November 23, 2014

Android Market Monkey Business?

android_vector_dDevelopers have derided the Android Market virtually since its inception last year. More recently, in SDK 1.6, Google responded to some of the developers’ concerns in a number of ways. Most notably, increased categorization for apps, and the new ability for app publishers to post up to two screen shots of their application. Depending upon your stake in the Android ecosystem, Google’s response may appear to be anything from “too little, too late” to “software selling supremacy”.

As an Android developer (and alliteration aside), my response to Google’s Market embellishments is that they have made a half-hearted attempt to placate developers. The support for that opinion, is as follows:

1). Android Market Apps Can be Mis-categorized – I’m sure Google expected the vast majority of developers to jump all over the new app categories they recently introduced. Unfortunately, many publishers appear to be more interested in shoe-horning their apps into the most popular categories, as opposed to the most appropriate categories. I understand how this type of behavior can occur, but if Google is serious about improving the Android Market, it can’t. The organization that brought search excellence to the world can undoubtedly find a parsing application to root out about 90% of this issue. And, if I have been too vague in this point, take a look at how many THEMES show up outside of their own specific category. There are other examples, as well …

2). Android Market Placement Can be Misled – Do you ever wonder how the same applications consistently show up at the top of the “Most Recent” (or, post-SDK 1.6,  “Just In”) category? It may not take a rocket scientist to discern that some publishers are “gaming” the system. Merely by submitting technically “new” files to the Android Market, these publishers are able to maintain advantageous positions on the apps lists. At first, I was gullible enough to believe that the mysterious algorithm Google uses to reward popular apps was the explanation. That is, until I noticed that many of the apps receiving “top-of-the-list” positions had been downloaded <50 times. Unless Google is testing some Android ad-words variant on the Market, something appears aloof.

3). Android Market Apps Can be Misrepresented – Now that I’ve outlined two of the most egregious Android Market sins, you would expect a well-behaved Android Market, right ? Well, maybe not so much, due to publishers who routinely market their “front-ends to online content” as stand-alone applications. Sure, the price for Market apps is practically negligible, but who likes to be duped, even if only for a small amount? I could go on to further illustrate my views on the repackaging of public information, etc., but I think we all get the point. If you call yourself an application, you really should BE an application.

4). This all results in Missed Opportunities – When innovative, envelope pushing apps are buried under a daily deluge of pop-culture themes, everyone loses. The developer loses the income necessary to support and improve their applications. The user gets frustrated with the “non-applications” that obscure the functional applications they purchased a smartphone to use. And, the burgeoning Android community loses credibility, as Android “evangelists” boast about the 10,000+ applications that exist on the Android Market.

I hope that Google’s latest Market-place enhancements are the first of many steps in a journey to realize the potential that is uniquely Android.

  • Brian

    I completely agree with your thoughts on the market app. 1.6 made it pretty and added screenshots, I still long for a better way to browse new material. I fear that good applications are going lost becuase there is no way to filter results in any way other than category and free/paid.

    I was looking for a calendar app yesterday. I searched for "calendar" and had to scroll through 50 applications with different ratings, with different prices. Some of which, were not even really calendar apps. This needs to be corrected if the market is ever going to compete with apple's.

  • anonymous

    Most important missing feature of the Market, as a developer:

    There is no way to be notified (no mail, no rss feed, …) when a user posts a comment.
    There is no way reply to comments
    And there no way to even READ them other than on the phone…

    Hence: I gave up, I just don't read user comments! I don't know what they say, what they like and dislike about my app, what bugs they encounter…

    • http://twitter.com/droidweb @droidweb

      I check cyrket.com's listing on my applications to see what people are saying about my apps…

  • http://www.trackaroo.com Jeff

    Using the Market to help promote (and sell your app) is not the best idea. I only see the Market as a way to provide the purchase solution. For my app, I advertise with Google Adwords and have a nice web site with a lot of pics. I then direct purchases to the Market or SlideME to buy it. So I spend a little money to promote the app in order to make a little money.

  • http://codeshogun.com/blog lordhong

    disappointing indeed. more than 1 year after Apple's AppStore launch, they still can't even remotely get close to their rival's usability and consumer-purchase-friendliness?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/commonsguy commonsguy

    #1: I have little faith and a lot of concerns about your theorized solution.

    #3: This has nothing to do with the Android Market.

    I'll grant you #2 could stand more transparency, and I have long been on the transparency bandwagon.

