December 17, 2014

MISSING: Thousands of Android Apps

The Android Market should be teeming with applications by now, but it isn’t.  Granted, the platform is in its infancy and is really only available on one handset right now.  That’s still no excuse for there only being 500 apps hanging out in the market.  By now, there ought to be at least three times as many apps.

What happened to the 1,788 applications that were turned into the first Android Developers Challenge?  Allegedly there were a lot of high quality apps that didn’t make the cut into the top 50.  How many of those have shown up in the Android Market?

Heck, while we’re on the subject… where are the rest of the top 50 apps?  Please don’t tell me that everyone else is looking to sell their app.  I’d have a hard time believing that, especially when some of those folks already received over $125,000 for their work.

Not all Android apps released so far are high quality.  In fact, not many of the applications in the market truly are.  It’s being stocked daily with half baked ideas and buggy games.

I delete most of what I download within a day or so just because I don’t need them wasting my precious space.  Until we get the ability to install apps and run them from the SD card, I will be very discerning when it comes to my memory.  What upsets me is that I still don’t have a problem with the space, as there just aren’t enough good apps to choose from.  You’re telling me that there are no better RSS readers out there?

Comparisons to the Apple App Store, and even Palm’s store, aren’t fair.  In one case, the phone was out for over a year before the SDK was released, creating lots of buzz.  In the other, we’re dealing with a platform that’s over 10 years old now, on hundreds of products.  Still, it’s nearly impossible to bet that there will be 10,000 apps available for Android after only 5 months.

…By the time the official iPhone SDK was released by Apple, there was already an inspired community of experienced developers ready to start cranking out brilliant apps. T-Mobile has a much smaller subscriber base than AT&T, and handsets were not readily available to test applications on until late October of this year. – Rana Sobhany, Medialets/Venturebeat

One reason for all of this is that developers know exactly what comes in an iPhone.  The hardware never differs. With Android, developers have to contend with whether or not the device has an accelerometer, GPS,  touch screen, etc.  Who wants to write common denominator stuff when they are capable of putting out killer apps?

On the flip side, why write for touch screen phones if the next couple of Android devices are not touch capable?  How about the accelerometer that’s become all the rage?  The new Kogan Agora won’t have one.  For now, it’s a wait and see approach to learn what kind of hardware is going to be Android ready.

It will take time to get Android apps into the thousands.  It could even take a couple of years before we see thousands of quality apps available.

Who knows – maybe there are hundreds of developers with apps ready to unload on us consumers in 2009, once the market allows for payment.  Somehow I doubt it.



  • Armytank

    They are probably waiting to make some money.

  • Brad

    I totally agree and am glad I’m not the only one who noticed it. I’m a G1 owner and an Android supporter, as I see the openness of the platform eventually winning out over Apple’s fascism as long as nobody screws anything up.

    Applications should be the Android platform’s strength. Right now, as much as I hate to say it, the selection is pathetic. There are only a handful of apps which are really worth downloading, which is totally disappointing.

    Google needs to pull out the big guns to get everybody and their brother developing for this platform to use it’s greatest strength, or it will die a quiet, pitiful death at the hands of the hoards of people making novelty Flashlight iphone apps.

  • livpalm

    Agreed! I’m with google all the way, but it’s disappointing to see such low quality apps. It’s still early, and sometimes it feels like the launch of g1 was rushed. There’s is still so much to work on; saving apps to SD for starters. But let’s hope things get better in ’09.

  • http://www.bioslevel.com Colin Dean

    It’s wholly and entirely related to the payment system, or lack thereof. Once that’s in place, the number of apps will start growing considerably. I know I’m waiting for it. I’d rather wait a month and charge $0.50 for my app than get it out now and not get anything for my work but name recognition.

  • http://heikkitoivonen.net/blog/ Heikki Toivonen

    I’d say the $25 registration fee is also a hindrance to free applications. Even if you can afford to pay the fee, it just doesn’t feel right. I bet many free software developers will refuse to pay out of principle.

  • http://commonsware.com/Android/ Mark Murphy

    “Who wants to write common denominator stuff when they are capable of putting out killer apps?”

    There are zero third-party killer apps for any mobile platform, iPhone included.

    A killer app is something that causes people to buy the platform *just to get the app*. People didn’t buy the IBM PC — people bought VisiCalc, which came wrapped in this beige metal box with a keyboard and monitor. That’s a killer app.

    The closest thing the mobile marketplace has to a “killer app” is iTunes on iPhone, and iPhone isn’t the only device for which iTunes works.

