(The following is a guest post by Dave D from thisgreenmachine.com, the full post can be found by clicking _here_.)
The Year of Android
2010 has been a spectacular year for Android. October 22nd will mark the two-year anniversary of the T-Mobile G1 launch, and in this short period Android has grown from what felt like a half-baked software project into a highly competitive, robust, smart phone operating system. The numbers are staggering – almost exactly a year ago, the Android Market had just surpassed the 10,000 app milestone. Today, a rumored 100,000 apps are yours for the download. Earlier this year, Google announced during their first quarter results that over 60,000 Android phones were being activated daily. By second quarter that number had grown to a mind melting 160,000, and as of the beginning of this month, Eric Schmidt confirmed that Android had officially reached over 200,000 daily activations.
As with all good things, too much too fast comes with a price. Recent headlines have shown the growing pains associated with Android’s meteoric rise. New reports of viruses and malware seem to be common place. At a time when user security and privacy are a heightened issue, Android finds itself tangled in a constant fire drill of easing consumer anxiety. With plenty already on the Android team’s plate, a new issue finds itself at the forefront: piracy. Android Police recently released an eye-opening exclusive report describing a method of circumventing Android’s License Verification Library (LVL). The report includes a video, which demonstrates how, with a little elbow grease, one could effectively get paid applications for free. Although Google was quick to respond, the point has been made. Potential piracy is a real issue.
Arrghh me matey!
Ok, I admit it. I’ve previously engaged in piracy. But honestly, who hasn’t? Anyone attending college during the peer-2-peer (Limewire, Kazaa, Napster) hay day is most likely in the same circle. Drunkenly downloading Toto’s “Africa” during a Tuesday night Discovery Channel safari special with friends is not something I regret. So why did I engage in such morally despicable actions? Because it was really, really easy. If a thirty-something mother of four can figure it out, how hard could it be? Here’s where I begin to take issue with the Android piracy fear-mongering.
First, piracy happens. It’s a right of passage for all software developers. Anything worth stealing will eventually be stolen by those who want it bad enough. Congrats, your application is actually good! No, this does not mean we should give up on all safeguards and hide in our respective corners. It is an uphill battle, but the battle should, and will be fought. That being said, it’s the opinion of this writer that piracy of Android apps will not turn into as widespread an issue as others may believe. Why? Because it’s not really that easy. Downloading Napster and searching for “Toto Africa” is a far different experience from installing and learning to use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) for the purpose of sideloading applications. Anyone who has ever perused the “How to root” section of any Android forum will know the pain of which I speak. The average consumer is not likely to spend the time and effort to save $0.99. Lastly, there’s a larger, much better anti-piracy system already in place. It’s called “Almost 60% of all Android apps in the market are free”. Mix that with “You can return any paid app for a full refund within 24 hours,” and piracy almost seems like a hassle.
Cash Money Crew
Developers need not worry. Piracy will not destroy your returns. As Aaron La (Author of the famed Advanced Task Manager) recently pointed out, you can make almost as much money from free apps with AdMob ads as you can from the pay version. The game is constantly changing, and so too must developers. As the community continues to point out flaws in the system, Android will surely keep increasing security to make sure piracy does not become “easy”. If cries of piracy are not heard, fixes would never be made. Thankfully, Android has been a huge success with a market full of great content to warrant such cries. If you build it, they will come.
Sources: Guardian, Android Police, Android Developers Blog, CNN, Aaron La Blog.