Oct 08 AT 3:04 PM Sean Riley 33 Comments

Android Licenser looks to give your app sales a boost

Android Licenser is a new service from Edward Kim, the developer of “Car Locator.” Android Licenser aims to help developers of paid apps to both protect their apps from piracy and extend the availability of their apps to countries that don’t support the paid Android Market. The hope is that you are able to derive significantly greater profits from your existing apps (Edward increased his earnings on Car Locator by approximately 150%).

The simplest implementation of Android Licenser is to just submit your .apk file along with your Google Checkout merchant credentials and then they will set up a store front for you which will enable you to sell your app directly to users in any country that supports Google Checkout. At the moment over 150 countries support purchases through Google Checkout versus the newly increased total of 34 countries that support the paid Android Market. Beyond increasing your potential user base you also avoid the 70/30 revenue split of the Market in favor of the standard Google Checkout fees.

To take full advantage of Android Licenser you will need to add their licenser client library to your app. This is the piece of Android Licenser that offers you protection from piracy and guarantees that only legitimate buyers will be using your apps.

The first stage in this security is that buyers purchasing your app either through the Android Market or directly through Google Checkout will be issued an activation code by email that must be input within 24 hours of first using the app. Once they have entered the password the device is green lit on the server with a permanent license. Any time the app is started in the future it pings the licensing server to verify that it is an authorized device.

While this system is similar to that offered by Google it has two notable benefits; the first is that the activation code allows you to tie the app to a single device (in the event that the user purchases a new phone another code can be issued) and the second is that the licensing server works even when selling your app outside of the Android Market.

At $39.95 a month for a single application and $99.95 a month for unlimited applications Android Licenser isn’t exactly aimed at the new app developer (unless you’re sitting on the next Angry Birds), but rather at those that have a proven app and are looking to both grow beyond what the Market currently allows and also stop the inevitable piracy that occurs once an app becomes popular. If you don’t generate more cash with Android Licenser there is a 30 day money back guarantee which should help ease your mind a little.

The biggest threat to Android Licenser is likely to be Google themselves. They are taking steps to fill some of the holes that Android Licenser is currently plugging which means in the future it will have to iterate in some way to stay ahead of Google, but for now the gaps remain and obviously Android Licenser will always retain the advantage of providing sales outside of the Market.

To the developers out there would you consider trying this on your apps and if not what would give you pause about doing so?

Source: Android Licenser

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 5 years and covering mobile for the last 6. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • http://Website Jon B.

    I think this is a huge step for Android developers. Google Android has made it so easy pirate .apk files that for developers, it’s tough to figure out why we shouldn’t be pushing out only iPhone apps. With this Licenser, I now have a reason to work on Android apps again. I think it’s awesome!

    • http://Website Matt

      it is far easier to pirate iphone apps using installous

      • http://Website Jon B.

        Oh awesome. Thanks for the tip, Matt!

        • http://Website Pablo

          There is a thing for that on android now too…. it’s called Applanet. Exactly the market, but everything free

    • http://Website B

      LOL. This may be a huge step for Edward Kim’s business, but hardly for anyone else. I personally would not buy an app protected by this scheme, and I have NEVER pirated an Android app.

      BTW, it’s super easy to pirate apps on the iPhone, in fact probably easier than on Android. Yet iPhone developers who make good apps make money.

      Most users don’t go through the hassle of pirating to save $1 or $5, and most of the ones who do pirate, probably would never buy the app anyway.

      The 50% profits increase Kim brags about is most likely due to to the exposure he is getting from his DRM scheme.

      • http://Website dave

        >Most users don’t go through the hassle of pirating to save $1 or $5, and most of the ones who do
        >pirate, probably would never buy the app anyway.

        Sorry, are you saying that no-one pirates android software, or that there is a use for this service?

  • http://Website Michael

    This sounds like a really interesting service. With many other marketplaces and distribution channels for Android applications coming out (especially Amazon.com), a solution to application piracy is all the more important, and this seems to offer a pretty good one.

  • Nicko01

    It’s nice that someone decided to do something about the piracy issue, but DRM can get really annoying for the end user. Hopefully they keep this in mind. Some programs for PC have such annoying DRM that it makes legitimate users have trouble, especially the less technical ones.

  • http://Website Isaac

    As a consumer I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with the fact the something needs to be done about the piracy rates on android, it has gotten out of control. However google has already released a liscensing system that makes me, as a consumer, feel comfortable. I understand that its not available in all counties, and for developers who don’t/can’t sell in the android market this might be a good solution. However if I’m going to buy an app I’m going to shy away from ones that make me enter codes and potentially lock me out when I trasition from device to device.

