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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    Uh OOOH , this is not good…

    Great article , by the way. Thanx

    • 420speedwagon

      Wtf does being black had to do with anything, racist prick. Anyhow it sucks that prices may go up but I guess it goes with the whole supply and demand saying

  • Sturoid

    I would rather the developer added in Admobs or some other advertising. Saying this purely cos I have AdFree running :)

    • codesplice

      And thus cheat the developers of what they would otherwise earn.

      But hey, I do that on occasion too – which is why I generally purchase apps (or donate, if I have the option) to support the developer.

      It would be really great if you could have two hosts files – on “adfree” and one stock. Use the stock one most of the time, but enable a flag to use the adfree one when in an app that has really aggravating/intrusive/crude ads. Hmm, could probably set that up with DroidWall :-D

  • codesplice

    Not good news at all, and not really a nice way to treat early adopters of a service.

    Obviously, the developers knew (or should have known) that the services wouldn’t remain dirt cheap forever and that the prices would increase after the preview period. But if raising the prices far beyond what the developers had become accustomed to drives them away from the platform then the service is a failure (in my eyes).

    How about a compromise – continue to give the early adopters lower-than-standard prices to reward them for their commitment to the platform. This would encourage them to stay with it, and would allow for steady revenue longterm – a much better option than driving developers away with a bad taste in their mouth.

    Don’t be evil!

  • Ikai Lan

    I just wanted to point out this resource for Android developers:

    One thing you’ll most certainly want to do almost immediately is enable concurrent requests if you are running Java. This will scale down the instances required to serve your app. Much of the pricing is based on an overly aggressive scheduler adding instances (for Python based apps), with Always-On being the culprit.

    We still want to encourage developers to continue building Android/App Engine apps. We think it’s a great fit and can’t wait to see what you guys put out there!

    - Ikai, Google App Engine team

    • Justin Shapcott

      Thanks for the link Ikai. I agree that Android and App Engine can be a killer combination. I’m hoping that with optimization, most Android developers will be able to continue using the service without incurring much additional cost.

  • Interpol91

    Definitely not looking good. Hopefully some good solutions are found to avoid killing some development.

  • Hacknet07

    Give me a bad ass phone and a few good widgets and you can keep the damn apps.

  • Robert Pond

    Currently one of my apps uses about 2% of the free cpu allowance, with the changes it will go over free allotment (albeit barely).