Android Market finally goes online

Our prayers have been heard. Google’s added a web store to the Android Market, given it a lick of paint, some much-needed order and a few new tricks

Rumour had it Google would launch a web store version of its Android Market. Now fact has it, because today the Big G’s done just that. And not before time. It’s also addressed many of the beefs Android users had with the app experience – and those of the devs, too.

First up is that online Market, a place where finally Androiders can browse apps in a graphically rich environment, much as users of Apple’s App Store have been able to since the dawn of the downloadable third-party mobile app. But there is where it leaves Apple’s online effort in the dust – because while the App Store will force you to open iTunes to buy an app through your PC, the online Android Market will let you buy and install the app without leaving the browser. Who’s lagging behind now, Apple?

Other improvements include ranking of top apps to avoid the litter of bad code in Android’s comparatively unpoliced approval process and a Tweet button to allow for easier sharing (which being online will obviously help as well). There’s also a compatibility filter that acknowledges the problems of selling apps on an increasingly fragmented platform with four current versions.

And there’s good news for non-Americans, too, with the option for developers to specify regional pricing by country, as opposed to the existing one-price-fits-all model. That’ll (hopefully) spell an end to apps costing ?1.81, though there could be further costs down the line – Google is giving devs the option to offer in-app billing from spring.

That’s the biggest single overhaul of the Android Market since its inception in October 2008. And we’d like to take this opportunity to extend a long-overdue welcome to Google’s newly fronted app shop in 2011.

Take me to the new Android Market.