Cruising around the Android Market looking for apps for my new Google Nexus S phone I noticed Dictionary.com has a free dictionary app for Android. I like looking up works and so I went to install it. But wait. it requires access to "Your location", "Network communication", and "Phone calls". Why the heck does it need to know who I call? I am guessing that it wants to know my location in order to show me advertisements for nearby businesses. The internet access could be for fetching ads. But my phone records? Why? To profile who I am by what sorts of businesses I contact?
That app is listed as having more than a quarter million downloads. So lots of people aren't bothered or aren't thinking about the privileges they are granting to their smart phone apps.
I decided I didn't really need that dictionary. I would be curious to know what they expect to make from advertisements per user who downloads their app. If they offered a 99 cent version without need for phone access, without geolocation, and without ads how many people would opt for it?
A PC World piece July 8, 2010 reports on developer discontent with how Google is managing the Android Market. Google has the example of Apple App Store to learn what success looks like. But Google doesn't get it. John Watkinson of Larva Labs calculates that sales and profits from Android Market are meager. Simon Judge lists and describes many deficiencies in Android Market.
Has Android Market improved much in the last 6 months since these articles and posts were written?
Android Market is a tool for massive intellectual property theft too. Note that post was written June 27, 2010. So it is describing a current problem.
Google's hands-off "we're so open" approach toward their app store is irresponsible. This isn't a case of "oh we are so much more open and free than that wicked Steve Jobs". Android Market is a combination of slack attitude and basic lack of taking responsibility to manage the heavily used web site that they've created. No Google, this is not acceptable. You need to step it up.
Update: Kevin Tofel says Google should at least police copyright infringement. I see that as a responsibility of a store operator. Otherwise the store is facilitating theft.
I'd like to see a 2 or 3 layer market where one can buy apps that have had different levels of vetting. I want to know, for example, that a banking app really is from the bank it purports to support or has been approved by that bank.
Also, the Android Market should be very easily browseable from a desktop PC with many more details viewable on the bigger screen. The Market should allow more info about each app to be uploadable by the author.
Tofel makes the pont that app buyers can't evaluate whether all the permissions an app is asking for are needed. It would be nice if one could ask to see all games that do not need access to personal contact info or other confidential info. Be able to view only apps that you basically do not need to trust.
Another idea: Make it easier for users to report apps as miscategorized, as likely intellectual property violators, and as suspicious in other ways. Add buttons on web forms for doing this.