    Otherwise, I'm in Jeff's camp: the Android Market IS A CATALOG. Catalogs are welcome to use whatever ordering scheme, descriptions, and whatnot that they want, and products in catalogs are frequently never quite what you might imagine from those descriptions.

    If you want to be successful in Android (or iPhone or whatever), you will use the Market as a distribution channel, period. Few apps will be major financial successes based solely on being in the Android Market, just as few products were major financial successes solely from being in the Sears, Roebuck Big Christmas Book of yesteryear. Being in a catalog is useful and will drive some minor amount of sales, but success comes from driving people to the Market to get your app, not assuming people will trip over your app by meandering through the Market.

  • http://soft.antonspaans.com/products/gube Streets Of Boston

    Part 1:
    It seems that the downloads of my currently deployed app increased significantly after 1.6 started rolling out. Maybe it's because of the 'Top Paid' list to show up first or because of the screenshots.

    However, I agree that it can be improved.
    ad 1) I totally agree with you.

    ad 2) I actually don't mind that newer apps get an extra boosting just because they're new. Otherwise they would get burried immediately and the list of top-apps would never ever change. Google populatiry algorithm adds a bit of dynamic to it, like a grain of rice in a beer :-)

    ad 3) Ratings should take care of that. And i hope that Google enforces the rule that would ban 'spammy' applications or applications that game the system. If it does, it could do a better job, though (Sapphire Apps,…).

    ad 4) Yep… it would be great to have a 'hot list' or something, or a 'featured list' per category.

  • http://soft.antonspaans.com/products/gube Streets Of Boston

    Part 2:
    Also, i'd really like to see a more seamless payment option experience for Google Checkout and a proper web-client of the Android Market.

    In many countries, credit-cards are not very popular. In these countries, Google Checkout should accept PayPal, debit-cards or other payment options.

    And a proper web-client of the Android Market would allow customers to browse for apps leasurely, looking at more screen-shots, proper reviews, longer descriptions, etc, and maybe even an option to initiate installs.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckfalzone Chuck Falzone

    The Android Market definitely has its faults, and I'd love to see them addressed. But I'd also like to see other viable markets for Android apps emerge/gain acceptance. There are a couple minor players (like SlideMe), but they don't have the critical mass of acceptance by users or developers.

    Unlike other smartphone platforms, we are not beholden to buy from the company store. I'd love to see developers selling apps through Amazon, for example. We've already got the Amazon app for Android and are used to shopping there for other things…

    In fact, competition from other markets would probably drive improvements in the Android Market itself.

  • b87

    First and foremost as a developer I have to emphasize the problem of the feedback of the market account system of Google. In short there is no reliable feedback whatsoever. Those who have taken part in ADC2 will immediately approve what i'm saying. As a developer you get no feedback of your app taking part in ADC or of the number of downloads. Those who were savvy enough probably implemented a counter service that would inform their server that the application is being used by someone using the adc2 judging app…but besides that…it's very very very poor. Hope that Google wake up..because this way they will only lose the dev companies that are really important.

  • http://avventureplanetarie.blogspot.com/ Paolo Amoroso

    As a user, I access Android Market from the phone only for purchase/download when I already know the exact application name I am interested in: categories are too crowded to comfortably browse from the phone, and also include irrelevant entries.

    For application selection I check Androlib with a desktop browser. To find an application to solve a particular problem, I do a keyword search. Android Market can be improved, but I would also like Android blogs to review more good applications.

  • http://twitter.com/btj09 @btj09

    I just hate searching the market for anything. Why? Themes & Desktop Replacements dominate. It seems that Themes are loaded with keywords just to draw attention. I don't know. I'm not a developer, so I don't know how y'all are able to categorize your submissions to the market. All I know is you can't search, even for the most obscure of terms, without being deluged with Themes. Wading through them to actually find what you're looking for is time consuming and really unnecessary.____Another example: let's use the popular search "Twitter". Tbere are probably only 10-15 Twitter clients. I'm not sure how many are really offered because not only do the search results for "Twitter" pull up Twitter apps, but it also pulls up loads of unrelated apps because in the description of apps many devs have put their Twitter information in the description.____The gorilla of search (Google) has really put little thought into their system for searching the market. This is reminiscent of the very early days of the internet, and it truly needs to be overhauled.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Thomas520 Thomas520

