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#ThrowbackThursday: A look back at Android Market on its 11th birthday

It was 11 years ago this week that the then-new Android operating system added its first official app store. It was called Android Market, and it pales in comparison to what we are used to today with the Google Play Store. This week for Throwback Thursday, we decided to take a look back at that first bare-bones Android app store.

The video above was the first official look by Google of Android Market in October 2008. As you can watch for yourself, the first Android app store had a pretty text-heavy user interface. It was designed to work with the first-generation touchscreens. The main menu had a scrolling list of icons that represented featured apps you could download. Below it, you could tap on menu choices for lists of applications, with a separate category for just games.

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The search selection let those first Android phone users type in search strings to find the apps or games they wanted to download. Finally, the main page had a “My downloads” section, where you could see a list of all the apps installed on your phone.

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After you picked an app to download, Android Market showed off a brief description and the “Install” button. The store didn’t give software creators an option to upload screenshots or videos showing the app or game in action. The store did show you what phone permissions needed to be used by the app you selected. That’s when you made the final decision to install it.

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Once you installed an app, Android Market allowed users to write comments on it. It also had a five-star rating system as well. The app store also allowed users to flag apps for inappropriate content, and send that information back to Google.

Fast evolution

It didn’t take long for Google to make changes to Android Market. In 2009, with the release of Android 1.6, it also made many changes to the app store. It added support for software makers to upload screenshots for their app listings. For smartphone owners, the store also added paid apps, along with options to list apps by the “top paid” or “top free” categories. In addition, it added a “Just it” option to list nothing but the most recent apps.

From Android Market to Google Play Store

As Android smartphones became more popular, more features and user interface changes were made to Android Market. In 2011, it added support for purchasing eBooks and for renting movies. As you can see from the video above, the UI is also slowly becoming more friendly to use, with a more graphical look.

However, in March 2012, Google made its biggest overall for the Android store. It ditched the Android Market branding and UI in favor of the new Google Play name. The store supported downloading apps, games, ebooks, and movies, and added purchasing TV shows and magazines.

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The Google Play branding has stuck around to this day, as the main source for Android device owners to purchase digital content. The UI has certainly changed in the last several years, with the storefront adding more app categories, and becoming more user-friendly with eye-catching icons. It has also been adding more features, including the recent launch of the Google Play Pass. It allows users to download hundreds of paid apps and games for one low monthly subscription.

As feature-rich as Google Play is to use now, it’s always interesting to look back at its history. Android Market may look and act old fashioned compared to Google Play but it was one of the first steps in the massive digital content world that we live in today.

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