There has been a lot of discussion lately about the differences between Apple's iPhone and phones based on Google's Android. While these discussions typically center on hardware, usability and the operating system, they rarely discuss the differences between the Android Market vs. the Apple App Store. There are a number of differences between the two, some of which primarily matter to end-users and others that matter primarily to developers.
Open vs. Closed System. The single biggest difference between the Android Market and the Apple App Store is the difference between an open and a closed system. Apple's system is a closed one. Applications must be submitted to Apple for review and Apple ultimately decides what may or may not be sold in the Apple App Store. In contrast, Android Market is an open system. Developers can directly publish their applications to the market without having them filtered through a central authority. This means that the Android Market is likely to have a greater variety of applications and content but end-users have to accept that the applications are not being screened. There is a definite trade off. The Android Market does support a community rating and comments section, however, which helps buffer against poorly designed or malicious applications.
Refunds. Another big difference between Android Market and the Apple App Store deals with paid applications. The former allows an end-user to obtain a refund by uninstalling the application within 24 hours of purchase. This makes it much safer as an end-user to purchase an application. If you buy an app that does not work properly or does not seem to meet your need, uninstall it within 24 hours and you get a full refund. The Apple App Store does not offer refunds on applications, so while the applications are screened by Apple, it is still buyer beware. You need to make sure an application will meet your needs before you purchase it.
Developer Initiation Fee. Another notable feature that distinguishes the two stores is how much it costs a developer to join. Android Market charges a fee of $25 to sign up as a developer. This fee then allows you to publish your apps in the market. The Apple App Store charges $99 to become a developer. Keep in mind that paying this fee does not mean your application will get added to the app store. Apple reviews all applications for acceptance so paying the fee does not guarantee that your app will be published. Both markets charge 30% of any paid application sales. Apple keeps this 30% while Google pays the 30% to the wireless carriers. This may result in greater cooperation from and adoption by wireless carriers for Android.
Competition. For a developer trying to get a new application noticed, there is less competition in Android Market. Currently Android Market hosts about 20,000 applications while the Apple app store has over 100,000 applications. There is a lot more room for new and innovative applications in the Android market.
There are a number of differences between the Android market vs. the Apple app store. Some of these differences matter more to developers and others to end-users. Being an open system and offering refunds to end-users makes the Android market a great asset for end-users. The openness ensures a greater variety of offerings and the ability to get a refund makes trying a paid application a low-risk venture. For developers, Android offers a lower cost to get started and an arena with much less competition in which to make your application stand out.