Google has made great strides with Android, and a ton of developers have flocked to the growing mobile platform. Not everything is rosy, though. One major concern among developers is that piracy levels are very high on the platform.
Google is of course not oblivious to this and recently announced plans to combat piracy with DRM methods that app developers can include in their apps. But there is one problem that is arguably much more problematic for Android developers when it comes to getting paid for their apps, and it isn’t getting nearly as much attention as we think it should.
The big problem with selling Android apps
Google is talking about fighting piracy, but perhaps the first thing they should focus on is actually making it possible for users to buy apps. All users. Sounds rather logical, doesn’t it? So what are we talking about? The problem lies with Android Market.
You can only pay for apps in 13 out of the 46 or so countries where Android phones are available. For those of you who like stats, 13 in 46 works out to less than 30%. Contrast this with Apple’s App Store, which supports paid apps in 90 countries. This is a huge advantage iPhone developers currently have over Android developers.
This is, in our opinion, one of the main reasons why piracy is running rampant on the Android platform. If a large portion of the world’s Android users can’t even pay for apps, is it so strange that some of them turn to piracy?
In other words, piracy isn’t the root of the problem, the inability to pay is.
This is of course bad news for Android app developers because:
- It will result in fewer sold apps (obviously).
- It may also get customers used to not paying for apps.
Let’s expand upon that second point, because it’s important.
Fostering a culture of free
We all like free, right? But the reality is that it can be bad news for developers if that mentality goes too far.
If Google doesn’t quickly make it possible for users in more countries to easily pay for apps, the company may create a long-term problem. People in those countries will simply get used to pirating their apps. They will get used to all Android apps being “free.”
So what happens once these users finally have proper access to paid apps? Sure, some of them will be paying, if nothing else because it’s more convenient, but the risk is that a significant portion of users will not like the idea of suddenly paying for something that so far has been available at no cost. Google will effectively have created “pirates” out of people who may otherwise not have gone down that route.
To say that this would severely hinder Android developers from making a living is an understatement.
The situation today
Paid Android apps are available in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
This means that big parts of Europe (for example all Scandinavian countries) are left without paid apps, all of Asia with the exception of Japan, and Latin America. Those are some pretty large markets to leave out.
We’re based in Sweden, one of the countries currently left out. Android is becoming a pretty popular platform here, but there is also widespread frustration among users that paid apps are not readily available. These are people who actually want to pay for apps, but have to jump through hoops to do it or turn to piracy. NOT good for business.