Paid Android apps are almost always pirated

It’s not that hard to submit an app on the Google Play Store. Pay the $25 developer registration fee, submit your first app, and pretty soon (after getting your app approved) you’re on the Play Store.

But getting hundreds to millions of downloads on your shiny new paid app? Not so much. Lots of iOS app developers will claim that they won’t develop for Android because all Android users are pirates. They’re both almost right, and almost wrong. They’re almost right in the sense that it’s so easy to pirate an app on Android, yes, probably almost everyone has done it. But they’re looking at it from the wrong perspective.

Take the recent hit, Alto’s Adventure. It’s $3.99 on the Apple App Store and free on the Google Play Store. It has thousands of positive reviews on the App Store and tens of millions of downloads on the Play Store. I’m not here to promote this app though, I’m here to talk about piracy and use this as an example. So why was this app free on the Play Store? Well, there’s actually optional adverts on the Play Store version as a monetization technique. People on Android just naturally spend less on apps overall compared to those on iOS, so it makes sense to monetize it slightly differently.

Had they made it $3.99 as well on the Play Store, I don’t think it would have been such a hit and millions of people would likely have just pirated the game. So what can we learn from this example? Unlike what most people turn to first, the answer isn’t making an iOS exclusive, or using anti-piracy techniques. Someone who wasn’t going to buy the app in the first place isn’t going to buy the app when they find the pirated version doesn’t work. However, if you make it free and monetize it differently, like using ads, the end user doesn’t mind (obviously, these should be non-intrusive ads, but I’ll save that for a later post). This allows for a win-win situation where people on Android can use your amazing app and you are still able to make money off of your work.

I know I’m not the first one to write about this, or the first one to suggest this. But as I start to have more interest in mobile photography I can’t help but notice the apps that I can download on my iPhone aren’t available on my Android, which has the superior camera. And when I go to find why, I find similar reasons across the board: the piracy problem of Android users. It just seems that these developers are losing out on an untapped market of Android users that they could totally profit from if they only rethought their monetization strategy.