The projection that Android Market is going to surpass the App Store (now over 425,000 available apps) in size in late summer is wrong, or at least misleading. As is a separate data point by Distimo that there were more free apps on the Android Market than the App Store as of March 2011, though that will happen soon. The Market, although growing at a faster rate than the App Store, is still far behind in the number of available apps and will need more time to catch up.
Let’s recap the numbers. As of today, June 7, 2011, there are approximately 206,000 available Android apps in the Market. As mentioned above, there are over 425,000 iOS available apps in the App Store. So the App Store is still more than double the size of the Android Market.
- The app was largely exploratory and not intended to make an impact. The lack of a review process for the Android platform provides little disincentive to publish, then unpublish an app. A first-time Android developer may just want to explore the experience of having an app on the Market and pull it so as to spare his reputation a mediocre app with few downloads and a few, poor reviews. Android also offers tools like App Inventor that greatly reduce the barrier of entry, even among non-developers. These “explorers” may also publish an app out of curiosity.
In contrast, Apple’s review process, stricter guidelines and $100 annual developer membership fee, represent a greater investment for developers, making it costlier to change course. Put otherwise, it’s economically wise for an iOS developer to set a clear, sustainable vision for his app offerings.
The difference in barrier to entry is an important point to consider when comparing the sizes of the two stores. With a lower barrier for entry to publication on the Android Market, there are likely a considerable number of “throwaway” apps created for Android that were, in fact, thrown away. Then again, there may also be many “throwaway” apps for Android that were never thrown away and continue to idle on the Market.
- The return is not worth the investment of time, money, or attention. Google’s initial promise of openness and monetization has given way to the reality that profiting on an Android app is an uphill battle. A greater percentage of Android apps are free in comparison to those the App Store – for various reasons that don’t bode well for Android developers looking to make money. And advertising via AdMob is an underwhelming revenue model. As some developers – even those in the middle echelon of app quality – have found, maintaining a published, functional app in the Market may not be worth it. To be sure, maintaining an unsuccessful app in the App Store is more expensive due to Apple’s minimum $100 developer fee. It’s possible that more apps have been removed from the App Store because the expenses of maintaining the app exceeded revenues.
- The developer changes course, opting to offer only a free or paid version instead of both, or a sufficiently distinct version of an app that warrants replacing the original. The inability to switch an Android app from paid to free (and vice versa) is also a cause of apps being discarded, especially considering the struggle it takes to settle on a solid revenue model on Android.
- The app violates Android’s TOS. While Google’s lack of a review process means that any developer can publish a pornographic or otherwise mature/offensive app, Google’s TOS disallows such apps. Users will report these apps and they’ll eventually be unpublished from the Market. In this respect, whereas iOS takes a preventative approach, Android governs its store remedially. This would logically result in more apps being published and then unpublished on Android compared to the App Store, but this is likely a minor cause.
Size doesn’t matterKey takeaways:
- While increasing sales of Android devices are indeed a reason to be enthusiastic about the platform, reports of Android’s explosive growth have been exaggerated in some outlets.
- There has been greater attrition on Android than the App Store in spite of the fact that it is more expensive to maintain an app in the App Store than in the Market (although this trend may not necessarily continue).
- A lower barrier of entry to the Android Market than the App Store suggests that Android’s long tail offers less to consumers than the App Store’s, though perhaps greater accessibility will result in more diamonds in the rough.