I’ve mentioned in passing at least once that developers will stick with iPhone for the money. Like it or not, there’s too much money floating around the iPhone for developers to ignore, and Android is still playing catch-up on this front. Even knowing that, I was baffled to read on Pingdom just how much they need to catch-up.
In their entry discussing why Android developers aren’t making money (or in their more dire terms, losing money), Pingdom notes that the Android Market offers paid apps in only 13 of 46 countries where Android phones are available. No matter how you look at it, that’s a terrible number. A) Unless you’re counting donuts, 13 is not a lot. B) It’s less than 30% of the total where the phones are available. C) It’s a lot fewer than the 90 countries where iPhone users can buy apps. D) 13 is bad luck.
Pingdom goes on to explain that Android users in the other 33 countries (one of which is Sweden, where Pingdom is located) who want to use paid apps have no choice but to use pirated versions, a practice that could continue even after the marketplace offers them paid apps, or root their device and spoof their location, which can create a whole other set of headaches. The longer this practice continues, the greater the chance it will become permanent. Even worse, the more pirated apps are out there, the more they will cut into markets where paid versions are available.
It’s similar to the problem music companies faced when they refused to embrace online music and allowed pirated music to flourish instead. Music companies tried to fight this after the fact by implementing DRM, and we know how that ultimately worked out. Google’s plan to fight piracy with DRM will face the same fate unless they get paid apps into more markets. Piracy is a symptom; lack of access to paid apps is the cause. To fight that, Google must expand the reach of their paid market before bad habits take hold of consumers. Android has iPhone beat on the free and open front, but developers still need to pay the bills.