Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Relativia and ADC II

Some developers are asking on the Android Developers Google Group for others to check if the apps they submitted to the ADC II are showing up. It does seem a little strange that devs didn't receive any indication that are apps are properly loaded for the ADC II judging app. Ah well.

I at least know that mine is being judged. I saw someone reference it and say something nice. So that's a good sign. Though it doesn't look like Google is going to give an indication of what the ratings are until Phase I of judging is complete.

So far the consensus seems to be that the game submissions are pretty good, while many of the applications are not all that great, lacking a lot of polish. So far I've judged about 10 apps (and only 1 game out of the ten). The game was probably the best app of the bunch. Some of the apps have interesting ideas, but almost none of them work as advertised.

Anyway, I'll post here as soon as I hear anything about the outcome of the first round.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ADC2 Judging Begins

Google just announced on the official Android Developers Blog that the judging app for the Android Developer Challenge 2 is now available on the market. So judging has begun.

I'm not sure if it's kosher for entrants to judge, so I'm not going to download the app until I hear otherwise. A couple of things sound pretty interesting...

For one, it sounds like users can browse the various apps. I thought the way it was supposed to work was that random apps would be uploaded to their phones. Still not sure how this works, but I'm sure I'll find out soon.

And I believe this is new information:

During the second round, judging will occur through a combination of user voting and input from a panel of industry experts. User voting will continue to occur via Android Developer Challenge 2 and will account for 40% of the final score that each app receives in round two. The remaining 60% of the final score will be determined by the industry expert panel.

I thought the way it was supposed to work was that users determined who went on to the second round, but then their votes didn't count in the second round. Good to hear that they will have some influence in the final outcome.

And it also sounds like there's no set timeframe on judging. They say that judging will continue until "they have enough votes"...although that's left open ended. They say judging will last "at least" 2 weeks, though they don't put a cap on how long it might last.

If you're judging and you come across our app Relativia, give us an up-vote, please!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some Summary Stastics After 6 Months Developing Android

I've posted sales stats here before, but not many numbers in terms of downloads, active installs, and ratings.

Here are some summary stats, in case anyone's interested:

Total published apps: 25
Free: 9
Paid: 16

Total downloads: 112,505
Total active installs: 42,797

Total free downloads: 104,001
Total free active installs: 41,939

Total paid downloads: 1,986
Total paid active installs: 856

Average user rating for all apps: 3.37
Average user rating for free apps: 3.17
Average user rating for paid apps: 3.44

My app ratings follow a normal distribution:

Those aren't bad numbers, I figure, for 6 months on the platform. I don't have much to compare it to.

Of course, the bottom line is the bottom line. That's still not looking all that great. But hopefully things will pick up in the next few months, especially in the overseas markets.

Fun With Tabs in Android

So I'm attempting to implement my first multiplayer game, and I'm working off an example multiplayer chatroom as the basis. The idea is that the user logs into a lobby chatroom, finds someone to play, then either creates a new game or joins an existing game.

The sample app I'm working from uses tabs for navigation, which I haven't used in an app before, but it seems like a nice approach to the UI.

There's just one hitch...I'm having an unholy bitch of a time customizing the tabs, even in seemingly trivial ways.

What's wrong with the default tab parameters? Well, here's a look at the app with the default tabs:

One thing you might notice off the bat is that the tabs are monstrously huge. You could say "Well, they designed them that way for people with fat thumbs." Yes, but default button sizes are nowhere near that big, and they are easily customizable. Not so with tabs. There's just no reason why they need to be that humongous, taking up a quarter of precious screen space. Perhaps if I were designing apps for a race of sasquatches, this might make sense. But I'm not. Okay, some of the users might be sasquatch-like, but I digress.

It took a while, but I figured out how to resize the tabs to non-monstrous dimensions using the following line for each tab:

tabHost.getTabWidget().getChildAt(index).getLayoutParams().height = 40;

Hey, the size looks pretty good now. I load this onto my actual phone and I can very easily navigate between tabs. 40px is plenty tall for a tab. But wait...the background colors are messed up. That should be easy to fix, right? Guess again, dude. If you change the background color programmatically, it overrides the selected and unselected states, so all the tabs are the same color all the time, whether or not they're selected. You can define a custom set of images for selected, unselected, and focused states, but that's a pain in the ass. Why can't I just adjust the background of the unselected state programmatically? Or maybe I can, but I damn sure can't find out how to do that anywhere. Sounds like if I want to change one thing, I have to define a whole set of custom images, which is dumb.

In lieu of that, I thought "Well, the gray stripe on the tabs actually doesn't look half bad, if it weren't offset from the text. It shouldn't be that hard to reorient the text on a tab." Wrong again, dude. You want to align the text on a tab centered vertically? Or aligned at the top of the tab? As far as I can tell, there's no simple way to do this. Why not?

