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Android fans: pay for your apps, please

android piracy

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:30

Android fans: pay for your apps, please

The Football Manager series is one of the world’s most popular gaming franchises, and no-one could deny that its iOS version has been a success. The recently released Android version, though, isn’t doing quite as well, with studio boss Miles Jacobson claiming that, at last count, the piracy rate for his game was at 5:1 in favour of illegally acquired copies.

Jacobson went on to say that if the game “doesn’t hit targets, we won’t be doing another for the platform”, and his view – that it’s not worth developing on Android when so much cash is lost to piracy – is hardly unique. Research firm Yankee Group found that 27% of Android developers surveyed saw piracy as a “huge problem”, with a further 26% also expressing concern And the developer of hit iOS game Infinity Blade cites piracy for not porting the game, saying that the OS “will become a viable place for game developers, but that hasn’t happened yet”.

Declining developer interest

Worrying statistics are beginning to emerge elsewhere, too: cross-platform app development service Appcelerator’s latest developer survey (which consulted 2,173 developers) found interest in Android dropped by 4.7% in the last quarter. That was the biggest drop in interest among the major platforms: the iPhone dropped from 91% to 89% interest, and Windows Phone 7 held steady at just under 40%, after a huge jump in the previous quarter.

It’s easy to see why developers feel this way. Take this thread in Reddit’s Android section, which concerned app payment. Some responses make for grim reading: “I run Linux so I’m not in the habit of paying”, says one, and another says he has “never paid for an app, will never pay for one” – going on to cite ad-supported versions as his preferred alternative. Other users also oppose payment but, as well as using ad-supported software, they also run ad-blocking tools — putting a swift stop to another potential revenue stream.

Our sister title Bit-tech has seen similar attitudes. It launched a £1.79 Android app last summer, and some of the comments made for grim reading. “If it was free, sure. I don’t pay for apps” said one, and another explained that his initial excitement “soon turned to glum disappointment” when asked to pay – before hinting he’d wait for a pirated version.

On both occasions pirates and those who objected to paying were chastised by the majority who are willing to pay for the software, but slim margins mean even a small number of non-payers can be significant. Indeed, Jacobson says that even if 10% of pirated copies directly represented lost sales “that would make a massive difference for developers”, and could even be “the difference between a studio surviving”.

It’s indicative of the attitude that seems to pervade much of the platform. Many seem to think that paying is wrong, iOS users are somehow being ripped off by software that’s never been cheaper, and that ripping off developers — often self-employed people who rely on that lost income — is acceptable.

The secure alternatives

It’s harmful, and not just for those who lose sales. Google’s Play store has plenty going for it: not far behind the App store in quantity and, arguably quality. Google’s carefree attitude often does more harm than good, though, and as time goes on I’m beginning to think that curated, managed walled gardens are the way forward, rather than the once-appealing open fields.

If app piracy worsens, though, these trends will not continue. Developers will return to iOS or even switch to Windows Phone 7. Both are more secure, and Windows Phone 7 is gathering steam, with 30,000 apps added from December to April, bringing the total to 80,000. Analysts from Morgan Stanley reckon that 43 million Windows phones will be shipped this year, with that number rising to 74 million in 2013.

Apps are the lifeblood of a smartphone, for both developers and users – and if a significant proportion of a platform’s userbase isn’t willing to pay for software, then many won’t see this as a viable business model. If developers desert Android, then neither its versatility nor its low cost will keep a grip on plenty of users who see the best, biggest and most innovative apps appearing on rival platforms.

Similar effects have been felt on the otherwise-healthy PC: Ubisoft didn’t port I Am Alive to the PC, saying “so few people pay for PC games… we have to weigh up the cost of making it”. Successful shooter Bulletstorm won’t see a sequel because the original “didn’t do very well on PC”, with Epic Games president Mike Capps saying “piracy was a pretty big problem”.

If piracy worsens, developers and users will move away from Android, and manufacturers will surely follow the crowds. Samsung, HTC and Sony still support Android, but if the platform falters, sales drop and profits slide, then these companies will have few problems switching allegiances.

Plenty of people love Android but, conversely, plenty of its biggest fans seem to show their allegiance by resisting the urge to support some of its best software and most talented developers. If that continues, there might not be much of a platform left to exploit. It’s a worst-case scenario, but it’s easy to prevent: next time you feel like pirating rather than forking out less than the cost of a sandwich, reconsider. Your favourite phone platform might depend on it.


Source: pcpro.co.uk


#2 jakem1

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:40

Lucky this article was reproduced in full here. That way I can be sure that pcpro.co.uk don't get any ad revenue when I read it ;)

#3 DKAngel

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:53

meh i see just as many priated apps for ios floatingf around, and i only have free apps on my android handset anyways
couldnt care less for ****ty mobile games

#4 Amarok

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:02

I've had an Android phone for almost a year now and I think I've bought 3 or so apps. Ones that had free versions that were amazing and I wanted to support the developer and so I bought the paid versions. In most cases the free ad-supported versions are good enough for me. I can live with a little advertisement taking up the bottom of my screen for a few seconds while using an app. I've never even been tempted to buy an app that didn't have a free version available because in every case I can think of save one there is a perfectly workable free version of the app. If that particular game finds itself being pirated 5 times for every legit copy sold there is a problem somewhere and I don't think it's solely within Android. A premium version with premium features that are actually worth paying for, but don't cripple the app in the process and make the free version inferior to the 5 other free apps that serve a similar purpose would probably help. (Hi EA Scrabble.)

