We spend an awful lot of time trawling Android Market for decent apps and, like it or not, it’s a very hit-and-miss process. There’s such a vast amount of unmitigated tat in Android Market that it can be hard to find the genuine gems amidst the interminable dross.
As hardcore Android fans it pains us to say this, but a large part of iOS’s appeal is that Apple’s control-freak tendencies keep everyone in check, keep the content of a certain quality, and keep the dubious, low-value rubbish out.
A case in point is that one innocent search for a cooking app last week resulted in over 50% of the search results involving nubile oriental women in compromising positions. Now if you’re actually searching for that kind of thing, then fine, but when you’re looking for a recipe app, you’d probably rather your senses weren’t assaulted by ‘glamour’ shots of half-naked women.
Open = broken
But let’s make it clear that we have nothing against adult content on Android Market. If Android is to remain the open platform it’s always professed to be, we’ll have to rely on the parental controls on our own devices to avoid that. What we’re saying is that ‘open’ doesn’t have to mean ‘crap’. What’s required is some sort of vetting process that removes the chaff from what’s otherwise a vibrant marketplace.
That’s not an easy thing to put into practice, though. Censorship in whatever form it takes will always invite criticism and heated debate. What Google is no doubt keen to avoid is to be seen to be playing God with a platform that has, until now, enjoyed enormous success from its come-one-come-all pretensions.
What we don’t want, either, though, is a raft of apps with all manner of permission requests they shouldn’t ever need, invading our phones and doing things we really don’t want them to do. How many apps out there are merely glorified splash screens for a website for example? Rather too many, and some of them from relatively reputable sources.
The censorship tightrope
Whatever the solution, without some sort of censorship – and by that we mean quality control, rather than draconian anti-choice measures – Android Market is only going to become more difficult to navigate. “But you can sort results by star ratings,” I hear you bleat. Well yes you can. And you can also game the ratings of your app if you know a handful of people with Android devices. It’s not an exact science and it doesn’t mean you’ll avoid being sucked into downloading, or heaven forbid paying for, a useless, badly coded app.
Google’s walking a tightrope with Android. On the one hand it’s damned if it begins to introduce quality control, on the other hand those much-vaunted iPhone refugees that are making the leap to Android will be sorely disappointed if the Android app floodgates continue to spew tat into the Market unchecked.
Ultimately, if Android Market won’t censor itself, it’ll fall to someone else to dam the tide of app-based sewage splurging its way onto the platform. But then third-party app stores within Android Market aren’t allowed, either…
Yahoo may well be onto something with the launch of its Appspot service a fortnight ago. Even then you’re still at the mercy of what Yahoo decides you’ll like. It’s not a solution if you’re searching for something very specific that only you could possibly know you’re after.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. As prolific app consumers, we notice the state of the market faster than someone who pops by every now and again, snags a free app or two and then leaves, but then we’re sure plenty of you spend a good deal of time sifting through myriad apps. Feel free to drop us a line in the comments box below.