Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm a young developer hoping to sell my apps I made for Android soon. My applications are basically 99% finished so I'm investigating what would be the best marketing strategy to use to sell my apps. I'm sure the brilliant minds here can give me some great advice.

I'm particularly interested in your thoughts on the following points (especially from experienced Android developers):

  • Is it more profitable to sell an app for free with ads or to sell an app without ads for a price? Perhaps a combination of a free ad version and a paid ad-free version?
  • If you give away an app for free with ads on it is it ethical to decline bending over backwards to support it?
  • How much does piracy actually affect potential sales? Should any effort be put towards preventing it?
  • Can you still make a profit off your application if you make it open source? Could you perhaps make more of a profit from the attention you would get by doing so?
  • Is Google's Android Marketplace really the best place to release Android apps?
  • It is worthwhile enough to maintain a developer blog or website to keep users updated on your development progress and software releases?

Any other suggestions you could give me to maximize profit meanwhile keeping users happy and coming back for more would also be greatly appreciated. While I appreciate general tips and tricks, I'd like to ask that if possible you please go the extra step and show how they specifically apply to selling Android apps. Marketing statistics, developer retrospect, and any additional experience you can share from your time selling Android apps is what I would love to see most.

Thank you very much in advance for your time. I truly appreciate all the responses I receive.

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by gnat, Martijn Pieters, Walter, Glenn Nelson, Mark Booth Jan 24 '13 at 13:04

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Actually I was wondering, is one the [many] stackexchange websites about marketing ? That would seem like a logical thing to have (given I fear this question might slightly beyond the scope of Programmers.SE, even if I personally don't mind this type of question at all) –  wildpeaks Jan 20 '11 at 2:24
    
I was wondering this as well as I wrote my question. I originally was writing this on StackOverflow but decided it would be more appropriate to put here since I am writing my apps as an independent developer/programmer and I am not looking for advice on programming but on how to be the best I can be as a programmer in the marketplace. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge a stackexchange site does not exist for marketing. The next closest sites to posting here would be StackOverflow and CareerOverflow I believe. Out of these three, I felt this was the most appropriate. –  Rob S. Jan 20 '11 at 2:28
3  
You could try answers.onstartups.com. That's the closest thing to a marketing SE site that I can think of. –  Anna Lear Jan 20 '11 at 2:33
    
I'm not a startup though, I'm more of a hobbiest. I'm only one person. I'm not trying to run a successful business, just make money on the side meanwhile making developing cool stuff that people enjoy. However, I want to avoid any common pitfalls and be able to profit as much as I can. Thanks for the suggestion. Perhaps a proposal for a new stack exchange site should be made specifically for marketing products? If so, I would definitely sign on to support it. –  Rob S. Jan 20 '11 at 2:38
1  
@user9094, @Rob: Marketing is a current Area 51 proposal. –  Jonathan Hobbs Jan 20 '11 at 5:02
show 1 more comment

7 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted
+50

Unfortunately, none of the answers to this question I received in the last 72 hours were what I was really looking for. So I set out to answer my own question by talking to other developers and researching marketing data to come up with the most comprehensive answer I could find to my admittedly broad question.

  • Is it more profitable to sell an app for free with ads or to sell an app without ads for a price? Perhaps a combination of a free ad version and a paid ad-free version?

The latter choice appears to be the most profitable and the best solution for developers (which I'll touch on more a little later) as this way you make money with either version of your application distributed. I have a Google AdSense account which I use on my blog and other sites I own but unfortunately I learned that Google does not currently allow developers to use AdSense in mobile applications. In fact, Google will cancel your AdSense account if you use it like this. So instead, most developers use AdMob (also operated by Google) to put ads in their mobile applications.

  • If you give away an app for free with ads on it is it ethical to decline bending over backwards to support it?

Personally, I'm always for doing your very best to support software you release, even if it's released for free and open source. I'll always "bend over backwards" to fix any bugs I cause. However, some feature requests and suggestions can be so complex that they warrant enough time to fulfill that you could probably better spend your time writing a new app. If your customer pays for your app because you do not supply a free version, then in my opinion you are indeed ethically entitled to try and fulfill their requests (especially if they were lead to believe their request was already implemented in your app prior to purchasing it). By supplying a free version of your app, you can always use the "you should have tried before you bought" argument to defend yourself. Granted, there can still be a gray area if your free version restricted features leading to some confusion upon purchase so it's important to make sure that you're as clear as possible about the content of your app being purchased.

