How Google could turn the Android Market into something huge

How Google could turn the Android Market into something huge

Summary: Do you have an Android device yet? If you do, you will know that the selection of apps in the Android Market is limited, and on average, their quality is lower than comparable iPhone apps.


Do you have an Android device yet? If you do, you will know that the selection of apps in the Android Market is limited, and on average, their quality is lower than comparable iPhone apps.

Let's think about this predicament, and figure out a way for Google to create an Android Market that can rival the App Store. The first step is to analyze why Apple is successful right now, and at the same time apply those things to Google's Android Market. The second step is to go beyond what has made Apple successful.

What the App Store does right: 1) Encourages developers to charge for their applications Why does this matter? Well, let's imagine what would have happened if apps were largely free for iPhones. As a developer looking to make some money on a really cool app, it would be discouraging to see that most of the applications you would be competing against are free. In fact, if there was no way to compete against exclusively paid apps (like on the Android Market right now), I would be looking for another platform to develop on.

An easy way to view "Top Paid Apps" (and make that the default view) is a quick and dirty first step into making the Android a more desirable platform for developers.

2) Review applications thoroughly Apple has come under fire recently over their very strict review processes -- but it really is an important piece of the puzzle. Without a review process, the number of low quality apps (clutter) quickly becomes unmanageable, and makes it difficult to discover great apps. Part of the problem isn't necessarily bad developers, it has to do with the tools Google gives developers -- as I discuss in point #3.

Google has no review process right now at all -- you can upload an app, and it's immediately available online. That's great for individual developers, but terrible for the community as a whole.

3) Give developers high quality controls to use in their applications If you look at iPhone apps, there are a lot of common elements that you can find from app to app. These are called "controls", and the quality of them are very high on the iPhone. In comparison, Android app controls are quite low quality, and at least for me, gives me a sense that applications are "lower quality", even though it's not necessarily the fault of the developer.

Google needs to spend some serious time and effort on their suite of controls they give to developers to enhance their appearance, and performance. They should also take cues from languages like XAML -- an extremely powerful markup language that gives developers an amazing amount of flexibility.

4) Have a desktop client sync tool for music, videos and apps Apple has iTunes -- an amazing piece of software that makes buying and listening to music on your computer extremely easy. People who are used to purchasing $0.99 songs through this software don't even think twice before buying apps for the same price.

Google needs a piece of software that does the same thing. An easy piece of software with hooks into Lala and Amazon, Vevo and YouTube for purchasing and organizing music, videos, and Android apps.

Now what can Google do that Apple isn't doing to take things to the next level? Well, there are a couple of things that I think could work -- here are some:

1) Pay the developers a monthly or yearly "bonus" if they can maintain an excellent user rating on their apps This would do two things -- keep quality app developers happy, and spur a whole new breed of quality applications in the market.

2) Give every application in the Android Market its own support site. Google can reuse the same application they developed for their own internal support sites. It's more of a Q&A system that will give developers invaluable feedback to improve their applications, and to even generate a community around them as well.

What do you think of the Android Market, and how would you improve it?

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Google, Hardware, Smartphones, Software Development

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  • I guess the hype is gone ....

    From the last few Android related articles, one can guess that the hype is gone and reality is kicking.

    It is sad ... I was hoping that the Android platform would really be a contender against the iPhone. With competitions, prices would come down and would force new innovations ... and maybe better service & deals.

    Instead, so far the Android is just competition for Windows Mobile .... which is not that much of an achievement.
    • They don't want spyware!

      Basically $oogle is distributing spyware! People aware of it. So the hype is gone!
    • What articles did you rea?

      Everyone I have seen is talking about the rapid adoption of Android. You can't settle on a phone without 3 more being announced the next day. Now maybe you WANT the hype to be gone lol...but its far from that point.
  • RE: How Google could turn the Android Market into something huge

    #1 Make it available to all android handsets.

    I don't get the Market since I am on the "wrong" network. No my phone is not rooted. I just don't like the contract of the official distributor.

