All Is Not Well in Android Developer Land

Despite a number of developer surveys that now argue either Android has the greatest potential long term or that the OS already has the greatest developer mindshare globally, all is not well in Android Developer Land. In particular, users aren’t buying apps on Android at anywhere near the levels they are on the iPhone and consequently developers are reportedly unhappy with the money they’re (not) making. As a result a “movement” has sprung up asking Android phone owners “to spend at least $5 per week on apps, and to pledge their commitment through a hashtag on Twitter.” Source: VisionMobile/Telefonica (6/10) Whether it’s the lack of an easy to use billing system or whether the “culture” of Android is just not as app-oriented, the #PaidAppPledge is likely to #fail. Consumers aren’t going to buy apps just because developers want them to or to support the abstract idea of helping Android developers.  The root causes of consumer “resistance” to paying for Android apps have to be addressed, which goes to the billing/payment system. For example, Google Checkout hasn’t been widely adopted and carrier billing is inconsistently used. But more interesting to me in a way is this idea of a “cultural difference” between the iPhone and Android.  I have purchased numerous iPhone and iPad apps, probably well over a hundred dollars worth at this point. I’ve owned or tested four Android phones now and never purchased an app on Android. The single major reason is the the fact that the system just isn’t as user friendly — and I have a Google Checkout account. But it’s also the case that I can use the Internet to get what I want quite easily. The iPhone also allows easy Internet access but it’s not the first place iPhone users go. Whereas for many use cases on my EVO the Internet is the first place I go (or to free apps such as Yelp). Somewhat ironically the prominent presence of search on the homescreen also drives that “browser behavior.” Google ultimately wants people to use a browser rather than apps. Of course apps and the mobile Internet are not mutually exclusive. Indeed the company’s vision involves something of a hybrid approach through HTML5 “web applications.” But Google does need to address developer complaints and the billing issues because maintaining the developer ecosystem is key to Android’s success, at least in the near and medium term.