  • How much does piracy actually affect potential sales? Should any effort be put towards preventing it?

Piracy on the Android platform is unfortunately easier to carry out than any other mobile platform. It's literally as simple as downloading an application and then e-mailing it to all your friends or posting it on a website. Prior to writing this question I did some very (see 1:06) interesting research on the subject and these general rules seem to hold true in all fields of software sales: Good software won't have to worry about piracy and pirated apps are just free advertising which will increase sales. I then read through some recent statistics of piracy levels of Android apps. Despite the larger fanbase and easier methods of pirating Android apps, the piracy rate is actually somewhat lower than in iOS. Taking all of this into account, I'm not going to focus on preventing piracy but instead on just building a great app.

  • Can you still make a profit off your application if you make it open source? Could you perhaps make more of a profit from the attention you would get by doing so?

I had trouble coming up with any real research into this on Android. However, I do know that there are many successful open source projects that are sold commercially from RedHat Linux to id Software games. Perhaps the best idea though would be to wait and only release the source code after interest and sales of your app die down in order to pick interest in it back up again. Or perhaps a better solution would be to keep it open source from the moment you begin developing it to draw attention towards your app. No matter how you do it, there's no reason an open source application on Android can't be very successful.

  • Is Google's Android Marketplace really the best place to release Android apps?

Google's Android Marketplace is extremely cheap to sell through and definitely the most popular marketplace. You're going to be a bit of a big fish in a small sea but the book I'm reading says on page 21, "Even the most odd and obscure applications get downloaded by at least 1,000 people within their first month on the Market." That's encouraging enough for me to put my app in there as my market of choice.

  • It is worthwhile enough to maintain a developer blog or website to keep users updated on your development progress and software releases?

It certainly seems to be worthwhile and it's easy to do so why not? A quick scan of the marketplace showed me that most developers do in fact have their own blogs or websites.

share|improve this answer
    
Even though this is the answer I'm looking for I'm not going to give it best answer unless the rest of the community agrees with it being the best answer. There could still be much more powerful research and better tips out there to give that could be put into an even better answer. I'll decide in a few days which deserves to be the best answer as it's only fair to the handful of people who have favorited this question. –  Rob S. Jan 21 '11 at 22:31
add comment

Build a good app.

Sales and marketing can do a lot, but if your app, content, or general experience sucks you'll never get that far. Very few top apps are "crappy" (except for FartDroid). Apps can be simple, but if they are just broken, you'll have a hard road ahead of you. Making your app great should be the #1 priority.

share|improve this answer
    
I've been working on my app for nearly 4 months and have had it tested by seven personal friends from three different countries. While you certainly bring up a good point, it's irrelevant to my question; I'm not worried about writing a "crappy" app because I would never release one that I didn't put my very best effort into and didn't have entirely positive feedback for prior to release. What Im worried about is getting my app into the hands of as many people who would want it as possible once it is released and the specifics of doing this with Android apps. Regardless thanks for the response. –  Rob S. Jan 20 '11 at 18:30
    
Absolutely. Thanks for the comment. :) –  Ryan Hayes Jan 20 '11 at 20:32
1  
Ryan is right, If your app is rad, unique, useful and smart, the app reviews itself will boost the sales. Read about how apple designs its software (google it). Good luck. –  Reno Jan 23 '11 at 14:55
add comment

Is it more profitable to sell an app for free with ads or to sell an app without ads for a price? Perhaps a combination of a free ad version and a paid ad-free version?

  • The last option would be better. That way your users can try your applications and you will be able to make some money off of ads.

If you give away an app for free with ads on it is it ethical to decline bending over backwards to support it?

  • It is your application, and you are making money off of it, but support should be case by case basis, I mean if there are some sever bug or functionality issues, then I would most certainly bend over backwards to support it. But I would limit my time for enhancements or minor adjustments.

How much does piracy actually affect potential sales? What can be done to prevent it? Should any effort be put towards preventing it?