    I tend to value all comments here so far, you all give great points. I am not a developer and seeing what issues they have makes me more aware of what I don't see "behind" the scenes. As a consumer though, I really hate seeing one developer spam the market with 'cheesy' apps that just change the cover (stupid sexy women {just one per app}, phone ring clips, theme add ons, or 50 different calculator apps depending on your profession ….). To me, technically, they aren't "NEW" apps. Just the same crap being thrown at us from a different dog…. If it is an add on or the developer has the same app – different disguise, it should be dumped into the category without all the "wow" factor….
    To be honest though, the Google search is really sad, as others have said, it brings up far more then what you are really looking for. I am not looking for Microsofts' "Bing" here, when we say Tweet apps, we mean apps that are used for Tweeting.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Thomas520 Thomas520

    I tend to value all comments here so far, you all give great points. I am not a developer and seeing what issues they have makes me more aware of what I don't see "behind" the scenes. As a consumer though, I really hate seeing one developer spam the market with 'cheesy' apps that just change the cover (stupid sexy women {just one per app}, phone ring clips, theme add ons, or 50 different calculator apps depending on your profession ….). To me, technically, they aren't "NEW" apps. Just the same crap being thrown at us from a different dog…. If it is an add on or the developer has the same app – different disguise, it should be dumped into the category without all the "wow" factor….
    To be honest though, the Google search is really sad, as others have said, it brings up far more then what you are really looking for. I am not looking for Microsofts' "Bing" here, when we say Tweet apps, we mean apps that are used for Tweeting…. enough said

  • http://www.getbusinessideas.net/ Thomas520

    I tend to value all comments here so far, you all give great points. I am not a developer and seeing what issues they have makes me more aware of what I don’t see “behind” the scenes. As a consumer though, I really hate seeing one developer spam the market with ‘cheesy’ apps that just change the cover (stupid sexy women {just one per app}, phone ring clips, theme add ons, or 50 different calculator apps depending on your profession ….). To me, technically, they aren’t “NEW” apps. Just the same crap being thrown at us from a different dog…. If it is an add on or the developer has the same app – different disguise, it should be dumped into the category without all the “wow” factor….
    To be honest though, the Google search is really sad, as others have said, it brings up far more then what you are really looking for. I am not looking for Microsofts’ “Bing” here, when we say Tweet apps, we mean apps that are used for Tweeting…. enough said
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  • http://twitter.com/TattierPub @TattierPub

    I have to say a someone new to Android the quality of the apps is very disappointing. I have the Sprint HTC Hero and the number of apps I've run across in 24 hours that don't work or force close is appalling.

    I don't mind paying for apps but, at this rate I'm afraid to purchase an app out of fear it's not going to work.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckfalzone Chuck Falzone

      You do have 24 hours to try out a paid app– if you uninstall it during that time, the charge will be credited back to you.

    • Justa Notherguy

      @TattierPub – Sounds to me like either (a) you've got a taste for the traditionally unreliable (and cheesy) app categories – like, say, themes and home screen replacements – or (b) you are a very unlucky user, app-wise.

      In the past 45 days, alone, I've downloaded and installed maybe 30 apps….and, of course, subsequently uninstalled a substantial percentage of them. Thus far, tho I will admit that several of those apps were disappointing (and a few sucked major hose), I've had no problems whatsoever with crashes, lock-ups, etc.

      Just FYI: About half of those installs were done under Android v1.5 and the rest under v1.6.

      • Justa Notherguy

        In addition to being a little more careful in picking apps, you might also try to maintain a lean, mean OS. Make sure the processor isn't overtaxed by multitasking, plus be sure to keeping some system memory open – don't try to jam every kilobyte with installs.

        eg: At any given moment, I have only one widget running. Occasionally, I check up on background processes, then close the unnecessary ones (using TasKiller, Toggle Settings, or Advanced Task Manager, etc.). And maybe weekly I look at system memory (see SETTINGS > SD CARD & STORAGE > AVAILABLE SPACE), maintaining at least 15-20kb, open.

        • http://twitter.com/TattierPub @TattierPub

          I have 117mb of internal memory available and 1,304mb available on my card. So I don't think memory is the problem

      • http://twitter.com/TattierPub @TattierPub

        Loopt which I used on my Blackberry force closes on the Sprint Hero. Quick Calendar bricked my phone. There are a few more that escape me at the moment.

        Nothing cheesy about my application choice, the unreliability, well that's on the developer.

  • https://www.geopaste.com gjs

    Wish they'd hurry up and support paid apps from DEV's in other countries, still waiting after almost a year !

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