Fast Company

Two Possible Causes for Android's Losing App Store: Spam, Low Quality Apps

android apps

Apple's app store may be market-leading, but Google's Android system is fast closing in, thanks to the sheer number of different Android phones on sale. But is Android's app market actually a safe or successful place under Google's management?

Some thinkers credit Google's app environment as being more attractive than Apple's, largely due to its unrestricted open design. And Apple's App Store ecosystem, with its shuttered doors and central approval/censoring system has certainly attracted its own share of controversy--even though it seems that in some senses Apple's learned the error of its ways.

But a sharply different perspective has surfaced at Nanocr.eu, with a challenging headline that lays the blame for any failings in the App Marketplace firmly in Google's lap: "Google's Mismanagement of the Android Market." Based on some earlier investigations by CNet, Nanocr alleges that Google's market for Android apps is suffering from precisely the opposite issue to that which faces Apple's store--it's actually too open and surrounded by too much high-tech consumer-confusing code trickery.

The allegation is that Google's app store doesn't contain as many high quality applications as Apple's, partly because Apple has paid out over 50 times as much in revenues to developers as Google's has--so there's little incentive for developers to write high-quality code. This is aided by the fact that only 13 countries are enabled for paid Android apps at the moment, and developers have no mechanism for pricing apps on a per-country basis, nor to offer in-app purchases. All of these facts act as disincentives for good, paid apps on the Android platform. But the situation is also worse from a user point of view. As the Nenocr article notes, one result of the open nature of Android is that malware apps can easily proliferate. And the Multimedia category has over 144 ringtone apps "cluttering" the app charts, monetizing themselves via Google ads, and in many cases clearly containing copyright-infringing content. It's almost impossible to imagine Apple permitting anything like this into the App Store.

How does this bode for the future of both ecosystems? Apple's success is clearly going to continue. Its App Store policies may rankle critics, but the public is clearly in love both with Apple's technology (as its iPhone 4 sales demonstrate) and its App Store--which is running at a modest, but still recognizable profit. Apple can leverage the App Store's plusses to help it sell more hardware, which will then, of course, result in more app sales, and thus attract more developers. It also appears that, slowly, Apple is unlocking its overly tight protection around some of the App Store's content.

Meanwhile, Google's app market isn't really as attractive an advertising example, and it needs some serious procedural overhauls so that it actively attracts more developers who can write better apps--until than it's really no competition in the App Store Wars.

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6 Comments

  • andy Telesco

    What I do not see is anyone writing about the difference in quality between the the iphone and an Android phone. Overall the iphone apps are just of a much higher quality then the android apps. In a lot of cases the Android apps are just front ends for the websites. If someone were to look at the CNBC app, on the iphone the Your Stock list has built in charting click on the stock and you see an interday price for the stock. On the android the app looks cheep and a click on the stock takes you to the mobile cnbc website. I could just open a browser and go my self. I wish I had stayed with the iphone.

  • John Coryat

    I have one of the most popular apps in the Android market (#129 overall) called "Radar Now!" so I think I can speak with some authority on the Android market subject.

    The author is correct in saying the Android market has got some major problems, among them spam in the comments, no way for developers to respond and the monetization aspects are just horrible.

    The good news is Google is working on a complete re-write to the system. It was demonstrated during Google IO back in May. This will allow users to search for and purchase apps from a web based system and have them delivered automatically to the device. There are many improvements on the way in other areas as well.

    Google is listening and reacting to these issues and will end up with a really great market. The current one is a dismal failure and needs to be replaced. The big question is when will Google role out the new version? Of course, nobody except the big "G" knows for sure. We can hope it will coincide with the general role out of Froyo though, which is progressing at this very moment.

  • Mike Merrill

    Right on point. As a mobile developer who publishes iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Palm apps, I'm continually amazed at some of the garbage that gets through. 30% of the apps on Android Market appear to be infringing (i.e. Drew Breez Wallpaper app, Peyton Manning Wallpaper app, etc.). Not only are they low quality apps with only a few photos, but they're unlicensed, infringing content that seriously dilutes the overall experience.

    Granted, the user experience is mediocre at best- Google could definitely improve it- and hopefully they will soon. Even so, the downside of "open" is that anything goes, so with no quality control or screening process, there are a lot of crappy apps. There are also a lot of great Android apps, but its hard to cut through all the clutter to find them.

  • Gerald Irish

    For Apple the good news is that they'll still be plenty profitable even if the Android Marketplace passes the App Store in revenue, apps offered, and quality of apps. As long as the Apple hardware still presents a solid value proposition Apple will still make plenty of money.

  • guy blaskey

    The android app market is in its infancy. The apple app store is the market leader, but android is growing at a far far faster rate (160,000 new people activate an android phone each DAY!). So the android app store might not be as good as the apple one now (because the money isn't there for developers), but give it a year and it will be far superior.

    The more 'big' phone operators sign up to the Android OS the faster it will grow and the better the app store will be. Motorola and Sony Ericsson already use it, as do big hardware manufacturers like HP and Dell, all google needs to do now is get Nokia on board and android will soon be leaving apple and blackberry in it's smartphone wake.

  • Gerald Irish

    An app that contains copyrighted material is not "malware". Malware is software that contains viruses or trojans.

    A major reason the Android Marketplace doesn't have as many quality apps as the App Store is simply install-base. It's only been in the last year or so that quality iPhone-rivaling Android smartphones have hit the market. So for an app developer looking to make money, you're going to go after the platform with the most customers.

    Yes the open-model of the Android Marketplace has its disadvantages but one has to remember that the App Store had a head start of a few years. As time goes on and more Android phones hit the market, you'll the gap start to close.