Android is designed for piracy, developer says

A couple of days ago we reported on one Android developer’s decision to adopt a free to play model after some giant piracy ratings, and now one developer is saying that Android is designed for piracy. Matt Gemmell, an iOS and OS X developer, blames Android’s piracy problem on the platform’s openness, and namely “the corrosive mentality that surrounds such openness.”

The problem isn’t that it’s hard to buy Android apps, or that it’s too expensive. Actually, Gemmell thinks that the chronic cheapness of mobile apps is a problem in and of itself. The problem, he says, is that it’s just too easy to steal apps. It’s only a matter of downloading the file from some nebulous source and dropping it into your device’s drive.

The end result of all this could end up being the total stagnation of the Android platform, as developers make a mass exodus to more profitable platforms, like iOS and Windows Phone. The only other option would be plastering advertisements over everything, and even then, someone will just find a way to block those.

Now, Gemmell says that the only solution is locking down Android, but that doesn’t necessarily mean locking it down in the same way that Apple chooses to lock iOS down. Locking down really just means making it a little bit harder to rip off someone’s work – there’s no reason that piracy should be as simple as downloading something and dropping it into your device. Sure, no one is going to stamp out piracy, and people will find a way around it, but convenience makes a big difference.

Via: ZDNet
Source: Matt Gemmell | Image via Android Police

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51 Comments

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I definitely understand where this developer is coming from. It is too easy to pirate games on Android! I remember having my Samsung Galaxy Ace and being able to get every game off using the BitTorrent Network. Personally, when it comes to pirating I only pirate those apps that I wouldn't need an update for, or an app that I really want to try out a couple times then not use it anymore. Maybe developers should be the one trying new things out. Like maybe start validating through the 3G network? Yes I know that some people do not have data but then maybe its the mobile companies that need updating?

Actually would this work? Validating games through the 3G network at nobody's cost but the developers themselves? If they believe piracy is a big concern, and they also do believe their App is truly "worth" it they would still get the sales and only pay a small percentage to mobile companies for allowing the use of validating.

xXgreatestever said,
I definitely understand where this developer is coming from. It is too easy to pirate games on Android! I remember having my Samsung Galaxy Ace and being able to get every game off using the BitTorrent Network. Personally, when it comes to pirating I only pirate those apps that I wouldn't need an update for, or an app that I really want to try out a couple times then not use it anymore. Maybe developers should be the one trying new things out. Like maybe start validating through the 3G network? Yes I know that some people do not have data but then maybe its the mobile companies that need updating?

Actually would this work? Validating games through the 3G network at nobody's cost but the developers themselves? If they believe piracy is a big concern, and they also do believe their App is truly "worth" it they would still get the sales and only pay a small percentage to mobile companies for allowing the use of validating.

This is exactly what I do. I like to try the apps out before I buy them if there is not a trial version.

The main reason I buy apps so I can support the developer and keep the app up to date constantly.

haters gonna hate. Any platform is open to piracy. Mac, Linux, Windows, IOS, Android. I know tons of people that run cydia on their iphones and get illegal ipa's. I know people who root and then grab apks. To be honest, when I had an ipod touch, I probably got more pirated apps for it, than I EVER have for my android phones. It's just a pain in the ass to find things sometimes, and to be honest, there's not much point in it anyway, with Amazon's app store offering paid apps for free every day. The only app I've ever pirated on android was Titanium Backup, and that was only to use a cracker to patch it so I could use the hyper shell and not have to click yes to every thing i restored. IF the pro key was 1-2$, I'd buy it, but it's almost 7$ and I only use it once in a long time so it's not worth that much to me.

As others have said though, most people pirate because they can...if something cost 10 cents, they'd still do it.

Games do have DRM on Android and it does work to *some* extent, it checks for the licence purchase from the market before installing any game data, but there are ways around it. Even FPSE (the PlayStation 1 emulator) checks for this. Android is no longer, a holder for mobile warez, and that developer can't be much of one if he thinks so, and that's from one developer to another.

I think if you develop for any platform you have to be aware of the problems you may face, and piracy shouldn't really be thought about primarily, because it is bound to happen. I always stand by the fact that if you make a great app which is worth a purchase, then it'll sell.

