By JR Raphael
Lately, there's been a lot of talk about how Google's Android Market compares with Apple's App Store in terms of developer potential -- specifically, the ability for app developers to make money on the platform. It's an important issue: As users, after all, we may be more focused on our experience than any developer's income, but if developers aren't able to make a living from their efforts, they won't keep investing the time and energy to give us good content.
Traditionally, Apple has been viewed as the top dog when it comes to pure app dollars; love it or hate it, the company's App Store generates plenty of dough and thus plenty of income for third-party programmers. Even so, Android is increasingly becoming a prominent part of the equation for many well-known developers -- and for some, it's actually starting to surpass Apple by a significant margin.
Today, we hear one such developer's story.
Android vs. iOS: A Developer's Tale
Spacetime Studios makes the popular Pocket Legends 3D MMO game for both iOS and Android. The game has gotten rave reviews on both platforms, being named one of the top five "groundbreaking" iOS games of 2010 by Mashable and one of the 10 best Android games available by MSNBC.com.
Here's where things get interesting: Spacetime says its daily user activity on Android is more than double its level on iOS in practically every measure. On Android, the game is downloaded about 9,000 times a day, according to Spacetime; on iOS, daily downloads are in the 3,000 to 4,000 range. Perhaps even more significant, Android users who have the app use it about three times more than their Apple counterparts.
Altogether, that translates into a big difference in revenue: Spacetime, which is supported largely by in-app purchases, says its Android users generate 30 to 50 percent more revenue than its iOS users do. This is despite the fact that Apple has a seamless in-app purchasing interface, whereas Android's built-in purchasing system isn't set to debut until sometime this spring.
"We've just been blown away," says Spacetime CEO Gary Gattis. "Android has become our primary interest."
(The chart at right shows revenue from the game's first 30 and 60 days in the Apple App Store compared with its first 30 and 60 days in the Android Market.)
Pocket Legends also utilizes advertising to generate revenue, and Spacetime has seen the same effect there: Android users click ads about three times as much as iOS users, according to Spacetime's measurements. What's more, they end up making purchases as a result of ad clickthroughs twice as often as iOS users.
"This led us to stop advertising on Apple and throw all of our marketing dollars onto Android," Gattis says. "It really just makes sense from a financial point of view."
Analyzing the Android App Effect
So what explains this discrepency? Gauging by common logic (or perhaps just widely accepted Jobsian logic), it seems almost counterintuitive. But Gattis has some theories.
"Android's a smaller pond for apps right now," he says. "The support on the Google side has been much more tangible -- they're really trying to nurture the gaming community."
Indeed, in terms of sheer application numbers, Apple is still the dominant player. Android, however, is catching up: Google's Eric Schmidt recently said the official Market is up to 150,000 total applications -- a number that has tripled over the past nine months. According to independent metrics firm AndroLib, 32,323 new apps appeared in the Android Market in February. That's up from 29,293 new apps in January, 27,227 new apps in December, and 24,040 new apps in November. The rate of growth has been on a nonstop rollercoaster ride upward for months, and -- correlating with the overall growth of the platform -- it shows no signs of slowing down.
The Android Market and App Store, of course, take drastically different approaches to the app approval process: While Apple is notorious for its tightly controlled shelves and sometimes arbitrary-seeming rejections, Google lets any registered developer publish apps immediately. Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, but for Spacetime, Android's open strategy has more than paid off.
"In some ways, it's kind of like the wild, wild West," Gattis says, "but that's where the gold rush people made their claim. For us, the challenges have become opportunities."
Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.