The Hills Are Greener: Five Years Later, What Separates the App Culture on iOS and Android Still?

The Hills Are Greener: Five Years Later, What Separates the App Culture on iOS and Android Still?

Jul 8, 2013

The App Store turns five this week, and it looks like it’s going to be a big deal: a variety of high-profile freebies are being made available, including classics like Where’s My Water?, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, and even a recent hit like Badlands.

It’s hard to think that the land of mobile apps has been around for so long already – Google Play is actually close to turning 5 as well, with the Android Market having launched initially in October 2008. There’s a lot of apps, and a lot of Android devices out there – likely more than the App Store at this point.

It just still feels like the App Store is just a bigger deal, for whatever reason. Is it because of the Apple mystique that causes everything surrounding the App Store to feel more elevated, more important.


Perhaps it has to do with the community around the App Store? I’ve often felt that the lack of a promo code system on Google Play has limited what the press can do, as developers are often hesitant to send out APKs of their games. That’s an easy route to piracy.

As well, dropping an app’s price to free temporarily just does not happen on Google Play, so it’s not a way to promote apps. Why this has yet to change is baffling because it continues to arise as a problem.

But really, what do ascribe as the biggest reason for the difference between the culture of iOS and Android? iOS, because of the limited amount of hardware that can run it, has to focus on the apps. Android users tend to focus more on their devices, customizing them, hacking them…the app-focused culture isn’t there because it doesn’t necessarily have to be pointed in that direction.

However, Android continues to grow in prominence, and is still on the receiving end of many major apps and games. And I have talked to developers that have seen better performance on Android than on iOS because of the audience. As well, the core gamer audience may prefer Android. Perhaps it’s that hacker culture, or the availability of gamepads.

Whatever the reason for the different cultures, one can only hope that the app marketplaces can keep going strong for another five years. And who knows, maybe the culture will be dramatically changed by then as well…

The Hills Are Greener: One Way That Google Needs to Make Google Play More Appealing for Developers

The Hills Are Greener: One Way That Google Needs to Make Google Play More Appealing for Developers

Apr 22, 2013

Google has been slowly rolling out version 4.0 of Google Play, with a redesigned user experience. Google is far more willing to tinker with Google Play than Apple with the App Store, who have made only one major change since launching the store in 2008. Plus, Google’s store is actually a native app as opposed to the embedded web views that Apple uses with the App Store. It’s just a better experience, one definite advantage for Google Play over the App Store.

But there’s one area where Google Play continues to lag behind the App Store, and it’s something that consumers aren’t directly touched by, though they play a role in it: taxes.

See, Apple, for apps sold on the App Store, they’ll handle paying taxes to the various local and national governments that demand a cut. It’s essentially part of the 30% fee that Apple takes from developers, that Apple will handle that.

Play Books Home - Tablet

Play Home - Phone

Play Home - TabletNow, Google takes that same 30% cut, but that’s basically just to get on the store – by default, they don’t do the kind of tax handling that Apple does. Essentially, 30% gets you distribution on Google Play, and that’s it. Individual developers have to give their cut to governments on their own – and considering that there’s 50 states and many countries on Google Play, it’s difficult for small firms.

I’ve spoken to developers who have been nervous about this – going legal would be nearly impossible for a small team. One such solution has been to just make their apps ad-supported on Google Play, which solves that problem by only having to report revenue from the ad provider, seemingly, but limits apps’ revenue opportunities, especially with in-app purchases, and limits premium apps. It’s something that Google should make easy for developers, and yet it remains a difficult experience.

Developers have it hard enough on Android, what with all the hardware permuatations to support. Google needs to make it as easy as possible to be on Android for developers. It has a direct consumer impact too: if developers are more willing to make software available for Android, then there’s more reasons for people to come to the platform (or remain on it) and to spend money. In the world of iOS and Android, Google is not doing the job they could be at making Android the attractive choice that it should be.

Why Google is Right to Shut Down Ad Blocking Apps From Google Play

Why Google is Right to Shut Down Ad Blocking Apps From Google Play

Mar 14, 2013

For those who hate ads, Google is taking a hardline stance on ad blockers. As reported by Phandroid, Google has removed apps like AdBlock and AdFree based on provision 4.4 of the Play Store developer distribution agreement which states that ” You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party…” which Google has apparently interpreted as meaning “don’t block ads.”

