According to many critics,  Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG)  Android mobile platform is just too darn fragmented. Google's deliberately open attitude to hardware and software designs has left Android buyers swamped with a staggering array of choices. Compare the wild jungle of competing Android phones and OS versions to the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone: one phone a year, one software platform for that phone, and one user experience. Simple as Apple pie.

Google is acutely aware of the situation, but the folks at Mountain View are loath to call it a problem. Rather than clamping down on its many partners and demanding tighter design parameters for a more uniform experience, Google is launching a web site to help consumers pick the Android of their dreams.

Known as the Google Phone Gallery, the site makes it a snap to handily compare Android phones from different manufacturers and service providers. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Droids sit next to Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) 4G models, Motorola (NYSE: MOT) handsets, Samsung models, and so on.

But the service is far from perfect. It doesn't include every Android phone, and it's not completely accurate. The myTouch 3G I own is listed as running Android version 1.5 with no headphone jack, but the silly thing has been updated since launch, and now comes with a headphone plug and Android 1.6.

The Phone Gallery also isn't entirely necessary. On Google's site, you can only browse around for information. In contrast, when you go to the Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) mobile phone wizard, you'll be able to do the same thing -- and then buy a phone through Best Buy. Imagine that. Google's site does offer some hardcore technical data, like battery specifications, that Best Buy doesn't, but the retail giant's search options are arguably better. (That's a little embarrassing for a search specialist like Google, no?)

These shortcomings aside, the Phone Gallery seems like a productive way to recycle the old Nexus One store, which used to live at the same online address. Choosing an Android will obviously never be as simple as picking an iPhone, but this is a small step in the right direction.

Could Google do more to simplify the Android buying process? Should it do more? Discuss in the comments below.

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