Why Android (Market) still sucks

During the last 12 months Google’s Android OS has turned the smartphone OS market upside down and took over the lead if measured by quantity of new devices sold. No doubt that Android is a big success and will continue to be even more success in the upcoming years, but most of its credit comes from low sales pricing compared to its hardware specs and competitors (iPhone), not from superior product execution.

In this post I don’t like to make the 234th comparison between iOS and Android. Frank Meehan has already said all that can be said on that particular point and anything beyond that point is a waste of time because the two platforms are positioned inherently different and you would compare apples with oranges.

But when you compare both native application stores attached to the platform (Apple App Store and Android Market), you compare apples with apples. We have just recently launched our long-awaited iOS-version of mysms.┬áThe observations of the last days are really interesting and don’t shed the best light on the Android Market. The Android app of mysms, which has been live since November 2010, has seen more than 20.000 downloads since then. Thanks to 5 months work, some marketing & PR the number of daily downloads is rising from day to day and the app is doing fine. But the iOS version just released 10 days ago is seeing even more daily downloads although we haven’t even started advertising the App. We wanted to wait for some more days and see if first customer reviews are positive and then shout out the message.
I expected the iOS version to perform better, but not so much.

What is different between the two markets? Here’s my personal explanation:

  1. Customer Base: it is a fact that iPhone owners are more active in using apps than are Android users. 50% of them download apps compared to 19% of Android users. I believe the main reason for that is that phone users generally know little about their phone’s capabilities on the one hand, on the other hand you either buy an “iPhone” or a “smartphone” (people don’t go into shops and buy an “Android Phone”). So complexity paired with branding and price attracts leads to different usage patterns.
  2. Payment: we all know that iTunes is superior to any other mobile payment solution thanks to it’s spread. No need to elaborate that.
  3. Store Navigation: it’s all about app discovery to keep your app ecosystem in motion. Apple’s App Store does a good job in promoting new & noteworthy apps for each country separately (see next point on localization) based on a certain algorithm. On the Android Market homescreen I can see 15 featured apps manually picked by Google’s Content administrators. To see new ones I would have to go into any category, and even then I don’t see the most downloaded new apps, they are showing me chronologically ordered new apps. I would be interested which good apps came out since I last visited the store based on downloads or ratings, but not in chronological order.
  4. Localization: everybody who runs a web shop knows the importance of CRM (showing visitors the content they most probably will buy). For global products the most simple form of segmentation is by country (others would be age, sex, …). When I go to the comics category of the Android Market 2 of the Top3 results are japanese. But I cannot find the app of my local newspaper because it is stuck in some global download rankings (Austria is not the biggest country, so making an impact next to US apps is really hard). It is really a provocation that this happens in a store of a company which servers probably know more about my online life than I do.

From a marketing point of view this is really a joke, a desaster, you can hardly make it worse. It will be interesting to observe how the recently launched Amazon Appstore for Android will be doing. They definitely know how to build stores and master CRM.

I would really like to understand Google’s strategy behind this, because you cannot do such a bad job if it is not on purpose. Any idea?

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