Now Phandroid makes a point about Google could do this if Android is open. Well, simple: the operating system is open. Their app store, not so much. Unlike on iOS, where if Apple doesn’t like an app then they shut it down, the app can still work and be distributed outside the store, but Google has every right to shut down apps that disapprove of. They actually have a moral advantage, that they allow virtually any app to work on the OS, that when they shut someone down, it’s killing them entirely, as with Apple. So it’s possible to say that Android is still open even if Google shuts down a category of app.

And in this case, shutting down ad blockers is necessary for Google, for a very simple reason: they make a lot of revenue off of ads. Developers can display Google ads in their apps. So Google wouldn’t want to be promoting a class of app that could harm their business model. Much like anything else with Android, they can’t stop ad blockers entirely, but they can make it harder for them to spread, and it’s hard to begrudge them for doing so. Want to block ads? Don’t expect the ease of Google’s store to do so. Adblock Plus can be directly installed from their website, for example.

Of course, AdBlock Plus still exists on the Chrome Web Store on desktop, so Google hasn’t exactly shut every avenue off yet, but considering that store is not an immediately apparent money-maker, they may not see the need to. Yet.

Plus, as a reminder: free content on the internet is powered by ads. This website is fueled by ads. Internet ads can be annoying, and I cop to using AdBlock Plus on the desktop Chrome, but I disable it for sites that I frequent, and I suggest you do the same. The people that create the content you love need to eat!

What is the Purpose of Google Play?

What is the Purpose of Google Play?

Mar 13, 2012

The question that comes to mind when hearing about Google rebranding the Android Market to Google Play is simple: why? It seems obvious – the Android Market had become far more than just Android, what with books, music, and movies available for sale. It seems necessary, but is it really?

After all, Google has had problems with recognition. Maybe this is a good thing – moving away from Android as a consumer-level and to a more platform-agnostic label may be for the best.

Part of the confusion right now over the ‘Play’ moniker comes from the fact that one doesn’t really ‘play’ books. For example, I saw Moneyball available on Google Play for $0.25, and assumed that it was a rental of the recent movie release. Nope, it was the book. Why Google just didn’t call it the Google Market is beyond me, but wiser people than I are making these decisions. Well, I hope so anyway.

Of course, the cost of rebranding is that now everything that pointed to the Android Market now points to a completely renamed store. Even I’m having difficulty finding where the Android Market used to be. This will only be temporary, of course – as novelty fades, familiarity settles in.

Still, the history of the Android Market’s name and design has been rather volatile – last year, it underwent a huge renovation, now it’s not even an app store, it’s that and a media store, and they have only now settled on a name. Compared to the stability in design and nomenclature that Apple has had, it feels like a place of weakness for Google now.

Of course, ultimately a name is a name and people will likely catch on soon. It will be weird to think of the Android Market as no more – it rolled off the tongue well, and saying an app is available on Google Play doesn’t feel right quite yet. With the hope of selling to non-Android customers though, this may be the right move for Google.

Droid Scan Pro PDF Review

Droid Scan Pro PDF Review

Feb 21, 2012

I like overachievers.

I like Alexander the Great, Mia Hamm and Susan Boyle. I like things that help me do more, especially when they help me do more with less. That’s a major reason that I carry a smartphone.

Droid Scan Pro PDF is an application that allows Android owners use their device cameras to scan items on the go. It also allows one to convert the scans to PDF or JPEG. Portability of business functionality is ever so valuable in a ever-increasing mobile world.

It weighs in at 1.13 MB, and less if the user opts to move it to SD card. The application has a fairly direct UI, giving the app user the option of importing, scanning or even sharing from within the app. Now, the UI may not attract effusive circus clowns, but it does work well to add an aura of seriousness to the software. The scans came out better than envisaged; creation of a PDF document was fairly smooth. I especially liked the trimming tool, which allows the user to shape the document with the use of an adjustable edger. I suspect the overall quality of the scans would be a function of your device hardware to a degree; as noted, they looked good snapped with my aging EVO’s camera. Droid Scan Pro completely cedes the image capture process to the device camera, which means you will be using a familiar menu to take the initial shots.

One can also import files to work on. This is useful when having to convert a JPEG to a PDF for example. I found that I could also import files from my preferred word processor, file manager and gallery. The Turbo import feature automates the process of importation into Droid Scan Pro.

