Developer Sheds Tears For, Light On Android Market


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]

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. The AdMob numbers are totally off BTW

  2. How can we support them When 90 % of countries are not supported in the Android Market !!! (we can’t buy apps ), I sold my iPhone and the only thing I regret giving up is the app store .

  3. ok, so 3 things.

    a) Mr. Murphy’s statement at the end of this article renders the entire thing moot.

    b) when was $$ the bottom line? ever? i mean, how many people choose to take a super-awesome app/idea like Layar or Shazam and decide not to make ANY app at all, because of issues concerning profitability?

    c) lastly, one thing no one has pointed out or likely even thought of: Apple/Mac users have more disposable income than open-source-loving regular joes. i mean, come on! “…$62.39/day. As they depressingly explain, ‘Very difficult to buy the summer home at this rate.'” wow, woe is you! maybe if you did some work that was worth a summer home..just a thought!

  4. Maybe if I could buy apps, I would. We need world wide access to paid apps badly.

  5. I second the sentiment of being unable to buy apps. I’d have bought Twidroid Pro and DocumentsToGo but sadly, the whole process of opening up the app store to a region is so cumbersome and shrouded in mystery. There is no point trying to gain market penetration by offering a smartphone if you can’t get any professional quality applications for the device. And developers aren’t going to develop for Android to make a buck if they have a limited market. It’s great that the U.S. has access to the app market but as has been pointed out, there are limited Android phones released in that region. And getting users to “pressure” carriers into doing whatever is needed to allow access to paid apps is frustrating and a good way to lose the good will of consumers – particularly as no-one on the carrier side seems to know what the process is for opening access to paid apps. Google has really dropped the ball with respect to this. The process (if it exists) is just a pointless impediment for customers.

  6. On the example of Trism, another factor in their sales gap is that they actively market the game on iPhone, and not on Android as far as I can tell. There is a nice link to the App Store page for the game right there on their website:

    And heck if I can see any mention of an Android one. I didn’t even know they had ported it until this post…

    Every news story and blog post about it they list on their site only mentions the iPhone version.

    Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me.

  7. Well in my limited search, from what I can see.. it is a matter of the publisher making the apps available for purchase outside the US.. You would think that anyone with half a brain, and some inkling of where the most android phones have already been sold, would think that it might be a good idea to make their app available in any country that had users that wanted to purchase it.. both the Marketplace, and Google checkout seem to be able to handle the transaction (at least in most of Europe) if the seller makes it available.. The “seller” needs to select the target market(s).. so if there are apps you want to buy, if you can find an email address on them, tell them they are boneheads for not targeting your country.

  8. We have Android phones in Croatia, but we don’t have paid apps:(

  9. When paid apps reaches more countries the sales are going to go up, obviously. Another thing is that up until HTC Hero, Android phones have been kind of geeky. The Hero brings sleek design and beauty to Android and less geekyness. This means that more “non geeks” will buy Android phones and thus make the amount of potential buyers higher.

  10. @ *d.*

    I completely agree with your points.

    From my personal experience of iPhone users (and users of Apple related products in general), they tend to fit into one of a few categories; wealthy, financially-stable, vain or stupid. Usually people that can afford expensive things, buy expensive things regardless of how good they are or aren’t because they’re popular or out of reach of another class. Then there’s the vain people who CANT afford it but buy it anyway just because its popular. Lastly there’s the stupid people. The ones who buy iPhones or Mac’s, defend their reason for doing so but have no reason for doing so. I know more than a few who ONLY use it for phone calls. Imo, a waste of money.

    Android is still new! Apple had a fanbase behind it not to mention revolutionary concepts and a powerful device that millions of people jumped on. There are simply more out there. So of course there are more market sales for it and I think it will be a good while before we catch up. Besides, am I the only one who feels like the dollar worthy apps are free and a lot of the paid apps aren’t worth a penny?

  11. For me as a developer one really unpleasant thing is that users have a refund option within 24 hours.

  12. So it seems lack of international reach is a big part of the answer. I would also suggest that apple has all these users with the wallet and willingness to spend on these things. I personally could largely afford the 3gs but unlike millions of others, didn’t see the value. Still don’t. My magic is by comparison extremely good value.

    Also, noone around me knows about Google phones, but everyone knows the iphone. Google doesn’t do marketing much, they my have to start for this market!

