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.
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.