A lot of Android developers and users alike assume that Google’s Android Market is the only place to download free and paid apps for the platform. This is not the case; there are dozens of app stores out there. Some markets have wider or narrower coverage than others, but each has its place, along with benefits and drawbacks that developers need to be aware of. So you’ve developed an Android app — now let’s discuss what your options are for publishing it in today’s market.
Google’s Android Market
Google’s Android Market is still the most popular and well-supported app store for Android apps. With a robust application catalog of Android titles and millions of downloads a day, this is where most developers sell their apps — for good cause. The Android Market has fairly light curation compared to other app stores and platforms, and includes various compelling features for developers, including market filters, easy bug tracking and smooth upgrade support. Currently, developers get 70 percent of the application revenue but they also have to have a paid developer account with a reasonable one-time authentication fee of $25. Recently, a Web store version of the Android Market went live, with many new and compelling features for users and developers alike.
Note: In fact, the Android device operating system restricts the applications that can be installed on an Android device, by default, to only those from this market. In order to enable downloads from other sources, the user must adjust the settings at the operating system level. Certain carriers, such as AT&T, have removed this feature, thus providing the Android Market with exclusive access to their users.
Handango, GetJar and the Other App Superstores
There are a number of big app stores we like to call “app superstores.” These one-stop shops carry apps for multiple mobile platforms and normally sport an application catalog containing tens or hundreds of thousands of app titles with downloads in the hundreds of millions and billions. Amongst the most popular of these are GetJar and Handango. Both have been around a long time, have several hundred thousand apps, support many platforms, and have international reach.
Most of these app superstores have no developer fees, but the revenue models vary greatly. For a pretty comprehensive list of mobile app stores that serve the Android user community, along with app catalog and download data, check out this great spreadsheet on Wikipedia.
The Amazon Appstore opened its virtual doors only a few months ago, but it did so with great fanfare and a pretty amazing track record for digital media distribution with a lot of loyal users. Right off the bat, they’ve featured exciting exclusive applications, incentivized users to try their store through a popular Free Paid App of the Day program, and made waves with their initial success. Unlike the Android Market, the Amazon Appstore features curation, deals, and a higher level of organization. Additionally, Amazon has a great feature that allows users to test apps before downloading them using a browser-based emulator. Currently, developers get 70 percent of the application revenue, but they also have to have a paid developer account with a fee of $99 a year.
Manufacturer- and Operator-Curated Markets
In addition to the big markets listed, device manufacturers, like Motorola (SHOP4APPS), Archos (AppsLib), LG (LG World), and operators, like Verizon (V CAST Apps), have launched their own app stores. Some of these stores are heavily curated, but they often allow developers to target more specific devices, or device brands. Operator markets often include special application categories for subsidized or featured applications; the downside: developers sometimes have less control over the price for their application and have to go through many more steps to provide an app for download and sale.
Smaller and Specialty Markets
You don’t necessarily want to discount the numerous other app stores that deal in Android applications, either. Although many of these stores are small or carry only apps for certain target devices (e.g. tablets only), they have their perks. Why consider smaller markets? They sometimes offer deals and negotiation opportunities to the right developer for the right app, such as more enticing revenue sharing percentages or free marketing opportunities. One specialty market that there is a store for is the “adult” software market. MiKandi calls itself as the “World’s First App Market for Adults.”
Mobile App Self Publication
Finally, there’s still the self-publication option: selling your apps apart from any market. This is the only option for those who don’t want to pursue revenue-sharing publication modes. This option may be reasonable for certain situations: certain vertical market and enterprise applications, applications with very strong branding and loyal users, open source applications, and beta apps that are not quite ready for primetime. This option also provides the most control over delivery to devices. Only want to target a single device? Need your users to pay for your app on every device they install it on? This may be the only option available if you have strict distribution requirements. The downside, of course, is that by cutting out the middleman, you need to do all the legwork and marketing to reach users yourself. One notable company that primarily uses the self publishing option is Gameloft. Several of their Android titles are only available for download from their website.
Developers need to remember that they have many options when it comes to publishing their applications for consumers. Although Google’s Android Market remains the most prominent application store for Android applications, it is certainly not the only publication channel available. Veteran app stores like GetJar have impressive selection of application titles and the recently unveiled Amazon Appstore is already making waves by offering popular exclusive titles to their already impressive user base. Specialty stores, whether they cater to specific device types, or simply different audiences, can help developers reach niche markets. Developers need not restrict themselves to just a single market, but should also weigh the cost of managing various developer accounts with different app stores and consolidating revenue data.
About the Authors
|Shane Conder and Lauren Darcey — Contributing Editors, Mobile Development — have coauthored two books on Android development: an in-depth programming book entitled Android Wireless Application Development (ISBN-13: 978-0-321-62709-4) and Sams Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours (ISBN-13: 978-0-321-67335-0). When not writing, they spend their time developing mobile software at their company and providing consulting services.