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Why is the iPhone so popular with developers? One word: money. The App Store is a developer's lottery ticket. All it takes is the right app at the right time and fortune can be yours.
The widely-publicized stories of developers who struck it rich with iPhone apps arguably did more for iPhone development in the early days than any developer-oriented sales pitch from Apple or Steve Jobs. It has been somewhat difficult, however, to find the same sort of stories about developers who struck it rich with Android apps.
Meet Edward Kim. He won third place in the Android Developer Challenge 2 last year. But that's not his claim to fame. His claim to fame is the fact that his Car Locator Android app, which remembers where a user's car has been parked, is now generating $13,000/month in sales through the Android Marketplace. As you might have guessed, Kim is "on cloud 9 with these numbers". As he should be.
While Car Locator's sales figures might not impress an App Store millionaire, Kim's story is sparking the same sort of buzz that became familiar when the App Store was starting to take off. That can mean only one thing: the Android gold rush is upon us.
For his part, Kim is trying to be realistic. He writes:
Sales of about $13k/month is awesome income for any one person, so it may sound ridiculous for me to think it can go even higher.
But he's also optimistic about the future:
However, I still think that Android is only a fraction of what it will eventually become. Each release of a new Android handset gets me excited, as it means a wider reach for the Marketplace.
Needless to say, the fact that Kim is making $13,000/month from a single Android app is as good a reason as any to believe that Android does indeed have a bright future as a developer platform. But as with any gold rush, not everyone will cash in. Not only will increased competition make it more difficult for newcomers to find success, the Android Marketplace presents some unique challenges:
- App purchasing in the Android Marketplace is done with Google Checkout, which many believe has hindered the popularity of paid apps.
- Unlike the App Store, Google doesn't approve apps that are submitted to Android Marketplace. While this laissez-faire approach may be appealing to any developer whose iPhone app was rejected by Apple, it also means that there's room for far more clutter and competition.
- Demographically-speaking, Android users aren't iPhone users. Specifically, Android users don't shell out for paid apps at nearly the rate of iPhone users. That means that developers have to be strategic about the apps they build, and the business models they employ. What works in the App Store may not work in the Android Marketplace, and vice-versa.
At the end of the day, Kim's success with Car Locator is proof that 'there's gold in them thar hills'. But just as with any gold rush, your chances of striking gold increase when you pick the right location and adopt a sensible strategy.
Photo credit: whatleydude via Flickr.