  13. My fears for Android seem to be coming true. As great a platform Android is, the smartphone market winners will be decided on three things: Hardware, UI, and App Store. Right now Android is lacking in each of them except Sense UI in Hero.
    Luckily Hardware and UI is not in Google’s control so it can be fixed. But App-Store is a big problem since Google controls it, and will not be solved until a Single, Unified Well-Designed alternative market exists, where anybody from any device can buy an App with many payment options. Its ridiculous to think that each country/Mobile carrier will need to create its own market.
    Heck, I am beginning to believe that Google has other ambitions with its Chrome OS, and DOES NOT (yes I said it) want Android App store to succeed…

  14. Another thing that bugs me about Android (probably with other phones too) is that an App can only be installed in the Internal memory of phone, which is so measly in Android phones that you have to delete a few apps to install new ones. What’s the purpose of this ? Is it the fear of piracy ? I mean people bother pirating a 99 cents App ? And even if they do, whats to stop someone rooting his phone and copying Apps from it.

  15. In Canada, Rogers has been selling Android phones since June and there are still no paid apps in the Canadian Market. I agree with Jason; the Google App-Store strategy and execution is starting to really worry me. Android needs a single discovery point for apps or the platform will fail to grab the non-techie consumer. It would also be nice if a handset maker could sit down with Google and create a great, buzz-worthy phone to grab everyone’s attention.

  16. Yesterday I had to root my phone with a sole purpose of buying apps, because there are no paid apps available in Canada! And it’s not a big deal for me to spend $30-$40 a month IF I COULD PHYSICALLY DO IT (damn you Rogers). Well spent $2.99 went to the great author of Robo Defense, this was the only thing out of my favorites that I could find faking some german provider. GOOGLE, MAKE APPS AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE. Go to an Apple seminar or something, and find out how they did it.

  17. I have not purchased one single app. Why? Because of the limited payment options. I have no creditcard, I have no desire to have one either. And I sure as hell am not going to get one to be able to make micro purchases in the Market. Creditcards are much more common in the States, in Europe they are used much less.
    There’s quite a list of apps I want, and I will buy them all the day I can pay through my carrier, Paypal or a Paypal like system by Google.

    But, some of the criticism being given is fair and do influence the sales. Although it’s obviously foolish to compare the Market and Appstore given that there are simply much more iPhone users at this point.

  18. Oh, and yeah on several occasions I have come across developer websites that show no mention of an Android version being available, while having big buttons leading to the Appstore. That doesn’t help either does it devs?!

  19. what about the android market return policy?

  20. “I have no creditcard,….”

    Please tell your customers to “Buy a Gift Card!!!!!” if they don’t have a Credit Card.

  21. The return policy I actually think is a good thing. Can be used as a unique selling point. Plus, why shouldn’t you be able to return something you buy? Why should that be any different from “real” stores?

  22. Look – It’s an oen source platform. Period. A ggod number of the early adoptors came to the platform for that very reason. What on earth would make someone think that people committed to open source are going to cough up dough for applications when there’s very likely a free version either already available or just around the corner?
    Earlier commenter who mentioned both Layar and Shazaam – Yeah, those apps are both monitized in the traditional Google way. You may notice that there is an advertisement at the bottom of the results screen in Shazaam, brought to you by AdSense. Click-throughs on Yelp, HotPads, etc. pay the Layar developers. Are they slick apps that kick Apple’s a$$? Most Def. Did the deelopers do it out of the goodness of their hearts? He|| no.
    And while we’re at it? it all comes down to execution. Period. If/When I find an app worth paying for, I’ll gladly do it. When you expect me to fork over $3.99 for *another* soundboard, browser wrapper or freaking tip calculator, you are sadly out of luck. I’ve got a tip calculator – it shipped with the phone and it’s called a calculator. If I ant to hear Quagmire say “Giggity, giggity” I can turn on the television to any of the 15 channels playing Family Guy at all hours day and night. He||, I can turn the TV on with Gmote! Show me anything, anything worth paying for…
    50% of iPhone users purchase apps. And how many of them also jailbreak and use Cydia? Or BitTorrent?
    That being said, there is no doubt that the market needs improvement – badly. The rating system is just broken, mainly by the inability of anyone over the age of 13 to comment or rate, the total downloads statistic doesn’t take into account returns, the sort options are anemic (I don’t want a home replacement, I don’t want to see all the icon packs for the home replacement du juor, and I will physically chock the next mouthbreather that posts up a @#!$ing soundboard) and sure, google checkout is limiting, but paypal would be just as limited, or whatever your particular choice of checkout service is. But it’s always a vicious circle isn’t it? Everyone is screaming to open paid apps up to non-US markets, yelling that it’s silly for the carriers to have to be involved, but in the next breath they’re screaming that they want to be billed to their phone bill for app purchases. You don’t get it both ways there, candy-boy.
    Here’s the last grenade I’m going to throw into the foxhole – Sure, Apple’s approval process is draconian, and it sucks, and no one likes it, and it’s squashing devs…but it also makes sure that there is at least some level of quality (used VERY loosely, because they still publish fart apps), so when you buy something, you know it’s going to work. On the other hand, the Android market has the return policy. 24 hours to test out an app. Does it work on your ROM? Does it do what you thought it would? Is it worth your money? If not, return it. If so, keep it. Simple as that. So tell me Devs, which would you rather have? An arbitrary, utterly black-box approval process, or an open market where you pitch your wares, and if they’re good enough, they make money? And tell me users, how about you? What do you want? A chance to try befroe you buy? A ggod look at something you’re about to drop coin on? Or would you rather know that someone, somewhere, is making decisions “in your best interests”?

