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The Trouble With Android

07.27.2012
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Over the past few months, a lot has been said about issues with Android, resulting in some dropping Android from their app development roadmaps. First we have the much lamented fragmentation issue, and then we have a troublesome piracy issue. What's to be done? 

Matt Gemmell wrote a great piece on the piracy problem yesterday. What kicked that article off was the fact that Dead Trigger, a $0.99 had an "unbelievably high" rate of piracy on Android devices. Now, it's true that Matt is more of an iOS guy than an Android fan, but he contends that Android is "designed for piracy", and he's right. It's the devastating cost of such an open platform. Matt poses the crucial question:

People like to throw around figures about Android’s handset penetration. Yes, Android is on a lot of devices. That’s lovely. But the real question is: as a developer, can you make money from it?

It seems that it's really difficult to. Handset pentration might be the big thing for Android, but that leads to fragmentation,  which itself takes it toll on developers, as you'll remember from the Temple Run saga at the end of March.

At my core, I'm a Java developer. I want to see Android succeed, so I can use my native language to create apps. But I'm also fairly pragmatic, and so far all my app development has been on iOS (apart from a brief foray into Windows 8 apps). iOS might be a "walled garden", but it's a well controlled system that reduces fragmentation and piracy issues. I don't make a whole pile of money from my apps, but that's not a fault of the platform.

I've come to accept the fact that Android devices come in all shapes, sizes and versions of their OS on Android. It's just the nature of the beast at this stage.

But it's piracy that really concerns me. Most app developers just want to make a little extra cash for their app development endeavours. It seems to me that on the Apple app store, people don't mind handing over $0.99 for an app. Personally, I've accepted that to get value from apps, I should pay. With the exception of free apps backed by big companies (Facebook, Twitter etc), there's little that interests me in the free apps listings on the Apple store.

At $0.99, or anything up to $2.99, I'm usually getting pretty good value. If you could get a coffee for $0.99 you'd consider it a damn good deal. And someone's gone to the trouble of designing and building the app, as well as getting a developer subscription ... well, they've earned it.

In the Android world, a change in mentality is too much to hope for - if you can get something for free, why bother paying? Can Google address this, or has the horse already bolted?

Just to balance things out a little, I know that piracy is possible on iOS devices too, but I imagine the ratio of jailbroken iPhones to standard iPhones is pretty low. 

I'd really like to hear some solutions to this. I truly want to see Android succeed as a viable platform for developers to make money from.  Should Google make some moves now to ensure they retain a developer community? On iOS, when the developer makes money, Apple make money, and as such I feel they have really looked after developers. Google are getting a cut of the sales on Android, so shouldn't they help to discourage piracy?

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