    The devices themselves intrinsically have killer apps, in the form of voice calls and SMS, but those aren’t third-party and aren’t typically thought of as “apps” the way you might think of the stuff you get from Android Market.

    Moreover, while it is possible that a mobile killer app will require “accelerometer, GPS, touch screen”, etc., it is far from a given.

    “Heck, while we’re on the subject… where are the rest of the top 50 apps? Please don’t tell me that everyone else is looking to sell their app.”

    In some cases, I suspect the developers were hired by Google or another OHA member, which would have probably precluded them from selling their apps (non-competes, lack of time, etc.). Particularly those that required a server-side component, it is difficult to just “throw the bits over the wall” without some amount of long-term support work, notably, hosting the server bits.

    Frankly, writing, releasing, and maintaining software isn’t exactly a picnic.

    “It could even take a couple of years before we see thousands of quality apps available.”

    You sound surprised.

    Depending on how you define “quality”, it is entirely possible there are zero mobile platforms with “thousands of quality apps”. It’s not like every app for iPhone is the next coming of Lotus 1-2-3, or even the next coming of Super Mario Bros. There’s plenty of iCrap out there too. There are similar quantities of dreck for Palm, WinMo, and Symbian, based on personal experience.

    The fact that, dreck included, there are 500 apps in the Android Market right now is fairly impressive, considering:

    1. The devices just shipped two months ago…

    2. …to people willing to switch to T-Mobile…

    3. …in the handful of markets the device has been released to…

    4. …with a platform that presently is English-only…

    5. …and the core Android team has been jumping up and down about how you gotta gotta gotta test on hardware and not rely just on the emulator (which is sound advice when it is practical to be followed)

    That being said, there’s little doubt in my mind that iPhone will have more apps than will Android for quite some time, unless I and some others can pull of some bits of magic. The same consumer marketing engine that makes Apple such a remarkable brand has its effects on developers too…in the places where such marketing exists and has meaning.

    So, for example, I fully expect Android devices to outsell iPhone in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) in a couple of years, and once those armies of developers get rolling with building Android apps, the iPhone-Android “app gap” will close.

    “Google needs to pull out the big guns to get everybody and their brother developing for this platform to use it’s greatest strength, or it will die a quiet, pitiful death at the hands of the hoards of people making novelty Flashlight iphone apps.”

    Despite having one book out on Android development, a second on the way, and all that, even *I* don’t put that much stock in the power of apps to drive mobile platforms.

    Android will have a chunk of the market regardless of the number of apps created for it if it wins out in various scenarios. For example, if it becomes the de-facto OS to use on low-end hardware, replacing various homegrown mobile OSes that phone manufacturers use (witness Motorola’s moves related to Android).

    What apps provide is stickiness: they help convince people to stay with a platform rather than switching when they decide to switch devices.

  • http://www.andrudes.com Todd Arendt

    I know our team is developing now, for when you actually get paid to write software. And, as far as all the bells and whistles (accelorometer, etc.), there are LOTS of fairly basic business/productivity apps missing for Android, that Palm already has. Android needs SOLID apps, not just the next high-flying, works-when-all-the-planets align, next-closest-thing-to-vaporware. IMHO.

  • Brad

    Mark:

    “Despite having one book out on Android development, a second on the way, and all that, even *I* don’t put that much stock in the power of apps to drive mobile platforms.”

    Thats a fair criticism of my comment, which really should have been more directed at getting the platform on as many phones as possible as opposed to building a zillion apps. If one of the strengths of openness is choices, people wanting android are going to need more options than just “TMobile G1″ to take advantage of that openness. Yes, I realize it’s early, but when looking at the iPhone, it’s apparent that Android has a steep hill to climb up because they’ve got such a huge head start.

    With any luck (and possibly more encouragement), more and more manufacturers will start ditching their own half-assed homegrown OS’s and replace them with Android, as you said, and let the user deal with the software.

  • http://htcgooglephone.blogspot.com Col

    Im not sure why people see this as a race with the IPhone?

    I think there are a number of issues here.

    1) Software development is a sloooooowwwwww process. Try it if your not a full time developer already. Even if you have done this for 20 years, it still takes a loooooong time to develop even the crappiest thrown together code. And developing robust, and usefull code, with a slick UI and well structured database, forged aboud’it. Weeks, months, years!

    2) if you can do it and get paid something for it, independent devs are gonna wait, even if its just to cover their costs. Companies are definitely gonna wait, even if its just to see how the market develops

    3) Give it time. I think Android is a snowball at the top of a snowy mountain just starting to roll. I love my G1 but at the moment its a bit of a niche device, and the poor battery life doesnt do it any favours. Once a few of the big guns like Sony and Motorola start dropping android phones, the masses will believe its ready for primetime, and those little apps will be getting downloaded left, right and centre.

