What Google Needs To Do To Fix Its Android App Store (And Win Over Angry iPhone Developers)

android market

Apple pissed off quite a few developers this week when it changed language in the software development kit for the next version of the iPhone operating system.

With Apple angering developers, it would follow that Google’s Android should benefit. If developers are truly angry with Apple, the best way to show it is to build Android apps.

The problem is that Android’s version of the App Store, the Android Market, is subpar.

There’s a reason you don’t read about Android app developers becoming millionaires, the way you do with Apple’s App Store.

We spoke with developers about how to fix Android’s market earlier this year. Here’s their suggestions.

Here’s 10 ways to fix the Android market and make developers happy →

Google should build its own iTunes store

A Skyhook wireless report from December said developers think there is poor app discovery in the Android Market. Apps get buried after release.

Jason Laan of Laan Labs says Android doesn't have an equivalent of Apple's iTunes, so there's no easy public Web site (or in-app site) to browse for Android applications.

Android has this awful, sparse site for browsing. It provides minimal information, and weak screengrabs. Google should change that.

Provide links to the Android Market

After Google builds an iTunes-like space for browsing Android apps, it should allow developers to link to that space, like Apple does.

Some people say you can do this with QR codes, which are the funny looking square barcodes. Google is pushing these codes, and maybe over time they'll catch on. For now, we think it would be smart to have normal links.

For instance, when we gave MenuPages' iPhone app a positive review, we linked straight to the App Store. If someone wanted to download the app, it couldn't be easier.

Fix the billing process

From SkyHook's December report on the Android marketplace: 'Developers are concerned that Google Checkout contributes to their low download volumes. 43% feel that they would sell more apps if Android used a carrier billing or another simpler billing system.'

Do something about device fragmentation

Google should 'make the manufacturers play nice and share their changes,' says Pete Nofelt of Perk Mobile. He tells us Google/Android has not been public about the differences across handsets, and it hasn't forced makers to 'comply with some standards.'

Katy Kelley at marketing firm Carrot Creative adds, 'from a development standpoint, the biggest challenge brands (and subsequently agencies) face is that so many new phones support the Android platform that each of them have different hardware components and feature capabilities. The user experience is different across Android devices (i.e. screen resolutions). Plus, Android doesn't provide design guidelines for development like Apple does.'

Build a community for developers

Apple and Microsoft are well known for hosting developer events. Google has only had a few at its corporate HQ, says Pete Nofelt of Perk Mobile.

Pete thinks Google should host events like Apple and Microsoft, to develop a community of developers and make sure they're properly developing for the platform.

Make the prices all the same currency

This is a pet-peeve of ours. When we go into the Market after getting an Android-based phone, we find it bizarre to see US dollar prices next to British pounds and Euros. Settle on one currency -- preferably US dollars in the United States -- and list all app prices in that same denomination.

Sell the Android equivalent of an iPod touch

It's easy to get started developing for the iPhone with a $199 iPod touch, which doesn't require a mobile contact and doesn't necessarily replace your mobile phone.

There's no option like this for Android. Google should get a company to make a $199, wi-fi-only gadget to get more Android devices into developers' hands. Coders would be more inclined to write apps for hardware they own.

Kill the 24-hour return policy

Makers of novelty applications or simple games are going to shy away from Android because they'll lose impulse purchases.

Google needs to change the return policy. This one isn't for the consumer. It's a developer request.

  • Here's Apple's return policy: 'All Sales and rentals (as applicable) are final.'
  • Here's Google's: 'You have 24 hours from the time of purchase (not download) to return any applications purchased from Android Market for a full refund of any applicable fees.'

If you look through iTunes, there's a lot of silly applications or simple games for $0.99 at the top of the paid sellers list. On an impulse, a buyer is likely to shell out a buck for, 'iFart.'

When the buyer realises a day later that free versions of fart apps or the same games are all over the store, the buyer would return the paid fart application, costing the developer a sale.

Sure, having a return policy may increase app quality in the long run. But in the short run, it's a loophole that anyone can take advantage of to 'rent' paid apps for a day.

Sell more phones!

Google needs to sell more Android based phones. This is obvious, but it needs to be said.

Apple has sold more than 75 million iPhone OS devices. Google is still getting started.

The more phones it sells, the bigger the market for developers to sell to.

Advertise on TV

Apple has its unmistakable 'there's an app for that' television commercials that emphasise applications for the iPhone. Android doesn't have something close to this.

Android has the maybe-misogynistic Droid ads, and a few confusing T-Mobile commercials, but they don't focus on software. The ads say 'powered by Google,' which is nice, but it's not the same thing.

Google should be marketing its great applications and explaining why they're better than the iPhone.

Since TV isn't really Google's thing, maybe it could advertise them on the web. Every Tuesday, for instance, it could throw a link up on Google.com to Andy Rubin's favourite new application in the Android Market. Or, instead of something so radical, put display ads on the web that link to the suggested standalone Android Market.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.