Why doesn't the Android Market keep us up to date?

The Android platform comes with a great market available for browsing and downloading applications. Comments are easy to read, the permissions the application is requesting are clearly explained, and installing is a snap and happens in the background. Overall it's a breeze to use. However, it's got a large gap in it's model that I haven't seen addressed anywhere - there are no automatic updates for the applications.

When I install an application I'm stuck with the version I get unless I happen to check the Android market, go find the application again, and attempt to reinstall it. There is no indication that an update is available until after I've clicked the "Install" button again at which point it explains it will replace the existing installation.

In this first wave of applications for the G1 a lot of developers either skipped some features or avoided adding some final polish in their rush to be first in the store. Now their application is available to everyone and they have no (built-in) way of keeping people up to date.

When I see interesting applications with some complaints in the comments I'm tempted to hold off installing them because there might be updates in a few days and I'd rather have the new versions (there's no way I'm going to be reviewing all my apps and checking for new versions). That's ridiculous!

In an attempt to fix this oversight several applications have added code that does its own checks for updates. If this is the route developers are forced to take we're looking at bigger downloads taking up more space on our devices, additional bugs since everyone has to write the script themselves, slower devices with less usable RAM, and additional security bypasses (the applications with update scripts in them require permission to access the internet and start when the device starts).

Automatic updates should have launched with the market to save developers' time and keep people up to date. As it stands now, I guess I'll add it to my Christmas list for Santa Google.

4 Comments

Totally agree with you Wil, as from my understanding rev/version number will be added once the Android Market allows paid apps next year.

,Michael Martin
http://www.googleandblog.com/
-- Michael Martin, 07 Dec 2008
Quite annoying. Here is the way I deal with it:

1. There is an app that tries to help, OI Update. It only works with a small subset of apps at the moment.. but it helps a bit.
2. Scan through your My Downloads list looking for apps that you still have installed that show the status as "FREE" instead of "Installed". This doesn't work all the time. I'm guessing that there is some way the developer can change the application such that this status flag doesn't see the new version, but when you try to install the new version, it still "updates" the old app.
3. Scan through the All applications and All games views sorted by date looking for apps you know you have installed that show "FREE" instead of "Installed". If you check every couple of days, and you can remember the apps you currently have installed, this is the best way I've found so far to keep them up to date.
-- Daniel Einspanjer, 08 Dec 2008
Nice to see that you are a G1 user and not an apple iphone fanboy. Even though the G1 supports notifications for application updates, the app that I use to check for updates is called: aTrackDog. It scans through all my applications and allows me to update apps from the developer website and not just the android market.
-- Jose, 16 Feb 2009
Hey Jose, I used atrackdog for a couple weeks until R33 came out. Now that updates are supported natively I uninstalled it although the built-in support is pretty bad. To update an application takes 4 clicks: Click application name, click update, click "yes" to the confirmation, click "ok" on access permissions. I've got 9 applications out of date right now, that's 36 clicks plus all the time between each screen for it to load. An "update all" button would be welcome.
-- Wil Clouser, 16 Feb 2009

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