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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Quality or Quantity what governs the basis of the Android Market and what relation does free versus fee-based software actually have on the model


The Android market, over the last year, has listed 283,889 new apps. This gigantic number equates to a 97.5% increase of the Android market on 2010 levels (1). The importance of this increase can be seen in the relationship between free apps and paid apps. It is here that developers which include small developers to large multi-national companies can make money, yet, in reality, it is here that the Android Marketplace has a problem.

The Android platform has between 2010-2011 dominated the smartphone market. Nielsen/Catalyst have already stated that Android will and has surpassed Apple, Blackberry and Nokia’s variant operating systems to become the number one Smartphone OS. The reason for this lies in the Android dominance of the budget to mid-range marketplace. This is a problem! Whilst HTC, Samsung and DoCoMo have begun making major inroads into the premier/upper-mid-range market the lower end of the marketplace does not equate to users who are big spenders on apps.

The average Apple user, according to Nielsen, is aged between 29-39 and is a middle to upper earner who on average earns  $ 33,000. This means a larger disposable income, than that of, say, a budget smartphone user who has a smaller available disposable income. Now this miniature economics lesson is important in highlighting the glaring problem with the Android Marketplace. Money, or revenue, is important as its the reason developers create the apps in the first place.

Rovio didn't just create Angry Birds because they wanted to create a game that would be freely enjoyed without strings. No, they, as do other firms like Backflip Studios, wanted to make apps that generated revenue. Now the introduction of ‘lite’ apps are designed to be a selective taster and after ‘tasting’ the app, and if one enjoyed using it, they would then purchase the app. It works, and works quite well, on the Apple appStore platform but they're attracting a different user demographic than that of Android. The dearth of quality apps is telling. Now this isn’t the end of Android, far from it, it shows that the market lacks maturity. Electronic Arts have released apps and other larger developers are releasing apps because Android is perceived to be a platform with the potential for exponential growth. But there does need to be a ‘wake up call’ moment for the Google Android team.

Is Android too ‘open’? Any Tom, Dick or Harry with the ability to code is able to upload their ‘app’ onto the Google servers for a $ 25 dollar fee. The telling issue here is that the app isn’t verified by Android analysts which is indicative of a wider lack of platform understanding. No one can deny that Android Marketplace has a lot of, well to put it kindly, crap applications. Perhaps, maturity will mean closer control of the gates to the Android kingdom. This, whilst not micro-managing to Apple levels, will deter developers of naff apps to take their wares elsewhere. This will not stop determined criminals, but neither has the Apple, Nokia, Palm and as has been seen recently the Android marketplace platform.

What’s needed is quality – The Oxford English dictionary defines quality as thus: the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something – quality is unfortunately whilst not exclusively linked to payment. This is not the end of freeware, far from it, but to get the developers in revenue is important. So over the next 12 months you, as Android Marketplace users, will start seeing apps with pricetags increase from those ‘lite’ or free apps.

This is not a moment to despair, no, it is a moment to pause and think about the quality of hardware and cellular technologies available and to think about what quality apps will bring to your handset. This will bring about a change in how we use and interact with our apps. Free apps are something we take for granted to entertain us during moments of boredom, be it on tubes, metros or commutes, but we do need to think about using our phones in a different way.

The Motorola Atrix is the beginning of this ideology. The dual-core wave of smartphones along with Android 2.3/4 being released this year will mean a greater capacity and quality of hardware. But this also means we can use our Superphones in a different way. Think about writing that presentation on your phone instead of the laptop? Or maybe look over the business accounts on your phone. This is a reality, now, not in a month’s time or even a year’s time. The technology is available now; but what is required is the ‘app’ to go with it.

Think about Quickoffice Pro, a $20 dollar app, which allows you to create or edit Microsoft Office documents, worksheets or database queries. Think about it; the Motorola Atrix with Quickoffice Pro means a Laptop with an office suite. This means we can write, edit and distribute material from our phones. This is a great future, but such quality comes at a price. It’s time to think about purchasing apps. This great new age of mobile computing does have a big problem: Ever been late to work and called your boss and said your in traffic and the bus, train or tram and your going to be late. Now he can turn around and say ‘don’t worry – just finish your work on your phone and email me’. That’s the end of the wonderful excuse when you woke up late and are running behind.


(1) for information on Annual market apps increases visit http://www.androlib.com/appstats.aspx and for information on Increase of the Android market see http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/05/android-to-surpass-apples-app-store-in-size-in-august-2011-report-exclusive/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29 (accessed at 17/05/2011)

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