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Developer angst rises over Android revenues and openness

by Kristen Nicole

Android’s platform versions are varied, lending different experiences to end users across devices and carriers. Google offers some insight into its platform distribution with its monthly report, confirming Android 2.2 as the dominant version across handsets with 55.9 percent of the market. Android 2.3.3 and 2.3.4 come in next with 23.7 percent, and Android 2.1 takes 15.2 percent of the market share. Consistent with Android’s growing adoption pattern, 2.1 usage is declining, while 2.3 is on the rise. For mobile developers leveraging Android APIs, finding the balance between current Android version availability and new version adoption is a fine line to walk.

Revenue and sales don’t match up

But some developers are uncovering some serious issues with the Android platform, noting discrepancies in the revenue they’re earning and the actual amount on their checks. The Register reports that the issue first surfaced at the end of last year, and as more developers note similar problems, it appears to affect app purchases made through the web-based Market. The addition of a semi-colon to the application name may be throwing-off revenue calculations, and while Google acknowledged the problem and promised a fix, there’s been little indication that the issue’s been resolved.

Is Android truly open?

It’s situations like this that cause some developers to think that Google is less transparent than they claim to be. A recent survey by VisionMobile indicates that developers list Android as the least open platform as far as “open governance” goes, citing reasons like Google’s “unilateral Android project decision-making processes” and “closed contributions process model” as reasons for concern. Developers are beginning to center their tactics around the consumer instead of the platform, recognizing that the software side of our mobile ecosystem is pretty well established around Android and iOS. Creating a cross-platform approach to better engage end users is the latest developer trend picked up by Appcelerator’s recent report, identifying the Mobile Engagement Lifecycle developers seek out with their apps.

Developers shift revenue strategies away from Market sales

Monetizing user engagement is an important aspect of this lifecycle, and strategies are forming around in-app purchases and cross-promotional marketing, relying less and less on direct Market buys. While Google is facing some scrutiny regarding its revenue tracking and transparency, developers are still show a strong interest in Android, and even Google+. Appcelerator’s report goes on to show that Google+ beat out Facebook for developer interest for app integration, noting its innovation and association with Android and other Google Apps (Search, Maps, YouTube) as prime way to increase user engagement.