The Share function allows one to distribute with a host of built-in apps, including Dropbox and email. The scan jpeg or pdf is also available in the device’s gallery app in the newly created Droid Scan file, so it is not necessary to even open the app to get to the scans in the future. The app’s built-in functionality also extends to compatibility with Google Goggles, which allows one to add business cards to Google Contacts.

I thought the menu could be a bit more intuitive; it is not rocket science, but my admittedly strong urge to tap and hold or use the menu button to navigate did not always work as I would have guessed it would. Using the back button sufficed. Also, the bulk action functionality did seem wonky at first, but was flawless on subsequent tries.

All in all, Droid Scan Pro PDF was functional, sturdy and did not crash on me once. I also note the fact that the developer took the time to include a feedback button as a major part of the user interface. That’s good.

Droid Scan Pro PDF is available for 4.99 on the Amazon Appstore and Android Market.

Sneezies Review

Sneezies Review

Feb 20, 2012

What may be iOS developer Retro Dreamer’s most poopular game, Sneezies, is now available on Android. This is a game of chain reactions: the cute Sneezies float around the screen, and players tap anywhere on the screen to pop them. When popped, they sneeze, and the debris then pops other Sneezies in range, who then pop others with their sneeze, and so on until no more Sneezies can be popped. The goal is generally to pop a set number of Sneezies in each level. Simple as that.

This is a perfect game for kids. The simple controls, bright colors, and cute characters, are perfect for the young ones to play around with when they pick up the phone or tablet. The game has multiple modes outside the main one, including a ten-level Score EX mode, a Challenge mode with multiple pops, and a free popping mode that just lets players pop Sneezies with no time limit or restrictions.

At later difficulties, it feels more like luck is involved in succeeding, at least in the main mode. Finding a good starting point for the chain reactions is key, but at some point, it just becomes about sitting back and hoping that everything works out well. The Challenge mode’s multiple pops make it more skill-based, but there are still bonuses for events that are out of the player’s control. The game really just does not feel as much like a skill game, as much as it is just one for kids (or anyone else looking for a simple game) to sit back and enjoy, marveling at the cute colors.

Sneezies is not the deepest game out there, but it is a fun distraction, and popping the little fuzzballs is quite entertaining. The game is available for free from the Android Market, and in a paid version with art for high-resolution screens from the Amazon Appstore.

The Hills Are Greener: No Freedom

The Hills Are Greener: No Freedom

Feb 6, 2012

About every week or so, it seems as if GetJar announces that they have a new free app or game available, often from some big-name publisher: Sega and Gameloft in particular have taken part in the program recently. I ask myself why they would do this, what’s the potential benefit? The thing is, these developers can’t actually give their paid apps away for free on the Android Market because of store policy. Let’s not even mention the lack of promo codes on the Android Market. It makes promotion of apps by giving them away for free impossible…on the Android Market.

So, basically GetJar can function as Android’s FreeAppADay, or one of the other many similar services on iOS – they can help push paid apps by promoting the free downloads of them on their service. Hypothetically, developers would pay for this service as they do on FAAD, and thus would hopefully make money by driving additional sales to the paid app through word of mouth and by driving visibility of the app on the free charts.

Of course, the issue is that by not being on the same app store as where the paid apps they’re trying to eventually push. Apps that involve freemium elements might get a push regardless, because of increased users buying in-app purchases. However, this disconnect between where apps are being sold and where they’re being given away for free makes it more difficult for this to work effectively. Perhaps GetJar is financially compensating for this. (Editor’s Note: A developer has confirmed to us that larger free apps do receive compensation from GetJar)

While FAAD is a mixed bag on iOS, it is sometthing that the developers of Temple Run have sworn by as the spearhead for the game’s massive success, by transitioning from paid to free using their promotions.

This policy on Android of no free to paid transitions is one that Google needs to re-evaluate. Dropping to free is a valuable promotional tool, and it’s something that is clearly driving developers to a service like GetJar, if it’s the best option for doing so right now. But if developers are going to use Android as a platform to sell their apps, they need to have the same flexibility and tools that they have on the iOS App Store. To not do so is to put them at a disadvantage.

