43 Comments

Summary:

Google’s Android Market shows a blistering growth rate, with the store about to crest the 50,000 title mark. Before it catches up to Apple’s iTunes App Store however, Google needs to address two key issues with its storefront, in order to help both consumers and developers.

Google’s Android Market is on pace to cross the 50,000 application titles threshold this week, based on data from AndroLib, up from 20,000 just four months ago. But the Android Market needs a vast overhaul if it’s ever going to catch up to — much less surpass — Apple’s App Store, which offers nearly four times that number. Consumers need an easier way to both find Android software and to update existing titles, while developers need a hand marketing their software.

Apple took its store to the web earlier this year. Aside from offering consumers another place to search for software — and earn Apple 30 percent of every purchase — the online store provides software developers with search engine optimization advantages. By using proper keywords and Apple’s online web store preview, they can better market their wares.

Even after consumers find and install applications, the relationship doesn’t end there; software titles are routinely upgraded. Unfortunately, no currently available version of Android offers an “update all” function like Apple’s iPhone. My own Google Nexus One running Android 2.1, for example, finds updates for my apps on an almost-daily basis. But it requires a several-click process to actually install the latest upgrade to an application — a process that I have to repeat for every individual software title when an update is found in the Market on my phone.

With the Google I/O conference scheduled for May 19, look not only for Froyo, or Android 2.2, but also for enhancements to the Android Market and simpler application update features. In order to have a truly successful mobile platform, the quantity of useful software titles is only half of the equation — Google needs to address the other half by enhancing the user experience.

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Chart courtesy of AndroidLib

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  1. They also badly need to deliver some form of apps2sd functionality. Every single Android handset released to date has been crippled with inadequate internal storage, and this is limiting the quality of apps, and also the potential market (if your phone is full you’re not gonna buy more apps).

    The quality won’t increase until it’s possible for devs to make money on Android.

    1. Strongly agree.
      I have an 8 GB SD card that’s practically empty and I’m struggling to keep the main RAM free. I use dozens of apps and my need will increase now that I am starting to develop my own.

      1. I don’t agree with the internal memory being a big deal. I have 89 “apps” on my HTC Magic, consuming approx 77 MB, with 142 MB free. This is mostly apps along with 6 or 7 widgets. At this rate I could have roughly 250-280 apps on the phone and I really can’t see loading that many. Apps use the SD card for data (Nav maps, game data, etc) and 8 GB SD cards are cheap… heck, I have seen 16 GB cards for under $50

        I have an 8 GB SD card, which is about half full (2 GB worth of Nav maps for NDrive, almost a 1 GB of ebooks, and roughly a GB of apps data and cache stuff). While more on-board memory would be nice, it really does not seem to be the show stopper some folks make it out to be.

    2. The beauty of open source is that it’s not entirely profit-driven. Apps2sd is available for several models. The problem with apps2sd is that frequent writes can corrupt the card. More native memory is a better solution. But if you want it, there are several custom roms out there for most Android devices that include apps2sd.

  2. http://www.appbrain.com is a compelling site. works on my Samsung Moment.

  3. http://www.appbrain.com works on any Android phone, but I think it would be better if Google provides some standard default Web store like that, so that other Web stores compete with a default one.
    Custom ROMs like Cyanogen provide an ability to install apps to microSD card, but it’s a mixed blessing: apps on SD card make it hard to change card to another one, etc. Maybe it would be better to have something about 4 to 8 GB of internal memory on Android phones with possibility to install apps on it.
    In fact, when I used ADP1 (HTC Dream / G1), lack of flash memory was the main reason I installed Cyanogen. With Nexus One I use a stock OS and so far don’t need more space for apps. 512 MB is pretty much enough for now.

  4. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, April 26, 2010

    All good points on the way Android app storage is limited. The HTC Incredible, due out in 3 days, does include 8 GB of integrated storage, but for the moment appears to be usable for media and not apps. Perhaps this issue gets addressed at Google I/O too.

