Sep 01 AT 3:18 PM Justin Shapcott 10 Comments

How Google App Engine pricing changes might affect Android apps


On Wednesday, Google announced via their blog how Google App Engine (GAE) pricing will change as it moves out of  “preview” mode. I won’t bore you with the details of these changes. The important takeaway is that many GAE users will see substantial increases in operating costs. Since we are an Android blog and not an App Engine blog, you may be asking why we’re writing about this here. Well, we’re writing about it because it has a potential to impact the availability and pricing of Android Apps that rely on App Engine.

You see, while GAE was in preview status it was–for lack of a better term–dirt cheap for developers to use as a server back-end for their Android Apps. There was a substantial free quota granted to developers, and many got by without ever hitting that quota. With the new pricing model, the free quota has been decreased to the point where many of these developers will probably hit it and trigger usage charges. This in itself isn’t really a problem. After all, Google is offering up its infrastructure and should be compensated for its use. The problem is that the new pricing appears to be incredibly expensive in comparison to the old pricing.

As part of the announcement, Google made available a tool to analyze and estimate costs under the new pricing model. Almost immediately, reports started hitting the web in which users were claiming to see anywhere up to 30 times their previous costs. App Engine is used for a lot of different things (not just back-ends for Android apps), so we can’t say how many Android apps might be affected by this. What we can say is that App Engine is a natural choice for Android’s Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) service, and Google made it easier to integrate Android and App Engine at Google I/O when they showed off the new Google Plugin for Eclipse. For these reasons, chances are likely that a sizable number of Android apps will be affected in some way.

Some Android developers are already looking for ways to make up for the new operating costs. For example, Steven Van Bael, developer of Bookmark to Desktop, has posted on Google+ that he is looking for ways to compensate for an estimated additional $100 per month. That can be pretty hard to do with a free app. Accordingly, the two most obvious options are to remove the app or start charging for it. Of course, a third option is to use some other back-end service, which may carry its own costs and might require considerable work to get up and running.

I asked on Google+ for input and here’s what some other Android developers had to say:

This new pricing pushes me to find a way to monetize the app quickly, or it’ll die. As I really don’t want to charge the user, if I make a move toward Admobs, Google is winning on both sides. This is really sad after all the advocating that has been built over Android/GAE integration.Patrick L.

We are mostly on the verge of the limit and I guess we will have to cut features. I can't fully blame Google though. Free is hard to maintain.Moritz P.

For all you developers out there: Are you using App Engine along with your Android App? Will these pricing changes force you to make any changes in pricing or availability of your app(s)? And for the users: How would you feel if one of your favorite apps needed to make changes to compensate for increased costs?

Source: Google App Engine Blog

Justin is the founder of and lead developer at nEx.Software.

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