Android Market driven by prolific, active devs

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Google’s Android Market, as we’ve noted before, is a different beast than Apple’s App Store from both a consumer and a developer perspective. New data from app ratings analytics and discovery firm Mobilewalla digs into some of the differences and a couple of interesting findings surface around the contributions of developers on Android.

The company found that Android Market is paced by a number of very prolific app makers, and it also sees more updates per app than the App Store. According to Mobilewalla, which pulled data from May, Android developers that have created more than 100 apps contributed 53 percent of the total apps in Android Market. That’s more than twice the rate in the App Store, where developers with more than 100 apps represented 23 percent of all apps.

That suggests that while Android Market is growing fast, it’s being driven by a smaller set of developers that are pushing out a whole lot of apps, which could be contributing to Android’s reputation for having a lot of low quality apps, copy-cat programs and simple wallpaper apps, though Mobilewalla said wallpaper apps are a relatively small portion of all apps.

Mobilewalla Founder and Executive Chairman Anindya Datta said it suggests there are more “professional” developers in the Android ecosystem, though I’m not sure that’s the case. It could be that Android’s low barrier for uploading apps to the Market makes it easy for devs to flood the store with a lot of apps.

Mobilewalla also found that apps on Android saw an average of 0.8 updates per app compared to 0.3 updates per app on iOS. That suggests Android developers are changing their apps more than twice as often as iOS developers. Datta said the high number on Android doesn’t appear to be bug fixes because among the top apps on both platforms, the ratings are similarly high, suggesting changes aren’t driven by the need to fix errors.

“The only way we can explain that is Android developers are just doing more,” said Datta.

It may be that Android devs are more active on updates, but again, it likely comes down to the review process, and it could also be attributed to fragmentation issues. Android developers don’t have to submit each update for approval by Google, so it encourages fast iterations and continual improvements. That’s something Android developers have told me they like about the platform, because it encourages agile and constant development. Apple, on the other hand, scrutinizes app submissions and also reviews updates, which can slow down the process for developers. So it’s understandable that iOS developers may package their updates together more to limit the number of reviews by Apple.

Android fragmentation may also be an issue here. With so many devices to build for, Android developers need to test for a lot of different configurations. It’s not uncommon to hear about an app that doesn’t work on certain devices, which can necessitate an update if the developer wants to hit those users.

Mobilewalla also found that usage of apps on Android is concentrated on the top apps, while iOS users are more likely to try more apps. The company said that among the top 30 apps, Android Market apps had between 11,000 and 20,000 ratings compared to about 6,000 ratings for the top 30 apps in the Apple App Store. But when you consider the next 210 apps beyond the top 30, Android’s average ratings per app plummets to just a few hundred per app while Apple’s ratings counts remain between 2,000 and 6,000.

That suggests Android users aren’t finding their way to lower-ranked apps, which could be because of discovery problems or a lack of quality as you move down the ranks. It also means it’s tougher for developers on the Android platform if they’re not sitting at the top of the heap already.

Mobilewalla also notes that the types of apps that are popular in each store are quite different with the top categories on Apple being entertainment, lifestyle, finance and sports while the most popular categories on Android are productivity, social networking and utilities.

Overall, the data highlights how different the two stores are. They continue to grow at similar rates, but for developers deciding where to place their bets to make, it’s not as easy as just chasing the growth of Android’s activations. You have to consider that Android may be tougher for smaller devs. And it seems to encourage or require more tinkering on apps after they’ve launched. Android Market got off to a later start than App Store, but it’s growing fast (250,000 apps compared to 425,000 in the App Store). But as we continue to see, it’s not built in the image of the App Store and presents its own opportunities and challenges.

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