  5. Kevin,
    Does the no of apps really matter? why everyone writes about iPhone having 180K apps and Android having 50K apps? How many of them are really getting sold and making real money for the developer? The notion that a platform is mature based on the no of apps available is flawed. Windows mobile has thousands of apps before the iPhone and Android existed !!!!.
    I would look in to the sales of the apps and profit margins. Based on the sales , I would say iPhone is Numero Uno and it will remain there for another 5 years or so.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel gbp Monday, April 26, 2010

      Great question and the answer is: it depends. ;)

      Although many talk about the overall quantity of apps, I’ve been talking about the quantity of quality apps, if that makes sense. The overall number is simply just a starting point. Bear in mind the top reason I dumped my Palm Pre – a lack of quality applications. That’s not to say there weren’t good apps, but not enough for what I need to do on my device.

      I agree with your statement “The notion that a platform is mature based on the no of apps available is flawed.” It’s not just the available apps that’s important — it’s also the hardware and software of the platform itself, the developer tools, etc….

      1. And this is the reason I dumped my DROID and went back to the iPhone3GS. There may be 50,000 applications, but when 10,000 of those are “favorite sports team” keyboard skin, or they don’t work correctly because there is 15 different screen sizes for the different Android phones in the market and none of them are compatible with each other, it just gets frustrating trying to find something that will actually be useful.

        Give me my nice, “closed and locked down” app store any time. I actually appreciate the manufacturer of the phone trying to make sure they apps that are out there actually have (some kind) of quality control and won’t crash my phone every 5 minutes.

    2. I don’t agree with the purely commercial point of view. We all should have learned this lesson after so many years of Open Source… specially when we talk about a platform that is based on Linux.

      Android is younger than the iPhone and if the grow continues at this rate we may see a huge increase in both apps and sales of hardware driven by the possibility of having tons of free apps. And don’t forget that the SDK is platform independent.

  6. Curious – Do all Android apps run on all Android phones?

    1. There are two issues there. One, some apps written for Android 2.x won’t run on 1.x, but I’d estimate that the majority do. And two, some apps are tied to carriers (at least here in the U.S.) – I’m thinking of Skype Mobile which is only available here through Verizon. If you’re running an Android handset on another carrier, there’s no Skype for you, even though your phone may be technically capable.

      1. Again Curious — How does the quality compare between iPhone & Android?

      2. Depends on the app of course. By and large my own opinion is that Android apps tend to be a half-step behind their iPhone counterparts, although there are some exceptions. If you polled 100 people that have used apps on both platforms, I think the majority would lean towards iPhone for quality. And in a way, that makes sense since the iPhone app platform arrived in summer of 2008… we didn’t even have an Android phone until a few months after that.

  7. As far as quality goes, I think it’s fair to say that historically, the iPhone has managed to build up a raft of quality professional developers, while Android has started out more recently and built up an army of mostly enthusiast developers.

    The situation’s changing somewhat, and most of the apps you would really want on the iPhone are now available on Android too, though in many cases they aren’t yet as feature-complete (just look at the Facebook app as an example).

    On the other hand, the quality of some apps on Android is now exceeding that of their equivalent on iPhone (the TripIt app for example, or Spotify). This is a recent phenomenon, but if you’re an Android user there’s some things about a proper native app that makes it ‘nicer’ when done right.

    Here’s hoping that more of the quality professional devs from the iPhone platform choose to develop for Android too, over the next while. Competition FTW…

    1. Good observations… perhaps there’s a shift going on towards higher quality Android apps?

  8. Todd Randolph Monday, April 26, 2010

    saw some scuttlebutt earlier today that android 2.2 would feature auto update. bring it!

  9. goldfinger80 Monday, April 26, 2010

    One area that Android is lacking is great gaming apps. At the recent Freemium Summit conference, three major mobile gaming app companies (ngmoco, Tapulous, Smule) all indicated that they are not working on Android at this time and don’t have immediate plans to develop games for Android.

  10. Mickey Segal Monday, April 26, 2010

    It should be easy to do better than the Apple app store. Apple ranks apps by downloads, rather than by a combination of downloads and user rating, which would be much more meaningful. Furthermore, a well run store could use the Bayesian “sunrise problem” to correct ratings for small numbers.

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