Oct 04 AT 11:18 AM Sean Riley 34 Comments

The rise and fall and rise of Edward Kim and Car Locator

Edward Kim and his app, Car Locator, were big news back in March for netting nearly $13,000 in a month on the Android Market. At the time Edward wrote on his blog that he would “post again in a month or so with hopefully even better numbers!”

The update on his earnings never came as Edward’s income from Car Locator decreased rapidly after March when he was no longer listed as a Featured app in the Android Market (See the graph at the top of the post). Just a month after falling from the list Edward was back to earning $4,000 a month from his app. $4,000 a month for a single person working on an app isn’t exactly a slap in the face, but such a dramatic downturn in revenue after months of exposure on the Featured list definitely points to how quickly an app can get lost in the Market.

Naturally Edward was disappointed in the sudden decrease in profits and he decided that he was going to take action to correct the two main factors that he felt were holding back his earnings.

The first of those issues was piracy. Edward used Flurry analytics to track his total new users against the purchases made through the Android Market and found that roughly 4 times as many users were pirating his app rather than purchasing it. This issue has been echoed by many Android developers and is devastating to potential profits.

The second issue was tangentially related to the first and that was that the paid Android Market was only available in 14 countries which greatly limited the audience for his app. The solution for many of these users, unable to legitimately access the paid Market, is to turn to pirated copies of apps that they are interested in.

With these two main issues in mind Edward started looking into potential solutions and in July he first implemented the fruits of his labors, something which he refers to as “Android Licenser,” on Car Locator and lo and behold he saw his sales rise again for the first time since February.

Android Licenser adds an activation layer to Car Locator which provides a code upon purchase that must be input by the buyer within 24-hours and then permanently unlocks the app on that handset. This rendered the piracy issue obsolete and also substantially resolved the international availability problem as Edward was now able to sell the “locked” .apk directly to people via Google Checkout which is available in over 150 countries. With these direct Google Checkout purchases Edward takes 100% on the sale of the app rather than the 70% that is offered in the Market, but the vast majority of Edward’s sales are still coming through the Market.

In August Edward’s earnings were back up to $10,500 and while he didn’t have his final figures for September in time for this post they were on pace to finish higher still. Edward has his sights set on continuing the upward trajectory of his sales this time around with a goal of reaching $15,000 a month by the end of the year.

Ideally Edward should not have found it necessary to take it upon himself to secure his app from piracy and expand his sales beyond the Market, but that was the state of things and its hard to argue with his results.

It should be noted that Google is aware of and trending in the right direction on both of these issues as in late August they made a licensing service available which allows developers to determine the license status of users and just last week Google announced that the paid Market will be available in a total of 34 countries in the next two weeks.

While it hasn’t been the smoothest of journeys for Edward he is still excited about the promise of Android and his story is proof positive that there is money to be made here and with some refinements to the Market and new users and new countries coming quickly the opportunities are still expanding.

If you are interested in checking out Edward’s Android Licenser, we’ll be taking a closer look at it in an upcoming post, or you can find details on it at www.androidlicenser.com.

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 8 years and covering mobile for the last 9. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • http://Website Batfan

    Interesting story.

    This also highlights another issue with the Android Market. The fact that you cannot sort search results.

    If I do a search, I would like to be able to sort the results by ratings or downloads, to sort through the crap. I’m sure many good apps get lost in the shuffle.

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

      Very true, searching by rating would be an excellent addition.

      It also highlights the power that is wielded with the Featured app list and not a great deal is known about how those are selected.

      • http://Website anon

        My thoughts exactly. Even typing in the exact name doesn’t help. Try searching for Google voice… it’s like 7-10 entries down! Or try ADW Launcher, I still have yet to find it through the market. Annoying to say the least.

    • http://www.brandonvfletcher.com Brandon

      That would be great. The most shocking thing about android is how horrible the search functions are in the market consider Google is all about search. Basically unless you type in the name exactly, you wont find the app. Been loving AppBrain. Makes things so much easier.

  • http://droidandroidgames.com/ AndroidGames

    I recently read the story on guy who first published task manager in android market, he still makes 30k/mo in sales and 30k a month on ads with the release of free ad-supported version. I guess releasing ad-supported international version could be answer to some developers.
    However this android licenser idea sounds good.

  • http://Website My Galaxy

    So what you are saying here is if I buy the app change my phone I have to buy the app again.
    I’m really glad its sorting out for him and he’s earning some cash. but I have a galaxy s and a Hero (rooted 2,2), I can share purchased apps between the two by simple re downloading it from the market on the other device, so if one phone goes down, the other is up-to-date with all the latest software. This sounds like I may have to pay twice for the privilege.

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

      That is a limitation at the moment, but he does plan to try to correct that issue.

    • http://androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

      I’ll usually just generate another activation code free of charge for the person if he/she wants to install the app on a secondary phone.

      Incidentally, this has been a big reason the market ratings of Car Locator have gone up so much since using the activation licensing scheme.