Also a 4.7% drop for the quarter is hardly startling. Sensationalist reporting.

If they choose to go the DRM route they should do it in a way that's not going to decrease my battery life further or make my phone sluggish, I'm all for them protecting their intellectual property and turning a profit off of it, but not at the cost of my phone's performance.


Edit: Oh and the "shocking comments" in the article, those are nothing new either. Bring up piracy on any platform, or bring up used games for any platform, and you'll get a ton of comments like that. That's not exclusive to Android or Linux.

#5 spacer

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:04

An Infinity Blade port for Android is the only app I would ever pay for. Everything else, it's either free version or nothing.

#6 +zhiVago

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:08

Apps are the lifeblood of a smartphone, for both developers and users – and if a significant proportion of a platform’s userbase isn’t willing to pay for software, then many won’t see this as a viable business model. If developers desert Android, then neither its versatility nor its low cost will keep a grip on plenty of users who see the best, biggest and most innovative apps appearing on rival platforms.


I think this author has fallen into trap of assuming that people buy smartphones to run the latest and greatest apps on them and he pays a great attention to games specifically.

I'm sorry, but any smartphone (iOS, WP, Droid) is capable of fullfilling 95% of my needs - the actual reasons why I need a smartphone - right of the box.

I'm not into mobile gaming and I don't think 100% of all smartphone customers get them to play games on them. (but! a big chunk of all apps are, in fact, made solely for entertainment purposes). Yeah it's nice to kill some time while waiting in a line once in a while, but I have a gaming PC to play games on. And, usually, I'd just use the Internet...

I drive a car, so I don't play on my phone when I commute to and back from work either.

#7 The Laughing Man

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:10

Android apps are a joke. The build quality is awful compared to iOS apps. One example is The Weather Channel app, I compared them using an iPhone 4gs with my HTC Evo 3D. Absolutely disgusting, the iOS was well polished and professional looking, very smooth with screen transitions as well. As for the Android counterpart. Forget it, was laggy and looked nothing like its iPhone counterpart. This also goes with a few games as well. Im sorry as for the market place oh excuse me Play Store . The app store also has its piracy issues as well. /rant

#8 Nashy

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:17

I used to root for piracy only. Given how cheap the apps are, I really see no use doing it now days though. Most have demos, so I try them, and go straight into it.

I think limited feature free apps are annoying. Time based full trial would work better for me in testing if apps are right for me.

#9 +zhiVago

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:18

Android apps are a joke. The build quality is awful compared to iOS apps. One example is The Weather Channel app, I compared them using an iPhone 4gs with my HTC Evo 3D. Absolutely disgusting, the iOS was well polished and professional looking, very smooth with screen transitions as well. As for the Android counterpart. Forget it, was laggy and looked nothing like its iPhone counterpart. This also goes with a few games as well. Im sorry as for the market place oh excuse me Play Store . The app store also has its piracy issues as well. /rant


HTC has had nice and fancy looking weather apps since Android 1.5 and their first Sense UI.

#10 The Dark Knight

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:24

I personally just buy an app if I like it without worrying about the cost. Most apps are $0.99 anyway, which is nothing! :)

And the fact that the purchased app works across multiple devices is even better! Although even if it didn't I wouldn't really mind buying another copy for another device. :)

#11 Detection

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:28

It's the same theoretical statistics as piracy everywhere

What is to say that the 5:1 pirates would have bought the game anyway

Removing the app from the pirates reach does not say that his sales will suddenly increase by 5x

#12 Nashy

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:29

The refund feature is pretty good too. Don't like it, get a refund.

I've got a few apps that work across devices. It's really bloody handy, especially with my widgets, as I can be familiar straight away with a different device.

#13 Vice

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:37

It's the same theoretical statistics as piracy everywhere

What is to say that the 5:1 pirates would have bought the game anyway

Removing the app from the pirates reach does not say that his sales will suddenly increase by 5x


Indeed. They are trying to create a link that says Android and iOS device owners spend the same on apps but due to piracy being lower on iOS the users buy things more often.

I think what they are missing is that studies have shown people who own iOS devices have more disposable income than the average Android device owner. That would indicate at-least to me that iOS device owners would be buying more apps than Android owners even if Piracy didn't exist.

#14 Ently

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:48

I used to find the build quality to be terrible however I have noticed an increase in quality recently and I have been buying the majority of my apps. Honestly I do pirate some but they are just games I try and find out they're boring so I don't purchase them.

I think Google is finally cleaning up their platform and i'm sure they will combat piracy at some point in a serious way. Or maybe because it's an open platform they can't *shrug*

#15 Davo

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:51

I've never pirated an app, especially on a rooted phone, because everything looks sketchy as hell. Apps also never break the bank so it'd be silly to give a modified device a ton of permissions to your phone too.



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