The App Store and Android Market are the two largest mobile application sources, but operate on completely different ideologies. The App Store is usually referred to as a “Walled Garden”, where the apps go through a rigorous approval process and are strictly moderated. On the other hand, the Android Market is much more free, and allows most apps through its gates. But what system is better?
Security vs Freedom
You would be hard pressed to find a piece of malicious software in the App Store, and while the Android market is still fairly secure, it is much more likely that malicious software find it way in, available to be downloaded by millions. The Android Market relies heavily on peer review and common sense when downloading apps, though Google does have the ability to flip the Kill Switch. The price you pay for security is freedom. Apple constantly rejects any app that it disapproves of, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it only cut down of crapware, but Apples tight restrictions have forced wonderful apps like WiFi Sync to be relegated to Cydia and jailbroken devices.
Once you buy an app from the App Store, there is no turning back, you payed for it. On the Android Market, you can return unwanted apps within 24 hours of purchase. This is great for the end-user, but the developers suffer. Users can use applications like App2SD to move the purchased applications to their memory cards, then promptly return the app for a full refund – but the application will still remain fully usable on the phone. Piracy is also a problem on the App Store, but the process isn’t as easy.
The Android market only around one-fourth the size of the App Store, (though growing rapidly) and has many excellent apps, some exclusive, and some available on the App Store. But an AppBrain study revealed that nearly one-third of Android applications are spam. Now, Google could maintain the same level of freedom, but cut down on spam by having a stricter approval process, but that would also lead to longer waits as the application is reviewed.
Finding new applications on the App Store is easy, you can browse on the computer through iTunes or on the iDevice itself. The Android Market relies heavily on 3rd party sources find new releases, and the Market website doesn’t even have a search feature. (Google is supposed to be revamping the site soon.)
Both solutions have strengths and weaknesses, and could benefit from taking a page out of the others book. The Android Market stays true to Google’s beliefs and its open source Linux roots, while the App Store has a more Orwellian approach. Having used both extensively, I can honestly say that neither is better than the other. I prefer Google’s approach for its freedom, but its strongest feature is also its biggest weakness.