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App Store vs. Android Market

Arguably the most sizeable revolution in smartphone operating systems in the last 12 months - the ability to browse, search, download and install third party applications natively on a mobile device - is fundamental to the entire sector's evolution.

First to the market, the mobile OS X 'App Store' arrived inside firmware 2.0 in a joint announcement with the iPhone 3G. I have no doubt history will prove - as I have been arguing throughout this piece - the new software to be far more important than the revised handset.

In short, App Store is simple to navigate, as easy as iTunes Wi-Fi to attain content and the installation system runs completely out of sight letting users get on with other needs in the meantime. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first applications were largely unimpressive as tends to be the case with much first generation content but the standard is on the rise. Andy highlighted his favourite free apps in August (if you own Sky then 'TV Plus' is a must) while mobile OS X's growing gaming prowess caused Stuart to seriously consider the iPhone gaming platform earlier this month ('Virtual Pool' gets my vote).

Against this however is one serious flaw: the inability of mobile OS X to multitask. Much in the way the benefits of multi-touch shine through across the whole platform, the lack of multi-tasking crops up time and time again. Apple's reasoning behind it is solid enough: it doesn't want to compromise overall system performance - but it also hamstrings IM programs, VoIP software and any potential productivity suite. Some of this will be fixed once the much delayed push notification system finally arrives, but even this is a half way house not a complete solution and if Apple is to truly move mobile OS X forward as a platform for the future it is a shortcoming which will have to be addressed.

Now following in someone's footsteps is far harder than forging your own path but while Android Market sticks to the successful formula of App Store it must be applauded for an equally smooth experience. The range and quality of applications in its first month are no more lacking than they were on App Store and in theory the platform's open source heart will make Android Market the key factor in driving Android forward - far more so than Apple's restrictive policies.

Fundamental changes to Android are therefore likely to arrive over the ensuing months with everything from visual wallpapers (who'll be the first to duplicate mobile OS X, I wonder?) to core functionality likely to receive a significant boost. With multitasking also running happily underneath, if there was one primary reason to opt for an Android handset over mobile OS X it is Android Market...

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