Zeikku said,
Games do have DRM on Android and it does work to *some* extent, it checks for the licence purchase from the market before installing any game data, but there are ways around it. Even FPSE (the PlayStation 1 emulator) checks for this. Android is no longer, a holder for mobile warez, and that developer can't be much of one if he thinks so, and that's from one developer to another.

I think if you develop for any platform you have to be aware of the problems you may face, and piracy shouldn't really be thought about primarily, because it is bound to happen. I always stand by the fact that if you make a great app which is worth a purchase, then it'll sell.

Exactly. If a developer has their app pirated it's because they failed. They failed to lock their s**t down like they should have. The tools are there, I know. I have plenty of apps that will not work just be me giving you the .apk file. You'd need me email, password, and a few other details which almost nobody wants to give out.

why? Because is open source?. And open source is for PIRACY, destroy the economy and pedophilia?. Go and develope for windows or better, for apple, stupid ass hat.

Blah blah blah. I make apps for the biggest control freak in the territory so I hate Android because they take away from my profit. Go sue someone. Next.

Wow, an iOS dev ragging on Android. Thats a big surprise...

I can go to a torrent site and find just as many iOS apps for download for FREE as I do android apps.

What is that guy smoking, iPhone... jailbreak (10 minutes) get installous from cydia then pretty much d/l whatever you want for free. Android is sooooo open and nothing else is!!!

psionicinversion said,
What is that guy smoking, iPhone... jailbreak (10 minutes) get installous from cydia then pretty much d/l whatever you want for free. Android is sooooo open and nothing else is!!!

True, its maybe more easy to find iOS games and programs then for Android, so blaming only android is not fair

Perhaps nobody is buying his crap of a game because it's crap of a game. With such an easy exposure every dumbass living in a basement is now a big huge developer, oversaturating market with unpolished arcades.

DRM doesn't work. Just look at PC games, music, and movies.

If Android turns into a free only app model, then so be it. I'll still develop for it.

One guy said earlier that we (Pirates) all justify it..
I think thats bs. All the replies i see are only when people who are
on the ant-piracy side of things make stupid claims of fact about piracy.
I don't think you can find anyone that will say piracy is right..
we all know its ethically wrong..

You wanna see why people pirate ?

Google + software + ANY keyword

for example google search for Video Conversion software
and see how many piece crap share ware apps come up
there has been a rabid frenzy to harvest users of their money
by any means necessary and that includes spamming the internet
with an endless stream of garbage apps.
Many of these video conversion shareware app coders make a separate program
for each individual video format or device..
I could go on endlessly hammering home just this 1 single point alone.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for app developers.
I've coded many things and they ALL are released completly free with no strings attached.
I've even been offered donations basicly and refused them..
I've never accepted a penny for anything i've ever made and released to the public.

I also created the first and ONLY working crack for an LG cell phone
that allows end users to download and install any app/game to their phone.
Because the provider only allows downloading an extremely small selection
of apps and games. I don't think its fair i bought my phone full price with no plan
cash (subsidy's) and i'm locked down and limited to a minor fraction of what is available
including the huge amount of free apps share across the net.

By the way i couldn't care less about Android or iPhones although i have had a person
ask me to help them jail break their iPhone and the funny thing was is this 1 person
i helped had no interest at all in pirated content, he simply loved all the 3rd party mods.
And that was even after i showed him a couple web pages where he could download some free games.. he always has and still does buy games..

Devs are cry babies. you want my money then earn it.

As you have a lot of technical experience, how have you avoided learning about word-wrap? Please stop pressing 'return' after every few words, your posts are so hard to read.

I am Not PCyr said,
One guy said earlier that we (Pirates) all justify it..
I think thats bs. All the replies i see are only when people who are
on the ant-piracy side of things make stupid claims of fact about piracy.
I don't think you can find anyone that will say piracy is right..
we all know its ethically wrong..

You wanna see why people pirate ?

Google + software + ANY keyword

for example google search for Video Conversion software
and see how many piece crap share ware apps come up
there has been a rabid frenzy to harvest users of their money
by any means necessary and that includes spamming the internet
with an endless stream of garbage apps.
Many of these video conversion shareware app coders make a separate program
for each individual video format or device..
I could go on endlessly hammering home just this 1 single point alone.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for app developers.
I've coded many things and they ALL are released completly free with no strings attached.
I've even been offered donations basicly and refused them..
I've never accepted a penny for anything i've ever made and released to the public.

