1. Stop encouraging refunds.

The Android Market lacks a formal application prescreening process and we’re cool with that. We also like the clearly stated return policy of 24 hours.1 The problem is that the Android Market almost encourages customers to seek a refund. Upon downloading an app, a screen with two large buttons of equal size is presented: open and uninstall. This poor UI presumes disappointment. Worse, there is no confirmation if the uninstall button is accidentally touched.
2. Allow developers to promote apps through promo codes.

The ability to grant a promo code in the Apple App Store has proved to be valuable for app exposure. Developers cannot buy promotion within the Android Market, a stance of neutrality which we appreciate, but we need other tools to aid marketing elsewhere. Google Checkout’s coupon feature should be exposed to the Android Market. Bloggers have contacted us asking for evaluation copies and giveaways. Our only current option is to throw the apk around the internet and that’s just asking for casual piracy.
3. Improve browsability.

Google accounts are required for the Android Market, yet customers can’t go anywhere on Google’s site to browse and purchase applications. The App Store within iTunes offers a fun browsing and impulse buy inducing experience. With no phone to computer syncing, Google should build an equally elegant Android Market for the full web browser where purchases could be pushed to the phone for download.

The Android Market should aid app discovery with features like similar purchase lists and product screenshots. The more information available about an application, the less likely it will be returned. Just under half of Rejoinder‘s purchases have been refunded. We know that we have a great app, but it’s not targeted at tech savvy frat boys. Unfortunately, Android Market doesn’t help us convey that.

Mixing free and paid app listings also hurts app discovery. Applications in the Android Market are listed by popularity and release date. Free applications had a long lead time over paid applications and dominate the popularity list. For a paid application to break into the top popular listing, it needs over 5,000 downloads. This is a difficult chicken and egg situation: our app can’t be found unless it’s popular and the Market does little to promote new apps.
4. Improve license enforcement.

Protection offered to app developers was broken in less than a 12 hours of release and has never been improved.2 We don’t believe in DRM because we know that most people who pirate software never would have paid for it anyway. This, however, does not mean that Android Market should ignore piracy. It wouldn’t be difficult to do a check upon installation or first run to confirm that an app has been licensed to the Google account of the phone.
5. Realize the potential synergy within Google.

Google Search: Yes, really. Search within the Android Market isn’t up to Google’s standards. When looking for Bejeweled, the search could not do a partial match of the application name and did not offer suggestions of potential intended spellings. This is just inexcusable for the world’s most popular search engine.

Google Analytics and Google Checkout: these two products have an existing, powerful integration that allows online retailers to track a customer from ad click through purchase.3 As a developer, I would love to know where our customers are coming from, which blogs customers who don’t return our app read, and other demographic factors that influence purchases. Extending this integration to Android Market would offer insights to help developers better market their existing apps and make wiser business decisions about the next apps to develop.

On a similar notion, Google Analytics should add a _trackPageview like API4 to allow developers the ability to track user interaction within apps. Aggregated data about how customers use an app is useful for improving usability and measuring post sale satisfaction.

Google AdSense: Some people will never buy an app. AdSense for Android would allow developers to justify more feature complete lite editions of applications. AdMob’s runaway success on the iPhone should have Google worried that it’s going to miss the next great ad medium.
Conclusion

The Apple App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch isn’t perfect, but the Android Market must learn from its competitor’s success if it wants to attract serious development. The immaturity of the Android Market makes us hesitant to pursue further Android application development. We have lots of great games coming that shouldn’t be exclusive to Apple products. If Google builds as great a marketplace as it has a mobile platform, great app offerings will follow.

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