Growing Android Developer Disinterest Is All About Economics

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 22, 2012

This week, market researchers at IDC and mobile app development and tools company Appcelerator came out with survey-based data showing that developer interest in the Android platform is waning. Specifically, 83.3 percent of developers surveyed last quarter said they were "very interested" in Android, while 78.6 percent of respondents said the same thing this quarter. The results fly in the face of some other data showing developer interest in Android on the rise, but several observers are pointing out that there is still great disparity between the app ecosystem for Android and the app ecosystem for Apple's iPhone and iOS.

PCMag points out that the economics of the Android app ecosystems are questionable:

"If you're happy with the current roster of Android apps, or if you use Android tablets primarily for Web browsing and media playback, [app availability] is not a problem for you. But right now, third-party Android apps rely much more on ad-subsidized free versions than paid versions. Fewer people buy paid Android apps. On the iPad, more people buy paid apps. The thing is, for free, ad-subsidized apps to be economically viable, you have to sell a lot of them—otherwise advertisers won't pay high enough rates for the ads."

In fact, many studies show that app revenue for iOS developers is much higher on average than it is for Android developers. Late last year, Chloe Albanesius cited research conclusions from Distimo on this topic:

"Half of the revenue of the 200 top grossing apps in the Apple App Store for iPhone is now generated by freemium apps. This proportion is even higher in the Google Android Market where 65 percent of the revenue from the top grossing apps is generated by freemium apps."

Google officials have recently noted that there are now more than 300 million Android devices in use, so the problem is not lack of user interest in the Android platform. It appears that developers have fewer opportunities to make money on the platform.

The Android ecosystem isn't hurting at this point. After all, recent survey data also shows developer interest in the BlackBerry platform--and other smartphone platforms--waning as well. However, if developers continue to find more economic opportunities on the iOS platform than they do on Android, it won't be a surprise to see Google put in place economic incentives for Android development.