Is Google Serious About Maturing the Android Market?

android-market-moneyWith all the different seemingly conflicting reports about developers fleeing both the iPhone app store and the Android Market, the question remains for those who are committed to the Android platform of whether or not the Market is ever going to mature to the point of offering a large number of quality applications for download.  As it stands now, Android users are kind of stuck with a half baked Marketplace that needs to have serious attention given to it before it can really excel.

One of Android Guys other writers wrote a piece about the needs that the Market has, and what needs to happen to fix them.

I agree with Todd about the functionality issues that the Market has, but I believe the issue about the Market offering a robust selection of applications for the Android platform really resides with the developers themselves.

Apple has trumpeted the fact that the app store has sold billions of apps for the iPhone, and being an iPod touch user, I can attest to the fact that there are scads of quality apps for users to download and enjoy, it is almost overwhelming when you look the sheer number of things you can get for the iPhone or Touch devices.  But the question has to be asked, how did the app store mature so fast, and become so successful?  Which leads to the next obvious question; What is it going to take for the Android Market to experience similar growth?

The answer to both questions is intertwined.  I am of the opinion that the Apple app store really took off because there were a number of applications that made creative use of the iPhone hardware, and created an environment of “Wow,” as I call it.  For example, one of the simplest apps you can download is a multi level application, which simply acts like a level to make sure things are well, level!  It is crazy to think about how much I used that program to  make sure pictures that were hung on our walls were straight and looking good.  My wife’s direct quote when she saw what I was using?  You guessed it, “Wow!”

The app store has grown because of the creativity of developers pushing the hardware to do new and cool things, not to mention useful and having impact on everyday tasks.  Not all apps do this, but this is what I think has caused the explosive growth Apple has seen there.

The Android Market must follow suit, or it is going to be relegated to what it is today, a mish-mosh of applications that has a few useful items buried underneath a ton of shovelware.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nice applications for us Android users, but most of those are made by Google themselves.  The non-Google programs that are popular mostly have been ported over from the App store, which is not a bad thing, but there is very little freshness to them.  Pandora, Facebook, Last FM–they all operate basically the same.  (A caveat here, they probably are going to look the same since they are portals to web services.)

For Android users to see real, explosive growth in both the Market and the platform, we are going to need developers that are committed to making unique, creative applications and games for Android powered phones.  I dream about the day that we will see games that use the unique functionalities of the Android platform.  I was really excited when I first got my G1 and downloaded a game that scanned bar codes and generated monsters from them to fight other people with.  That was COOL, but development has not moved forward with it.  I dream of the day where we have some sort of application that generates massive scavenger hunts built off of Google applications.  I dream of the day where developers look at all the awesome things that the Android platform offers and creates applications around those things that we find ourselves unable to live without.

Along with the practical fixes for the Android Market, there needs to be a philosophical shift in the thinking of developers who are looking to copy the success of the Apple app store.  Developers need to look at the Android platform with a fresh eye, and begin to see the potential that is unique to it.  We don’t want ports of games that have been successful before, we want new, fresh applications that are well thought out and supported.  This is going to take someone being serious and putting up some significant resources, but once they do, watch out!  Android is going to be on a HUGE amount of devices next year, with the user base growing all the time.  They used to say, build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.  I say, build the killer Android app and you will start the Android revolution in earnest.

  • Great article! I do not own an iPhone nor an ipod Touch so I have no experience with the app store. I am curious about what the app store was like in it's first year. The Android Market is roughly 1 year old. How does it compare to the app store at the same age? I see people comparing the 3rd generation iPhone to 1st and/or 2nd gen Android phones. Same thing with the respective markets/stores (not saying you are doing that here). I'd like to see a little perspective that takes into account the fact that the iPhone and it's app store have been out longer.

  • TMac

    As an Android developer who has left the marketplace, I can tell you that there is 1 reason you do not see mucho quality apps on the Android marketplace. $$ Right now there is very very little money to be made and most of the quality developers are staying out. For now at least.

    • Vladimir Kelman


      I think this great article on ZDNet…. is saying pretty much the same: there should be [material] incentives for developers to write and place paid applications on Android Market.

  • For me there is a number of things that concern with the Android platform.

    I am an Android developer, but the simple fact that I hoped that it would always be a platform of program once and deploy on all devices and it's simply not turning out like that.

    I develop once and test on versions 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and from 1.6 onwards a number of screen sizes. It just seems a bit much. I'm hoping this will change and I partially think this is the point of the nexus one, an unlocked phone direct from Google, perhaps a way to get everyone on the latest version of stock android perhaps?

