Android-First Apps: Myth or Future?

Alicia Carter
by Alicia Carter 27 Sep, 2013


According to a recent study by Gartner, iOS and Android app stores put together will account for a whopping 90 percent of downloads across the globe in 2017. Gartner attributes this growth to the fact that both Android and iOS App stores offer a rich ecosystems and active developer communities.  


However, one of the biggest disparities facing the mobile world is the fact that though installed base of Android smartphones is way higher compared to that of iOS devices, Apple users end up spending more money on apps compared to Android users. And this disparity further continues to leave us dumfounded with the latest figures indicating that Android app downloads have surpassed iOS downloads. But still Apple's App Store continues to attract much more revenue. And the difference is mind boggling.  


Be it startups or large tech companies, iOS-first seems to be more of a strategic choice. This pattern has been prevalent over the last few years. Will it change? 


Android Paradox Syndrome: Less Revenue Despite a Phenomenal User Base

It is a well-known fact that a majority of Android devices still run on older versions. The cheaper and older Android devices are plagued with design considerations and don't provide good user experience.  And these old devices offer worse browsing experience. Some Android users are aware of the potential of their devices and consider their smartphones as a phone-first and use it only for talking and texting. There is typical belief associated with Android users that they want apps for free and are not likely to shop on their devices. On the other hand, iOS users are willing to pay for apps. But with the launch of cutting-edge and top-of-the-line Android devices, this gap seems to be non-existent. 


Many app developers have realized that the new-age Android users are waiting for quality apps and are looking to capitalize on this new trend. Which brings us to the question: Do Android app developers make money or get good returns on their investments in Android apps? 


But Where is The Money?

In 2011, Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that Google-first approach will soon be a reality. We are approaching the end of 2013 and this prediction is far from truth and nowhere in sight. It is the developer loyalty that continues to drive Apple to such a strong position that it enjoys.  


Let's take a look at most popular methods used by Android mobile app developers to churn money from apps.


- App Sales: No prize for guessing this one. You develop an app and sell it on Google Play.  If your app strikes a chord with people, they buy the app. Google deducts its share, and you keep your bit. 


- Advertisements: You build a free app. If people find the app entertaining or useful, they will download the app as it is free.  You make money from advertisements from the app.


- In-App Purchases: You sell real or digital products through your app - it could be a game where you may persuade users to pay money for in-game points. 


Here is What Google Needs to Do if it Hopes to Topple Apple:

Show Developers The Money:

Well, if Google wants developers to build Android-first apps, it needs to talk money and benefits. After all, developers want to know if Android apps are worth the pain? Google needs to be more candid and forthcoming about giving much-needed facts such as what is the earning potential of top-grossing Android app? Distimo estimates that the top 200 iOS apps earned $5.1 million per day in the U.S. in April 2013, while the top 200 Google Play apps had $1.1 million in daily revenue, though Google is gaining ground. Hard numbers and facts counts.  According to Apple, it now pays more than $1 billion per quarter to iOS app developers. While Google has kept the figures under wraps for some strange reason. Dodging the question is not the best solution.


Think Beyond "Free-to-Play" Games Model: 

Google Play relies heavily on free-to-play model, which adds to the woes of Android developers. Just think about it, developers have to first persuade users to download apps even before they can think of asking for money. Google needs to reinvent and come up with different models which are feasible for developers. Alternatives like in-app purchases or subscriptions could help developers monetize their apps.   While many users are skeptical of in-app purchases, this method could reduce customer contact rates. There is no denying the fact that in order to beat competition, Google will have to think beyond free-to-play option. 


Effortless Payment Procedure: 

Google's biggest hurdle lies in compelling Android users to make that first purchase, which undoubtedly is complicated task since Google doesn't have credit card info. Apple beats Android by miles when it comes to offering effortless app payment options. Experts suggest carrier billing, the option where app purchases reflect on the buyer's monthly mobile service bill to be one of the most potent ways to match up with Apple. Carrier billing will be the most feasible option in developing countries where users don't have credit cards. 


Beat Fragmentation: 

Think about the innumerable Android devices running on thousands and thousands of different configurations. Android's fragmentation problem seems to take a heavy toll on developers both in terms of cost and resources. Google needs to come with a way to address fragmentation issue fast before it cripples Android. Stats suggests that newer version of Android monetize at 2.2 times than older versions. However, unfortunately less than 40 percent of Android users run on Jelly Bean. As a result, app developers end up supporting multiple Android versions that deliver  low revenue.  


Make Developer's Life Easy: 

It is worth mentioning that Google adds new features to Google Play Developer Console,  a suite of tools for publishing and distributing Android apps. But seldom discusses the benefits with Android developers making such tools ineffective. Google needs to be proactive in sharing information about what works and what just does not. 


While the profitability or the revenue earning capacity of Android app seems to be improving, there is a long way ahead. Till Google adopts a pragmatic approach to beat Apple, the  focus of developers should be on making money through numerous other strategies that can help a good ROI. The target should be the new-age Android user who is willing to spend for high-quality apps, which is likely where the future is for developers. 


Author Bio:


Alicia Carter has years of experience in application development. She started her career as Android app developer and now she leads an iPhone application development team at PerceptiveMobileApps. She loves writing, cooking and playing tennis.