The Other Android Market

Building the Android Equivalent of "App Store B"

Marco Arment (of Tumblr and Instapaper fame) wrote a piece for his blog back on October 9th, profiling the two sides to the iPhone App Store. While his analysis was aimed at the iPhone, I believe it holds fairly true for Android as well...particularly if we can develop a better framework for what Mr. Arment calls “App Store B”.“App Store A”, in his parlance, is an impulse-purchase, hit-driven market. Apps are priced under 1 USD, and so the only real successes are those who can hang out at the top of the market ratings for an extended period. Everyone else winds up treating their apps as disposable, failing to update them if they fail to garner enough in-store attention to make revenue likely.“App Store B” is the counterpart: “Apps and games with more complexity and depth, narrower appeal, longer development cycles, and developer maintenance over the long term.” People do not find these via market ratings, but rather based on recommendations (e.g., Android Market “Featured” area), reviews, and such. They can command “premium” prices (i.e., over 1 USD), but are unlikely to gain enough popularity to make ridiculous profits, “but they have a much greater chance of building sustained, long-term income.”Right now, the world of Android is dominated by “App Store A”, simply due to lack of alternatives. There is the Android Market roster of “Featured” apps, and there are Android blogs that do product reviews, but that is about it for promoting applications in an “App Store B” manner.That leaves us with the Android Market “top paid” and “top free” buckets, and not much else. Developers not affiliated with brand names (or VCs that can help engineer PR) are almost forced into creating disposable apps.The Android Market could have seeded the ground for “App Store B” by offering an API or feed of its data. Even if you still have to use the Market client to download or purchase the app, I feel fairly confident that interesting sites would have sprung up to augment the raw Market data. After all, a couple of sites have popped up based solely on pirated Market data. Alas, despite Google's penchant for APIs and feeds, the Android Market still lacks both.Only once Android has a go-to place on the Web for researching Android applications — pulling together formal reviews, user reviews, sales/download ranks, and whatnot — will “App Store B” become a reality for Android.

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