back to article Android app sales skimpy, sluggish, slack, scanty...

Android-based smartphones may have passed the iPhone in terms of market share, but developers of Android apps aren't profiting from that rise. iPhone users buy far more apps. "It is more challenging for developers in the Google Android Market than in the Apple App Store to monetize using a one-off fee monetization model," reads …

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Holmes

We can rebuild him; we have the technology

I love Android and am also a developer, but I think the mobile Market is horribly designed.

For each app, there's the app icon on the left, which takes up 20% of the real estate for each item. Then on the right there's a 0-5 star rating which you can barely read, as well as a price tag. That's another 25% gone. All told, fully half of each item in the Market consists of its icon and price, which is useful information but that's also too much overhead; I say this because the name of the App is between them, and looking at very the top 6 on the list, 3 of the app names do not fit.

You can't even read the full name of 50% of the apps on the top list! It seems like a minor detail but it really disrupts the browsing experience. The name can't wrap onto the line below it because that line is reserved for the developer, which is also important information, but it is of secondary importance to the app name, imo.

Okay, so let's turn the screen sideways. You'd think that you'd get longer, more verbose entries, right? Wrong. Instead, half of the screen is now taken up by a big green blob of crap. Given that the height of most screens is not twice the width, you actually have even less text space in the "long view", and this is why I NEVER use widescreen in the market even though I use it for almost everything else.

Here's what I think. Just halve the app density, at least for the Top list. Every app should get two rows. The top row can stay pretty much as it is, and the bottom row should have a *brief* synopsis of what the app actually does. Currently, to get this rather important information, you have to click an item from the list and then usually click a 'more' button to expand the description because it only shows the first 3 lines by default.

For example, item #3 right now is "Wyse PocketCloud P" for $14.99. I can guess that the full name is "Wyse PocketCloud Player" but why do I have to? To actually find out what it is and why I should pay $14.99 for it, I go into the info page and read "PocketCloud enables remote access to Windows or Mac desktops over WiFi and 3G/4G networks" (blah blah blah) Okay, that's pretty awesome. I suspect that if this one-sentence synopsis were immediately visible, more people would buy it.

So, overall: make the entries twice as tall, and change the widescreen mode so that it makes the Market more readable and not less. Or even keep the landscape mode as it is, and save my "more verbose entries" idea for widescreen.

Did I mention that the widescreen Market absolutely blows?

The desktop Android market, on the other hand, is awesome. Trouble is, most users (when I say "most users" I mean "my mom" which I think is a reasonable approximation) don't even realize it exists. Maybe this could be somehow rectified, too? Just sayin'...

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It is no better for the end user

Of the apps I have on my phone, less than a third were found directly on the Market. The search abilities and options to refine the search are dreadful (as is the tendency to 'lose' ratings/comments as you are writing them).

Anyway, I think it says a lot that I discovered most of the useful apps on various websites, only using the Market for the actual download.

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FAIL

Bullcrap

Android apps sales are lower, because of Android OpenSource nature, there are more free apps that work just as well as paid-for apps.

In other words, developers are not trying hard enough to differentiate themselves from freebie apps.

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Linux

You can't say that here

Even if it is true, the mstards and the fanbois will vote you down in droves. The sheeple must continue to be convinced that cost=good...

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Double bullcrap

First of all, Android may be "open"source, most of the apps are not. Show me how many of them have the source avalilable? Some of them do this in violation of the license too. Half of the media players use bits and pieces from mplayer without complying with the GPL just to name an example. The mplayer guys should really do what busybox does - get a good lawyer and some thick necks to collect on enforcement. Too many freeloaders out there.

As far as paying. There is more to that than meets the eye. Most of the app syndrome is still driven by the "first wave". These are people who actually will think where they stick their credit card credentials for a recurring purchase.

I may not like Nokia in their current incarnation. I do not like Apple either. I am however happy to trust them with my credit card details.

There is no way in hell however that I am putting them into a "grocery" tablet with software of unknown origin regardless who is selling it. I have seen enough of that backdoored in my time. I will similarly recommend not to put details in to anyone who asks me. No thanks. Hacked build? Rooted ROM? Credit cards into it? Forget it. No way in hell.

Probably 70%+ of Android shipping devices are in the category where paid purchase likelhood is close to nil. Users are reluctant to put any credit card details in. Many devices ship with the market disabled. End of the day you get a much lower paying population than on iPhone where everyone is ready to pay from day one.

