If you read much tech news, it's hard not to think Android users are a bunch of cheap bastards.
You know the types of headlines I'm talking about -- the ones that pop up every few months touting some new app-purchasing survey or study. They invariably show that people who carry Android devices aren't willing to fork over a few bucks here and there for apps, or that the profits available from the Google Play Store are a fraction of what developers can make on iOS.
Amidst those narratives, though, those of us who actually live with Android see scores of smart developers who manage to make pretty decent livings by creating for the platform. Many of them are independent, working by themselves or with small groups to build and maintain widely adored Android apps.
Kevin Barry and Chris Lacy are two such standard-setters. Barry and Lacy are the guys behind a couple of Android's best and most beloved custom launchers -- Nova Launcher and Action Launcher, respectively -- and they've become prime examples of how independent developers can tap into Android's unique traits as a platform and come up with products that make an ongoing impact on users' lives.
"I'd always kinda customized my computer before, so it was just natural to want to do that on Android," Barry says, thinking back to his first app -- a lock screen replacement program called WidgetLocker that did well enough to allow him to quit his day job and focus on Android full time.
"I saw the existing apps were doing it wrong. It was like, 'I can do it better than this,'" he recalls.
Lacy came from the world of console game development and had his hands in a number of big-name titles. He, too, saw an opportunity in the land o' Android launchers and jumped at the chance to design something different.
"What I've found with the apps that I've written ... [is that] they work best when I don't design for committee -- when I first and foremost focus on what I want as a user," he says. "The idea of competition never particularly scared me. I just wanted to write unique things and have fun writing [them]."
I sat down with Barry and Lacy together to talk about their paths into Android app development and the challenges they've encountered along the way -- everything from dealing with platform-specific oddities (including the dreaded "F"-word) to overcoming the odds and figuring out how to make a living as an Android developer today. (Their business models may seem similar, but they actually have some pretty significant differences beneath the surface.)
We talked a lot about how Android is evolving as a platform, too, and what Google's ongoing changes mean for apps like Nova and Action and for users like us in general. The fellas also shared some interesting thoughts on the future of Android and how Google might eventually pivot its strategy for the operating system (hint: It involves bringing even more consistency to the core user experience, but not in the way you might think).
You can check out my full chat with Kevin Barry and Chris Lacy in the latest episode of the Android Intelligence podcast. Stream the audio in the player below, download it here (right-click and save) for later listening, or pull it up and subscribe in your favorite podcasting app.
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