    In terms of the Android Market itself, well I'm in 2 minds as to whether Google are building stable market and adding to it, or whether they've built a half baked market with the hope of someone else stepping in and building a market we'll all love.

    As for Apple's success after working very closely with some iphone developers all I can really say is that Apple create a generic look and feel of their apps because I do so much of the UI work for the developers.

    Some may disagree with me, but I personally hate the fact that Google went with grey buttons and UI elements, it's just so outdated. I would like to think any serious graphic designer would choose anything other than grey. But apple has this sleek & kool set of elements which they give to developers to make their apps look good from the start.

    Final comment from me, Apple has a number of ways to get developers apps spotted by the public, Best Grossing, Best Top Paid and Best Top Free, and yes we have top paid and top free apps on the Android Market, but these are stale, the Apple store changes fairly often to a point that everytime I check on the store I see new apps, Android Market gives me the same apps everytime. If I can't get my app seen, then there is little point to me developing the app, I admit sites like these help developers alot but still, there needs to be some way of finding new apps on the market which others like.

    But Google may well have something very cool in their offices that none of us will see for a while.

    • I agree with you about the grey UI elements. Anything would have been better then grey. I still keep the belief though that Android will hopefully improve on it or let us do it ourselves.

  • There are a lot of things wrong with the market, and a lot of challenges in developing for 387 different version/hardware profiles. However, I think the real issue is user base. When someone sells a killer app on iPhone, they can make a million dollars. This isn't true on Android. Android offers a better chance to become relevant with fewer resources invested, so it's lower-risk/lower-reward compared to iPhone. You'll continue to see applications that don't go the extra mile on Android as long as 1) They don't need to do so to get to the top of the list, 2) The financial incentive isn't there.

    However, Android does seem to be gaining momemtum, so it may get there. In the mean time, a better Market would certainly help.

  • Claus Hansen

    One thing that would also help the developers a lot, would be for google to open up the possibility to buy apps in more countries.
    There are still many countries in Europe, that can't buy apps in the marketplace.
    We have to settle with the free versions.
    And there are a lot of apps that i would love to be able to buy.

  • patsy

    I have to seriously disagree with this article on most points. The main reason that the Market has stagnated until recently has got to be the very obvious fact that until this summer we've only had one single Android device in this country, the G1, followed much later by the MT3G. If the various figures we're hearing are to be believed, the size of the Market doubled within just the last three months. That's not at all what a stagnation graph looks like.

    I also find it ironic that the one app cited as an example of great apps is the level, when in fact the one on Android is more functional by also providing a 360 degree top view. Besides, there are absolutely amazing apps on the Market that simply have no equal on the iPhone, especially in the business productivity department. I will just mention TouchDown and Documents To Go, which together essentially transform my G1 into a pocket laptop. TouchDown in particular has no equal on any Smartphone platform. Coupled with an ActiveSync enabled Exchange server it's not just on par with BB but bests it in any respect you care to think of. And while D2G does exist on the iPhone, it is not as feature rich as the Android version.

    These are just two examples of monumental Android apps, and considering the functionality they offer and the typical prices of beefier software on the iPhone they're a bargain to boot. It's no developer's fault if the typical Android user is too stingy to pay for useful apps, and a flashier and more "mature" Market wouldn't make a bit of difference to those users. I think the big uptick in the Market will occur with the widening of the platform. The VZ Android phones were released just weeks ago and already there is a measurable increase in Market activity. Just wait till the next few "big" phones arrive (Nexus One, if you're not just a tease you're SO mine!) Android has a serious shot at becoming THE dominant smartphone platform over the next 2-3 years, simply because the market is becoming too framented with OSs and it is such a great alternative in terms of usability, development and distribution.

    • ari-free

      It seems to me that the iPhone model is geared to favor lots of really simple apps and one-shot games that look great out the door and the android model favors more complex apps that mature over time. For example, you'd think such an important and useful app like docs2go would be on iPhone's staff picks (… but it is not. I guess the bird watching app is more important?

    • Derek

      Touchdown? the iphone and also BB's come with exchange sync built in. No need for an external app that costs 19.99. I have my iphone synced to my corporate exchange server and get the full contact list, corporate calendar, and push emails. The push emails work so well that they hit my phone before they hit my computer desktop. Also, iphone has D2G features built in, no need for an external app that costs 29.99.