So figures are unfortunately about right and will continue to be right until Google institutes a "genuine android" program where it guarantees that any manufacturers customisations do not backdoor it. With stickers on the touchscreen which you remove before using it. Sounds like MSFT? I know it does. It is however the right solution.

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Another open source issue

When people hear open source they expect stuff to be free.

Trying to convince most people to pay for software & services in an open source environment (eg. Linux) is challenging even though the same people would readily pay for the same software & services for Windows etc.

As one manager said to me:"... but the whole point of Linux is that is free. We can't go paying people to write Linux software."

It is only with maturity that people realise that the "free stuff" is only free because someone pays and that they can do their bit.

It will take a lot longer for AppStore shoppers to get used to the idea of paying for Open Source apps.

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Thumb Up

I agree with AC:Bullcrap

Quite frankly, I feel developers are making some money. The ad-sponsored model seems to be quite neat. No-one pays to download and use an app; they simply see a couple of adverts on the screen. Devs get some cash and users get the app's functionality with the very slight irritation of an advert.

On the other hand, the android market place could do with some major improvements.

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Another FUD issue

Sounds like someone has had their head in their recharge socket.

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FAIL

Might wantr to read up

on Google Checkout.

It's a web based payment system, that Android Marketplace uses.

It's got nothing to do with your phone, or if it's rooted or not.

If you actually owned an Android handset, you would have known this, rather than spouting the embarrassing and idiotic tripe you just did....

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Most people buying Android don't think Open Source

Maybe the readers of The Register know Android is Open Source, but outside of tech circles Android is just an alternative to iOS.

It would be interesting to know how many people go to the Android Marketplace. I know a number of people with Android phones who just downloaded Facebook and didn't go back again.

Maybe the users of Android don't know the greatness that is their Marketplace.

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Meh

So what?

iThings are bought by people with more cash than Android things; they spend more money on fart apps.

It's not rocket surgery...

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Happy

Definitely not

rocket surgery

LOL

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Anonymous Coward

RE: So what?

That doesn't explain why OVI is 2nd (or 3rd depending on how you view this table)

You know... OVI from those phones with that OS that nobody likes...

Funny, how it seems that Nokia as a "failing" company, which sells both expensive and cheap smartphones (to the punters with less cash to spend than the iFolks), is still able to "monetize" the best amongst the list here.

Instead of Nokia bending over to MSFT shouldn't it be other way around?

Or do I interpret this table wrong?

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Obviously

You do not own a Nokia or have had reason to use Ovi

If I froze my piss and gave you the gold coloured rod that resulted you may smile, cus it looks like gold but as it melts the smell of piss will fill your nostrils

That sir is what a modern Nokia phone and Ovi are like

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Linux

iPhone buyers are free thinkers

They don't follow no stinking trends, they are hip and can prove their individuality by buying premium hardware which locks them into a chargable ecosystem. Some might also say that they are a demonstrably easier touch when it comes to getting money out of for overpriced stuff. The Android mob use Android for various reasons, including the fact that it is free and (in the closedest sense of the word) open. These are not the guys who are going to pay £5 for a crappy game, or £3 for a fart application.

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Anonymous Coward

Confused?

I just purchased Sim City Deluxe for 59p on iOS. That's not £5 and Sim City Deluxe is definitely not a crappy game.

On Android however that is true, the only Sim City is the crappy Metropolis version and it costs £4.

Maybe you got your platforms confused?

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Pint

FIFA

FIFA 2011 on iPhone: on promotion at 59p

FIFA 2010 (there's no 2011) on Android: £1.83 no promotion

Seems like the Android mob are the ones being taken for a ride...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FIFA

Football fans are always taken for a ride, I believe it is the law.

How about Angry birds... I've got all three on Android, and they cost me nothing at all.

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Freetards......

....are the only people who deliberately go out and ask for an Android powered phone. And they hate spening money on software, so they are not going to be buying apps.

The vast bulk of the Android devices out there are in customers hands because phone shops make high margins off selling Android phones. The vast majority of these customers never asked for an Android phone and do not know what to do with it now they have one.

And, of course, there are now so many versions of Andoid kicking around it is hard to know if an app will actually work on the phone you own.

All in all an epic fail.