    I know where me and my rooted, modded, loaded G1 stand.

  23. After realizing what their game was no wonder no one bought it, for the price you can get 3 better tower defense games. Maybe they should lower the price and make a game worth buying.

  24. Same story in NZ.

    Would love to buy appps.


    Vodafone NZ tell me they are asking Google and it’s not their fault.

    No response from Google help. No explanations, just deafening silence.

  25. A lot of ranting going on, but here’s where I think we all agree…
    The app store needs Serious attention AND marketing from Google. They probably thought by just putting Android and the Market out that folks would flock to it. And of course they wanted to grow Google Checkout. Now some carriers have agreed to add paid apps to their bills…a good step, but Paypal should be added : that takes care of foreign markets AND publicizing Android as a viable mobile OS.
    Next, Apple had a TRIPLE headstart with both Macs AND Ipods AND iTunes….Now THAT’S a Huge advantage we don’t share! We’re still on version 1 OS and yes, there are kinks to be fixed less than 1 year out of the gate…both OS and Market (and marketing).
    IMMHO, Google needs a more pro-active approach and FAST to gain good grounding.
    DEV’S : keep up the great work as the next 6 months will pay off.
    CONSUMERS : Consume and stop expecting a free ride and cough up the $1 – $2 bucks for the average apps and the occasional $5 – $10 as the exception.
    Be realistic Everyone ad remember we didn’t start w/a headstart of 3 Fully Developed standards to prop up a new phone. Google has done fine but again Must step up their game. And a Big Shoutout MUST go to T-Mobile!
    Let’s ALL be more patient And supportive of each other, especially now in the early days. It’s so much easier to teardown than to build, and trust me, a LOT of (fan) boys want to see us at each other’s throats!
    Let’s prove them wrong!

  26. I believe a lot of people are worried about using too much memory up. If we could run apps from the sd card(like its capable of doing), we the people would be more apt to buy more apps. So throw that in our eclair. It will pay off.

  27. Just wait until all countries get paid apps, and there are more android phones in the streets.

    the iphone app store might have been one of the first ones, but i think its days are coming to the end.

    Apple nonsense for accepting apps VS do what you want unless its not illegal
    $100/year VS $15 one-time fee (free if you dont want to publish in the market)
    Mac-only SDK VS all platforms supported

    what more can I say? I think the app store sucks balls,
    its just that right now they are the only big one (because of their initial advantage), but just give it some time ^.^

  28. I kinda agree with Jason above.

    There is a fundamental difference between commercial aspirations of Apple and Google with respect to their Mobile platforms. Apple’s major objective is to monetize iPhone/iPod hardware and commissions on App Sales, whereas Google is primary a Search company and Android is more to solidify their Search/GoogleApps revenues on connected hand-held devices. Google doesn’t need to make any money on Phone, OS, Apps, as long as they can keep their Ad machine pumping. Actually its in their interest to promote the Free Apps, and its very visible in Android Market.

    Android has created a buzz in open-source and tech enthusiasts. But Devs need to realize how much misaligned Google’s objective are with your paid Apps. That explains Google’s careless attitude wrt App Store. Sorry, the situation is unlikely to change, unless a third-party comes along and takes Android to truly commercial heights.

  29. So basically, the US is the only place you can get the app store? That really sucks, because getting an Android phone in the US is tough. T-Mobile is not an option in the state I live in. It seems like all the Android phones are released in other countries, but all the apps are released here.

  30. Since the only way to pay for apps on android market here in Sweden and many other countrys is to root the phone sales won’t sky rocket. It isn’t something ordinary user do. If only it would be possible to pay for apps on your android phone out of the box, people would for sure. So quit talking about that developers don’t make any money on market in comparison to app store, it’s not really an interesting comparison.

  31. Android has become very popular among developers in Serbia but we don’t have any opportunity to publish applications on Android Market.
    There are also three phones that hit the Serbian market in the last three months: Magic, Hero and Samsung Galaxy, and became very popular in the short time, but their users cannot buy the paid applications.

    When we can expect to get Serbia provided with this shipping/selling license for Android Market?

    I have so many ideas but just don’t have any interests to publish my applications for free just as many developers here.

  32. In Switzerland, we do not even have access to paid apps !

    I wanted to buy Twidroid pro, but until developers themselves make it available from their own market (what they are planning to do, I simply can not do it !

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