Oh Android...most of the time designing a UI is elegant and easy. In retrospect you make me glad I never worked with tabs before. And now that I am, you're making me want to claw my eyes out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Android 1.6 SDK Released

They just released version 1.6 of the Android SDK. It's nice to see continued development and improvement in both the OS and its development tools.

Looks like they revamped the emulator as well:

Cool, huh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Yay for New Market Categories!

So last week, Google added four new categories to the Android Market:

  • Themes
  • Comics
  • Sports
  • Health

This is cool, because it makes finding certain types of apps easier, not only by putting them in their own category, but by getting them out of overcrowded categories in which they don't belong.

I moved my two nursing/paramedic calculators to Health, and I'm seeing a slight uptick in sales, which is nice. I hope they keep up the improvements...they are sorely needed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Selling in Other Countries Without the Android Market

Since I've started developing Android apps, I've been approached by a number of different companies in countries that currently do not allow paid applications via the Android Market, including China, Japan, and India.

I'm not sure if the time investment in dealing with these resellers is actually worth it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it is time consuming working out agreements, producing custom graphics for their market interfaces, and so on. I also signed up with Handango, and even though there are reports that Android games are doing well through Handango, my performance there so far has not made it worth the effort.

One school of thought is to simply wait until Google expands the Android Market to support paid applications to those countries that currently don't have them. Another is to try to get paid apps in front of people through alternative distribution channels as quickly as possible. One worry is that Android is going to be fractured, without the standardized hardware or distribution channel like the iPhone.

Apparently some people are doing well, at least through Handango, but I haven't heard of any alternative markets in other countries that are doing well. Perhaps it's too early. Japan, India, and China are just such huge potential markets, it seemed like a no-brainer to try to get in those markets early...but who knows?

If anyone else has had any experiences with Android app resellers outside of the US, good or bad, feel free to share.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Revenue for August and Golf Solitaire Update

Revenue for August went up a tiny bit over the previous month. At least it didn't go down. And my most consistent seller these days is still Golf Solitaire. I think it makes sense to focus on apps that are somewhat familiar, but still original enough not to compete directly with others (e.g. my Spades app).

Because one of the consistent requests for Golf Solitaire was a high score feature, I added a leaderboard for the front 9, back 9, and all 18 holes:

I'm still getting some people complaining about force closes, which I suspect may have to do with the SQLite database, but which I haven't been able to replicate. I wish I could directly ask users when the app crashed so that I'd have some idea how to fix it.

As for other functionality, at some point I plan to add in a mulligan (or undo) feature...at least 1 per hole.

I'm investigating multiplayer games, but it looks like it may just be far too complicated for me to mess with. I think it would be a nice way to edge out the competition for card games, though, so I'll keep looking into it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Long, Skinny Tail

A developer over at Larva Labs has written about the lack of profits from the Android Market, despite having to well-rated, high-ranking games.

Their app RetroDefense peaked at #1 (though I'm not sure whether this is within Games overall or their particular subcategory of games) and has a 5-star rating. Their game Battle for Mars is #5 with a 4.5-star rating. And they report an average daily income of $62.39 for the month of August.

This seems bad, but is it? There are no Cinderella stories for Android yet, like those of devs earning hundreds of thousands of dollars off a single app in the iPhone App Store.

There's no doubt that the very top echelon of games in the iPhone App Store are big cash cows. But it also seems clear that the earning of apps follows a function where very few apps make a ton of money while most apps make very little. Where is that cutoff? How steeply does it drop?

Here's another case to consider, from an iPhone app developer with 4 apps in the top 100 in each of their respective categories, with the highest-ranked app bringing in $20/day. He argues that his case demonstrates the long, skinny tail of apps that generate a small amount of revenue, while a very small number who sit in the top 10 or so generate enormous amounts of money.

I think the shape of the curve is probably very similar for the Android market, although I think because the number of users is much smaller relative to the iPhone app market, the whole curve is shifted down. I think the earnings for the top apps will continue to rise as new Android phones come out, and I think before long we'll have our own iShoot and Trism stories. A few will make it rich. Most won't. And there will be a small middle-class that earns moderate returns.

I would like to have a hit, especially when the market starts to peak. Let's hope it hasn't already.

I'm Being Pirated

I suppose this is karma of sorts, but I just found out that my paid version of Spades is showing up in a bundle of games on one of the popular torrent sites. I suppose on the one hand I should be somewhat flattered that my game is considered decent enough to pirate. On the other it kind of sucks.

I'm not going to rehash the old piracy debate. I've heard both sides and I'm not sure whether I'm convinced that it really does hurt legitimate sales. My Spades sales are virtually zero these days, but I attributed that to competition from a rival Spades app on the market. It would be interesting to know if piracy is negatively affecting my sales, but I'm not sure there's a viable way to quantify the effect.