    My solution will be to buy apps from the android market that either use googles liscensing system or no drm controls.

  • http://Website Daniel

    The complications for the end-user (authorizing installs outside the Market, keeping track of updates manually, having to enter the unlock code, single-device licensing) alone mean it’d be a very bad move to use this licensing scheme alone. So you’d want to offer both Market and Android Licenser means of purchase. Now, US$ 40/mo? Considering the vast majority of sales would certainly come through the Market version, I find it very unlikely this service would be worth the money, for pretty much any developer.

    • http://www.androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

      Hi Daniel,

      This is Edward, the developer of the service in question. AndroidLicenser.com also works with purchases made through the Android Market to help prevent software piracy. Personally, after implementing AndroidLicenser for my own Car Locator app, I saw piracy rates drop dramatically and purchases increase by 150%. Google’s LVL has already been hacked.

      There are also additional benefits of using AndroidLicenser. For instance, it helps to increase user reviews/ratings of your application, which has an effect on your overall Market ranking. I’ll be posting more details about this on the AndroidLicenser blog soon.

      • http://Website Daniel

        > Google’s LVL has already been hacked.

        Do you have anything to show AL isn’t just as easily hackable as LVL?

  • http://hyperbees.com Tom

    Hi,

    Every effort to minimise piracy is worth to be praised.

    The pricing in this case is quite ok, devs might benefit from both antipiracy solution (well, warez sites will test it pretty soon…) and additional countries, but I think, when it comes to countries, we shouldn’t think in terms of their numbers (150 vs 34). What counts are population, spending power, software buying habits etc. From our experience I can say right now Market serves 80-90% of the real Android purchasing population. Each and every country outside the current Market is now will give only marginal sales increase, well, maybe except China.

    When it comes to piracy – it is possible to defend apps with what is offered by Google, I mean LVL + several other tricks.

    Cheers,

    Tom

  • jivemaster

    As an avid purchaser of apps on the google market, I have great concerns regarding drm of this nature. No one wants to wait for an emailed code. I don’t mind seamless drm with no user input required, but having to wait for an email code is plain stupid. If it’s done similar to what some other apps on the market are like, you often have to wait over 24 hours to get the code, negating your opportunity to refund in the event the app is not what you expected or terrible, which if the beauty of android – devs have to earn your business, unlike the app store which forces a purchase you’re usually stuck with.

    Periodically polling to ensure the app is being used on a device with the google account it was purchased with is all you need. When offline, allow the app to run without authentication I say every 10 runs for example.

    I will not buy any app with this drm. As a user of different roms, flashing a new rom could mean you’re in need of all new codes again.

    • http://www.androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

      Jivemaster,

      I understand your concerns. Thats why AndroidLicenser is designed to be as painless as possible for the consumer, while safe and secure for the developer. When a user purchases an application, they are allowed to use the application for upto 24 hours without entering the activation code. This way, the user gets that “instant gratificaiton” feeling and doesn’t have the inconvenience of waiting around for an activation code. Entering the activation code is a one-time thing only.

      Building a healthy application ecosystem is all about striking that right balance between making it easy for end-users, while making it economically attractive for developers. That way, developers have the right incentives to build high-quality, polished apps.

      • http://Website JimK

        As a frequent ROM upgrader/changer, would I need a new code for every time I changed ROMs? If so? I hereby pledge to never buy any software that uses this DRM system.

        If not? As long as it doesn’t get in my way, I’m all for protecting developers. Right up until you make me, the law-abiding, legal purchaser jump through flaming hoops to use the software I paid for. Then I stop supporting you. Just bear that in mind.

        • http://androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

          Hi JimK,

          changing ROMS will not require you to reenter your activation code. The activation code you enter gets tied to your phones hardware ID. So it won’t get in your way. I agree that having to reenter the activation code every single time is an annoyance to end-users.

          • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

            First of all, cool that you’re actually browsing the comments and replying to them.

            Second of all, what happens when a long-time user of an application of mine upgrades their phone? Must I force them to purchase a new license? I think tying the code to the user’s Google account would be a much better practice than tying it to the hardware ID.

      • http://Website Inquisitor

        1 long q, and two shorter ones.

        1. Will this require a constant internet connection to use? If so, this will be more frustrating than people think. While 3G smartphones have fairly good service lately (plus wifi) that makes people think they’re always-connected, there are many times in my day that I do not have a connection, or at least a good one.
        My phone has terrible internet connection in and around my house (droid 1 on vzw, it’s just b/c i have 60+ year old plaster walls), and plus my school has zero reception for all cell phones. no one’s really sure if it’s an intentional blocking thing or if we just have really shitty walls/insulation. the list goes on. there are many times throughout my day where i don’t have internet, and where either there’s no wifi either or i don’t want to waste my battery with it. if i have to have some kind of connection to use some of my apps, especially when the apps themselves don’t need internet like a music player, a stopwatch, an ereader, or a game, then i will just avoid this drm system like the plague. please tell me i won’t have to.

