The Hills Are Greener: The Great Divide

The Hills Are Greener: The Great Divide

Aug 1, 2011

Recently, I got my hands on the Motorola Xoom tablet, and will be reviewing apps for it here on Android Rundown. I’m learning a lot by using it, not just about what the Android tablet experience is compared to the iPad (something that I will cover in a future column) , but a revelation struck me recently. When people, including the prominent tech bloggers and writers, try to talk about Android and iOS, are they actually comparing the operating systems, or their app marketplaces?

Android as an OS is impressive in part because it is so flexible. It has to be comparable feature-wise with iOS, which Apple can build from the ground up for their devices. Android has to run on such a wide array of devices, that it’s impressive that there aren’t more issues with fragmentation. Android also has more flexibility and customization available to users; iOS users will likely get widgets when hell freezes over. The notification system is still better than iOS, especially on tablets, where they are very unobtrusive. Android is very powerful, and there is little that the OS can’t do that Android can.

However, it is difficult to escape the thought that the iOS App Store is superior to the Android Market. There are just more high-quality apps on the App Store at this time than the Android Market. There are more apps launching on the App Store first. More original games are available on the App Store first. There are fewer apps of dubious copyright status. The App Store is far from perfect, but it has many advantages over the Android Market at this point.

The problem is that the difference in application stores is what has defined the debate between the two OS’s more than anything else. It’s not as if Android is lacking for apps – there is little in the way of functionality either builtin or available through apps that it can’t do, the game selection is wider than it may seem, and this isn’t counting what the platform can do that iOS can’t. It just feels like Android devices are somehow slighted because of their app store is mildly inferior, and it doesn’t have as vast a swath of apps as its biggest competitor. As an Android user, it is baffling and frustrating, because the experience of Android gets unfairly derided by the media and iOS-focused types.

The Hills Are Greener: What If?

The Hills Are Greener: What If?

Jul 18, 2011

Whenever I write about the Android’s general market for developers to release apps on, I like to hypothesize that each major move on Android only helps to legitimize it, and to push it closer to the iOS App Store. Like it or not, that is still the app store that others are trying to reach, the one that has led to success for many developers. While the Android Market is still lagging behind the iOS App Store, surely it will catch up in terms of quality apps and games, right? Well, what if that doesn’t happen? What if Android never becomes a destination for developers to release their apps on first?

Users might just not be interested in buying apps on Android. Perhaps they just are not interested in buying paid apps, or in trying to discover new ones. Perhaps Android just attracts two types of users: people who need a phone to text, take pictures, tweet, post to Facebook, and maybe play some Angry Birds; the other type would be the geeky crowd, the ones that love to root and customize their devices, and don’t necessarily focus on app/game usage. Perhaps it’s the case that because of the App Store being entrenched as the leading store for app usage, that users interested in using apps in particular are flocking to iOS, instead of trying to go to Android. Essentially, developing on Android is a stopgap solution. The demand for apps on Android comes from users interested in the apps on other platforms, and once there is enough attention on the app on iOS, its potential for success on Android becomes astronomically higher. 

On the development side, iOS development is not a guarantee of profitability at all. There are plenty of independent developers struggling on the iOS App Store with their apps and games, even the ones making some of the best products on the platform. It has gotten to a point where even being featured on the front of the App Store is hardly a guarantee of financial success for an app, in particular. Developers have reported spikes, but not enough to make their game an instant financial success. If this is true, then why would developers spend their time releasing for a platform with fewer benefits?

It’s not as if Android is particularly hurting for quality apps. Major services all have competent apps, the iOS game ports are regularly increasing in number to the point where Android secretly has a decent little game library going for it; there aren’t many great exclusives, necessarily, but plenty of decent Android-only titles as well. Really, if Android just becomes a platform to separate the wheat from iOS’ chaff, along with more customization and geek-friendly options? Is that really so bad?

The Hills Are Greener: No Limits…Okay, Some Limits

The Hills Are Greener: No Limits…Okay, Some Limits

May 24, 2011

For iPhone and iPad 3G owners, there are few things more aggravating than the 3G app size limit of 20 MB. This makes recommending apps, especially games, so aggravating. Recently, while on a train ride into Chicago, I tried to recommend to a friend to download Plants vs. Zombies on to her iPhone to help pass the time on the long train rides. However, because the app was over 20 MB, she could not do so over 3G. She eventually downloaded the game, in part because of my and another friend’s insistence, but if it hadn’t addicted both of us, it likely would have gone forgotten, never to be downloaded. This brought me new perspective on the App Store’s file size limits – they can have an effect on downloads of apps. A smaller-name app could easily be discovered and suddenly forgotten if it was over 20 MB. This file size limit is largely arbitrary, based on Apple’s appeasement to the carriers, as well.