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Mushroom

In UK Speak. Rocks == Bollox. MS Bollox sounds about right

At last count I had about 10 paid apps on my Nexus S - good apps deserve money. After nearly spending ooh, £25, my phone now does everything I want it to*. Everything else comes with the OS - just like MS really. I use my phone for nerdy techie stuff like Lan monitoring, Wi-Fi audits, logging into servers and such like. Apparently I can play games and watch videos .... but I'm too busy getting stuff done...

I agree that iApple have a fantastic marketing department, even better than MS, and their customers tend to be fashion victims rather than techie types. iTunes & App store are the best of their breed - everyone else needs to work hard to catch up. But there is a price: Vendor lock-in. Most "Freetards" hate that more than spending money. But most non-techie types haven't a clue and will just pay what MS/Apple/Murdoch/PC World tell them to do.

Why should we worry? As long as there is a supply of "early adopters" to seed the market, then the "me too" brigade will happily follow - at a vastly cheaper price.

* No. It still doesn't fart. Should I spend some more ££ to make it do so?

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Happy

i just THANK you

for using the word MOST in your post as often as you did.

I'm as techie and nerdy as they come, but i do not shy away from admitting that for certain things, spit and polish serve me better than the diamond in the rough...

I write applications, build websites, and repair intricate electronic devices mostly for fun, but sometimes i just want to reach for something and KNOW that it will do what i expect it to do, and do it well. My iPhone is one example of the things i own that do that, another is a coffee mug.

Means to an end, my friend, simply a means to an end...

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FAIL

Re: Freetards......

Let me sum up your comments for you.

"Freetards are the only people who deliberately go out and ask for an Android powered phone. And they hate spening money on software, so they are not going to be buying apps."

iTards would rather pay for something they could easily get for free.

"The vast bulk of the Android devices out there are in customers hands because phone shops make high margins off selling Android phones. The vast majority of these customers never asked for an Android phone and do not know what to do with it now they have one."

People who really wanted to buy an iPhone are so easily swayed by strangers they spend hundreds of pounds on something they don't want.

"And, of course, there are now so many versions of Andoid kicking around it is hard to know if an app will actually work on the phone you own."

Android is far too complicated for iTards to understand.

"All in all an epic fail."

Hence the icon.

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Trollface

"it is hard to know if an app will actually work on the phone you own."

Oh that's easy enough. In most caases, if the app is there then it will run. If not, the developer fucked up somewhere. Don't tell me there aren't the odd iPhone game or two that don't glitch about, and that's on an incredibly homogenous platform.

Anyway, maybe it'd be a better (perhaps fairer) metric to compare high-end Android devices with the iWotsits, and the budget droids with more feature-phoney devices. For better or for worse Android is rapidly becoming Windows for Fondletoys, and you don't expect a netbook to work in the same way as your hulking great LN2-cooled overclocked gaming rig acting like a space heater in the corner of the room. Could also help with regards app sales if Google had prepay vouchers in shops and the ability to process ALL common credit/debit cards.

Also I see you're in top form as usual.

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Trollface

For free

"iTards would rather pay for something they could easily get for free."

So did the Union in the Civil War.

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Linux

Message of the day

"good apps deserve money."

All I would add to that is that no-one should have to pay for the basic functionality of a computer, for example web-browsing, writing documents and such. If they really want the extra functionality or a "Premium Product", then they should pay. That's what choice is all about.

On my android phone, I haven't purchased any apps, but then again I didn't buy anything on my iPod touch.

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@farizzle

I'm a tech-head too, most of us are on this website. And like most freetards, I fear lock-in more than spending cash. Most readers here are not short of a bob or two anyway, and Reg staff are positively rich. No, is it the lock-in we fear. It is initially attractive, especially with the worlds best marketing machine behind it. But once you are locked in, nobody cares about you any more. A "means to an end" you say, wisely. True, but you don't really control the end any more.

A friend of mine kitted out her children with iPods, bought a big telly and replaced the living room hi-fi with an iPod dock linked to surround sound. She is delighted, but the overall result is that (a) they can't listen to music without waiting for the massive telly to boot (b) Everything they hear is over 1" speakers, (c) the whole rig is vastly complicated to administer and use, (d) it cost well north of £1500.

