Learning Android Development as an iOS Dev: The Google Play Store

This is a follow-up to my first blog post in which I described my experiences developing an Android app after being a seasoned (slightly salty) iOS Dev. Much like the development itself was a drastic change, Google’s Play Store is a different world than the Apple App store. Here are a few things that stood out to me.

Signing up for a Developer Account

Easy peasy. No DUNS requirement. No LLC requirement. $25 one-time fee. Cake. Well… except for the requirement to post your address for the whole Play Store/Internet to see.

That was bit of bitter pill for me to swallow, but self-doxing aside, it’s a pretty straight forward process and takes maybe 5 minutes to set up.

Free or paid. Pick now and forever hold your peace.

Turns out if you setup your app up as free, that is a permanent decision on the Play Store. If your app is paid, you can change it to be free, but once it’s free that’s it. It can’t go back to being a paid app. That’s handy info to be aware of.

What’s in a name?

The App Store historically hasn’t been the best for discoverability. Over the years many developers have added keywords to their app names. This has resulted in some fairly lengthy names. The Play store has a 30 character limit for App names, so placing keywords in App names isn’t a good idea. Some would argue that it’s not a good idea on the App Store either. I’m looking at you Paper. Which one you ask? Exactly. Just another thing to be aware of if you’re going from iOS to Android.

Submitting an app

Something that I was shocked by is the 100 MB APK size limit. Mind you this used to be a 50 MB limit as recently as Sept ‘15. There is a way to get larger apps into the store by uploading a single supplementary file that can be of any type (I’d probably go with .zip). Initially my app was over this limit but not wanting to go through the exercise of figuring out how to break it up into two parts and reassembling it encouraged me to get it under the limit. Hmmm. Maybe low limits are a good thing? Once the APK file is uploaded, the app shows up in the store after about 2.5 hours. Coming from the App store, this is phenomenally good. I’ve had iOS builds stuck in the ‘Processing’ phase for longer than this.

No Promo Codes

I was really surprised by this, but apparently the Google Play store doesn’t have promo codes. So no way to make a paid app free temporarily and no free samples.

Sales info

Sales show up in a few areas on the Google Developer Console. The official sales numbers are delayed by 48 hours, but the preliminary info is pretty accurate and almost real-time. In fact, the level of detail that the Developer Console gives about these preliminary sales is far greater than what the App Store offers, and in my opinion far greater than what is needed. The App Store breaks sales down by region. US, EU, Japan etc. and this data is broken down by day. Google Play, on the other hand, gives additional info such as the postal code of the purchaser as well as the last 4 digits of the credit card used and this data is broken down by the second. There’s even unnecessary info like if a sale is canceled due to credit cards being declined.

There is such a thing as too much info

Current installs by device

These numbers are certainly different for other apps but here are the numbers that I’m seeing for Android distribution. Pretty much no one is on the latest OS 6.0, but most users are on at least 5.0 which is a little over a year old as of this writing.

Android 5.1: 52.46% , Android 5.0: 36.07%, Android 4.4: 9.84%, Android 4.3: 1.64%

Downloads: Android vs iOS

One of the reasons that I had been hesitant to enter the world of Android is that I heard for years that Android sales don’t compare to iOS sales. Without getting into specifics about the download numbers (those specifics aren’t completely mine to share). I can say that for this, a $3.99 paid-up-front health & fitness app, the first week volume of Android and iOS are about the same.

Blue is Android , the Green is iOS

Final thoughts

Just like developing for Android wasn’t what I expected, being on the Play Store hasn’t been either. There are things I prefer about it, like the ease of publishing. There are things I don’t like such as the 100 MB limit, lack of promo codes and the inability to switch free apps to paid apps. My philosophy for a long time has been “Avoid Android because paid apps have no place on the Play Store and the ecosystem is too fragmented.” I’m only a week in, but so far I don't have any evidence to support that belief. As I mentioned in my prior post, I’m an Apple guy and I will likely always choose iOS over Android, but as time goes on I’m finding little reason not to make products for both.