Blog Post

The Problem With Android Market's Growth

Android Market continues to grow its library in a big way, reaching 20,000 apps and doubling its library in just the last five months. But as Google’s (s goog) storefront begins to nip at the heels of Apple’s (s aapl) App Store, it will need to find better ways of letting customers find what they’re looking for on its increasingly crowded shelves.

Android has gained impressive momentum in the last few months thanks to Verizon Wireless’ $100 million marketing effort and an expanding worldwide footprint. That growth will continue to be mirrored by Android Market, which will see fivefold growth in its app library next year, outpacing development for the iPhone, according to IDC. And the competition continues to heat up as Apple and Google release the latest versions of their mobile operating systems.

But as developers for Apple’s 100,000-app storefront have already learned, a massive app store makes for a rotten shopping experience for consumers. Users often have to sort through countless titles to find what they’re looking for, and reviews and ranking systems often favor popular offerings at the expense of newer, lesser-known titles. Which is why developers are increasingly looking to market their apps (GigaOM Pro, sub. required) to attract attention in the ever-expanding app-store portfolios. The discoverability problem is only going to get worse for Android over the next few months as its library expands, and Google’s laissez faire strategy of supporting nearly any app does nothing to help separate the mobile wheat from the chaff for consumers. Google seems well on its way to following Apple’s lead in becoming a massive distributor of mobile apps, but it must find innovative ways to enhance discoverability if it is to improve on Cupertino’s App Store.

Image courtesy Flickr user benmarvin.

20 Responses to “The Problem With Android Market's Growth”

  1. patternmusic

    Excellent points. I don’t understand why Android has such poor app visibility. (If only they had some sort of search engine technology they could use.)

    I had attributed the poor visibility of iPhone Apps on the App Store to either something intentional by Apple driven by a desire to decouple the iPhone software market from Google’s AdWords etc, or just a byproduct of using a marketplace that was originally designed to sell hit music not sell software.

    Instead it seems poor visibility may be a byproduct of on-device markets which apparently operate very differently from the internet markets.

    The App Store and Android Market are quite different from other cell phone software markets that have existed previously.

    • Bastion

      “The App Store and Android Market are quite different from other cell phone software markets that have existed previously.”

      Yes, but they are also VERY different from each other. Apple has provided both an on-device and off-device shopping experience, which Google has only provided an on-device one.

      You can go to the Android Market website, but it’s a “brochure” — you still have to then look up the app on your phone to buy it.

      Apple not only has a “brochure” website, but if you wish to buy you click on a link and it finds the item for you in iTunes. And you can just shop straight from iTunes if you want a bigger screen and physical keyboard for searching and browsing apps.

      iTunes has been much maligned over the years, especially when Apple started making a Windows version, but boy did it lay the foundation for an outstanding content market for a wide array of mobile devices. Excellent strategy, even if it has had the occasional execution mistake.

      • patternmusic

        I am not sure what you mean by Android Market being “brochure”. On my development devices an ATT Nexus One and a Verizon DROID I can buy and download apps directly in the Android Market. But there may be some differences in the Android Market experience depending on your cell carrier or Google Checkout status. I’m uncertain.

        Realize that the vast majority of iPhone apps are purchased on-device. iTunes-based purchases account for less than 25% of app sales according to some reports.

        Both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market are a mess when it comes to app discovery. Only, if you know exactly what app you are looking for you might succeed in both cases.

        The App Store does a better job of curating a stream of entertaining apps. It’s as if the consumer is the prince in his royal garb; he claps his hands and commands, “Entertain me!”, and the App Store obliges. From the perspective of the app vendor among an endless queue of vendors this does little good unless Apple smiles on your app and chooses to feature it. The App Store is almost completely immune to external promotion.

        The presentation in Android Market is a stark contrast. It is like a flea-market. A few popular and new things are promoted at the top level, but other than that it’s every app for itself.

