With the next Android release, Google could get around to fixing its app Market’s weaknesses—and maybe you’ll get that update this year. In the meantime, AppBrain does a spectacular job of making apps easier to search, install, share and manage.
Why bother with a third-party app manager? Because AppBrain primarily provides a better three-step app experience—Search, Install, Update—for Android apps than the default Market, especially on phones that aren’t caught up to the Android 2.2 experience. In a nutshell:
• Search, sort, and install/uninstall apps in your full browser instead of, or at least in addition to, your tiny screen.
• Click a link, install an app. The wait time is usually 2 seconds or less, from AppBrain.com to your phone showing the “Starting download” notification.
• Batch your installs, uninstalls, and updates, even if you don’t have Android 2.2 yet.
• Other goodies, like public app list sharing (if you want that), remote wallpaper setting and storage (seriously!), and halfway decent recommendations, based on other Android/AppBrain users with similar app tastes.
The Current Market Experience
There are four main ways an Android user that isn’t hooked into AppBrain can get an app right now:
- Search, scroll, and tap the app that comes up in their Market on the phone.
- Click a direct Market link from the web site of an app provider.
- Scan a QR code from a computer monitor or printed product to install.
- Give out your phone number to get an SMS message linking to a Market download or direct download of the APK (installer) file.
If you’re running Android 2.2, you can update all your applications at once from the Downloads tab in the Market. There’s no equivalent action for installing or removing multiple apps. There’s also no means of sharing apps with your friends, other than just telling them to look it up on their own Market. And while Google does back up a list of your installed apps on their servers, so you can theoretically wipe your phone and start over at any time, I’ve found it pretty inconsistent on both my own phone, and a friend’s I helped wipe clean.
Download the AppBrain App Market, either from the Market or using the QR code at left (with an app like Barcode Scanner). This might be the last time you have to fiddle with the Market for a bit. After it’s installed, launch it. You’ll see something like the screen below.
Open Fast Web Installer, and click the single button to authorise it. If you already have AppBrain installed on your phone, it should be just a few seconds, then you’re good to go. Now you’ve got a near-instant installation experience on your phone. You may need to re-authorise Fast Web Install from time to time, or occasionally if you restart your phone, but otherwise, you’re almost always synced to AppBrain.
Searching and Browsing AppBrain
As you might imagine, searching out the 100,000+ Android apps on a full desktop/laptop browser is a lot less cramped than on the single-column Android Market. But with AppBrain and Fast Web Install, everything about the experience is better.
Best of all, of course, is if you’ve installed AppBrain and Fast Web Install, you hit the Install button in the upper-left corner, and the app beams in near-instant fashion to your phone and installs, without your having to press a single button on your phone. Here’s what it looks like, in (official) video form:
Manage Your Apps and Wallpaper