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Android Market Place Advice

We built Sporcle for Android. It was a fun project working with the Sporcle engineers. They already had the iPhone version and we created a matching Android version. Whats really great about this is that we can now compare both applications with each other and compare how they are doing in the wild.  We now have a couple months of usage data to compare, here are some ideas and advice for other android app makers.

Don't cater to the lowest denominator.

In the case of Sporcle, we wanted to hit as many operating systems as possible. One of our test devices was an "LG 540". The device manufacturer provided no upgrade path for it so it is stuck at Android 1.6. We decided anything lower than that was not worth the risk. So we set our limits there. Unfortunately, that cuts you out of other features. The most important we found out was the anti piracy package that Google released in 2.1. So unless you have a really good reason, set the bar high. You can always lower it for the unfortunate souls who got trapped with a sales focused device manufacturer.

Piracy is a huge problems with Android

You have to deal with this. The cultures of Android and iPhone are hugely different. People on the iPhone are willing to buy, Android users want everything for free. The deployment model of Android is superiour but, Google only went half way when they created it. Making it easy helps for development and testing but when it also made it super simple to steal. I understand that the people who steal it, probably would never have bought it, but it is so easy to get cracked apps that it almost feels like you are doing nothing wrong. In the case of Sporcle, we saw 40% of the new users never bought the app.

You should also consider a free version.

There are so many Android users that you can get a huge boost by letting people try it before they buy it.

The Android app store is not helpful

This, I clearly do not understand. It makes it very hard to get noticed and as a consumer, its actually hard to find anything. I feel like I'm looking for freeware. The part that doesn't make sense here is this is where Google makes money. They take 30% of the profits but, it feels like they only were interested in building the OS and open sourceing it. Android SDK is good to build with, a little weird at some times, but then the final step, selling it, they totally dropped the ball. The iTunes experience and app store is pretty funky but, at least Apple thought about what people will want. I think Google is about to learn this lesson hard now that Amazon has moved in to show them how a online store should work. Yay, free market.

Flurry is your friend.

It is your best way to get feedback about your application, regardless of where someone fired it up. Hats off to the Flurry folks.

In conclusion

Now, I don't want to come off as a negative person about this. Google did do a slick job with the OS, the emmulators, the deployment and debugging. There are lots of powerful engineering features in Android that Apple may never be able to open up or duplicate. And if you are building a system that exists beyond the Apple solar system (say government applications), Android lets you control that perfectly. But, my advice to other app builders is this, until Google gets serious about building that market, or someone takes up the slack (AMZN), it will be very hard to build Android applications and expect a decent ROI.