I have been following an interesting discussion between the Shifty Jelly folks and Marco Arment of Instapaper regarding the merits of developing for iOS versus Android and whether it’s worth the developer’s time (read money) creating for the platform.
Eric Schmidt spoke recently at Le Web where he said developers, like it or not, will target Android. As someone who writes iOS applications, it seemed like an arrogant statement and Marco had his thoughts, which seem reasonable to me:
Android devices have been selling in large quantities for a long time. That’s not new. Yet today, compared to iOS, Android is much less profitable for developers (especially for paid apps), its users are less influential for expanding new services, and its app development is much more painful and expensive. And in the rapidly growing and increasingly influential tablet market, Android has an extremely low marketshare.
Shify Jelly creators of applications for both iOS and Android took offense to Marco statements and wrote some elegant dialog as to the contrary:
First some background. We’ve been in the iOS app store since August of 2008, which for those that are counting is only a month or so after it first launched. We’ve been on Android now for about a year. We make serious apps like Pocket Casts and Pocket Weather AU, things that take a lot of development effort and involve serious server back-ends. We’ve made enough money since then to support 2 full time staff, and 2 part time designers. Yes we’re the guys who had the run in with Amazon, the email from Steve Jobs, and we’re not millionaires.
Finally, since neither of these developers allow comments on their blog, Marco’s rebuttal to the challenge by Shifty Jelly:
If you make the first great Android Instapaper client that:
- uses the official API
- contains a significant portion of the iOS app’s features, the details of which we’d work out privately
- runs on a wide variety of Android devices and OS versions including modern smartphones, the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, and whichever 10” tablet matters at the time of completion
- is priced at $2.99 or higher in the U.S. with approximately equivalent pricing elsewhere, and satisfies requirements to be sold in the Google Marketplace, Amazon Appstore, and whatever B&N uses for the Nook Tablet
I’ll call it the official Instapaper app for Android, I’ll promote it on the Instapaper site, I’ll drop the subscription requirement for its API access, you’ll answer all support email that comes from it, and we’ll split the net revenue 50/50.
As you may know, I write iOS applications but have not given Android much thought primarily for Marco’s reasons. I like to keep an open mind and would target Android if there was money to be made in any of the apps stores. I just don’t see it. Certainly there are tons of Android phones flying out of the stores but are those people spending the money like the users in Apple’s App Store? I fear not, at least not today. If users aren’t spending their hard earned dollars on applications how can we be expected to spend our hours on developing for a platform with almost no return.
Who is making money selling their Android applications today? Please leave a comment.
The dialog is worth the read and is food for thought. It’s interesting how, since neither allows comments on their blogs, they are forced to trade shots in this way.