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Android Marketplace Inconsistencies

Living out in the farmland of Iowa where we do, there’s really only one carrier who provides decent service, US Cellular. US Cellular has a great service for battery replacement. If you find yourself out and about and your battery dies, you can drop by any US Cellular store and they will replace the battery for free. I was in that situation today, so I spent some time looking at the Android phones HTC Desire and Samsung Mesmerize.

Both phones are $280, with an $80 mail in rebate. Both phones have 1GHz processors, and both phones have 5.0 MP cameras. The main difference between the two phones is that the Samsung has a 4” Super AMOLED screen, and the HTC has a 3.7” WVGA screen. Software wise, while both phones use Android 2.1 as the core, they each have different themes, or skins. The difference in themes reminded me of the difference between KDE and Gnome on Linux. There are a few other differences; the Samsung is fully touch screen while the HTC uses hardware buttons for the four base Android buttons search, back, home, and menu. What I found most striking were the differences in the Android Marketplace.

I love Angry Birds for iOS, so I thought I’d see how the game looked and felt on Android. I searched for “Angry Birds” on the HTC and found two screens worth of knock-offs. Some of these applications took the artwork and Angry Birds name directly from the real game. There was one game called “Angry Avians”, who’s icon looked like a closeup of the red bird from the real game. There were Angry Birds wallpapers, Angry Birds books, and Angry Birds unlockers. I can’t imagine that any of these apps were actually licensed to use either the Angry Birds name or the Angry Birds artwork. They are ripoffs riding the wave of the original games success.

Pathetic, and a poor impression of the Android Marketplace.

What I did not find on the HTC was the actual Angry Birds game from Rovio. I knew that it was released, thanks to Dan Benjamin mentioning it on The Talkshow, so I checked on the Samsung. Sure enough, the Samsung search returned 53 results, and the HTC only 51, and the Samsung included the official game. I wonder how many people buy one of those ripoffs on the HTC when they can’t find the real game, knowing that it is supposedly available for “Android”.

A quick comparison of the iTunes App Store shows that there are a few Angry Birds references, walkthroughs and hints of where to find the golden eggs, but none of them use Rovio’s artwork, and none of them are copies of the game.

The Android Market is open and free, and doesn’t give one seconds thought to the end user experience. At least with the curated App Store, Apple does a decent job of keeping unethical developers from preying on users who just don’t know any better. The difference between the two markets feels like the difference between buying from an upscale mall, or buying from a back alley black market.