Google to build Android apps

1 Feb

Interesting rumor that Google is staffing to build more Android apps in house: http://engt.co/fcnkx0.

Personally, I wish Google would focus instead on improving and deepening the app ecosystem experience on Android, to facilitate more of its partner developers to be successful on the platform. It’s not the “competition” from Google that is worrisome, it’s that Android is a sub-par dev platform at the moment, when compared to iOS. What we and other developers are seeing is that end-users run into a few critical problems with apps on Android:

1. Device Fragmentation: Sorry Eric, but Android is truly, honestly (literally? :>) fragmented. Windows Mobile-like fragmented. You can’t write an app and have it run on all platforms. Anyone who says different is either not building apps or working for Google :). Different phones have different amounts of memory, and APIs are overloaded by individual phone manufacturers (e.g. HTC), which brings device-specific bugs. The camera API is a good example of this. The fact Google denies the problem and hasn’t assisted the dev community with a hardware lab is a shame, and is a significant disincentive for small developers to invest in Android.

2. The Android Market is broken: This is already well documented, e.g. http://bit.ly/aVpRmb. For end-users, it’s hard to find good content because of all the spam. The store is also impossible to search and has a poor web front-end, both of which are surprising coming from Google. Sadly, from the developer side, it’s worse. Google Checkout, which most users have to navigate through to buy an App, is not used by the majority of folks and it hasn’t been tailored to work well with the app ecosystem. For example, one gets paid on a daily basis, which I could see making sense for physical products, but is noisy for the “higher-volume of small purchases” app business. The Market also doesn’t seem to have any useful metrics to speak of, e.g. say how many copies got downloaded per day for free aps or how many users are upgrading.

There are lots of things to like about Android – most importantly that it creates competition in the smartphone space, but at the moment, it is just not a place app developers can easily be sucessful, even with Android selling more devices than iOS.

 

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