App Developers Not Happy With Android

50 Comments

With dozens of Android-based smartphones likely to be sold by global brands such as Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Dell (s dell) and Motorola (s mot), it’s no surprise that 2010 is shaping up to be a big year for Google’s (s GOOG) upstart mobile OS. But increasing skepticism in the developer community over Android and its marketplace masks this good news, a survey reveals.

Skyhook Wireless, a Boston-based company that offers location-based information to businesses, recently polled 30 app developers and asked them about their experience with, and plans for, the Android platform. A survey of just 30 developers doesn’t have enough data for me to take this as gospel. That said, the results should be worrisome to Google and its hardware partners, because there seems to be a general dissatisfaction with the OS and, more importantly, its commercial potential. The results of the survey are also in sharp contrast to findings from other sources such as AdMob and Flurry, which have seen a sharp increase in the number of projects started by Android developers. Over 10,000 apps are available for Android devices.

totalandroiddownloads.pngThe biggest reason for disappointment is the low download numbers — about 90 percent of respondents say their apps have been downloaded fewer than 10,000 times.

Nearly 57 percent of the total polled said they were not satisfied with their profits on Android, while 39 percent said somewhat satisfied. Only 4 percent said they were satisfied with the profits they have made off their Android apps. On occasion we have heard from individual developers who have complained about the Android platform and lack of profits.

To give this some context, there weren’t too many Android handsets available in the market for the first three quarters of 2009. For the longest time there were only two T-Mobile Android phones (made by HTC) being sold. It is only this fall that the number of Android models has gone up, thanks to the introduction of Motorola’s Cliq (which was launched at our Mobilize 09 conference) and Droid. HTC, Samsung and Huawei also have introduced their new Android phones.

downloadandroid3.pngThe low download volumes and lack of profits speak to the fact that app discovery isn’t easy in the Android Marketplace. Having used Android Marketplace for many months now, I have to say the experience is sub-par. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed felt that the Android Marketplace’s design makes it difficult for apps to be noticed. As I pointed out earlier, special marketplaces being set up by phone companies is only going to muddy the waters.

downloadandroid2.pngAnother area of concern for developers: fragmentation that comes with multiple devices from various phone makers running on different carriers. Nearly 46 percent of developers surveyed were certain that different versions of Android would make development difficult.

I still think these are teething issues, and with time, Google and its partners will be able to fix them. The momentum behind Android is too strong. The question is how long it will take. More importantly, will the developers wait around that long, especially since there are other platforms that make money for them? Android’s backers can’t afford to lose developer attention.

Who & What’s to Blame for Developer Woes

  • Developers are concerned that Google Checkout contributes to their low download volumes.
  • 43 percent feel that they would sell more apps if Android used a carrier billing or another simpler billing system.
  • 82 percent of those surveyed feel that the design of the Android Marketplace makes it difficult for apps to be noticed.
  • 68 percent of those surveyed are somewhat or not likely to put further work into their apps, compared with when they first released their app.

50 Comments

tom t

I read this article and had to stop. This is such a horse sh*t artile. I hope you didn’t get paid because I seriously wish I had you job and could release this crap. You spoke with “app developers” meaning people who have been clearly developing apps for the iphone before android. Apple created the app craze with their iphone. You pull data and say that downloads per platform is one reason. Is it MAYBE a problem? Right now for the $ it is. However the simple fact is people don’t like apple. It is love hate among people who actually know tech/computers. Those of us that are serious about wanting the functionality of an iphone, but not apple or at&t’s horrendeous coverage, have went to android. I have the droid and it blows the iphone out of the water. OS 4.0 has “limited multitasking, folders, categories…etc.” Guess what my jailbroken iTouch has done that for a year and the droid does it without the “limited” portion.

I have developed an iphone app and it is not cake. I am not going to bring up an argument between the SDKs since I have not developed an android app yet. However, I would like to return to the android platform and the users who tend to use it. We only download what we want, with the occassional app whore. On the app store there used to be an “I’m rich” app which was some ridic amount of money (I think about $1000) that just said you are rich with a single image. Iphone is shoved down at&t users throat and the app store is treated like a nickle candy shop. So why would developers side with iphone? Simply because the app store is similar to myspace now. Even if you app is terrible somebody will download it if its flashy enough.

William

To all app developers I have not bought a lot of apps yet. but i will. new to Android 1 month. My Sprint Samsung Phone is a bit buggy with Android 1.5 cupcake running on it. I am waiting for the 2.1 Android update 1st half of 2010 per Sprint. Then I will be buying apps. I can see maybe 500.00 a year on apps between my wife and children and of course ME..lol. So hang in there this is going to get you guys rich. Just spend the time to make quality Apps. If it starts turning into garbage it will lose its appeal. Android is TOO early to give up now. I predict this is going to be the PREMIER system with a year.

Peter

Apple will always have their share of the marketplace and be handsomely rewarded. However, I think because we love technology so much (i. e. people that read a board like this), we forget that we are a miniscule segment of the population.
Android and cheaper smartphones will dominate ultimately; I mean does it really matter that Apple has 120,000 apps when an iPhone user probably only regularly invokes 5-10 of them?
Apple is a g-damn religion for a lot of people. But I am willing to bet that the majority of the population are like me. I find it very un-american to buy music from the iTunes shop and still not truly own it. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are simply different sides of the same coin. The world is going horizontal not vertical. I will by my own phone and choose the network that gives me the best deal. Oh one last thing – you app developers (or as some noted – french farmers) get over yourself – your younger brother or sister will build the same app for a lot cheaper than you think you’re worth.

Pat R.

This is a shame. Although I’m an iPhone user, I recently checked out a Motorola Droid phone at Verizon. And I have to say that I think the phone itself is easy to use and (in my opinion) will be able to compete with the iPhone in time. I hope they can work the bugs out.

Mark

I also find the lack of a desktop market the biggest disadvantage. The popular site http://www.cyrket.com clearly showed the need for it. And what does Google do? They take down the site, but provide no substitution! You would think they put more effort in their market, but it just merely works.

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