    I think this time next year the picture will look very different!

  • Ted

    Or.. call me crazy…

    They could be waiting for an official billing system to be implemented in to the marketplace.

  • http://www.googleandblog.com/ Michael Martin

    My sense in talking to individual developers and development companies is there will be a FLOOD of Android apps once the Android Market allows “pay to play” in early 2009.

    ,Michael Martin
    Google And Blog

  • http://www.andrudes.com Todd Arendt

    2 Questions:
    (1) Is there an online list of the apps on the Android Market (for those of us yet to purchase the G1) ?
    and
    (2) Does the number of apps on the Market drain internal RAM on the G1?

    Thanks much for any input !

  • http://soreco.blogspot.com/ Matt Soreco

    I can’t wait for the paid apps. There is a lot of garbage in the market. I’d rather pay now than wait. I’d also like for there to be some quality standards. Even for the free apps.

    Any news on when we can install apps on the sd card? So ok, there will be some great paid apps soon. They’ll be worthless if there is not room on the phone for them. I was very surprised that I ran out of room. I don’t have too many apps installed. They’ll be a point where I not only weigh the cost of an app, but also weigh it against what I have to uninstall.

  • http://www.droideo.com Droideo.com

    Nice article! Guess we will see lots more once we can pay.

  • http://htcsource.com Nick

    Todd,

    There might be an official list of apps somewhere out there, but I typically use http://www.androidapps.com/ They have a good list of the apps that are on the market with YouTube reviews and writeups on most. The number of apps in the market does use up a bit of RAM on the G1, but it seems the market app cleans up the cache every few days. I’ve never seen it take up more than 3MB, but it has been as low at 1.5

    I’m a bit disappointed with the progression of the marketplace, but my main theory is that it will get flooded once Google takes it out of beta. Personally, I’m a bit surprised that on one else has created their own Market App for all the other apps that are not in the official market place. Someone could create their own market and charge for apps.

  • http://commonsware.com/Android/ Mark Murphy

    @Brad:

    “Thats a fair criticism of my comment, which really should have been more directed at getting the platform on as many phones as possible as opposed to building a zillion apps. If one of the strengths of openness is choices, people wanting android are going to need more options than just “TMobile G1″ to take advantage of that openness.”

    To quote a former candidate for US Vice President: “You betcha”.

    For me, the most interesting of the new OHA members is Asus. If they can release a carrier-independent GSM EeePhone, priced reasonably with iPhone-level flash capacity…that could really open the floodgates for device manufacturers.

    Android needs *somebody* significant to start offering devices that aren’t tied to carriers, for those markets (e.g., US) that are big on the carrier-subsidized handsets. Kogan might do that for AUS/NZ, but they might have a hard row to hoe to break significantly into US/EU or the BRICs.

    “With any luck (and possibly more encouragement), more and more manufacturers will start ditching their own half-assed homegrown OS’s and replace them with Android, as you said, and let the user deal with the software.”

    To quote the great sage, Zapp Brannigan: “If we hit that bull’s eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.”

  • Rob
  • Bratag

    As a developer of 4 of the apps on the market (DroidFtp,SnapPhoto,WootChecker and StopTimerWatch) – all of which were requested by someone I can tell you I wont be coding and more free apps.

    Since releasing the apps I have basically been abused in every way shape and form.This is not to say I dotn also get some nice thankyou emails and I appreciate them. However I have well over 30000 downloads of my apps and guess how many donations – 3. Yep. So my incentive to code is

    a)To get abused
    b) To make no money
    c) To pay 25 bucks to get abused and make no money.

    I am sorry but the attitude of the users on the market is a large part of the problem that I and other devs have.

    Bratag

  • Android Shogun

    I concur with Bratag. I’m doing android apps (currently 5 on the Market) purely for fun and for the love the platform.
    But some abusive users are taking a toll on me. They are getting apps for FREE and they are still not satisfied.

  • Randy Fesse

    The culture in the Android Market sucks, as other developers have pointed out many of the users are straight out rude – why bother. I’m not sure why the G1 has attracted such a bunch of whinging morons. I’d say most people are waiting for billing to be put in place, at least then the morons will have to pay to leave their insults.

    Instead of writing articles criticising developers maybe you should be questioning why so many a*holes bought a G1?

  • Randy Fesse

    Also – the Dev Phone 1 was only just released. Many people are still waiting to get them. Before the Dev Phone 1 most people in the world did not have access to an Android device. Only around 1/3 of entries in the ADC came from the US so you could say the majority of developers only just got the possibility to get a phone – give them a chance ffs.