Google Reveals “Bouncer” Service for Removing Malware on the Android Market

Google Reveals “Bouncer” Service for Removing Malware on the Android Market

Feb 3, 2012

Google has announced some new security measures to help improve the integrity of software on the Android Market, and to prevent the spread of malicious software. This service called Bouncer is now running on Google servers, scanning for malware being uploaded to the Android Market. It does this by scanning for currently-existing malware, spyware, trojans in apps being uploaded. Google claims that all apps uploaded to the Market are run on their cloud infrastructure in order to simulate what the app will do on an Android device in order to try and determine any negative effects an app will have.

While it would have difficulty detecting new forms of malware being created, Google claims a degree of success with Bouncer: malware has decreased on the Android Market by 40%. This is cheekily included next to a mention that providers of anti-malware software are claiming that the amount of malware on the Market is increasing. This appears to be true based on Google’s claim though – as they claim a 40% decrease in “potentially-malicious downloads from Android Market” while device activations increased 250% year-over-year. So, more malware may be making its way to the Market, but Google is decreasing the rate of malware on the store.

Naturally, this is something that iOS proponents will harp on Android as being something where the malware rate on the App Store is nearly zero. This is a trade-off on Android: apps have more power and permissions in exchange for some decreased security conditions. It’s part of Android, and as Google claims – apps have to list their permissions on the Market, third-party software must be prompted to install on a device before having negative effects, there is a degree of sandboxing on the device, and Google can kill malware on users’ devices remotely. This is superior to most any desktop platform experience, still, and at least Google is trying to take steps to show that the Market is not just the Wild West that some would make it out to be.

Google Music Leaves Beta, Now Open to Public

Google Music Leaves Beta, Now Open to Public

Nov 17, 2011

Google Music is finally exiting beta and finally entering the public usability phase! The service is now available to everyone through the Google Music website, and through the Android app. The Android Market will now sell music as well, with an Android Market update rolling out to users over the next few weeks. There are over 13 million tracks available in the store; unsurprisingly, pop hits currently are on top of the chart. Already. Though, the Google Music editors are featuring some diverse music, including giving away a free David Bowie track, and featuring an album by southern metalheads Black Tusk.

Quite surprisingly, the music uploading service will remain free as beer; this outshines Amazon Cloud Drive’s limited storage, and Apple’s service which does require payment to upload songs. The low, low, cost of free could be what helps to push Google’s music service on the public, though iTunes Match’s ability to not have to upload many songs will help them as well. Users can also share songs through Google+, and songs purchased through the store can be shared in full to Google+ users, though they can only play a song once for free.

Most importantly, this means that Google is now in the business of one of the big pillars of media, and it addresses a gaping hole in the Android Market. With videos and books already addressed, now the store is complete with music to go along with apps. Google is directly putting themselves in competition with iTunes, and they are making their operating system much closer in terms of features to iOS devices. This was a necessary move for Google.

For Android users, Google Music being a public service could be a gamechanger. Many of the bugs in the Beta have been worked out; the service works much better on the Samsung Captivate than it did during the beta, with many issues worked out. Users looking to check it out can get started by downloading the Music Manager software from the Google Music website.

Cut the Rope for Android Now Gets to Play in the Toy Box

Cut the Rope for Android Now Gets to Play in the Toy Box

Oct 6, 2011

Cut the Rope has been a success on Android, being a perennial chart-topper on both the Android Market and Amazon Appstore. Now, the game has gotten its first major content update for the Android version, with version 1.1 hitting. This brings the “Toy Box” levels to the game, featuring 25 new levels with a new gameplay mechanic: trampolines that the candy can bounce off of into Om Nom’s waiting mouth. Or, in some dastardly cases, they can be used to keep candy away from Om Nom! The horror! The update is now available on the Android Market, as well as the Amazon Appstore. As of publication, the free version available on GetJar has not been updated with the Toy Box levels. As well, there’s still no word if the iOS sequel Cut the Rope: Experiments will be available on Android any time soon. Stay tuned to Android Rundown for more updates on Om Nom’s further candy eating exploits on Android!

