Survey: Android Developers Concerned About Profits, Divergence, More

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Skyhook Wireless, a WiFi Position System developer, released the results of a survey Tuesday that found Android developers are concerned about their profits -- or lack thereof -- platform divergence, concern about Google Checkout, low download volumes, and more.

It's important to note that the survey was conducted among only 30 developers, a small sample in a developer pool many thousands strong -- Google has claimed some 15,000 registered developers. The company didn't release the methods used in its survey, or its margin of error.

The key findings of the survey include:

  • 57% of developers said they are not satisfied with their profits on Android.
  • 90% of developers reported individual app downloads of 10,000 or under on Android.
  • 52% of Android developers’ apps were downloaded fewer than 5,000 times.
  • Developers are concerned that Google Checkout contributes to their low download volumes. 43% feel that they would sell more apps if Android used a carrier billing or another simpler billing system.
  • 82% of those surveyed feel that the design of the Android Marketplace makes it difficult for apps to be noticed.
  • 68% of those surveyed are somewhat or not likely to put further work into their apps, compared to when they first released their app.

4% of developers reported being "Very Satisfied" with their profits on the Google platform, and only 10% of those developers are serving ads in their apps.

Skyhook Survey Graph
Graph courtesy of Skyhook Wireless.

It's important to note that the Android platform is still much smaller than Apple's iPhone platform, but that many analysts believe it will eventually become larger than the iPhone as more handset manufacturers get behind the platform. Even there, however, the survey found that some developers are concerned with the problems that growth will bring, rather than being excited about the potential.

"Rather than creating opportunity, platform divergence has just created further problems; we simply can't afford to test across all Android phones," developer James Grafton, developer of Android apps like Pic Swap and Get Me Home, told Skyhook in its survey. "Because of these issues, we decided to take a step back from Android and reconsider our efforts."

You can read the survey in full at Skyhook Wireless's Web site.

Comments

iVoid

Note to Android developers: THERE AREN’T THAT MANY ANDROID PHONES OUT THERE YET, SO OF COURSE THE PROFITS/DOWNLOADS WON’T BE HIGH YET.

Ion_Quest

Has a similar survey been conducted regarding other platforms—say iPhone?

aardman

Seems like Android will be splintering itself into oblivion.  And Google can’t do anything about it without fundamentally changing the Android business model.  The problem is that the larger handset manufacturers have no incentive whatsoever to agree on a common Android flavor among themselves—each one believes that they are big enough to attract developers to write apps for their particular version of Android and that the others will just shrivel away and die.  It is further compounded by Google’s apparent total lack of interest in imposing any discipline in the market.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You know Bryan… When you have a survey size of 30, the ones digit in the percentages isn’t significant. They should round to nearest 5% and sprinkle in the word “about” (or “aboot” if they’re Canadian).

One thing Apple has done very well is essentially set up a workable micropayment system, where people can throw $1 here, and $2 there without transaction costs eating it up. However, few developers going in thought that the App Store would end up being a micropayment system. Ask developers on the long tail of the App Store sales curve what they think about the low price points.

Finally, the research seems to assume that the only developer business model is to sell individual copies of an app. That’s an archaic, if not quaint, notion of how people make money writing software these days. Successful developers I associate with are climbing up the value chain.

apptoast

I commented on this in my blog, apptoast.com a couple weeks ago from a user perspective.  Android market is much more difficult to navigate than iTunes (which certainly has its share of issues)  Google can fix it and I am sure they will—the sooner the better.  Android will be a huge platform. But Google needs to fix Market to continue the momentum that Verizon has whipped up with Droid.  Read my post at http://bit.ly/73RYxm

Edmond Dant

Aren’t most apps just gateways to specific web content?

Why should they be paid (directly by the end user) in the first place?

apptoast

Edmond—Huh??

coryatjohn

The sample in this survey is meaningless. A true survey would require hundreds of developers randomly selected from the total Android developer population, not just those that are using Skyhook.

daemon

27 of 30 developers polled have sold less than 10,000 apps
15 of 30 developers polled have sold less than 5,000 apps

I can’t help but wonder if the sample size isn’t a bit unrepresentative….

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@daemon—downloads, not sales. @apptoast, Edmond has a very valid point. Certainly not all, but a good chunk of mobile apps are distributed at no end-user cost for the purpose of pushing content from the net to the user. The point of payment is higher up the value chain than the software.

apptoast

Bosco- I’d like Edmond to clarify his point.  As I read his post, he seems to be saying that apps should be free.  If that’s what he’s saying, I don’t agree. At the end of the day there are many classes of apps available and casting generalities is less than useful. 

If an app presents users with functionality that adds value to raw data, then the developer has every right to ask a fee—and it doesn’t matter if the underlying data is freely available on the web or if it comes out of a proprietary database to which the developer has some unique right. 

Other apps certainly push payment up the chain and should be free, as you point out.  Pizza Hut sells a million dollars of pizza with their free iPhone app.

And then there is the class of apps which don’t add any value anywhere in the chain, don’t offer any useful functionality, and simply regurgitate web content.  They should be free- or be killed.

apptoast

And by the way, to the original point of the survey—The sample size is clearly too small to draw anything but very high level inferences.

gslusher

The problem is that the larger handset manufacturers have no incentive whatsoever to agree on a common Android flavor among themselves?each one believes that they are big enough to attract developers to write apps for their particular version of Android and that the others will just shrivel away and die.  It is further compounded by Google?s apparent total lack of interest in imposing any discipline in the market.

Daniel Eran Dilger wrote about this in a series of articles on Roughly Drafted. (The link takes you to his article on Android as a software market. Look in the comments, as well.)

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