A few months ago, movie rentals made their first appearance in the web version of the Android Market, and e-books were introduced just a bit before that. Now both kinds of content have made the leap to smartphones, complete with a user interface overhaul. The new Android Market’s layout looks like it took a page out of the Windows Phone book, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Devices running 2.2 and up are eligible for the upgrade.
Movie rentals are going for $1.99 and up, and can be loaded locally to your phone so you can watch even when you’re outside of wireless range. Once purchased, both movies and e-books are available on PC, tablet, and phone for maximum viewing flexibility.
This is a nice addition for Android handsets and all, but I think when it comes to movie rentals, this service really shines most on Honeycomb 3.0, where it was originally launched. Tablets really are the ideal device for mobile movie watching, and to a lesser extent e-book reading. I’m a little curious about how much Google’s participation in e-books and movies affect partners like Netflix and Amazon, which are already making business on Android. It’s a natural assumption that the platform developer will give their service top visibility first, which immediately puts competition/partners at a disadvantage. Apple avoids the whole mess altogether by limiting how much competition gets into the App Store in the first place. RIM, by contrast, usually stayed out of branded services and let partners build on their platform instead, but this is changing with apps like BlackBerry Travel and Protect.
As you might expect, both movie rentals and books sales are locked in to the U.S. for now, but expansion into other countries is underway. If you’re eligible, there should be an update notification in the next couple of weeks to load up the new Market. Here’s a quick video running through the new layout and features.