Today, Google’s Eric Chu announced a number of new features available now (or soon, in some cases) in the Android Market. While many of these changes come in the form of user features, I believe that their true value lies in their benefit to developers. Accordingly, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at the new features from the viewpoint of a developer.
Paid Apps for 99 More Countries
Perhaps the most important new feature to developers is the availability of paid apps to buyers in an additional 99 countries. For those keeping track, that more than quadruples the number of countries where Android users can purchase apps to 131 in total. This is huge for reasons that don’t even need explaining. The oft-cited reasoning that Android app pirating exists due to the lack of availability of these paid apps makes this an even more important enhancement, (reference: Lack of paid apps in Android Market contributes to app piracy, and Android Paid-App Shortage ‘Fuels Piracy’). And if this reasoning is valid, hopefully this new availability will curtail some, or most, of that piracy (Hey, I can dream can’t I?). Of course, there’s a flip side to this coin and that is that the corresponding announcement of additional seller countries never came. In my opinion, this is going to have to be the next hurdle Google strives to overcome.
More App Discovery
Several new ways to discover apps were also announced. The new Trending Apps list features apps that have great download velocity in the short term, giving users a way to know what apps and games are hot right now. Similarly, there are now lists showing the Top New Free and Paid Apps and Games which will put focus on freshness. You can think of this as a combination of the Top and Just In listings. This is important because previously the Top lists were all-time (or some other long-term, we’re not entirely sure) and it was very difficult for newer developers, or newer apps, to break into these lists. Of course, the previous lists aren’t going away, there will just be new lists. With these changes, it gives new developers some momentum from which to build upon.
Two additional discovery features were announced, Editor’s Choice and Top Developer badges. These will allow users to quickly find those apps and developers which are notable, but may not actually be on the other listings. From the sound of it, these will be hand-picked by Google, and will be prominently displayed, making it a huge incentive to get picked, and a huge boost to revenues when it happens.
Device-Availability, Larger Sizes, Multiple Versions & Better Stats
Among the specifically developer-centric enhancements, we find the ability to see and control which devices our apps are available to, larger app sizes of up to 4GB (the Market will host and manage the download of large assets), the ability to upload multiple versions of the app and have the market automatically deliver the appropriate version for the requesting device (a feature that has been requested several times at the Google Code Issue Tracker for Android, (reference: Issue 5501 and Issue 4851), and better statistics and reporting capabilities. With these new features, developers have a much better opportunity to provide the best experience for users, and maximize their revenue stream.
All in all, I think these are a great set of enhancements, not just for users, but developers as well. It should be a lot easier for developers to distribute, promote, and monetize their apps and games now that Google finally appears to be really working on their side.