In comparison, I have a "open" freetard solution I won't bore readers with, and the total cost was about £52, using an existing hi-fi. It took much more work initially, but is streets ahead of my friends system. On a recent visit, I tried to connect my media player to give Anne a demonstration of "crossfade". Silly me, there was input on the iPod dock.

Still haven't made up my mind iPhone vs Android though.

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Anonymous Coward

Google is unhappy?

For not selling more paid apps? Really?

Why would they be, when they don't make any money out of them? In Eric Chu's own words [1] the 30% commission from app sales "goes to carriers and billing settlement fees—Google does not take a percentage"

Google makes their money out of ads, and which apps have (more) ads? The free ones!

That's the problem right there, Google has absolutely no motivation to carry or even encourage paid apps.

[1] http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2008/10/android-market-now-available-for-users.html

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@+++ath0 re: "Google is unhappy?" Google may indeed as you say be...........

..........happy because their business model is based on apps as "ad-bait". However, it will be interesting to see what happens now with Amazon in the game. Amazon will most certainly strongly wish to *sell* as many apps as possible - wonder how happy Google will be if the devs start to decamp to Amazon? I have a gut feeling that the situation may be about to change.

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Anonymous Coward

Amazon

Until the Amazon appstore comes ready to use on devices I doubt the majority will bother with it. If one has to do so many steps to buy and install an app, it's almost easier - and much cheaper - to install from one of the less legitimate markets.

Now can devices coming with the Amazon store built-in (ideally with Android Market hidden away) ever pass Google's "certification"? Well if the Skyhook case is any indication probably not.

My guess is that only Amazon's own Android tablet will use it's store as default, so for the rest - including all phones - it's just not going to make any major impact.

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Happy

@+++ath0 re: Amazon. You may very well have a point here.,

We will just have to see how it turns out. It depends to a significant extent on how Amazon develop their app-store and whether the ease of use equation contra Amazons rep and relationship with their customers plays out. It will be interesting at any rate!

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Thumb Down

App store doesn't seem to work

I've been trying to navigate through buying an app on Android for a while now - it never seems to want to work and install ...

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Right, so...

They've found out that Apple customers are more willing to waste money of frivolous shit they don't need or can get for free/cheaper elsewhere? That is shocking news isn't it...

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How about...

They've found that Apple customer are more willing to spend money on stuff that just works, and know that some of it is free.

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Go

Do Androids dream of electric sheep to fleece?

Probably not, because there's not much financial incentive compared to iPhones.

Android development tools are cheap or free - like the Eclipse IDE. That allows people to toy around without getting too involved in the cash flow. For example, one app I've got on my HTC Desire is "Hypnotic Spiral". As you expect, it shows a spiral circling in or out of the centre. It's utterly useless, except in the rare situation where you need to entertain trippers in the chill tent at a forest doof. But it costs nothing, so people will download it.

Since iPhone dev tools like XCode cost money, and AppStore registration costs a little more, iPhone developers are more tempted to monetarize even the most petty things. Take a hypothetical "Kitten Farting App", which as far as I know only exists in my dirty little mind. What does it do? It shows pictures of kittens. It play sound files of mewls and purrs, and every so often (such as when you shake the phone), it makes the kitten fart (Plop! or "Kllrp!). Want to know more? Well, it will cost you £1. A bit steep, but devs have to recoup their cash. Kittens don't fart by themselves.

It's economics, my dear Watson.

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FAIL

So £2.99 for XCode 4 is a significant disincentive?

Or free when you join the iOS dev program (which is a wildly unreasonable £59.00 for a year's membership and gets you access to extras like beta versions of the system - when was the last time that Google gave people access to betas?). That's well within the budget of the vast majority of hobbyist with no additional need to monetize it. Marketplace isn't free to use either BTW, devs still need to spend $25 to register.

If you don't want or need to make money out of your hobby then there's little advantage to choosing Android. If you're a professional developer hoping to make a living then this article demonstrates why Android isn't the system you should be looking at.

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Linux

Yawn

"Or free when you join the iOS dev program (which is a wildly unreasonable £59.00 for a year's membership and gets you access to extras like beta versions of the system - when was the last time that Google gave people access to betas?)"

I joined the android developer program for free with no apparent timescale for that membership, I run Eclipse for free on a free operating system and I don't give a shit about getting hold of Buggy Betas; that's for fanbois.

