Appcelerator: fragmentation, monetization issues hurting interest in Android development

Developers are losing interest in creating apps for Google’s Android OS due to platform fragmentation issues and its numerous internationals monetization models, according to Appcelerator.

In its most recent developer survey, the mobile app development platform provider noticed the percentage of developers who classified themselves as “very interested” in developing for Android smartphones had declined for three straight quarters.

In June 2011, 88 percent of developers indicated they were likely to develop an Android app, but since then that number has declined to 79 percent, with interest at its lowest point since March 2010.

“If it was one quarter, it wouldn’t be a big deal,” explains Mike King, Appcelerator’s principle mobile strategist. “The consistency of the drop is what interested us. The feedback that we got was the fragmentation of the platform as you go from device to device and the inconsistency in the monetization models.”

The true scope of the Android fragmentation issue was illustrated last week when Android developer OpenSignalMaps revealed its app runs on almost 4,000 distinct Android devices represented by 599 brands, many of which have unique screen resolutions and run outdated or unique versions of the Android operating system.

As far as monetization goes, the issue also seems to be fragmentation, particularly for international developers, according to King. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which offers one official channel in the the iTunes App Store, worldwide Android developers may have to choose dozens of official and semi-official distribution channels.

“You go to Google Play, carrier app stores, maybe your own personal distribution — you may have three or four or even five different models,” he says. “Most apps probably don’t make a lot of money, but at least you know what you’re getting into if you build a compelling app [on iOS].”

King tells us the problem is particularly evident in the fast growing Chinese Android market, where developers have to pick between dozens of third-party Android app stores, some independent, some run by device manufacturers, and some by carriers. The variability in fees and revenue sharing models, the risk in choosing which stores to work with and general lack of standardization make it difficult for developers to make informed decisions, he explains.

The takeaway message for Google appears to be that even though the company has taken significant steps to improve monetization in its official app store, the lack of standardization and consistency for monetizing Android apps in markets like China could hurt the platform’s strengths in the long term.

With no official Google app store in China and Apple’s Chinese revenues tripling year-over-year at some point Google may have to choose between its ethical concerns for doing business in the country and providing a standardized App Store for developers and consumers.