I also created the first and ONLY working crack for an LG cell phone
that allows end users to download and install any app/game to their phone.
Because the provider only allows downloading an extremely small selection
of apps and games. I don't think its fair i bought my phone full price with no plan
cash (subsidy's) and i'm locked down and limited to a minor fraction of what is available
including the huge amount of free apps share across the net.

By the way i couldn't care less about Android or iPhones although i have had a person
ask me to help them jail break their iPhone and the funny thing was is this 1 person
i helped had no interest at all in pirated content, he simply loved all the 3rd party mods.
And that was even after i showed him a couple web pages where he could download some free games.. he always has and still does buy games..

Devs are cry babies. you want my money then earn it.

Your "hack the planet" argument is ridiculous! If you wish to create software for free and refuse donations then you go ahead and do that but don't expect other developers who do this for a living to have the same stupid mentality!

Saying Android is designed for piracy is like saying Windows is designed for privacy. I do not dispute what the developer is stating regarding iOS being more profitable, however I think it's an issue that Google, developer and manufactures need to resolve together.

kizzaaa said,
Saying Android is designed for piracy is like saying Windows is designed for privacy. I do not dispute what the developer is stating regarding iOS being more profitable, however I think it's an issue that Google, developer and manufactures need to resolve together.

Yeah it's a pretty stupid comment by him. He just wants the exact same ecosystem as Apple has, and what Microsoft basically copied - the walled garden approach. But that would take away what makes Android great. The Openness (side loading), hackability, and general anti-walled garden approach. If that's taken away as this guy wants, then It won't be Android any more.

Any kind of DRM simply won't work. Just look at the PC.

At this point, Android is already successful and has a massive userbase. That userbase will continue to attract developers/companies regardless of how easy their apps are to pirate or how ineffective their in-app ads are.

If there was no piracy I wouldn't even have a computer or android phone whats the point then waste thousands of dollars on ****ing software? I make $0 annually.

make quality apps and ask for donations. I have faith in people rewarding developers. This is probably totally naive.

capr said,
make quality apps and ask for donations. I have faith in people rewarding developers. This is probably totally naive.

It can and does work, I do a free and paid app (both the same) and since introducing the free app sales have gone up.

an iOS and OSX developer complains about Android.. what's wrong with that picture?

He is either

A) Completely uninformed about specific things he can do to secure his app from not being copied

B) Is just trolling cause he is mad that Android is where it is and clearly the future and he picked the wrong horse for the race.

The fact is that developers have the ability to secure their apps with Google's DRM so you CAN'T sideload an app..it's completely done at the discretion of the developer..

I'd suggest to the guy to actual learn about what he's talking about before talking crap.

And if the notion is that you can hack an app so you can run it on other devices.. well guess what, you can do the same thing for iOS, which again shows this "analysis" as baseless and shows it for what it is, nonsensical rant.

FloatingFatMan said,
I completely support better app security in Android.

and it has landed in Android jelly bean.... App encryption specific to devices.

I guess that means Windows, OSX and even Linux are designed for piracy too...

Most of the Apps i use on Android are actually free anyway, with the exception of a couple of games i have purchased.

InsaneNutter said,
I guess that means Windows, OSX and even Linux are designed for piracy too...

Most of the Apps i use on Android are actually free anyway, with the exception of a couple of games i have purchased.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as piracy and side-loading with Android and Windows Mobile. I always thought you could only install things from the built-in stores. But then I haven't used one, so...

No amount of locking down is going to help. Pirates will continue doing what they do.

And the argument that it is "easier" on Android is just plain dumb. It is ridiculously easy to jailbreak most iOS devices also, and from there on another minute to add illegal repositories to Cydia and downloading cracked versions of everything.

The Dark Knight said,
No amount of locking down is going to help. Pirates will continue doing what they do.

And the argument that it is "easier" on Android is just plain dumb. It is ridiculously easy to jailbreak most iOS devices also, and from there on another minute to add illegal repositories to Cydia and downloading cracked versions of everything.

