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[User Blog Post] Why Android still sells less than Apple

Enrique López Mañas
5

As an Android developer, I have been concerned during the last months about why the Android Market seems to be less profitable than the App Store. I have access to some statistics of my application ports to iPhone/iPad: while the free application don't seem to be affected, the paid applications have a huge gap with their iOS counterpart, up to 50 times more. I only can feel that I chose the wrong mobile platform to develop for. But why is this happening?

There are a bunch of well known difference between the nature of iOS and Android applications, but not all of them affect the sells. According to the report of Gartner (April 2011), 38.5% of the smartphone market belongs to Android, while 19.4% belongs to iPhone. It is almost the double for Android, and the growth has been astonishing: from an estimated 3.9% in 2009, it has rapidly overtaken all of their competitors

But if we look on the statistics, Apple's iPhone App Store is still larger in size than the Android Market. It houses more than 350,000 applications and games, while it was reported in Business Insider in March 2011, that the Android Market has hit the 250,000+ mark. This obviously has as well a dark side: with many competing applications, is harder to sell our own application. Android does not have (yet) as many applications as the iPhone store, but it lacks of a Desktop client (iTunes) and it is much less user friendly (a field where Apple always wins).

 

So there we go: Android has sold more phones, and iOS has published more applications. One of the first thoughts is that the developers are choosing iOS for a misterious reason. I might point out here one of the main problems with Android: the fragmentation. Whereas Google provides the operative system, the different manufacturers provide the hardware. This leads into a huge uncontrolled mess: different phones may support (or not) different features (i.e., camera, giroscope, etc), which is a problem for developers.

In order to ensure a minimum of compatibility between many devices, Google Android has the Compatibility Program, an automated control mechanism that determines which device is minimally compatible with Android.

The devices that pass the program can use the official logo of Android, and what is truly important, they can integrate the application that gives access to Android Market, Android application repository.

Another reason could be the politics of payment and refund. Payments on the iPhone App Store are handled via your iTunes account which is linked directly to your credit card, whereas Android uses Google Checkout, a paypal clone of Google. Many people had an iTunes account since a few years, but Google Checkout is still relatively unknown (I didn't have an account until I need it to get my revenues from the Android Market!).

Also one major difference between the Android Market and the iPhone App Store is refunds. With Android, you can test an application for 15 minutes and uninstall it in order to obtain a refund. However, this is not allowed in iPhone App Store. This results in greater sales in iPhone Store, enabling more revenue for the developers.

So what exactly is going wrong in the Android Market? In my opinion there are several reasons, first and most important of these is that the Android Market, even though its recent renovation earlier this year, it remains still below the design level of the App Store. And since we download through the device, we really need a good design and features to facilitate the user purchase.

There are also rumours that Google promotes free and ad-supported applications instead of paid applications, that Android users belong to an economically lower profile than the iOS users, or that they did not had time to do things better. I want to believe that the main reason is a ponderate mix of all the aforementioned reasons, with a special weight of the last one: Android has been a special challenge for a company that never worked in mobility, and they still need a little bit of time to improve everything. They have already begin to improve the Android Market and they are doing a huge effort to solve the fragmentation problem. Amazon Store will also be relevant next year.

I think it takes a little but longer, but hopefully Android will eventually get off and will be as profitable for developers as the App Store it is today.

Some other links:

mobiThink report
TechCrunch analysis

Enrique López Mañas

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Comments

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  • George Baker Jul 29, 2011 Link

    I think a large factor is the the economic profile of many Android users. A large majority of Android phones in the US are priced much lower than the IPhone 4. Granted you could argue that the 3 is still available at a lower price ($49). However, it is still not free. Often you can pick up a free Android phone with contract in the US. From my experience many of those users are younger and do not have access to credit cards. (I managed a busy multi-carrier cell phone store)

    Payment method might also be a factor. With Itunes you can put in a gift card for purchases. That way the credit card challenged can still buy apps. Currently those are not available in the Android Market.

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  • Diane L Jul 29, 2011 Link

    I would like to comment on Android Market not being upgraded to accept the TABLETS which run on Android OS. I have an iPhone, but I also have the Pandigital tablet, and would PURCHASE Android apps except each time I try...I receive a failure message..."There are no phones associated with ..."
    Google this term and you will see an overwhelming number of various tablet users which Android market will not recognize so we can complete a purchase. I have SlideMe on my tablet, but there are fewer apps and many of the apps listed refer me back to Android Market...then the circle starts again.

    I hope others will respond to this post. thank you!

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  • Steven Blum Jul 29, 2011 Link

    I think there are a few issues at play here. First, Android Market, although re-designed, still isn't as aesthetically-intriguing as Apple's App Store. I think their search function needs some serious work, too, as what I search for and the results I receive rarely match up. And it's very true that most folks have never heard of Google Checkout.

    But many carriers now allow you to simply deduct purchases from your regular cellphone bill, which you can't argue is inconvenient...it's incredibly convenient. And the 15 minute refund, which used to be a full 24 hours, is certainly something that makes Android a MORE appealing platform for many customers, not LESS. Further, while the Market isn't so aesthetically-interesting, Google seems committed to working on the site's design and have been adding lists like top grossing and trending apps that make the site come alive.

    At IO Google also raised the maximum allowed size of an app to 4GB from 50MB...I think once apps are on the site that take full advantage of this, quality graphics will become a key competitive force, thus raising the overall app quality across the market, which isn't so impressive as of yet. But for now, app developers who put even a little bit more effort into the design of their app seem to be getting big rewards.

    There have recently been complaints by app developers that the app quality on Android Market is "pathetically low," as well as complaints about customers having problems downloading apps from the market to their phone. The success rate for installations is significantly lower than iOS. But than again, iOS is installed on just a few devices: iPhones and iPods. Android is a platform that extends across dozens of devices. It makes sense why there'd be a higher download error rate.

    In conclusion, I think it's still too early to pronounce a winner: iOS or Android. Android's Market is only going to improve from here, and raising the maximum allowed size of the app is certainly a good start. App developers that spend a bit of time creating an app that looks and feels great for users certainly reap the rewards on Android Market.

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  • Jeremiah Jul 30, 2011 Link

    In my opinion the single most important factor in why IOS customers buy more apps is that because apple makes them enter their credit card number to use itunes. I recently bought an Itouch and before I could even log on to itunes and browse any free apps, I had to give them my credit card number. So 100% of itunes customers are ready to buy apps on a whim; while a large amount, maybe even most of android users never even sign up for a checkout account. Also most any app you would want to buy on android you can also get a free version.

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  • Hangingout4 Aug 1, 2011 Link

    Its true that Android is not been able to Increase its sale up to the mark,there are many reasons could be listed for this even though we can see there is noticeable growth in Android sales ..Apple market share has been gone down to 59% which is the clear indication of how android in taking over its market.Even in the app market Android apps are coming up different innovative features ,i can quote the example of http://www.mybantu.com/ where in we can see how Android is coming up with its utility apps and increasing its apps sales.But still Apple is leading much ahead in the market ,this domination has to be controlled by Android :)

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Which company used multi-window on smartphones first?