  • http://www.nexsoftware.net nEx.Software

    Not sure how willing I am to provide a third party my Google Checkout credentials.

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

      Establishing trust will certainly be an issue, a lot of people still have trouble just trusting Google with their CC info.

    • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

      The whole point of Google Checkout is that you can use it on 3rd party sites. You’re not giving the 3rd party your Google Checkout information, you’re simply using Google Checkout on their site.
      It’s like using Facebook or Twitter to log onto another website. You’re not giving that website your password.

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

        Thanks for the clarification on that.

  • http://Website Kimbo

    Completely agree with Batman and Sean above. The app store is seriously lacking in some much needed features.

  • http://Website CJ

    MMaybe, just maybe, the downturn in his profits is also a result of people not finding the app compelling enough to buy?! I’ve been using Android since the G1, got it on release day, and I’ve seen a lot of apps come and go. The simple fact is that it started out with a lot of buzz and simply fell to the wayside as new apps came out much the same way my G1 got pushed aside and I replaced it with the Droid and then retired it and now rock the Incredible.

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

      I suppose it’s possible, but the timing would be absolutely remarkable for that to be true and the app has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on the store so it isn’t as though most people have been disappointed with it.

  • http://Website Chancy

    Yay! Another service to give my credit card info to.

  • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

    Wow, I guess this shows that piracy is a bigger problem that I thought. It’s interesting to know that people will actually buy the app if they can’t pirate it.

    • http://androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

      My theory is that that many people in countries where paid apps are not available don’t necessarily WANT to pirate apps. They just have no choice because theres no other option. I used to regularly get emails from people in these countries asking if they can send me money through paypal for the app.

      • http://Website Will

        I agree. But I also want to know how to stop the existing pirate problem. I have some app published. And I see people sending around some download links for the pirate copy on Twitter all the time. How do I stop that?

        • http://androidlicenser.com Edward Kim

          Add the androidlicener.com licensing scheme to your app :)

    • http://Website milrtime83

      @anakin78z The other side of that is “It is interesting to see that people will pay for the app if they simply have the option to.”

      I’m sure piracy causes some lost sales but it isn’t the whole issue in this case. I would be interested to see what would have happened if Edward released the unprotected app with a method of paying for it.

      • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

        That’s very true. However, I remember reading a post by a developer (sorry, can’t find the link right now) who did the research on where exactly his app was being pirated, and while some of it was in countries where apps could not be purchased, the majority happened in the US, where you can purchase apps.
        I’m guessing it’s a combination of both. It’s probably the whole convenience vs. hassle thing. If it’s easier to just buy it rather than having to deal with some sort of licensing scheme, people will probably just spend the few bucks. The fact that it lets you use the app for a day before you have to enter your code probably helps (assuming I read that right).

  • http://Website Justin

    Awesome. i am downloading…wait its done HEHE HSPA+ FTW. Lets see what we got here- Galaxy S

  • AndMac

    Just curious if someone is using Car Locator with the Bluetooth add-on on a Vibrant?

    How well does it work, particularly with the GPS being finicky and most parking garage structures blocking GPS signal?

  • http://Website gad

    is this just an android problem,what about apps on the iphone,do they get pirated as well.If not how are they able to prevent piracy. I hardly hear any IOS developer complain about piracy.

    • AndMac

      Of course there is piracy on the iPhone — you have to have a jailbroken iPhone, but that’s a one click process.

      But frankly, most people would rather pay a dollar or so, rather than go through the hassle of pirating.

      Maybe currently there are just more buyers on the iOS platform, so developers still generate enough revenue. And iTunes’ App Store is certainly far better thought out and better organized than Marketplace.

      Although I hated the fact that you could not test an app before you bought it.

  • http://Website brandon

    Altight, I’ll say it, this is one reason why I actually like the Apple model better than the Android model in that it doesn’t tie purchases directly to my device…I have a few ipod’s and when I purchase an app, I can load it on all my devices…with Android I have to purchase it for every device I own. Even with microsoft office, I get license to install to two machines, but not on Android…just silly.

    • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

      What are you talking about? I can easily download all my purchased apps on all my android devices.

  • coyotejbob

    What I wondered with the piracy is. Why aren’t apps simply locked to an email account? Think about it every phone that has market access also has an email tied to the phone. So even if you change phones you can still have your apps? Or am I just crazy talking?

  • http://www.andchat.net Al

    Wow, that is some crazy drm. Have to enter the key in 24 hrs? Errmmm..ok, no thanks. Btw Edward, I don’t appreciate my market email being used for your marketing. No more emails promoting your products please.

  • http://androidapps.co.il Droi

    the sad thing is that i thought i’m safe with those purchasing, makes we think if i should do it again.

  • http://Website tex

    just today my carlocator stopped working and starts asking for this key, unfortunately at a big parking.
    purchased it in june. no activation key in my email…have Edward asked for it, hopefully I get it soon.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/hanwritingime/ Hæ¼¢W書ing


    Why nobody download my apps even it is free :/