  • Randy Fesse

    The funny thing is this article is typical of the attitude that is upsetting developers. Instead of thanking the 100s of developers who busted their backsides to get you some apps you insult them and say most apps on the market are not high quality. All you did was buy a phone ffs. Your sense of entitlement is astounding.

  • http://andappstore.com/ Al Sutton

    Two main reasons I can see;

    1) Lack of hardware in developers hands. A number of the ADC apps came from developers in countries that either don’t have access to Android hardware or have only been able to get a Google Dev Phone for the last few days.

    2) Marketplace. Many app comments are abusive, there’s no mechanism for distributing updates, applications offering paid-for sections get removed, and developers have seen all sorts of problems with stats being zeroed. One of the reasons AndAppStore was not launched as a beta is because this is what developers have to rely upon in order to get their apps to market, and if you’re using Marketplace it can leave your users with a bad experience.

    3) API Issues. There are problems with the camera API, the APIs have shifted between major releases of the SDK, so sitting back for a few months and waiting for the API to settle is a wise precation that many developers are probably taking.

    I think things will improve, but it’s going to take several months for the hardware/distribution/API issues to settle and be considered stable enough to build on.

    Al.

  • http://andappstore.com/ Al Sutton

    Hey, and I can’t count, I meant three reasons :)

  • Randy Fesse

    To add to Al’s point 3. Besides the camera support for video, audio and Bluetooth is either non existent or in the case of audio, very flaky. Many apps are reliant on one or all of those things. Sounds like the Cupcake build of Android has at least addressed some of the video and audio issues so maybe things are looking up.

    The lack of storage on the G1 is a big issue too. Even a simple game like Bonsai Blast is 7mb – that represents 10% of the total free space on a G1.

  • http://www.JRAF.org BoD

    I may not completely agree with what was said but in any case: this kind of ‘opinion’ posts is very welcome, Androidguys, congrats!

  • Randy Fesse

    Also contemplate that T-Mobile are largely to blame for the problem. They obviously struck a deal with Google to have the G1 exclusive for 90 days in their greed to try and get more subscribers. Imagine what the situation would have been like if the Dev Phone 1 came out before the G1 or at least at the same time.

  • http://bsegonnes.free.fr Bernard

    I also wait for a payement system in Android Market.

    I have put my application on some free web site, and also on commercial ones (handango). Only 5 people have paid, and I have more than 200 ‘regular’ users. And thousands of downloads.

    Ity’s not a problem : they are ‘testing’ for me :-) and I am still improving my app.

    But, I’d like to get some money from my application, somedays…. (I’ve been working on it since ADC1 : more than a year ago, all for free…. !)

  • http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette Ed Burnette

    The number of apps will pick up when there is a financial incentive. I know there are non-Google stores for paid apps but they have near zero adoption so everybody is waiting (again) for Google to make their move with the new Market.

    I also agree with the other posters about the rude and crude commenters that are spamming the Market right now. It’s downright embarrassing, and it doesn’t look like Google cares too much about fixing it any time soon. Hopefully when Market 2.0 comes out there will be some kind of moderation or karma or some other way to make the comment section safe for viewers again. See these two threads for a big discussion/rant-fest of the problem:

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market/thread?tid=32dc4276b04e9201
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market/thread?tid=6aa202f080f83438

    –Ed
    “Hello, Android” – in print next week (crosses fingers), http://www.pragprog.com/titles/eband/hello-android

  • Joe P

    Me? I would like a different development language than Java… If I could code in another language, I would have a much greater incentive to actually get an android phone (if they were available and unlocked in the EU, since I tend to move countries every few months) and develop for it.. Demanding Java while largely targeting free software loving hippies (hoping that they’ll develop for it) isn’t a good combination. Sure, it will probably be overcome in time as Android gets more popular, development tools improve (Alternate Dalvik compilers would be great! Python, anyone?), and existing development firms decide that it’s a worthwhile platform to target. Also – don’t make me touch XML! No, really.. I mean it.. you’re crazy if you think it should be a normal part of development to read/write XML manually.

  • http://lysesoft.com Derek

    You have a FTP + SFTP client for Android called AndFTP. It provides local and remote file managers. It allows to rename, delete, copy, upload and download files. It supports resume. Try it: http://www.lysesoft.com/products/andftp/index.html

  • http://www.jfseostudio.com get online traffic

    We could use more apps for android. I'd write them if only I get squeeze in time. I will someitme soon it's always on my list of things to do….

    ~~

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  • http://syabac.student.ipb.ac.id syabac

    great post..
    thanks for sharing..