    #2 improve security. Most apps have a ton of security permissions (like location etc) just to serve a few ads. Have a dedicated app to do that with an api that devs can use so they don't need to request a location permission on an app that won't use it (other than to customize an ad)

    #3 get the SDK really working. Some aspects - like real bluetooth do not work before 2.0 and 2.0 is only an option if the carrier decides to support it

    #4 improve security more -- have a site for each app that details what the app will and/or won't do. Right now there is a yes/no option to installation. Yes - give the app permission to rummage through your contact or No - don't. Still, access to my contacts may be necessary for an app but sending my info to an off-site server somewhere for "research" purposes is not necessary. If I agree to give contacts permissions, am I agreeing to the latter?

    A support site is a great idea!

    #5 stop illegal redistribution -- why are some apps for resale on craigslist? google can threaten better than an individual developer.
    • Well I am not sure about the app's on craigslist...

      but unlike the iPhone, Android phones can install apps from other sources than the market app., so u can find apps for sale outside of the Google Market.
  • They'll make billions and billions in ad revenue

    so yeah they definately need to pay bonuses. Big ones. Like a million a month each for the top ten and 100K a month each for the next ten. Maybe based on monthly app usage metrics.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Well in order for the applications to get better...

    is to provide more space for applications, iPhone has 8gb or better (depending on model) and Android 512mb or less currently
    • In all fairness ....

      ... Google Android is just the OS. The phone makers are the ones that must include memory in their products.

      But you are right ... without enough memory to save the apps, what is the point of even offering them.
      • it is the os.

        maybe google should learn to manage it better and
        allow storing on memory cards.
        • android can store on sdcard

          Applications do store data on the sdcard. dictionary files, video, music everything can go there.

          Not the whole .apk (application) or else it could be too-easily re-distributed.
          • And that is one of the reason's they will fail...

            against the iPhone, The quality of the applications can not get better until there is more space to save them.

            There are many ways to prevent apps from being redistributed.
    • Quantity vs. Quality

      AFAIK apps bigger than 10-15MB on the App Store are decisively to the right of the bell curve (5%, tops). I'll bet that the majority of iPhones out there have comfortably less than 512MB of apps on them.

      The topic at hand is more about the quality of Android apps vs. the quantity. While I can't agree more that Android phones should have a desktop sync app (one much closer to Oxygen Phone Manager or Nokia PC Suite than iTunes or BlackBerry Desktop), I don't think that space is the issue. Lack of space would limit the quantity of apps one can have installed at a time, rather than the quality that any individual app can have. The desktop is no different; Winamp is a wonderful app that is still fairly lean when compared to iTunes, despite both having very similar feature lists.

      The App Store benefitted from a few things that Android does not. Besides Apple's Marketing Machine, RDF, desktop client, the review process, and the consumers' familiarity with purchasing from the iTMS, the App Store also benefitted from the early days of and Cydia, since many of the high-end titles that started there ended up being available upon launch of the App Store (Tap Tap Revenge and Labyrinth being among the most notable). To my knowledge, Android doesn't yet have any stand-out high-profile apps yet.

      • Cloud sync not desktop sync. nt

      • Well I have to disagree...

        One of the things I like about Android is it does not require a desktop client to do all those things.

        1) Music has the Amazon MP3 app.
        2) Market App on the phone for application purchase/download

        3) Sync to Email/Calender is on the phone to google/exchange (probably others as well)

        4)And it mounts as USB drive if I want to copy data
        to/from the phone.

        4) OS upgrades/patches are over the air

        Comparing Desktops is different than comparing phone applications, on Desktops you > 100gb or more, on phones currently the max is 512mb(Android). Plus for Desktops I can add bigger drives, not the case of android phones, the SD card only holds data, no application.

        I still prefer the my Android G1 to any other phone out there. I just want to see it succeed, but I see the lack of Application space as it's biggest weakness.
        • The question

          Is whether a mobile-only interface is enough. To some it will be, but the ceiling inherent in a mobile UI is quickly reached.

