Today we spoke with George Christopoulos, founder of the SlideME app store. We asked him to share tips and strategies on how developers can can better understand the Android ecosystem outside of Google Play.
1. How should developers see the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and how should it impact their development and marketing strategies?
Firstly, many developers are unaware that there are two flavours of Android that device vendors can leverage:
A.Most developers are aware of the Android that is bundled with Google Play Services and Google apps such as Gmail, Maps, Google Play, etc. that are proprietary apps and services to Google and thus cannot be open sourced and
B.The second is the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) as project name indicates is fully open source that device vendors can leverage for their devices without the licensing requirements or associated fees from Google.
As more device vendors naturally move away from other OS platforms towards Android, we are seeing exponential growth for AOSP devices without Google Play.
This direction is expected to continue due to Android’s success. In addition, since Google restricts which OEMs have access to its proprietary services, more and more devices are being introduced with Android AOSP and smart developers should be thinking about a two-fold distribution strategy:
1.Plan for targeting devices with Google Play if they plan to depend on the Google Play Services & their API’s,
2.build their app(s) with SDK’s that are not dependent on Google Play Services for distribution to AOSP devices (that have no Google Play Services).
Fortunately, work has been done by the One Platform Foundation that SlideME and CodeNgo both support called OpenIAB, a single open source SDK to support In-app payments for multiple stores, including Google Play, Amazon, SlideME and any OpenIAB supported store. This dramatically simplifies supporting both flavors of Android for developers and gives them significant flexiblity in their distribution strategies.
2. What are some of the key markets, OEMs and/or Carriers using AOSP and what kind of consumer adoption are AOSP devices seeing?
Besides the huge volume of Android devices coming out of China with AOSP, we’re seeing OEM’s that target niche markets preferring AOSP as it provides them the flexibility to create their own experience with curated content for their target audience.
Carriers on the other hand, even though a small percentage of devices are without AOSP, all carriers within that country do not differentiate in their offering as they all provide the same content if they all serve the same Google Play store. Some carriers are now moving away from Google Play to be able to provide content they have control to curate for their subscribers with differentiated billing models (such as monthly subscriptions models that we are also soon inviting developers to opt-in to). In addition carriers will earn most of the revenues as opposed to earning some percentage with Google from the 30% withheld from developers.
Consumers admit preference to curated content stores like SlideME that are dominant today on AOSP devices, but many users express the problem with missing apps that we for example do not currently offer. It’s a matter of time before developers realize the AOSP opportunities and optimize their distribution strategies to the large amount of devices without Google Play.
3. What trends do you see in the marketplace that smart developers should be aware of?
•Go niche to differentiate from the rest of the pack and the enormous amount of apps that largely get lost within all the junk apps available in the apparently major store(s).
•Take advantage of any featured free options available to the extent the developer can handle the service requests
•Move towards implementing OpenIAB for in-app payments for multiple stores, including SlideME, Amazon, Samsung, and others.
4. What mistakes do you see developers make or challenges they should be aware of when it comes to monetizing outside of Google Play?
•Firstly, any apps distributed outside of Google Play looking to maximize their earnings potential need to choose an alternative for In-app payments to Google’s. OpenIAB is an excellent solution for both. In addition there are also many alternatives to Google Maps and Google Play Game Services that will function properly on both AOSP devices and Google Play licensed devices (see below).
•Lack of promoting their apps or mentioning their apps when available on other alternative stores that primarily drive AOSP (non-Google Play) devices when the numbers indicate that AOSP has >30% Android market share and climbing.
•Neglecting to localize their apps or even translate their app descriptions when the relative cost of doing so is very low in comparison to effort/costs of development.
•Large companies, tend to be the most uninformed about Android ecosystem and what AOSP is. We see many large companies making mistakes such as duplicate sets of permissions in their apps which cause all sorts of problems (even from Google Play devices). Indie developers tend to be more Android savvy. We tend to have a sweet spot for Indie devs, and are happy to feature their apps for free as they deserve that extra push. In addition, large companies assume all devices are Google Play enabled and wonder why bother distributing outside of Google Play. For example, one very large company we know tried Amazon and they have much better conversion compared to Google Play. Some developers also see more conversions and installs with their new apps from SlideME than on Google Play with the help of the SlideME free featured promotions we offer.
•Managing distributions is another challenge. Fortunately services like CodeNgo and initiatives like AppDF, supporting the many distribution channels (stores) can be simplified and managed at the same time. Something as simple as failing to upload proper screenshots can result in few returns at any store, as many users will skip right past an application that simply has an icon as a screenshot.
5. SlideME rejects close to 60% of the apps submitted to your store. What type of content is successful in the SlideME store?
Applications that are not just following trends, but provide original or unique functionality (even if only modified from some other popular application), tend to be the most successful. Many indie applications by a single developer are successful because they provide something new and have invested more than a few hours of time into developing the application.
Common or simplistic applications are not going to provide much success to the developer, particularly those that every new developer might have experimented with at some point (i.e. flashlights, tic-tac-toe, endless runners, snake games, wallpapers, 15-slider puzzles, etc.). These applications are a dime-a-dozen across all stores and devices; most people have had enough of them, and such applications are not going to really receive any additional exposure.
6. What mistakes do you see happening in Android?
There is an amusing one we very often see, mostly from the so called ‘security’ companies. Where editors mention another reason to not download apps from stores other than Google Play Store. The Google Play Store is the dominant store, and if you add to it the fact that their is no curation process on Google Play, (submit any app and its shortly available to all users), means Google Play becomes a risky source of apps. Not saying alternative stores are any better, but the ones that have a curation process in place and abide by it and spend quality time to test each app, are definitely a better source than Google Play’s.
Additionally, if a developer does choose to submit to alternative stores, why are they doing so without removing the Google Play dependencies. Why submit a demo or trial version of your application to an alternative market that links back to Google Play to purchase when said user on the alternative market cannot buy it? This is a common mistake that does not take much additional time to resolve before submitting to other stores. It doesn’t help the developer’s reputation, big or small, to limit its users; and in return does not help with that application being successful financially.
7 . If developers had to choose alternatives to Google Play dependent services, what options do you have to suggest?
For developers wishing to decouple themselves from Google dependencies, we have some options for them to review. At SlideME we welcome and approve any apps that are not dependent solely on Google Play to function. We approve apps that would also function as expected on AOSP devices.
Please see some of the services that we recommend below.
For in-app payments:
For Cloud Messaging:
Leaderboards / Gaming:
Any others potential candidates are welcome to suggest their services to us to extend this list.