The Android App Store Problem

Eric Schmidt predicts that in six months, iOS developers will be flocking to Android, even if they don’t like it. Ummm, think again.

Android’s marketshare continues to climb and that is presumably a good thing for Android but mere numbers does not create a vibrant app market. There need to be two pieces for a successful platform app store: 1. a trustworthy store, and 2. customers. Android has neither of these.

The Theoretical Android App Store

While there are no shortage of issues with Apple’s own App Store, there are a few things it really nails. Apple provides a safe and easy environment to deliver apps and seperate customers from their money. This is where Android misses the boat. If Google wants to attract developers, they shouldn’t worry so much about marketshare and instead focus on getting a reliable payment system and an app purchase environment where customers aren’t constantly getting stiffed. Amazon seems to be making the best efforts to fix this but there are some truly legendary stories about what a spectacular job they are doing screwing it up. With so many different form factors, screen sizes, and system specs, it is going to be a lot harder for Google (or somebody) to deliver the iOS App Store experience on Android.

“Free is Better! Hooray!”

Android owners don’t buy apps. With very few exceptions, every Android owner I’ve talked to is only interested in free apps. To hell with the user interface. Put ads everywhere. Just don’t charge any money. (Perhaps all of the on-screen ads explains the arms race of larger screen sizes.) I don’t mean this as some sort of character attack against Android owners, many of whom are very nice people. I just think that, for whatever reason, Android users are not interested in paying for mobile apps. I’ve been talking to Android and iOS owners about this for years and the theme is consistent. iOS owners buy lots of apps: Android owners don’t.

I don’t know if it is a lack of trust in the payment system or simply a culture of “free” but ask your Android toting friends how many apps they’ve purchased and the answer will be few, if any. The short of it is that Android devices could multiply like locusts but if people don’t buy apps for them, developers will stay away.