Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Android Developer Fears Poverty, Loneliness

Larva Labs posted sales numbers for its apps, comparing the viability of the Android Marketplace with the iPhone App Store. Conclusion: Unlike the untold riches to be found in the App Store, the $60/day they get from Android is not helping them buy "that summer home."

First, it should be noted that Android only has 1/5th the market share of the iPhone, and it has been out for under a year (the iPhone was released in June of 2007). So all of these complaints should be taken with a grain of salt when looking forward. But even assuming this is a fair assessment of the long term...

1) $60/day might not let you retire, but as passive income off a simple JAVA game tossed out in a few weeks? It's nothing to sneeze at.

2) There are probably plenty of folks funneling money into overvalued apps in the iPhone App Store, but it isn't obvious to me why these sort of disposable games deserve a summer home's worth of compensation.

Larva Labs listed some shortcomings of the Android Marketplace contributing to their struggles. Among their concerns: it is hard for users to find pay apps, since there are so many highly rated free apps dominating the Android Marketplace.

This did not immediately strike me as a massive problem. If you are producing what others gladly produce for free, you should not expect extravagant returns. If highly rated free software is dominating the platform, wonderful. People who own Android-capable devices get entertained for free, and the fine minds at Larva Labs are suddenly available to address second rate problems of the world, like curing cancer.

Despite the clear advantages I see in this aspect of the Android Marketplace, the commenters remain overwhelmingly sympathetic to Larva Labs. One commenter echoed frustration with the Android Marketplace, because it was far too easy for users to receive a refund on his products. (The Android marketplace allows a 24 hour period after installing an app to completely remove it and request a refund.) So the Android store encourages devs to make apps people actually want to keep using, rather than novelties that will be used once. Here again I think a virtue is being mistaken for a flaw.

Larva Labs closes with a bit of a threat: "I’m sure Android will be on a lot of phones at some point in the future, whether it’ll be possible to target it profitably as a small developer I’m not sure."

If not, guess we'll have to tough it out with all those highly rated free apps. Maybe one of those will synthesize a tiny violin.