  • I personally think that once the Market has more improvement implemented to it to increase it's functionality for both devs and users, we will then see more and more high quality apps appearing. A lot of it is about money and a lot of the top developers aren't making it because of how the market functions. Adding screenshots to the description was a good start but to really push the market to new levels a lot of features need to be put into it that have been talked about here and on other websites.

    The general view so far is that the market is 'ok' but that's not enough motivation for a great dev to drop a great app on the market. The market has to be kick ass otherwise it's not worth the time. There's an insane amount of potential for the Android market right now, it just needs to happen. I don't think it's just a matter of 1 or 2 killer apps needing to be on the market, but the market itself needs to have the improvements done and then a few awesome apps come out. The success stories from those apps will be what makes the Android revolution really happen.

    Can't have a killer app be successful if no one can find it after a couple days.

    • "Can't have a killer app be successful if no one can find it after a couple days." B I N G O ! Couldn't have said it better myself.

  • As it stands now Android is buggy and fragmented – yet another Google beta thing. Until the beta attitude goes away the platform ain't gonna be able to compete with iPhone.

    BTW there are quality apps in Android Market with very nice GUI. Check out task/to-do manager ActionComplete for example.

    Disclaimer: I'm the developer of ActionComplete.

    • Thankfully there are some great apps out there with great GUI's otherwise we'd be in some serious trouble lol

    • This is what we need, is people customising Android, the key thing is to keep some, if not all, of the default Android UI features.

      I did the same with an app I am playing around with – Where-To-Do.

      The thing is, it is easy, but many programmers aren't graphic designers and I'm sure some are happy with the default UI where as many average users wouldn't like it IMO especially compared to iPhone.

      • Tuan

        You're right, many developers are happy with the default UI, they don't want to spend time on graphic design stuff.

  • The Android market is half baked, in some ways its still catching up what the iPhone had on day 1….

    but overall its better baked then any other market, period. There are complaints, but honestly they are minor. Does anyone else remember what markets were like before the iPhone?

    And the Android Market is way ahead of the iPhone market, in everything that matters except developer count, and user count. User count is sky rocketing now, and developers will follow the users.

    Sure Google has a lot of work to do, and they know it. They do need to hire more engineers with actual experience making a marketplace. They are plentiful 🙂

  • Manimohan

    As a seriously committed Open Source supporter, I researched long and hard to reassure myself that Android was THE WAY TO GO in all respects notwithstanding all the hype and hoopla about the iPhone and how nothing could/would ever equal it. After finally making a decision not to wait any longer for a better/faster device I finally bought a HTC Hero and guess what? There is no Android Market app on my phone because Google in its wisdom has decreed that the Android market should not be made available to us in Malaysia (and several other countries/makers/models). Yes, the question is indeed "IS Google REALLY Serious about the Android Market" or is there something I am missing. I know this has been posted before in many forums but it is so fundamental a factor. There are many many mobile developers here who are really excited about developing for Android but with no way of their apps being made available on what is officially at least the major channel for Android users to get their apps, let alone charging for them, sadly, most of them are resigned to working on iPhone apps or going back to Windows Mobile development. Google is deafeningly silent about this. Just another nail for the coffin that the naysayers have been predicting all along? Sorry just venting, but really things like this makes one reach for the Prozac!

  • Mal

    "The money's not there yet" – I've bought 5 apps so far for my Droid in the first month, which is just slightly more than I've bought for my iPod Touch in two years.

  • gjs

    The Android Market is still only available in some countries on some Android phones and devices . Android Developers from many countries cannot offer paid apps through the Android Market. After over a year the Android Market does not offer universal access to apps for Android users and developers. The Android market is just for (some) carriers NOT all Android users and developers…

  • Vicki

    After 1-2 *YEARS* Google is finally "going to get serious"?

    Maybe an additiona 2 years?

    Why start so late entering into a new market… and then drag your feet even longer?

  • HC

    While I agree with some of the points brought up in the article, I think that people are forgetting that the install base for the iPhone was large enough to attract developers. In comparison, when the Android Marketplace was set up, no one owned an Android handset. Developers likely stayed away to minimize financial risks.

    However, with the increases in popularity and adoption rates of the Android operating system, I think developers will flock to the Android Marketplace in droves. No other marketplace/app store comes close to Android’s potential right now. Once the App Store gets saturated, I think many developers will look at expanding onto Android.

