Samsung's Answer to App Developer Interest: We'll Pay You, Maybe

Samsung is hoping to draw more developers to the Android OS platform and to spark interest in the Group Play feature on the Galaxy S4 smartphone with a contest that includes US$800,000 in prize money. Group Play lets Galaxy S4 users share content like photos, music and games, and for the feature to take off, Samsung needs some apps that actually take advantage of what it offers. Investing in a contest, however, probably isn't the best use of the company's money.

Samsung's gamble: We can buy developers into the Android communitySamsung's gamble: We can buy developers into the Android community

The company is clearly looking to drive up interest in the Android platform along with its own Galaxy S4 smartphone with the competition. Won-Pyo Hong, President and Head of Samsung Electronics Media Solution Center, commented "With Samsung Smart App Challenge 2013, Samsung is going to boost mobile ecosystem."

Samsung introduced the Galaxy S4 smartphone at a media event in March that turned out to be awkward thanks to poorly handled executive presentations and uncomfortable skits intended to show how cool the phone is. The take away from the event was that, first, Samsung needed to reevaluate how it puts together media events, and second, that the company is distancing itself from highlighting Google's Android even though that's the OS running on its phones.

The company's new contest helps reenforce that idea by focusing on apps that use Galaxy S4-specific features instead of opening entries to any Android-based app.

This isn't the first time Samsung has tried to boost Android app development. The company conducted a similar contest last year with $800,000 in prizes, too, and presumably the Samsung thinks it's worth the investment because they're doing it again this year.

Developers that throw their code into the ring won't see a return on their investment for several months -- assuming they win anything at all. Samsung won't be announcing the winners until December, and they're capping the total number of winners to ten.

$800,000 may seem like a lot to spend on a contest trying to draw more developers to Android, but that really isn't very muh money considering Samsung is asking for apps on a platform that isn't generating much money for companies -- meaning Android -- and for a feature that isn't yet seeing widespread use on a smartphone that hasn't sold very many units yet -- meaning the Galaxy S4.

For many developers, entering into the contest will be akin to designing on spec with little hope of ever recouping their expenses. Instead of dropping $800,000 on a contest that will yield almost nothing for most developers, maybe Samsung should be looking at ways to drive up consumer interest in Android apps, along with a willingness to pay for those apps.

The real trick is getting developers interested in coding for Android, and then getting end users willing to pay for those apps. Right now, developers target Apple's iPhone not only because it's the most popular mobile platform, but also because studies have shown users are far more likely to spend money there than on Android.

What Samsung really needs to do is find a way to copy more than Apple's hardware and find a way to emulate the all-in-one experience iPhone users enjoy with the App Store and iTunes Store ecosystem. Considering, however, how fragmented the Android community is -- as well as Samsung's own product line -- that doesn't seem likely.

Since Samsung can't replicate complete ecosystem, it's doing what it can, which in this case means throwing $800,000 at developers in hopes that something sticks. It may not be money well spent, but for now it's all Samsung has.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]