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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Quality of Apps for Android Is "Pathetically Low" Says Developer

The paucity of good apps for Android means the platform can be lucrative for developers who aren’t turning out junk, says one studio

  • June 21, 2011
Developers found the “app starved” Android market unexpectedly grateful for their port of Battleheart

Mika Mobile makes a compelling game, Battleheart, that has been a big hit on both the iOS and now Android platforms. Having watched their app succeed on both platforms in succession, the team behind it has learned a few things about the level of competition on the Android platform.

As one of the Mika Mobile team members noted in a recent blog post: “I’d go as far as to say that a polished, high quality product is more likely to be embraced on Android than on iOS because the quality bar on the android market is so pathetically low.”

Evidence to that effect comes from the fact that a) Battleheart is rated even more highly on the Android app store than on iTunes, despite being exactly the same game on both platforms, and b) Battleheart earned that rating despite what the team estimates is a failure-to-install rate on Android of between 1-3 percent, leading many customers to demand their $3 back.

Overall, the Mika Mobile design team has found that the paucity of quality games on Android means they are earning on Android fully 80 percent of the revenue they’re currently earning on the iTunes app store, and all of that solely through word of mouth.

That said, there are two big problems with Android, say the team: First, iTunes handles payments so developers don’t have to, but on Android, all developers are vendors on Google Checkout, which means they get to resolve payment disputes on their own.

Second, a significant proportion of apps simply fail to install correctly on Android devices, through no fault of the developer. “Third party mods, or the device’s download cache, a corrupted temp file on the SD card, or the cached data of other apps interfering with normal download behavior is the root cause of 99% of the correspondence I get, and it’s fairly tiresome.”

As if we needed it, here is yet more evidence that the Android app store is in its early days, and that Google isn’t paying attention to the care and feeding of its developers the way Apple is. It appears that every day it’s more lucrative to deal with these headaches, however, and since developers generally follow the money, it seems inevitable that the Android app ecosystem will continue to close in on parity with the iOS app ecosystem.

Whether or not that game of catch-up will ever end in Android surpassing the quality and scope of apps on iOS – that’s anyone’s guess.

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