A recent study by Skyhook Wireless shows that Android developers are increasingly frustrated with Android Market. Some of the statistics reported from the survey could be a sign of trouble for the nascent Android Market, but its also possible that the survey results are a reflection of growing pains as the young Android Market struggles to compete with Apple.
Android is a relative newcomer to the mobile operating system arena, but it is quickly emerging as the dark horse and the most likely contender to challenge the popular Apple iPhone. Google’s Android Market has only a fraction of volume of apps in Apple’s App Store, but Android Market is still the second place app store.
The growth and success of the app store depends on satisfied developers continuing to create apps for the Android platform, though. Here are some of the key findings from the survey of Android developers:
• 57 percent of developers said they are not satisfied with their profits on Android.
• 90 percent of developers reported individual app downloads of 10,000 or under on Android.
• 52 percent of Android developers’ apps were downloaded fewer than 5,000 times.
• 43 percent feel that they would sell more apps if Android used a carrier billing or another simpler billing system.
• 68 percent of those surveyed are somewhat or not likely to put further work into their apps, compared to when they first released their app.
It is never a good sign if the majority of your developers are unhappy, or when nearly 70 percent state that they are more or less giving up on their apps and don’t intend to maintain or update them. That doesn’t bode well for Android Market.
According to the survey report “82 percent of those surveyed feel that the design of the Android Marketplace makes it difficult for apps to be noticed. Often, apps will be released and quickly buried by other apps, and difficult to find again.”
The survey also found that developers are concerned with the fact that there are multiple versions of the Android platform and a wide variety of Android-based devices. “Looking forward to a marketplace with multiple Android devices from several device makers running on multiple carriers, developers are concerned with the challenge of their apps performing consistently. 46 percent of developers surveyed were certain that different versions of Android would make development difficult.”
I have two concerns with the survey though. First, Skyhook Wireless only surveyed 30 developers. I don’t know how many total developers there are working on Android apps, but I don’t think 30 is a large enough sample for the survey results to be accepted as scientific.
Apple has more than 125,000 developers registered in the Apple iPhone Developer Program. I am fairly sure that you could choose a random sampling of 30 of them, or even 300, or possibly 3,000, and find that many of them are also dissatisfied with the rate at which their apps are being downloaded or the profits they are generating.
Based on revenue the Android Market does have some catching up to do, though. Relative to the ratio of apps available from each app store, Google should be generating about a tenth of the revenue that Apple’s App Store pulls in. At approximately $60 million a year though, Google’s Android Market is only pulling in about a quarter of that compared with Apple’s $2.4 billion.
My take is that Android Market is young. Google has significant room for improvement and it should take some notes from this survey and consider updates to the Android Market–particularly in how apps are categorized and searched, and how app billing is handled.
That said, though, when there are thousands and thousands of apps available, many of them will quickly fall off the radar and only a relative few will achieve significant profit. The survey sampling is too small to give much weight to the results.