          I understand what you're saying about email/calendar/contacts being stored on Google or Exchange ("The Cloud" as the other replier referenced). I've actually had that come in handy once or twice myself. The flip side to that is that I've found it much less feasible to back up cloud mail than my PST in Outlook.

          Searching for a specific MP3 off Amazon is wonderful, but what about artists like Led Zeppelin or Metallica who have very extensive discographies? admittedly I haven't tried the Amazon MP3 app, but i know that when I owned an iPhone, searching for more than a single specific track or browsing the weekly top 20 charts was an exercise in tedium. Desktop clients are much better at browsing larger selections. Same goes for the Market App. The App World on Blackberry is just such a pain to sift through because it's extremely tedious and thus doesn't lend itself to impulse buys nearly as readily as iTunes does.

          You said OTA updates like it's a good thing. Is there a way to opt out if I prefer a cooked firmware? Any chance that Google will brick my phone that way? If not today, is the same guaranteed for tomorrow?

          finally, all of the advantages you listed (with the exception of the first #4) all hinge on having a data plan. I have never had a data plan on my WinMo Phone for more than a day or two (i.e. for Google Maps) and I haven't felt like I've been missing out on anything (except of course when I get lost and need google maps lol). Having a phone dependent on the cloud has never struck a chord with me, and there's probably a couple ten thousand Sidekick owners who can attest to the drawbacks of having nothing stored locally.

          • The Answers (well opinions)

            1) Syncing Outlook Email via Active Sync is easy(assuming Exchange Server is setup)
            Most of the current Android phones come with a work-email client that does this, and you still archive your emails in outlooks PST files and archive.

            2) As for MP3 searching, for me I am usually looking
          • The Answers (well opinions)

            1) Syncing Outlook Email via Active Sync is easy(assuming Exchange Server is setup)
            Most of the current Android phones come with a work-email client that does this, and you still archive your emails in outlooks PST files and archive. However PST files can be easily corrupted and not recoverable.

            2) As for MP3 searching, it works. And some may like it or and some wont.

            3) As for OTA, you do not have to apply them,
            but I see it as better, since I do not need a computer to update my phone. I have a backup application to backup my apps and data(To the SD CARD also has option to backup online), then I apply the update and if need be I restore data, so far this has not been required for an OTA

            4) As far as storing Data in the cloud, currently the only thing I do not have stored locally on my phone is my email. Contact/Calendar data is backed up on SD card. The problem with the Side Kick was that the phone has no non-volatile storage (survive a dead battery) and easy way to extract(save) the data to an SD card or a PC.
  • "Just" like that

    Fewer apps, lower quality, substandard SDK, weak review
    process, no desktop client, for pay unfriendly,
    fragmented OS market, needs developer payouts, puny app
    memory, fragmented hardware platform, ugly handsets....

    ..."just" fix that and it will be huge!

    Sure, "just" give me a billion bucks and I will be a
    • ... on second thoughts,

      ... this may "just" be what Google intended --
      an alternative mobile platform for hackers and
      Apple haters.

      For people who would rather write their own
      programs than pay a cent for software. Not much
      app memory needed for that.

      For Mobile System Admins, not L-Users. So why
      make it easy to use or polished.

      For Real Men, who wouldn't be caught dead with
      a good looking phone laying within a 10ft

      For tEchNeRd-StarTrek-CyBorg-DarkSideOfTheForce
      uber-fans who have trouble looking at a fellow
      human beings in the eye, but are moved at the
      sight of a blinking robot sensor. Those ads are
      for them.

      For xZenGurus who hate a controlled environment
      and love the challenge of a new virus.

      A nice looking desktop client?! They will write
      a ripping-cracking-transcoding-loader that
      saves them "tons of money", before lunch.

      We have to thank Google for giving a home to
      these people.
      • Bingo, jz (nt)