        Both markets face huge challenges going forward. Particularly with the iPad, deeper, non-game apps are being developed at considerable expense. The viability and sustainability of app development businesses is dependent on both markets over coming their current shortcomings. Apps need to be able to promote themselves within the markets without having to rely on luck or “persuasion” of market’s editorial team.

  2. This article reads as if it has been written by someone who never saw a phone before the iphone turned up.

    For example “But as developers for Apple’s 100,000-app storefront have already learned, a massive app store makes for a rotten shopping experience for consumers.”….

    Do you realise that probably the majority of those developers have been developing for symbian, windows mobile and palm before. They sold their applications to smartphone and PDA uses directly as well as via online large applications such as Handango, which preceede the iphone by years if not decades.

    What these app developers never did well before and still dont now, is learn how to market adeptly and price properly. You dont just throw product out there and hope a retailer will sort it out for you.

    Please try to acquire some perspective before writing articles, otherwise its a waste of time reading them.

  3. I hate it when people quote a Gartner or IDC estimate without providing a rationale. Gartner and IDC are incredibly inept at estimates or predictions of anything other than PC sales, where they are saved by the law of large numbers.

    By the way, is already tracking over 122K apps in the App Store, so altho Android Market is growing nicely, it’s far from nipping at heels.

    The article would have been much more interesting and valuable if it had offered up ideas on how to solve the problem.

  4. Problem? Growth is not a problem, but how the growth is handled can be a problem. I want to be able to peruse available apps to see what I might find helpful on my myTouch. It would be much better to do this from my computer when it is a much faster process than searching on my phone.

    Well … well … well.

  5. With respect, I’ll trust Google’s algorithm for ranking apps. My experience has been the most popular in each category is weighted for quality and apps with lower install counts have a presence so I believe Google is doing a good job.

    The complaints you’re hearing are no doubt those who invested resources and hope to be at the head of the Android wave. Same sob stories all over the iPhone.

  6. This is something that turned me off on the Android Market. Sure, there’s no verification process. But this leads to hundreds and hundreds of totally worthless apps. A quick search for “what’s new” brought me 10 ‘flashlight’ apps, a bunch of “sexy girl screensaver” apps, a bunch of cartoon show soundboard apps, and a bunch of useless “show a picture after you finish a phone call” applications. Basically, the Android Market is now a dumping ground for cheap spammy foreign-made (easy to tell because of the poor grammar in the apps themselves) applications. Bug filled, junk ridden apps.

    Sorry but I’d really rather have SOME sort of approval process. Ratings can easily be faked, as we saw with the chinese developer shilling their own apps.

  7. giantslor

    I wonder if the author ever wrote an article titled, “The Problem with the Internet’s Growth.” Of course, Google and other sites pretty much have that problem under control.

  8. This is like the third post I have read that cites Android Market’s “inferior” 20,000 apps as compared to Apple’s 100,00 – then infers that Android Market will never succeed because of the 8:1 ratio.

    Using that same logic, then Apple Computers ( desktop and laptop ) should “give up” because of their “inferior” numbers as compared to PCs running the Windows OS?

    If Apple laptops and desktops are a “success” even though they sell 10 times fewer pieces of hardware compared to Dell, HP, etc…

    …then the Android market is a “success” too.

    • Todd

      Just as an FYI, look at the revenues/profits of Apple’s computer business and that of Dell and HP. Apple is doing what a for-profit entity is supposed to do: make money, not collect revenues.

      As for the Android Market, well have you tried to discover apps? Well it is a major issue and developers have started to speak up about it. I think Google needs to get its act together and build a smoother, superior experience to Apple’s App store if it wants to beat them at the game.

      • Libran Lover


        If the quality of the market experience is the problem, then the original post should have focussed on that. It was the original post which brought up the misleading arguments of app numbers and Google’s “laissez faire strategy”. Todd is merely pointing out the contradictions apparent in this blog post.


  9. Libran Lover

    “Google’s laissez faire strategy of supporting nearly any app does nothing to help separate the mobile wheat from the chaff for consumers.”

    Are you suggesting that Google should start restricting and rejecting apps like Apple does?