Android designed for piracy from the ground up, says iOS developer

Closed vs. open has turned into a huge debate in recent years. With Apple’s highly-controlled, sandboxed approach to apps on iOS, it is next to impossible to pirate apps unless you jailbreak your device. And while jailbreaking is not illegal, Apple has never made it easy for users to do so — untethered jailbreak solutions are usually patched shortly after release.

On the other hand, Android is open by default: you can sideload apps, either by downloading them directly from the browser, or by transferring them to local storage and installing the .APK file. But let’s be very clear here: once jailbroken, the process of “sideloading” apps onto an iOS device is practically identical to that of Android. Those who want to circumvent an operating system’s built-in safeguards will do so regardless of the length of time it takes or the complications along the way. Piracy is a rampant problem on iOS whether developers want to admit it or not.

Android is inherently more open — one has direct access to the file system, whereas iOS prohibits it — but that does not mean that users are inherently more likely to pirate. Sure, if there are two rooms, each full of gold, and one door is left ajar while the other is not, it would be a lot more tempting to steal from the easier of the two. That certainly does not mean that everyone would steal.

Google has implemented many, often infuriating licensing options for developers to ensure that people pay for their software. That it is easy to remove such a license verification and repackage the .APK is certainly something Google needs to be more accountable for (and with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, they’ve done just that), but that is not the problem here. Developers and users alike bemoan the fact that it more difficult to make money on Android despite its gargantuan user base. Some of this may be attributable to poor marketing, or a lower number of users with credit cards, but I think the responsibility mainly falls on developers. The quality of paid apps in the Play Store is just not as high as that of iOS. As someone who has spent hundreds of dollars over the years across multiple app stores, it is clear that there is more care taken to ensure a quality experience on iOS than on Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry. Chalk it up to inferior SDKs, more cumbersome programming languages, less support and documentation, or just sheer lack of effort, but there are just not as many apps worth paying for on Android than iOS.

This does not directly contribute to piracy, but there is a miasma associated with Google’s app ecosystem that does not exist on iOS. People don’t respect it; they don’t want to invest in it. They expect things to be free, and are therefore hesitant to pay for goods and services. Somehow Apple has convinced millions of people, and developers to the tune of $5.5 billion over four years, that it is worth the time and capital to become an iOS developer. Despite an overwhelming sense of optimism this year at Google I/O, I was not able to find a single Android-only development studio that can afford to make it a full-time job. Such a studio exists — look at DoubleTwist for an example — but they are not common.

Piracy is not endemic because it is easy; it is so because people don’t believe the items for sale are valuable. When music sales bottomed, it was because the digitization of music ostensibly removed what tangible value it once had. Digital has done that, over and over, across multiple industries. A closed ecosystem certainly makes it more difficult to pirate, but you have to believe in the value of things first and foremost. More than any other company, Apple has convinced us of that.

It’s no wonder that the most popular paid apps on Google Play are by established development houses. A great example of a fantastic app available only for Android, and something that leverages one of the operating system’s key advantages over iOS, is SwiftKey. With over 1,000,000 copies sold, there is no question that the app addresses a virulent need; the majority of stock keyboards suck. But more than that, SwiftKey has convinced over a million people not to pirate, however easy that process might be. Why do you think that is? Because the convenience of Play Store-accessible updates, access to unreleased beta versions and, more than anything, a critical mass of established supporters. In other words: value.

Source: Matt Gemmell
Via: IntoMobile

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