        2. what happens if you don’t manage to enter the code in 24 hours? will the app just not work until you enter the code at a later date? or will you no longer be allowed to even enter the code?

        3. will this system allow for apps themselves to be free full-featured 24-hour trials, where an unlock code can be purchased and used afterwards? or does it require for the apps themselves to still charge?

        • http://www.androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

          Hi Inquisitor:

          Here are the answers to your questions:

          1) The licensing system is an optimistic licensing system. In other words, if your phone does not have internet connectivity or cannot communicate to the licensing servers for any reason at all, the application will assume that the application is licensed and will continue to work. This is to minimize disruption to the user.

          2) If you dont enter the code within 24 hours, you simply will not be able to use the app until the activation code is entered. You can enter the activation code whenever you want.

          3) yes. You can use androidlicenser to provide a 24-hour full featured trial of your application for free. After the 24 hours, you can prompt the user to purchase the license and, upon purchase, provide them with the activation code to permanently unlock your application.

  • http://Website stan

    It is about time to have a good quality priracy protection though$40-100 is not a small money for an app.
    I think his app is not for everyone but only for those collecting more than $1000/month. As Ed said if the sale rises by 50%, the collection would be $1500. After $100, $400 more a month.
    AS long as people become no +saints+, there are always freebees in android market.

  • http://Website Tom

    “and if not what would give you pause about doing so?”

    The fact that I got e-mail spammed by “Eddie Kim.” Bad, bad move.

    And this is athe 2nd article on this topic on here. Are you paying Android and Me?

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      There was no payment, we clearly designate when we have a sponsored post.

      I followed up on Eddie’s story because it was such a big deal earlier this year when he was making over $13,000 a month and rather than just let the headline stand I thought it might be interesting to see how we was doing now. The reason for the two posts is simply that there were two different stories to tell; one was Eddie’s experience with the Market and the other was the service which was born of that experience.

    • http://Website Al

      That pissed me off as well. My Market email is for users and (potential) customers, not for your marketing needs. That and the draconion drm means I won’t even consider this.

      I know how frustrating it can be dealing with drm when I’m a legitimite customer (thanks Starforce), so no way in hell would I want to put my customers through that.

  • http://Website IceCrush

    think of offering the market to every country before starting to combat piracy
    if someone can’t buy the app why wouldn’t he pirate it through any website ?

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      I did point to this in the post, there are indications that Google will be adding PayPal support within the month which would bring paid app support to even more countries than are currently supported by Google Checkout.

  • http://Website bbman

    Seriously, coming off the heals that HTC is now locking devices from being rooted, now we have devs that want to tie app purchases to a specific device? The whole Android isn’t closed like Apple is very quickly losing steam. I’m all for fighting piracy, but when it makes it harder for paying customers to use an app or I have to jump through hoops just because I upgrade my device and now need a new code (I hope you remember me by then), I’ll just skip your troublesome app…I know you have all this new data that shows how people are paying for your apps now and have stopped pirating, but you really have no idea how many people don’t want to buy into your scheme and found alternative applications instead. If you were keeping a spreadsheet, you can start by adding me as one of those.

    • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

      Hey, add me too.

  • http://Website Gregory Parker

    Edward Kim,

    It’s a nice idea but you you can’t stop pirates. In fact you are just giving them something else to hack. I occasionally use your app but adding unwanted security features is annoying. I also think that you should be able to protect your investment how you see fit. At least you will get some revenue out of it before the latest apk is hacked and online.

  • http://Website IDtheTarget

    I understand that developers want to make money off their work, and I support that. I have paid over $100 in apps since I bought my phone, including Docs to Go, games, etc.

    That being said, I am a soldier and away from cell towers quite often. How am I supposed to use an app, for which I’ve paid, if it has to ping the server and I’m in Afghanistan for a year?

    • http://www.androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

      Hi IDtheTarget,

      Thank you for your service. If your phone does not have internet connectivity, your application will continue to work. Androidlicenser uses an optimistic licensing policy, meaning your app will assume you have purchased the app if it cannot communicate with the licensing server for any reason.

      • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

        So what happens when someone develops an app similar to that ad blocker that just blocks connections to the licensing server, rendering it useless? I also do *not* like that it would be tied to users’ hardware and not Google account.

  • http://OpenPayments.Mobi OpenPayments Admin

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