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Porn and pirates hide Android's money maker

Google's invisible hand slapped

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Android might be eating up smartphone market share, but Google's marketplace is leaving developers disgruntled.

Nearly half aren't making the money they'd imagined they'd make off of Android, and the lack of decent search, filtering, and ratings have been blamed.

Also: Google's laissez faire approach to gate keeping means the quality stuff's hidden by porn and inferior apps, while a lack of enforcement is allowing publishers' software to get ripped off by pirates.

And, oh, one more thing: pricing - Google needs to set minimum pricing, as developers say Android phone customers are paying less than iPhone customers purchasing from Apple's App Store.

These are the latest findings from consultant Open-First's latest stock-take on mobile application marketplaces - Open-First's inaugural survey tackled Nokia's Ovi in July. Open-First, whose survey is expected this week, polled 118 Android publishers, combining statistical research with phone interviews.

The consultant found 49 per cent of publishers earning less than they'd expected from the Android Market. Twenty seven per cent are making more and 24 per cent about what they'd expected.

Those unhappy with their income blamed Google's absence of quality controls and promotional support.

While about 75 per cent were happy with the speed with which applications are processed for publication to the market, that ease came back to bite Google: around 40 per cent were either unhappy or "neutral" about the level of strictness that accompanies speed.

Among the steps Google could take would be to better filter and help promote apps, improve the search and ratings system, improve payment options by permitting local currency and allowing in-application purchases, enforcement of patents and copyright and setting a minimum price for applications.

Another source or irritation is lack of support from Google for either application publishers or their customers. Forty five percent were very, somewhat or just plain dissatisfied with the level of support they received, saying it's impossible to communicate with somebody at Google about application development or other issues with the market place.

Support for users rated worse: 54 per cent of developers are very, somewhat or just simply dissatisfied, with nearly half saying a fifth of the queries they received from customers related to Google's market itself.

Those questions cover requests for help because applications haven't downloaded, credit card verification problems, refund requests, problems with Google Checkout, and questions about when the market would become available in different countries.

If any of the feature requests sounds a little familiar, they should. Of all the app stores out there, the only one that beat the Android Market among those who's developed for multiple systems was Apple.

Around half said the App Store was better than Android's Market. Blackberry App World, Windows Mobile Marketplace, Palm App Catalogue and Ovi all rated worse among devs who expressed an opinion.

This data point also reveals another interesting fact: a high number of Android developers also building for the iPhone or iPad.

Android is at least faring better than Ovi. According to July's survey of 100 Ovi Store developers, Open-First found 80 per cent are making less money that they'd initially expected - just 5.3 per cent are making more while 14 per cent are making they'd expected. Lack of digital rights management that's encouraging piracy of software and a general lack of visitors to the Ovi store were blamed along with - again - poor search, promotion, and categorization of applications.

Support was slightly better: just 37 per cent were unhappy with the support from Nokia, although there were frequently complaints over slow email responses from the cell-phone giant.

Open-First's next poll tackles the App Store, so we'll see just how green Apple's grass really is. ®

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