I discussed the acceleration of Android’s growth yesterday. There’s a huge opportunity for mobile developers to build distribution on Android. Running through many of the top charts in the Android Market, you should remark how few iOS behemoths claim top honors.
As a result of an initially less attractive user base, complexities developing applications for a diverse set of Android versions and handsets and most importantly due to differences in application distribution, the oligarchs of iOS are absent on the Android market – differences to be exploited.
To date, many iOS developers purchasing tens of thousands of inexpensive CPI app downloads on a single day to drive themselves to the top of the charts where they garner free installs by virtue of their placement in the rankings, diminishing in rank over time. This marketing tactic manipulates the iTunes charts to the developer’s advantage. Alternatively, developers have lobbied the managers of the iTunes store to cajole App of the Week placement. Lastly, developers experiment with social distribution through OpenFeint, ScoreLoop – the same mechanism that delivered Farmville into the feeds of tens of millions on the web.
These marketing channels do exist for Android. But Android developers have an additional tool: the web. If you’ve used the Amazon App Store, you know how wonderfully simple it is to click download Angry Birds Rovio to my phone and in a few minutes, it’s on your Nexus One! No need to connect the phone to a PC or to fire up the Android Market. In contrast, Apple uses iTunes, a client application on the PC, to install applications. The extra friction in that process reduces app installs and trials, limiting the effectiveness of web-based app distribution. Alternatively, users can visit the App Store on their iPhones, clicking through several screens, each of which decreases conversion rates, before the app download begins.
The web may be the most effective distribution mechanism for Android apps. Web sites can promote their own applications deep linking to apps in the Android market, leveraging existing user bases to build mobile presence. For example, Expensify can point users to their landing page on the Android market both from the home page and through ads. More generally, developers will repurpose existing online marketing tools to drive traffic to landing pages on the Android market.
The mantra for successful app developers on Android developers will be “what got you here won’t get you there.” The web could be the best customer acquisition method for mobile app developers to date.