The thing with Android is that you don't even need to root (jailbreak) the device to pirate. Just drag n' drop the apk, use a free file manager, and voila. The fact that no hacking is required on Android to pirate, encourages even those who won't pirate to pirate.

SteelToast said,

The thing with Android is that you don't even need to root (jailbreak) the device to pirate. Just drag n' drop the apk, use a free file manager, and voila. The fact that no hacking is required on Android to pirate, encourages even those who won't pirate to pirate.

Actually to pirate the initial .apk you HAVE to be rooted and able to see certain partitions. Now, if your buddy shares an .apk with you then you don't always have to be rooted.

It really all depends on what you want to do. This whole piracy thing is just another ploy like it is with the MAFFIA. Making something out of nothing.

If this "developer" was even the least bit skilled he would know you can lock down apps to specific emails that they were purchased with. So even if you manage to sideload it, you'll get nowhere when it attempts to validate the install. Not to mention you'll never get an update for it. This is probably why he develops for iOS, he lack actual development skills.

Good job Neowin. You picked a crap developer that knows absolutely nothing and used him as a basis for an article on a platform for which he doesn't even develop.

KCRic said,
Actually to pirate the initial .apk you HAVE to be rooted and able to see certain partitions. Now, if your buddy shares an .apk with you then you don't always have to be rooted.

It really all depends on what you want to do. This whole piracy thing is just another ploy like it is with the MAFFIA. Making something out of nothing.

If this "developer" was even the least bit skilled he would know you can lock down apps to specific emails that they were purchased with. So even if you manage to sideload it, you'll get nowhere when it attempts to validate the install. Not to mention you'll never get an update for it. This is probably why he develops for iOS, he lack actual development skills.

Good job Neowin. You picked a crap developer that knows absolutely nothing and used him as a basis for an article on a platform for which he doesn't even develop.

+1

This is so damn true!

I always knew that! I like the kind of open systems (because "hacking" it isn't too much hard to do) But the reason that i don't like Android it's because it's laggy, with virus and everyone makes everything they want with the UI, making things very unclear

IvoFajardo said,
I always knew that! I like the kind of open systems (because "hacking" it isn't too much hard to do) But the reason that i don't like Android it's because it's laggy, with virus and everyone makes everything they want with the UI, making things very unclear

Android 4.0 and on is actually really great. I'm a Windows Phone fan but I tried out a used Galaxy Nexus, and it is IMPRESSIVE!

I have NEVER used a task manager to close things and I haven't rebooted my phone for weeks. It's just like Windows Phone, only the apps open faster, navigation runs in the background, etc.

You'll only get viruses if you download suspicious stuff, just like on your PC.

I like Android because it's fast (not at all laggy), open and I can do anything with the UI, so I can turn my phone into something I personally like.

As for viruses and hacking, I guess I all comes down to the person operating the device being responsible.

IvoFajardo said,
I always knew that! I like the kind of open systems (because "hacking" it isn't too much hard to do) But the reason that i don't like Android it's because it's laggy, with virus and everyone makes everything they want with the UI, making things very unclear

You can tell that you've had very limited experience with Android, or at least haven't tried it recently.

1) Lag! Android isn't laggy, especially since ICS (And even more so with Jelly-bean). However, there's a plethora of cheap, low-end Android devices on the market that are underpowered and, of course, will appear slow. Don't compare a Windows phone or iOS phone to a budget Android phone, compare like for like and Android flies.

2) Viruses! Android's virus "problem" comes from the ability to sideload apps that aren't from the market. 95% of the Viruses found on Android come from people installing a pirated app they found from some random website. Sound familliar? It's no different than with a PC, or even a Mac. The only reason iOS doesn't have this issue is because unless you jailbreak your phone, you can ONLY get apps via the app store.
If you compare the number of harmful apps on the iOS App store versus the Google Play store, you'll find the numbers are about the same.

3) Skins! Yes, Manufacturers like to impose their own skins. The reasoning is simple, it sets their phones apart from the competition. Otherwise you end up like Windows Mobile, with 10 different phones that all have the same specs and may as well just have different cases. At least with Android, it takes just a minute to download a new "Launcher" from the play store and replace your home screen. You can change widgets and customise it quite a bit. If you're really hating on it, root your phone and install an AOSP ROM - problem solved!