This is why the Android Market’s 50 MB limit is so helpful – I have yet to come across an app while downloading that I have not been able to download. This makes app discovery so much more helpful when there’s no limitation on what can be downloaded. The only limitation I’ve run in to is actually on the Amazon Appstore – Chuzzle was only able to be downloaded over wifi, but that’s likely Amazon’s call.

The problem is that the 50 MB limit applies to all apps, period. No app can be bigger than 50 MB, and it leads to things like apps having to download extra data to the SD card directly – EA’s games do this, and let’s not forget Spectral Souls, which requires over a gig of additional data to be downloaded to the SD card. Google has thankfully wised up to this practice, allowing developers to store up to 4 GB of data on Google’s servers for additional data, but this will still be a hindrance to some developers. Mika Mobile, developers of Battleheart, have run into a variety of issues with app file size, and could not deliver a tablet-ready version of the game for Android because of the 50 MB file size limit, and programming issues preclude them from using external app data.

Still, these all seem like minor tradeoffs that are superior to the iOS limitations that pop up, because wifi still isn’t ubiquitious. The telcos would not like that. So until then, we must live with external app data downloads, and the occasional weird sound file popping up when our music player shuffles all tracks.

Android Market Projected to Surpass the App Store in App Quantity This Summer

Android Market Projected to Surpass the App Store in App Quantity This Summer

May 10, 2011

Don’t look now, but the Android Market is about to surpass the Apple App Store, at least in one quantifiable metric. According to a report on TechCrunch, the Android Market is expected to surpass the App Store in the total number of apps sometime this summer. A pair of research firms, Distimo and research2guidance, expect the Android Market to surpass the App Store in July and August, respectively. These predictions are based in part based on the fact that the Android Market had 28,000 new apps in April, while the App Store had 11,000 – assuming that kind of accelerated rate of apps on the Market continues, the Market will technically be bigger than the App Store before we know it.

The relevance of this beyond it being something Google and other Android backers can hawk as a bullet point against iOS is unknown, however. According to research2guidance’s free “Android Market Insights” report, however, “The long tail gets longer and longer while the top 5% gets richer and richer.” Essentially, as app stores grow, and as more apps start to pop up, it becomes even harder for apps that aren’t top performers to get a slice of the revenue on Android Market. While Android’s numbers are growing by the day, to the point where Android users may soon outnumber all other smartphone platforms, if the rate of apps on the Market is also expanding, it might not be easier for developers to make money off of the Android Market. Of course, this isn’t factoring in the number of free (and likely ad-supported) apps on the Market, as well as the rate at which Android users would buy apps. Both could have a negative effect on potential revenue for the Android Market, to a point where while the App Store might be a smaller market in terms of numbers of users, it would be a more attractive market for developers, still. So, while Android Market may be growing, it might not be the kind of attractive market that the App Store has been.

Amazon Wants a Piece of That Android Pie

Amazon Wants a Piece of That Android Pie

Sep 30, 2010

It seems another big player is going to try and take advantage of the surging Android economy. Amazon.com, one of America’s largest online retailers, just can’t resist the open cookie jar. Rumors have been flying around about Amazon prepping to launch its own Android App store along with a possible Amazon tablet equipped with the Android operating system.

These moves by Amazon aren’t really surprising. They have a trusted name and a huge customer list. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of Google’s openness policy to deepen their own pockets (they aren’t alone: see Verizon). It seems the Amazon Android App store rumor is leaning more towards truth thanks to a leaked Amazon App Store Distribution Agreement that landed in SlashGear’s inbox.

This Distributions Agreement lays out the Terms and Conditions participating developers will have to deal with if they wish to have their apps sold in the Amazon Market. From what I’ve read these T&C are not very developer friendly. Some things to note: Developers are expected to pay a $99 dollar annual fee to participate in said program. All participating apps must come complete with Amazon’s DRM only. Developer must also update their apps in the Amazon store at the same time as they update said apps in any other stores. Amazon reserves the right to set prices, refund policies, and can also changed terms or pull apps at anytime for any reason. Sounds enticing doesn’t it? Click [HERE] if you wish to read the full Agreement.

I still can’t decide if all this market fragmentation is a good thing or bad thing? As long as the Android Market comes stock on all Android devices I don’t really see the need for developers to go through all the trouble. Do we really need 10 different ways to buy the same app?

Source: SlashGear