Aug 31st, 2009

The battle of the app stores rages on! Despite recent woes and plummeting public sentiment for the iPhone App Store, it is regarded as the biggest and best mobile application market on the planet. We Android fans fiercely defend our robot shop and there obvious advantages/disadvantages to what each has going. But there is one thing we can’t deny – Apple and the iPhone App Store blow Android out of the water when it comes to sales volume.

Last week the developers at Tap Tap Tap – makers of a conversion calculator in the App Store – gave a stunning account of what their newly launched Application earned after being ranked the #2 paid application in two weeks time. Selling at .99 cents a pop, the “featured” position helped them sell 9,000 copies per day, earning them $6,300+ after Apple’s cut. Holy smokes!

larvalabsOther stories of overwhelming iPhone App Store success are matched with equally depressing stories of Android Market failure. Take for example Trism who sold $250k+ in game downloads over the first 2 months of release and since being ported to Android has only sold 500 copies! Man… what the heck is wrong with Android Market?

Matt Hall from LarvaLabs pointed out the huge gap between the App Store and Android Market with his company’s own first hand experience – the Market sucks compared to the App Store. The volume was paltry in comparison and despite 2 of their 4 applications enjoying time on the phone and website “featured” list, sales in August only averaged $62.39/day. As they depressingly explain, “Very difficult to buy the summer home at this rate.”

Most of the complaints that the LarvaLabs developer provided were about the actual market itself… allow me to summarize:

  • No screenshots
  • 325 character app description max
  • Only 1 payment form (Goog Checkout)
  • Hard to find paid apps
  • Various connectivity problems

We hear you, we hear you and I’m sure Google is addressing many of these complaints as I type and you read, but let’s face it… this is NOT the reason for the gap in volume sales. The reason for the gap in volume sales is because there are so many more freaking iPhones on the market than Android Phones! Yes, I think Android users in general – being a little more open source geared and less in love with their own vanity – do a little crate digging for free stuff. But the total pool pales in comparison.

To his credit, Hall identifies this issue and realizes the potential in Android:

I should add that even though these numbers are pretty disappointing and currently don’t represent a viable business, we’re still excited about Android in the medium to long term. There’s been some talk from Google of improvements to the market, including more payment options, so that will definitely help. We’re also going to see some big phone releases from Motorola among others, but the main issue just seems to be the market itself and it’s low purchase rate (19% vs. 50% on iPhone).

I really don’t think purchase rate is the main issue here. And even if it is, the sheer volume of Android Phones on the market in the next 1 to 2 years will help Android surpass the iPhone, evening the playing field when all things are considered. So to Android users – support our developers and purchase/donate for apps that you enjoy because they deserve to be rewarded, especially these early adopters/developers. And to Android Developers… keep the goodness coming, I’m betting you will be very well rewarded in the not too distant future!

Worth noting is Mark Murphy’s excellent response as the first comment of the LarvaLabs article:

Two statistics pretty much sum up the differences:

– The AdMob reported 19%/50% purchase rates of paid apps, as you cite above
– iPhone+iPod Touch have sold around 15x the number of devices at this point (also from the AdMob report)

Combined, that’s about a 37x difference, which eats up a good-sized chunk of your revenue gap.

So, in terms of “whether it’ll be possible to target it profitably as a small developer I’m not sure”, I’m hoping that won’t be a huge problem. Between hoped-for improvements in the Android Market, alternative markets with same/better capabilities (some interesting ones are on tap), and more places to promote your app, I’m hoping the 19%/50% gap can be narrowed. Then, it’s a question of device unit sales, rising tides lifting all boats, and all that…

Well said/researched Mark! And good luck to the guys at Larva Labs.

[Via LarvaLabs]

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