For every "issue" mentioned about Android, Android has a solution to it.

Kushan said,

You can tell that you've had very limited experience with Android, or at least haven't tried it recently.

1) Lag! Android isn't laggy, especially since ICS (And even more so with Jelly-bean). However, there's a plethora of cheap, low-end Android devices on the market that are underpowered and, of course, will appear slow. Don't compare a Windows phone or iOS phone to a budget Android phone, compare like for like and Android flies.

2) Viruses! Android's virus "problem" comes from the ability to sideload apps that aren't from the market. 95% of the Viruses found on Android come from people installing a pirated app they found from some random website. Sound familliar? It's no different than with a PC, or even a Mac. The only reason iOS doesn't have this issue is because unless you jailbreak your phone, you can ONLY get apps via the app store.
If you compare the number of harmful apps on the iOS App store versus the Google Play store, you'll find the numbers are about the same.

3) Skins! Yes, Manufacturers like to impose their own skins. The reasoning is simple, it sets their phones apart from the competition. Otherwise you end up like Windows Mobile, with 10 different phones that all have the same specs and may as well just have different cases. At least with Android, it takes just a minute to download a new "Launcher" from the play store and replace your home screen. You can change widgets and customise it quite a bit. If you're really hating on it, root your phone and install an AOSP ROM - problem solved!

For every "issue" mentioned about Android, Android has a solution to it.


Didnt hundreds of thousands of people download virusses through the store?

Kushan said,

You can tell that you've had very limited experience with Android, or at least haven't tried it recently.

1) Lag! Android isn't laggy, especially since ICS (And even more so with Jelly-bean). However, there's a plethora of cheap, low-end Android devices on the market that are underpowered and, of course, will appear slow. Don't compare a Windows phone or iOS phone to a budget Android phone, compare like for like and Android flies.

2) Viruses! Android's virus "problem" comes from the ability to sideload apps that aren't from the market. 95% of the Viruses found on Android come from people installing a pirated app they found from some random website. Sound familliar? It's no different than with a PC, or even a Mac. The only reason iOS doesn't have this issue is because unless you jailbreak your phone, you can ONLY get apps via the app store.
If you compare the number of harmful apps on the iOS App store versus the Google Play store, you'll find the numbers are about the same.

3) Skins! Yes, Manufacturers like to impose their own skins. The reasoning is simple, it sets their phones apart from the competition. Otherwise you end up like Windows Mobile, with 10 different phones that all have the same specs and may as well just have different cases. At least with Android, it takes just a minute to download a new "Launcher" from the play store and replace your home screen. You can change widgets and customise it quite a bit. If you're really hating on it, root your phone and install an AOSP ROM - problem solved!

For every "issue" mentioned about Android, Android has a solution to it.

You mean every solution except PIRACY!! I am an iOS dev but also have several apps on Google play and sales are minimal compared to iOS! Obviously I expect some of that is piracy but Google also needs it easier to focus users on apps!

Instead Google almost pushes users into being pirates which is a farce!

Quapps said,

You mean every solution except PIRACY!! I am an iOS dev but also have several apps on Google play and sales are minimal compared to iOS! Obviously I expect some of that is piracy but Google also needs it easier to focus users on apps!

Instead Google almost pushes users into being pirates which is a farce!

"Starting with Android 4.1, Google Play will help protect application assets by encrypting all paid apps with a device-specific key before they are delivered and stored on a device."

http://developer.android.com/about/versions/jelly-bean.html

Happy?

Quapps said,

You mean every solution except PIRACY!! I am an iOS dev but also have several apps on Google play and sales are minimal compared to iOS! Obviously I expect some of that is piracy but Google also needs it easier to focus users on apps!

Instead Google almost pushes users into being pirates which is a farce!

The OP didn't mention piracy as the reason he doesn't like Android, which is why I didn't mention it either. Still, you are right about one thing - Google needs to promote apps better because half the reason Android apps don't sell as well is because people are completely unaware of them.

Kushan said,

The OP didn't mention piracy as the reason he doesn't like Android, which is why I didn't mention it either. Still, you are right about one thing - Google needs to promote apps better because half the reason Android apps don't sell as well is because people are completely unaware of them.

