Given mounting frustrations over Apple's App Store standards and surging interest in writing for Google's rival Android platform, you might think it's all puppies and rainbows in Android developer circles, but tensions are simmering there as well. In a recent interview with About.com, id Software co-founder and technical director John Carmack (the lead programmer on bestselling titles including Doom and Quake) said he has no interest in Android, citing financial questions: "Android really has the support and the flexibility, but I've been talking with the Electronics Arts people (who publish some of id's products) about Android, and many folks are saying the money isn't there." Carmack's concerns are echoed by mobile games publisher Gameloft, which said it will slash investment in its Android efforts: "We have significantly cut our investment in Android platform, just like... many others," Gameloft finance director Alexandre de Rochefort recently told an investor conference. "Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android, nobody is making significant revenue." Rochefort adds that Gameloft is selling 400 times the number of games via iPhone than on Android.
Even with Android games enjoying a 53 percent month-over-month gross revenue increase in October 2009 according to data issued by strategic market research and consulting firm Fade LLC, the numbers are still alarming--Fade indicates that October's best-selling premium Android title, Lupis Labs Software's Robo Defense, sold 7,600 units at $2.99 each, translating to gross monthly revenues of just $22,724. With developers retaining 70 percent of Android Market revenues, Lupis Labs took home about $15,907 in Robo Defense sales over the month in question. Now a new survey released by location system provider Skyhook Wireless indicates that 57 percent of Android developers express dissatisfaction with their Android profits, with 90 percent of respondents reporting individual app downloads of 10,000 or less. In fact, 52 percent of Android developers indicate their total app downloads fall below 5,000.
The Skyhook survey identifies a number of additional factors contributing to Android developer frustrations, including the Android Market storefront's design and discovery options as well as the absence of an effective billing system. Eighty-two percent of respondents argue Android Market's layout contributes to their application going unnoticed by consumers, and 43 percent of developers blame Google Checkout for their lackluster download volumes, believing they would sell more applications if Android switched to operator billing or adopted a simpler payment process. Fragmentation is another major concern among developers--with an increasing number of Android-based smartphones hitting the market, 46 percent of coders surveyed say they anticipate different versions of Android complicating their developmental efforts. The end result: Sixty-eight percent of respondents tell Skyhook they are somewhat or not likely to invest additional time and energy into their Android applications. Manufacturer announcements indicate there will be more than 50 Android smartphones available in the very near future, meaning there's no time like the present for Google to make Android Market a more hospitable environment for software sellers and buyers alike. -Jason