"If you don't want or need to make money out of your hobby then there's little advantage to choosing Android. If you're a professional developer hoping to make a living then this article demonstrates why Android isn't the system you should be looking at"

Back to the message of the day "Good apps are worth paying for"

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve

>when was the last time that Google gave people access to betas?

Er, April...February in terms of SDK biggies, other stuff pretty much daily/weekly.

>If you're a professional developer hoping to make a living then...

I'm a professional developer making a living - and developing for both iOS and Android is a no brainer - iOS users are richer and aren't going away, but its an ever-decreasing market in relative terms. Its when/if to look at WP, RIM, ChromeOS etc that exercises me at the moment.

...and on either platform the only reliable means to ensure a good living is to contract for App publishers....you'd probably be surprised by what companies are prepared to part with for a throwaway freebie on either Platform - but no-ones adding up these revenues.

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Anonymous Coward

"Want profits? Build iPhone apps"

You might want to qualify that line with "and already own a mac". If not then your first act of developing for the iphone is going to have to be spending a big wedge of cash on a machine for developing on, namely a Mac.

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Windows

It's a feature, not a bug

The entry cost is meant to discourage amateur developers like myself from pestering the Solomonic And Infallible App Store Tribunal with our lame-o apps. That said, if my Android app sells, I might be able to afford the cost of porting it to iO$...

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Anonymous Coward

"namely a Mac."

You might want to qualify that line with "or have Adobe Flash CS5.5 or Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 on Windows or Mac"

Also you can buy a Mac Mini for £612, is that such a big wedge for a software developer? If so you can even go down the hackintosh route.. so sorry that's not such a big problem.

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Mushroom

Yes!

It's about twice what I paid for a much more capable piece of kit complete with dev tools.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "namely a Mac."

Are you saying you can develop iOS apps in CS5.5 flash?

Ummmm... I don't think I would want to base a business model on that.

In fact I don't think I'd like to bass a business model on any retail environment that has such a history of moving the goal posts and suddenly deciding a raft of existing apps are no longer welcome.

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Bronze badge

Almost as Peter Murphy say's it's all a mugs game

I read somewhere that 100,000 apps have left the Apple APP store.

With all the fees involved that you have to pay Apple, a majority of developers are no doubt still losing money on each APP, no matter what price they sell at.

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Pirate

Piracey

Every Android owner I know pirate their Android apps. There are pirate appstores with every app for free. It is so easy to pirate on Android. This is a strategy by google. Somehow Google gets away with stuff that no one else does.

Youtube: 90%+ pirated stuff. Ok. Its google.

Android: 90%+ pirated stiff. Ok. Its google.

Googles cloud music. Licence? Why aquire a licence? Its google.

Microsoft uses the same tactic on their platform. The masses use pirated software, and then get companies to overpay for their licenses.

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WTF?

Um

I don't. I mean, most apps cost less than a pack of gum. I probably would have pirated apps if I were a 16 year old with no credit card, but wtf? Besides, there's no way that some dodgy .zip from MegaUpload could possible contain malicious software...

In any event, there are several safeguards against piracy, it's just that many developers don't bother to use them. On the other hand, they really ought to be baked-in to the APK file at this point. This year's I/O had a seminar on DRM, at least.

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Not quite

While I don't know about Windows Phone sales, Piracy on the PC is causing developers to move toward the consoles (which, while they are hackable, are still harder to pirate on than Windows).

If Google do not do something to combat piracy on Android, it's going to suffer the same fate as gaming on the PC is..

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Anonymous Coward

No-one can buy apps

The reason Android Market sales are poor, is that Android Market and Google Checkout are flaky pieces of crap written by amateurs.

Users frequently can't buy apps due to constant credit card authorization failures, or market outages which have been happening on almost a daily basis for months. To top it all, the recent spat of Google Checkout problems allowed some users to get paid apps for free.

See here for a very large thread of very angry developers:

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/checkout-merchants/thread?tid=7bdc30064117bd02&hl=en

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Bank Charges Stop Me Buying

I don't buy apps any more since I realised that Google charge in the currency of the developer. A couple of one euro apps eventually cost me over two pounds each - instead of around 80 pence. I don't mind rating for things I want but giving the banks 80% of what I pay in currency conversion costs is not on. Google should charge the user in their own currency and not the developer's currency. Paypal can manage it, why not Google?

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