The Hills Are Greener: Light My Fire

The Hills Are Greener: Light My Fire

Oct 3, 2011

Amazon has finally announced their long-rumored Android tablet. Chris Nitz has a rundown of the tablet’s features in his post from last week. However, internet pundits have been speculating left and right about who this tablet will affect the most: Google, because of the tablet largely featuring a customized Amazon experience instead of a core Android one, along with the exclusion of most Google Android features in favor of Amazon ones, such as the Amazon Appstore being featured instead of the Android Market. Apple is also potentially threatened, because the tablet features reasonable specifications at a $200 price point, though the tablet is only a 7-inch model.

The thing is, Google will likely suffer the most adverse effects from the Kindle Fire’s Amazon Appstore exclusivity, but they won’t be killed by it. What developer is going to ditch the Android Market entirely for the Amazon Appstore, unless exclusive contracts are involved? Amazon likely isn’t fretting over the more limited selection on the Amazon Appstore, in part because of the fact that a device with exclusive access to the store will likely appeal to developers who haven’t yet become a part of the store. Whether this is a good thing for them or not is a good question due to some of Amazon’s Appstore policies.

Does the iPad have anything to fear from the Kindle Fire? As a 7-inch tablet, likely not. The larger size of the iPad is a draw that these smaller tablets do not have. However, this could sway those interested in tablets to check them out, at a much more friendly entry price. It could push the iPad into the ‘premium’ product market that Apple products have typically been part of due to their higher prices, but consumers have gotten accustomed to the iPad’s price, and as the progenitor of the modern generation of tablets, it will still have its appeal. But the space needs a quality entry level tablet; and Amazon’s clout may be the one to provide it.

Ultimately, more Android devices in people’s hands is a good thing. More devices for apps to be sold on is a good thing for developers, and for promoting development on Android. If more apps are being released for Android, even if it’s because of a device that’s leading people away from the traditional Android experience. Google will only suffer from more apps being purchased on the Amazon Appstore.

Amazon is the one company that could provide a high-quality entry level tablet experience. They already have a major e-book platform that will integrate in with the tablet. They already have an app platform that has attracted users and attention to it through its much-publicized free apps program. They already have music and video stores, and are launching a streaming platform with Amazon Prime. They have the massive server farms that can power their many cloud-based services. They can make the Kindle Fire a useful and powerful product, and with their interface built from the ground up for it, they can make it something vastly different from the iPad. The price and powerful specifications don’t hurt, either. Will consumers accept it? Anecdotally, it seems as if people want a product like this. Will it topple the iPad? Doubtful. Does it need to? Doubtful.

The Hills Are Greener: Ratio Rationale

The Hills Are Greener: Ratio Rationale

Sep 12, 2011

As reported by ReadWriteWeb, Research2Guidance has analysis on the percentage of daily downloads that app stores are getting in comparison to the iOS App Store, and they show that the two primary app platforms, the iOS App Store and Android Market, are paling in comparison to other, smaller platforms.

The first interesting sign is that users of the two primary mobile platforms, iOS and Android are downloading fewer apps than users of other stores. In particular, Windows Phone 7 owners are downloading apps at an 80% higher rate than on the iOS App Store, with the Android Market falling 5% behind the App Store. No numbers were given for third-party markets on any platform, it appears, such as Amazon Appstore. Nokia’s Symbian operating system may be relatively unknown to the current smartphone userbase, but some how it gets 160% more downloads from its OVI Store than the iOS App Store! Even BlackBerry owners are downloading more apps per user than the iOS App Store. Are users of these other platforms more enthusiast-focused audiences versus more casual userbases on iOS and Android?

Still, the numbers are kind of shocking. Well, except for Palm users not downloading apps on a daily basis at all, it seems. Still, GetJar being 90% lesser in terms of app downloads compared to the App Store is kind of sad considering all of GetJar’s apps are free, though in many cases this may be because users on GetJar’s platforms are just getting those apps from the platform’s primary app store.

Most interesting is the sign that the Android Market doesn’t actually lag behind the iOs App Store as far as one might think. Users are downloading apps on Android at only a 5% lesser rate than on iOS. This doesn’t sound good, but given the repuation of Android as a revenue sinkhole, data showing that this isn’t really the case is ultimately good. The platform is still lagging behind the iOS App Store when it comes to apps, but it’s catching up in terms of the number of apps that are being downloaded.

It will be interesting to revisit these numbers at some point in the future, to see how the Android Market in particular fares with the App Store as the OS continues to expand. Who knows what the numbers will look like a year from now, or even just a few months later?