Android Market needs more filters, T-Mobile says

Search and customization tools are needed to help customers filter out what they do not want and find what they do want

The average user of an Android-based G1 phone at T-Mobile USA has downloaded more than 40 applications from the Android Market, but the carrier's CTO thinks he can help them find more.

T-Mobile has had great success with the handset from HTC, based on Google's open software platform, said T-Mobile CTO Cole Brodman. About 80 percent of G1 users browse the Web on the phone daily, and they are snapping up the offered applications, one-third of which are now paid products, he said during an on-stage interview at the Dow Jones Wireless Innovations conference in Redwood City, California.

There are about 2,300 offerings in total on the Android Market, Brodman said. That's a good thing, except when it's a problem.

What the store could really use is some good search and customization tools to help subscribers filter out software they're not interested in and discover offerings they might like, Brodman said. Applications do get ranked based on user ratings, and subscribers can view their choices based on popularity or how recently they became available. But with 2,300 applications, they need much more, he believes.

"Users have a hard time searching through that long tail," Brodman said. He would like to see mechanisms to automatically present subscribers with applications that match their interests. Brodman pointed to YouTube as an example of a site that does a good job of this.

Brodman would also like to see the concept of an application store extended to feature phones, the less-expensive, less-powerful handsets that still make up the vast majority of phones sold. T-Mobile last year launched Web2Go, a new interface for Web surfing and Flash and Java application downloads on feature phones. An application store for feature phones would probably have a more limited selection, he noted.

T-Mobile this year will double the footprint of its 3G network, which currently reaches 105 million potential subscribers, Brodman said. From 135 markets today, it will probably reach more than double that by year's end, covering the vast majority of places where people want to use data services, he said.

On that network, which uses HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), G1 users are enjoying peak speeds of 1Mb per second downstream, according to Brodman. But the carrier is working with its equipment providers to boost that speed by scaling up both radios and backhaul from cell sites. Within 12 months, that peak speed could triple, he said. T-Mobile would aim that speed not necessarily at handsets but at larger client devices, according to Brodman. T-Mobile USA has no immediate plans to deploy a 4G technology such as LTE (Long-Term Evolution), instead eyeing HSPA Plus as its next step. Its parent, Deutsche Telekom, demonstrated LTE last year but has not declared a technology choice for 4G.

Speaking just before Apple unveiled its iPhone 3.0 software, Brodman didn't give much away about the next update to Android. Asked whether Google would add video recording or an alternate keyboard, he said, "They're working on a number of innovations. Some of the ones you mentioned are certainly some of the ones that are being worked on."

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Stephen Lawson

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