I love Android, but yeah, the only way I ever hear of new or great apps is through Android sites. You can't find anything in Play. It just shows you the same apps its been showing for the past year. Be nice if Google put a better focus on the store and the way it displays apps to make it easy to find new and great things.

Doesn't Windows Phone have this problem too? All people have to do is get the XAP files from some website and then sideload them onto their phone?

It's of course difficult to sideload apps on Windows Phone (must have a developer account or otherwise hack it somehow), but Windows Phone has no better security when it comes to the marketplace ensuring apps are legit.

andrewbares said,
Doesn't Windows Phone have this problem too? All people have to do is get the XAP files from some website and then sideload them onto their phone?

It's of course difficult to sideload apps on Windows Phone (must have a developer account or otherwise hack it somehow), but Windows Phone has no better security when it comes to the marketplace ensuring apps are legit.

Everything will have this problem - the degree is merely determined by the availability of tools to facilitate piracy and the ratio of dumb end users to tweakers among the userbase.

This also supports my notion that even if Microsoft made Windows cost 0.99$, the majority of people that pirate it now will continue to pirate it because they can, because it still costs less to pirate than it does to pay, and because these people demonstrate a willingness and ability to justify (to themselves, at least) to take when they can't buy.

Relativity_17 said,

Everything will have this problem - the degree is merely determined by the availability of tools to facilitate piracy and the ratio of dumb end users to tweakers among the userbase.


With Windows, and Apple phones, it takes some effort, and knowledge to jailbreak your phone.. not a lot, but some..

With Android, you just need to uncheck a box in the settings and you're good to go..

It's not that it can't be done on the other platforms, it's that it's not as easily done..

andrewbares said,
Doesn't Windows Phone have this problem too?

To a very tiny extend. It's much a smaller problem than even iOS. As of right now, only first gen devices can be interop-unlock (which is a way to side load xap). There are only a couple 2nd gen devices that can be interop-unlocked. Also, it takes a very extensive way to interop-unlock any windows phone. It's not as easy to jailbreak wp7 as it is to android or even iOS. The recent Tango update also patch up that interop-unlock hack.

Then now with wp8 coming, it's practically at square 1 again for hackers.

andrewbares said,
Doesn't Windows Phone have this problem too? All people have to do is get the XAP files from some website and then sideload them onto their phone?

It's of course difficult to sideload apps on Windows Phone (must have a developer account or otherwise hack it somehow), but Windows Phone has no better security when it comes to the marketplace ensuring apps are legit.

It's extremely difficult to do. I have a dev unlocked phone via Chevron, and you can only sideload 10 apps maximum. Because I have a Verizon HTC Trophy getting an interop unlock seems practically impossible (I've tried several times and cannot get it to work). Some models will unlock easier, but still, the average Joe won't have any idea how to go about doing it, or how to install the Windows Phone dev tools so they can sideload the apps they download. I only have one app sideloaded right now, and that is Battery Status, which is available for free via XDA Developers. The rest of my apps are still installed via the marketplace. Android apps are much, much easier to install, especially if you're running a custom rom like CM9 that comes pre-rooted (though it's a pain in the ass to keep those apps updated because you can't just have them automatically updated from the Play store).

I don't have much to say about iOS, because I have no experience with it, nor interest in it and frankly don't care if people who waste time developing for it lose money to piracy. Most people seem to be of the opinion that it is similarly easy to jailbreak and install pirated apps on, and I have no reason to doubt that it is so. Again, though, the average person probably doesn't have the technical knowledge required to do so.

Ryoken said,

With Windows, and Apple phones, it takes some effort, and knowledge to jailbreak your phone.. not a lot, but some..

With Android, you just need to uncheck a box in the settings and you're good to go..

It's not that it can't be done on the other platforms, it's that it's not as easily done..

Jailbreaking is easier than rooting by far. My mother jailbroke her iphone and got the cydia store going and she cant eve multitask on windows using the taskbar...then gain...iphones cant multitask either.

either way...its very easy to pirate on ios. Friends have logged into eachothers accounts, downloaded apps, then logged out. Its that easy, no JB required.