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© 2012 Jason Delport

Android Market

I've got high hopes for the *on device* application store phenomenon. Apple's App Store and to a lesser extent Android's Market and RIM's BlackBerry App World have been revelations for us application developers. Finally we have a viable route to the mass market consumer that doesn't involve selling our soul to the network operators. These new distribution channels aren't without challenges though. Apple's certification process has garnered some bad press recently and Android's Market has had poor sales figures. Nokia's forthcoming Ovi Store looks interesting and if it gets traction it will be a formidable distribution channel but it's costs are currently prohibitive.

The subject of this blog post is the Android Market as I have been particularly involved with Android development recently. While free applications have performed very well the paid applications have performed badly. The top selling paid application in the UK is 'Power Manager Full' ($0.99) and has been downloaded between 10,000 and 50,000 times. The best selling game is 'Baseball Superstars 2009' ($5.95) and this has been downloaded less than 5000 times.

Problems with the Android Market:

  1. Market users don't have Google Checkout accounts and are reluctant to sign up.
  2. Unfortunately there are already plenty of places to find illegal copies of paid Android applications online.
  3. The store is over cluttered with useless applications.
  4. The store has a very plain design and a poor user experience in general.
  5. Paid apps were launched later than free apps and a tone was set in the market that apps were, and should be, free.
  6. Lack of storage space on the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1). Only 70 MB of internal storage has been set aside for 3rd party applications and active users can fill this space very quickly (reference).
  7. The Market is on device only which is limiting in regards to screen size and the amount of information available to the user.
  8. The 24 hour refund period is too long.
  9. Google earn nothing from application sales (reference) and therefore making the Market commercially successful *might* not be their highest priority.

Some possible solutions:

  1. Proper DRM on paid applications.
  2. Market redesign (better UX and navigation):
    - Quality applications (both free and paid) get more prominently featured.
    - More ways to browse the application catalogue (most popular & best rated by day, week, month, all time)
    - Provide application screen shots
    - Improve the overall design (those boring black lists got tired very quickly)
  3. Google offer Market users an incentive to sign up to Google Checkout and buy applications.
  4. Google offer incentives to regular application buyers.
  5. Future Android device have more space for applications or allow applications to be saved to the SD card.
  6. Google builds a website that allows Android users to browse, buy and install applications from their computers.
  7. Reduce the refund period.

Any thoughts on this issue?

Updated with more ideas on 07 May and again on 14 May


Brian Smith declares...

All the people that I've met who own a G1 have it for *making* apps, not for *buying* apps. They bought into it because it is free and open, which is also why they run Linux. Developers will be able to sell about as many Android apps as Linux apps to these people--zero.

There's also a pretty strong vibe that the G1 is the "poor man's iPhone." An unstylish brick (it looks like a prototype that was never intended to leave the lab to me), where most of the UI is mediocre, running (in the US) on the #4 network (in terms of price, number of customers, and 3G coverage). You can sell to those customers but expect them to demand the moon while holding out for you to drop the price. It will be difficult to charge them any more than you charge the iPhone users of your app, even though the development cost per user is likely to be higher.

Date Mon, 04 May 2009 at 21:58:45

Jason declares...

Hopefully we'll get some sexy Android phones with good cameras and good batteries soon. That should attract a more mass market consumer orientated user.

Date Tue, 05 May 2009 at 16:01:34

C. Enrique Ortiz declares...

Hey Jason, good stuff. I wrote some "responses" to 1-5 above on my blog - see http://weblog.cenriqueortiz.com/mobility/2009/04/30/on-mobile-applications-platforms-and-show-me-the-money/

On #6, yes, currently SD card space is barely unused, and apps must be installed on system memory (faster) and that runs out too fast!


Date Wed, 06 May 2009 at 20:59:27

Jason declares...

Thanks Enrique. I checked out your blog. Good stuff. :)

Date Thu, 07 May 2009 at 14:09:28

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