Do you own an Android phone? When was the last time you actually bought an app for your handset? It's no secret Android fans are less susceptible to impulse buying compared to their iPhone counterparts.
Blame it on the geekiness of the Android operating system, less polished apps or the widely accepted notion that anything from Google is free of charge by default, but most people agree that Android crowd isn't as keen on parting with their hard-earned cash as Apple fans.
According to Oliver Chang over at the Forbes blog, Google's Android platform manager Eric Chu is aware of the issue and "not happy" about it. Google, Chang noted, is taking several steps to remedy this situation.
For starters, the company is taking a page from Apple's book by unveiling in-app purchasing sometimes this quarter. This feature will allow users to upgrade free apps to paid versions and buy additional content from within an app, the stuff like additional levels in games and virtual goods.
Mind you, this is a potential gold mine. According to the November studies from market research firms In-Stat and Juniper, virtual goods revenue could hit $14 billion by 2014 (In-Stat) or $11 billion by 2015 (Juniper).
In addition to the existing Google Checkout billing on the Market, Android fans will also be able to directly bill apps to their phone bill. The company is allegedly adding more carriers to its billing system now that they've successfully tested carrier billing last December in cooperation with AT&T. Android apps should also take advantage of new social components, the author explains:
Google would be utilizing "the best social graph" - the Android address book. The address book is open to developers. The advantage of using the address book for developers, Chu said, is that it aggregates user contacts from multiple sources, not just Google's own address books.
Surprisingly, looks like Google is breaking away from its proclaimed Android Market openness because they are beefing up their team of editors tasked with scrutinizing app submissions. An improved ranking algorithm should "make it easier for users to discover the best apps" while helping keep junky apps away from the Market. Lastly, Google will be allegedly pushing HTML5 as the preferred environment to create apps (most Android apps today are Java programs).
While it's easy to dismiss those efforts as a too little too late a remedy, Google clearly needs to do something if it's to make its platform more attractive to developers who are now making money mostly off Apple's iDevices. Take developer Rovio Mobile who released Angry Birds on Android as a free, ad-supported download even though it made millions by selling the game for 99 cents on the App Store. Android people, Rovio reasoned, simply aren't accustomed to paying for apps, even for high-quality games like Angry Birds.
Last month, Rovio debuted Bad Piggy Bank, a new payment solution allowing developers to write programs for Android that let users buy virtual goods from within an app and bill such purchases to their phone bill.
I'm not sure whether the above-mentioned Android Market improvements can yield tangible results. If you ask me, the novelty of buying nice-looking apps for your phone is wearing off as people think twice before they hit the Buy Now button. On iOS, an increasing number of apps are either take the freemium route or going free, funded by adverts.
The rush to the bottom has also taken its toll on bed-time programmers as big publishers take over the App Store. Be that as it may, both Android and iOS are developers' platform of choice, with 87 percent developers saying they're "very interested" in the Android platform and 92 percent for iOS, according to a Tuesday study by IDC.
Source: The Forbes blog