not sure how many would lean toward Android after that experience. Android needs to be more user friendly  in relation to the Marketplace.

Edge: Apple App Store

Rating System

The corruption in the rating system in the App store has been well documented, and frankly unfortunate. Everything from developers have their friends and families create bogus accounts to create inflated ratings of the application, all the way to developers actually bribing reviewers for positive reviews both on their blogs and in the App store. When these indiscretions were brought to light I found it hard to believe, until one day I received one of these emails in my in box offering cash for a positive review both on the web as well as in the app store. The Android Marketplace doesn’t seem to have had this issue, maybe they learned something from the issues Apple had or maybe the indiscretions haven’t been publicized as much. Whatever the reason Apple too the brunt of this rating scandal.

The other drawback to the App Store rating system is the inability to rate the application from your handset. If you remember the early days users were able to rate an app upon deletion from their handset, the fundamental problem with this is that if you are deleting an app chances are you either are not happy with it or don’t use it. In neither case are you likely to leave a positive rating. I’m not sure why Apple hasn’t implemented a a way to rate and leave a review of an application directly from within the app but thats the way it is.

Both the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace let users rate and review apps directly from their handset but neither makes it very intuitive.  Both require the user to enter the respective store, find the application and tap out their rating and review, a few steps that I rarely take to review an application. On the positive side both stores require that the reviewer own the application (not necessarily have it installed on handset on the iPhone) to submit a review.

The Apple App Store and Android Marketplace are pretty close in this category and although the ability to rate through iTunes pushes the App Store ahead momentarily, the questionable reviews pulls it right back down. Taking all things into consideration I give the Marketplace the slight edge here.

Edge: Android Marketplace

Variety & Compatibility

The final category of comparison is variety and compatibility and at first look you would suspect that the Apple App Store would take this easily, but not so fast. Yes the App store has many more apps now exceeding 300,000, where the Android Marketplace has a fraction of that at roughly 50,000, yet the Marketplace has a apple-app-store-one-billionhigher percentage of free application than does that of the App Store.

Compatibility has also been an issue for some app developers on the Android platform, keep in mind this is not an issue once the is available to the public, but during the development process. The problem lies in the multiple handsets and versions of Android out on the market. Greg Peters from Netflix’s product development team says “…due to the variety of handsets that support the Android OS as well as the number of versions of Android these handsets are implementing the app won’t be immediately available to all users.” This phenomena leads to some challenges for some Android developers that Apple app developers don’t have to navigate.

Edge: Apple App Store

We could continue with categories until we are blue in the face, and, honestly, most of them would end in a virtual tie. We could debate open source versus Apple’s approval process, profitability for each developer based on volume of sales and percentage of “commission” Apple and/or Android keeps and many more issues that face both companies. If we did that I would be writing a long time and you would probably stop reading after about 2000 words. So who is the winner?

Well, on our small sample of issues here I would have to say the Apple App store has a slight edge, but let’s keep in mind that Apple had a bit of a head start. I wouldn’t bet against the Android Marketplace catching up pretty quickly as they will learn from some of Apple’s mistakes and thus avoid them. I honestly think the biggest hurdle the Android Marketplace has to overcome is the inability for users to browse the Marketplace on a computer whether it be in an iTunes like portal or a web based store.

I’m sure some readers will agree with me and I’m sure some readers will rip me as being an Apple “fanboy” and apologist. Either is fine, but I ask one thing of you no matter what side you may be defending: 1) recognize the shortcomings of your preferred platform, 2) recognize the advantages of the competitor, and 3)don’y just say “mine is better” come up with some solutions to the problems both the App Store and Marketplace face. It carries more weight and leads to credibility when you can come up with solutions instead of just pointing out shortcomings. Your comments are eagerly awaited.