  • That also depends on ratio of pirated vs legitimate uses of your application. If it is not much then don't waste your time. But if it is too much then you should do something about it. Preventing piracy is a major task, for a small app developer.

Is Google's Android Marketplace really the best place to release Android apps?

  • Is there any other place where you can sell your Andriod app?

It is worthwhile enough to maintain a developer blog or website to keep users updated on your development progress and software releases?

  • Yes surely, developer blog is most definitely worthwhile.
share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the response. I agree on the answer to my first bullet. On the answer to the second bullet I also agree that the answer changes case by case. On the third bullet: I actually could setup a system to prevent piracy if I wanted to. However, I've read arguments and papers that piracy in some circumstances can actually increase sales. I was curious to how this theory holds up in the Android Market specifically. On the fourth bullet: Yes there are other marketplaces from Amazon and some phone manufactures. You can also sell without using a marketplace. Last: Thanks Im leaning towards it. –  Rob S. Jan 20 '11 at 2:34
    
+1 but I would like to add that there are many websites you can sell apps from. –  John Jan 20 '11 at 5:15
    
I wasn't aware of the fact that there are many other sites where you can sell your own app. Thanks John and Rob S. –  Himanshu Jan 20 '11 at 23:54
add comment

Couple of things that you could look into:

  1. Have a web presence where an user logged onto the net from his/her pc can play the game, if only partially
  2. Make a twitter and facebook page for the game, throw in some cool contests, T-shirts for winners etc
  3. Have a certain amount of the game playable as free through your cell, and charge only for higher levels
  4. Allow people to gift each other this game
share|improve this answer
1  
I'm not actually planning on selling any games at though moment although I may look into that in the future. If I omit the word "game" though your tips are definitely quite useful. The last one in particular is something I'll look into in choosing a marketplace. Thank you for the response! –  Rob S. Jan 20 '11 at 2:46
add comment

I've developer some popular Android apps, such as "Car Locator", so I'll try to answer your question using my personal experience.

Is it more profitable to sell an app for free with ads or to sell an app without ads for a price? Perhaps a combination of a free ad version and a paid ad-free version?

I've tried both methods, and have found that it is much more profitable to sell your app without ads for a price. In my experience, Android users are willing to pay good money (upto $5) for a good quality app that fits their needs.

If you have a free version of your app, make sure to include an ad or link somewhere in that links to your paid version. The point of your free version should be to get your user to ultimately buy the full version of the app. You might want to checkout www.marketandroidapps.com for some more discussions on paid/free app strategies.

If you give away an app for free with ads on it is it ethical to decline bending over backwards to support it?

I personally believe that you should support anything you release. This is especially true for any bugs that you may have in the app. Of course, if your user is being very unreasonable without having paid for the app, you shouldn't spend too much time supporting that person. I have users who pirate my apps, and then ask for support over email, and I'll still support them sometimes!

How much does piracy actually affect potential sales? Should any effort be put towards preventing it?

Adding some licensing solution to your app in order to prevent piracy is really quick and can stop a lot of piracy. Android's LVL or AndroidLicenser.com are a good starting points.

Can you still make a profit off your application if you make it open source? Could you perhaps make more of a profit from the attention you would get by doing so?

I don't have any experience in this, so I won't answer.

Is Google's Android Marketplace really the best place to release Android apps?

Yes. Google's Android Marketplace accounts for about 95% of my revenue, so it is still by far the best place to release your Android apps. I have my apps released through Android, Amazon, Verizon, Motorola, and AndroidLicenser.com

It is worthwhile enough to maintain a developer blog or website to keep users updated on your development progress and software releases?

Most certainly! It does not take very much time and it can only help you!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Google IO 2010 Venture Capitalist Panel

I'm surprised no one has linked to this great panel from IO2010. The VCs tackle these questions exactly and agree on some things that seem very counter intuitive to normal business decision making. It's about an hour long, but most definitely worth the watch. This will answer your questions both in the mobile space and in a web app atmosphere.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Write them for the iPhone first. Seriously. You are more likely to get users, buzz and money there, which may help your Android version when it comes out.

share|improve this answer
1  
I would try that, but I don't have a Mac. –  John Feb 9 '11 at 18:17
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.