    As for the physical/coding limitations of the marketplace, I think Google needs to:
    1. Allow apps to run off the SD card. That way, games with large file sizes like the iPhone’s NFS Shift can be sold in the marketplace.
    2. Allow users to create watch-lists. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to download an app just so I can keep track of it, even when it hasn’t reached its full potential. I want the ability to tag it and keep an eye on it, regardless if it is installed or not installed on my phone.

    • Vladimir Kelman

      Really good points!

  • Commercially Anon

    "I say, build the killer Android app and you will start the Android revolution in earnest."

    In my experience, the fate of a killer Android app is to be emulated on the iPhone. The features that cannot be emulated due to the limitations of the hardware – stripped out.

    And the AppStore consumers will still go wild about it; and the Android using friends of the AppStore consumers will ask "when is the android version coming out".

  • Steve

    I am a developer and am stuck with a HTC Hero (still on 1.5 thankyou very much) cannot download a simple free app to help my development. It has said "Download Starting" for 3 days now. After looking at the Market Forums this is not an isolated incident!


    • Bill

      You're a developer, really ? Android 2.x is upcoming, thankyou very much." You CAN download apps via Wifi, but you must have the primary Gmail setup. As to why you don't have a 3G signal, if it's a Sprint Hero, call Sprint, if it's a Telus Hero, call Telus. If it's a Telus Hero (which is the CDMA network's first GSM phone) unlocked, or a worldwide GSM unlocked Hero on AT&T or TMobile, well, that phone will have been imported from another region, preprogrammed probably with 900/2100 and not 850/1900 or 1700/2100, and no you will not get 3G, and that's your fault for not researching.

  • Jen

    Hi everyone, I am a Motorola Droid user and so far. I love the phone. I was a Verizon Wireless customer, who was not very keen on switching companies, plans. or phone numbers. the DROID has offered me everything that I was wanting in the Iphone. My one concern was just what you all have brought up and that is the quality and longevity of the android market. As a non-Iphone person, I would be happy to have the apps that mimic the Iphone apps because right now, I don't have access to them. To be honest with you, it seems that the success of the Iphone app store has come from corporate partnering. For example: FEDEX- there's an app for tracking your packages. What I see happening with the Android Market is a partnering with the rivaling companies of whoever is involved with the Iphone apps. For example: if apple has FEDEX, Andriod will have UPS. I think once companies see the large non-Iphone user-base of the Android, it will become a race to see who can land the deal. Whoever Apple doesn't have, Android will. Again, though, I really would just like to have the same "stuff" that Iphone users have. After all, why should Android users have to feel like second class citizens in the app world??

  • CrazyDelta

    I think there has been alot of focus on Android hardware, while the attention of the Android OS itself has been neglected by all the unnecessary hype. Android is great, and I have the HERO myself, but there is still alot more to be done to really complete the OS. There are still bugs, and holes, and various enhancements needed. Just have a peek at Google code page for Android issues.

    Also, c'mon, where is the proper media support? Divx, xvid, flac, ogg? Get on with it already.

    So please, I would prefer the momentum of Android be focused on the software side for now.

  • Simon

    Manimohan – All I can say is ARGHHHHH… I just bought a HTC Hero and I'm sure there are many others in Malaysia felt like I do now having just realised that the damn Marketplace is NOT available in Malaysia… GOOGLE!!!!! >(

    • Manimohan

      Hi Simon,

      Yes, I can well imagine. I am trying to explore options for Malaysian Android owners and developers to look at ways that we can still get the benefits of the Android phones by forming some sort of user/developer app community of our own and perhaps even find ways to get access to the international apps from the developers themselves. In any case, do contact me at [email protected] and lets see what we and others in the same boat can do :).

  • Steve

    Here's the killer app that could elevate a device in Geekdom… create a real-life Call of Duty-esk app… android device gets fitted into a neoprene sleeve that gets worn on the forearm a la every NFL quarterback in the league these days…in landscape orientation it's your HUD replacement, GPS mapping abilities (that could be temporarily disabled when your opposing team is 'jamming' you), team status, timer, scorecard, etc… bluetooth earpiece for team communications, bluetooth sensor harness / webbing, and a bluetooth light / laser gun… PRESTO… outdoor laser tag so cool even the pastiest of dorks will want to go outside and play. Could even try to get the government to subsidize the hardware since it promotes exercise and getting our epidemically obese children outside.

  • nice move from google..

  • eco

    great article,,

  • Pingback: Google Releases New Android Tools for Google Apps Admins | The Post()