Android App Sales: Piracy Matters, Seasons Don’t

Android App Sales: Piracy Matters, Seasons Don’t

Some issues that face app developers choosing between iOS and Android platforms are obvious (far more hardware variation on Android; capricious store policies on iOS). Others are less apparent but just as significant. Two factors you might not have considered: pirate copies and seasonal sales variations.

A recurring theme at the One More Thing iOS app development conference in Melbourne over the weekend was the difference between selling iOS apps and Android apps. While there was an obvious slant towards iOS projects given the conference theme, many of the developers who spoke at the event also offer Android versions.

Success in that area varies widely. For Quoord Systems, which develops forum reading application Tapatalk, Android has become a significant platform (though still smaller than iOS overall). A major reason for that has been Quoord’s willingness to work with major Android forums and ensure that their sites were compatible with the app. That’s a no-brainer, but it seems Android users also have a different view when it comes to acquiring pirated copies of apps.

Quoord’s Winter Wong (pictured above) takes a fairly relaxed view of trying to stop app-piracy. “The first time we found our apps cracked and on Megaupload I was super-happy because it least someone had noticed them,” he said. “A lot of people put a lot of effort into trying to block piracy. It isn’t really worth any effort to protect your apps because people are going to crack us anyway.”

What Quoord has found useful is the DMCA Guardian service, which charges around $50 a month and helps automate the sending of takedown notices to sites which host pirated copies of apps (or other content). Wong said that while adopting that approach hadn’t had a noticeable effect in the Apple universe (where installing pirated apps requires a jailbroken device), it had made a clear difference for Android.

“For Apple we didn’t see any significant increase in sales when we used their service, but for Android our sales jumped 20 per cent after we used their service,” he said. “Clearly lots of people used cracked apps on Android.”

Sales aside, Wong notes that developing for multiple platforms requires significant resources. “You really need to think about the commitment you make to it. Programming may only be one or two months, but the effort to maintain it is a huge effort.”

Despite that, Wong says going dual-platform has been worth it for Quoord: “A lot of people say you can’t make any money on Android, but I still believe people want quality apps, and the market is big enough for individual developers to look into that.”

Lee Armstrong from Pinkfroot, which develops the Plane Finder and Ship Finder family of apps, is a little less convinced. While the company’s user base had been vocal in asking for an Android version, sales have only been a fraction of the iOS version.

They also don’t exhibit seasonal variation. The chart below shows Pinkfroot’s app sales for December 2011:

The blue line shows iOS sales. There’s a clear peak each weekend, and a massive spike at Christmas, when new devices and gift cards get unwrapped. But there’s no such obvious pattern for Android, where sales don’t exhibit the same seasonal variation.

That said, it could be much worse. If you look really closely, you can see the flat orange line on the bottom of the screen, which represents Windows Phone 7 app sales for Pinkfroot.


  • Pinkfroot may not have discovered that there are already quite a few top-quality Android apps doing what PlaneFinder does in one form or another. Competition on Android in the travel space is strong, and it may be that his app isn’t that good and is overpriced when comparing to one of his main competitors – FlightRadar24 which is only A$2.49 compared to his A$3.80.

    Developers of iOS apps need to recognise that Android has already overtaken iOS and will dominate the market in the near future.

  • So (in this instance at least) the people who pirated the app would have bought the app had piracy not been available. Well, more accurately people were looking for free versions of it, but bought it if it wasn’t available for illegal download.

    I wonder why then the common mantra that downloaders wouldn’t have bought the thing anyway? We don’t know the full percentages so we can’t really determine it. Google needs pre-paid gift cards like iTunes has so that people can get Android apps as gifts instead of being reluctant to use their own money.

    • I agree, without gift cards, I simply avoid buying android apps, yet buy many iOS apps, it’s more a mental thing where I don’t want to use my credit card, and no, paying $2-$3 for a single use credit card isn’t as good an option.

    • I am the owner of DMCA Guardian which was mentioned in this story. Piracy on Android is so prevalent compared to iPhone piracy mostly due to the fact that its so incredibly easy to pirate on Android. All that’s required is checking a box “Allow installation of non-market applications” and it’s free game.

      There will always be piracy and there will always be people that will never pay for anything. However, there are many people who will want an app but are hesitant to pay for it at first. They will just do a quick search on Google and download the first link they find in the top ten results (even if its an older version). By removing links found in the top results of common search queries, it leaves the common user frustrated trying to find the app so they just end up buying it. Piracy is then just left to those groups of people who are members of private app sharing forums, and these are the people who are unlikely to ever buy an app.

      iPhones locked down nature give’s it a lead when it comes to preventing piracy. Most people who jailbreak their phones are tech savvy, so they are not so easily thwarted if they don’t find a download link with a quick search. Tech savvy people will know how to properly search for something they want to pirate.

      • The excuse of wanting to try out and app before paying for it doesn’t fly on Android because of the refund policy. If you want to try a paid app and your not sure how good it will be you can buy it try it out and if you don’t like it simply hit the refund button and you get your money back.

  • I buy all my apps and games, too much risk of malware in pirated software.

    You may download a 0.99 app for free, but then that app might send a $15 premium service SMS without you knowing about it. Not worth the risk.

    • I’ll presume that’s sarcastic. yes there is jailbreaking but what fraction of iOS users jailbreak their device? 10%? 20%? The sheer number of iOS users, and the fact that most don’t jailbreak, provides a solid paid market pull for apps of all kinds.

  • Apps are what is needed to make your smartphone smart and unique.Im fond of app creating and find it really helpful to use site like Snappii where i can build apps in minutes.

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