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Android Market Web store is basic and buggy, but better late than never

Google has launched a website version of its Android Market app store, which lets you browse its catalogue of apps and games, and send them wirelessly to your smart phone.

Google's Android Market has been a handset-only affair ever since launch, with no way to search for apps and games from your computer. That has changed with the launch of a proper Web store for Android users.

The site went live last night, and is fully localised for the UK, showing prices in pounds. You sign in with your Google ID, and can then browse various app and game categories, while also checking the apps you've previously downloaded to your Android device.

The standout feature is the ability to send apps wirelessly to your phone. For free apps, you just click on the Install button on their product page, read a message explaining what Android features the app has access too, and then click OK to start the app downloading to your device -- without a sync cable in sight. It's very impressive indeed, although we had a few hiccups with some apps.

It's early days for the store itself, however. Burrowing down into app categories lets you browse featured apps, or view the Top Paid and Top Free lists. The design is clean and neat, although what's lacking for now are the kind of editorial features that are standard on Apple's App Store, such as themed lists of apps and staff favourites. We suspect all of these will be added in the coming months, now the Web store is up and running.

Google has made plenty of information available within the individual app product pages, though. You can read user reviews, see screenshots, and see related apps. Every app's page has a tweet button too, to share their details with your friends.

We had a couple of problems -- the Account page didn't show us all of our apps, although the missing ones, such as Facebook, were marked 'Installed' on their own pages. We also had some trouble with Google accounts that had previously downloaded apps using Google Apps, but that shouldn't be a problem for too many people.

Android Market's Web store might look more basic than the desktop-based App Store for iOS devices, but that shouldn't stop Android users from cheering its launch. Better late than never, the new site has the potential to be an important complement to the existing handset Android Market.