December 20, 2014

Enabling the Ecosystem: AndAppStore, Part One

Enabling the Ecosystem will be a series of interviews with those people and firms that are helping to build the overall Android ecosystem. Lots of attention gets paid to mobile carriers and handset makers. Somewhat less attention gets paid to those who develop interesting applications for Android. Teeny weeny bits of attention gets paid to those making those applications possible and available: the toolsmiths, the evangelists, the community organizers, the distributors, etc.

The first interview is with Al Sutton, the man behind AndAppStore.com, one of the nascent alternative distribution channels to the Android Market.

AG: What inspired you to create AndAppStore?

AS: Put simply; I could see that there wasn’t anything available which let developers make their apps available, passed any money directly to them, and only provided users with downloads which could be installed straight to their ‘phone using it’s built in Web browser.

Google had made a lot of comments about their Marketplace but didn’t have any information available to the general development community and there were a number of alternatives, but they all either seemed to be a mix of direct-to-phone and PC/compilation-required downloads, or took a cut from the developer for every sale.

And so I started work on AndAppStore, to give developers a method of making apps available that didn’t take a cut of their sales and gives potential customers a place where they can check out what would be available to install when they got their hands on their phone.

AG: What distinguishes AndAppStore from the other Android marketplaces out there, like Android Market, Handango, and SlideME?

AS: The main difference at the moment is the handling of purchases and/or donations. The other popular distribution sites take their slice and act as resellers which can create a number of legal and tax issues, which can be financially painful. In the case of Handango in the worst case the developer can lose 50% of the price as their cut and a further 30% as a tax withholding, this means that out of every dollar the developer will see only 20 cents. AndAppStore allows users to pay developers directly, this means we don’t have to charge transaction fees and we don’t have to make any tax withholdings.

When a user wants to pay we send them off to a PayPal page which has the developers account details in it so the money goes directly to the developer. This is a win/win situation for developer and AndAppStore in that the developer sees directly how many sales their making, controls the price, and receives the entire sales price, and we can side step the legal and tax issues associated with being a reseller.

One of the other big differences is we don’t host applications (which is something someone asked me about whilst I’m typing this response). The reason for this is simple, it ensures that control over the application stays with the developer. If the developer has a Web log analysis program they want to use to analyze their downloads they know that downloads from our site will be included in it., if the developer wants to replace the app with an updated version (or remove it) they can, and it also works well for us because it means we don’t need to have to put complex T&Cs [Ed.: terms and conditions] on the site which allow us to redistribute and sell apps and keeps our bandwidth costs low so that we don’t need to take a cut of developer payments in order to survive.

AG: Will AndAppStore have an on-phone counterpart? If not, are you planning any APIs (e.g., REST interface) to allow others to create an on-phone interface to AndAppStore or some other types of mashups?

AS: The AndAppStore.com Web site is already working in the Android browser. The site is built using technologies that allow the site to change how it appears on different browsers without the user needing to use different URLs, so if you visit http://andappstore.com/ in Firefox or IE you’ll get the Web version, visit it in an Android browser you get the Android version.

The idea of an AndAppStore application has been floating around, but at the moment the support for developers in terms of hardware provision and testing is a little lacking, so we’re holding off on that for now.

As for an API, we’re adding RSS feeds to various things. At the moment we have an RSS feed for the latest releases across all apps, in the very near future we’ll have per-application RSS feeds to users can subscribe to new releases of specific apps. All that said if any developer comes to us and says “Hey I’ve got a cool idea, how about……” we’ll entertain it. We’ve even had an initial email exchange with the SlideME guys about accessing our data, so when I say any developer I really mean anyone even if people would consider them our competition.

Tomorrow: Part Two of the AndAppStore interview!