DISCUSSION: Do Android devs get a fair shake?


Regular Member
Rescue Squad
Dec 23, 2009
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The evolution of Android over the years has been amazing. For those who started with the Droid here on this forum and those who started with the very first Google phone it is hard to imagine that we would be here, but we did not get here on the back of Google alone.

Android started out as an open source platform that gave developers open freedom to create. Over the years we have seen some marvelous creations to the point where garage developers were steps ahead of Google and phone manufacturers. I still remember when devs created and released a fix for the Thunderbolt bug before HTC even acknowledge it existed and once the issue was acknowledged it still took months for them to release a fix that was needed.

But, over the years these garage heroes began to fade off and to be frank I'm not surprised. The hours it took to develop programs, apps, roms, themes, and fixes were all done for free. Yeah you would have the occasional donation, but the money earned was nowhere near what they could make developing for other platforms. Even worse, the community (me included) responded harshly to developers demanding payment, despite the fact that Google and phone manufacturers would implement those same fixes in their software.

So have developers received a fair shake in all this?

I mean, as innovative as Android has been, it has also been brilliant in an exploitative kind of way. Google supplies the software and motivates potential developers to build for the thrill and then later on takes those same fixes to improve their own software, all without having to offer wages, healthcare, or anything... not even a simple acknowledgement. Even worse are the phone manufacturers who can take those fixes and then lock people out of the software and serve C&Ds to anyone who dares design an app or program that is similar to their own.

The one person who managed to monetize their work was Cyanogen. He managed to turn his work into millions, a feat deserving applause. And yet you can question, despite his ranting and ravings on Google, that he has copied Google's model step for step.

Like Google, CM is an open source software that allows developers to develop on it. There are official maintainers and garage developers alike. Despite CM at least giving credit for the work they use I doubt garage developers get paid for their work.

So, at the end of the day is it fair or is this evil capitalism at its best?

In my opinion yes it is fair. The reason being is that to completely build a software from the ground up costs money. And yet people have the opportunity to build on top of software that has already been developed. Google (and CM for that matter) provides the base, tools, and shares their know-how for free to help developers develop. The benefit of that is having multiple ideas building and designing which further sparks future innovations.

Is it fair that only Google can monetize on this program?

Well, others can monetize as well. Just look at the companies that have built on top of Android for a profit. And like Google, there are developers who build on top of CM (which is a build of Android) and have earned some pocket change. Plus, developers have the ability to put their work on the Play store and further profit (especially if they are able to use what they learned to develop for Apple apps).

As much as I, at times, feel like our favorite developers should have been paid more for their work and wish Google would allow a place for more root related software, Google realizes the best way to make their Play store more appealing to big name developers and potential phone customers is a stronger market. And to get a stronger market they had to clean house to make it appealing to the big names. In the end Google has become stronger because of it and Android is a better software experience overall.
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Apr 21, 2010
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That is part of the pros and cons of an open system, in my opinion. If a developer pours his heart and soul into a project and releases it out into the wild, that is their decision. No corporation or investor board demanded it.

I never had a problem with devs asking for donations or payment, it is their choice to do so (and the "consumers" choice to either pay or not).


SteelDroid ROM / Cortex ROM Developer
May 12, 2010
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Central Ohio
Current Phone Model
Nexus 6P, VZW Note Edge, D1
I started out releasing my work publically, and got quite a few donations. I cant count how much I made, but it wasnt much. But that was back in the day when there werent so many phones available. It was pretty easy to pick your target audience, and release stuff to them, with a higher potential to receive donations. Now its like a needle in the worlds biggest haystack, to find that target audience that will donate for your work. I havent received ANY donations in 2.5 years. My last donation (that I remember) was when I made my last ROM for the Droid 3. I joined a team (a couple actually), and had a falling out with one, which caused me to just quit the others also. I still maintain my Droid 1 ROM, without donations. Even started my own website, and forum, which I pay for out of pocket (again, no help from donations, as there arent any). I get 70 to 80 gigs a month download bandwidth, just for my top 5 hosted files, but again, all for free. This is partly why I dont release anything to the public anymore (aside from the D1 ROM I maintain). I dont have to be on time, make changelogs, do screenshots, overly thorough bug testing, or add feature requests. Everything I do is for myself, any just the way I want it. If I still made money from my work, that might be a different story, but it seems that for me, and many other devs, those days are over.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Apr 21, 2010
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Cleveland, Ohio - The North Coast!
Current Phone Model
Note 3, straight stock
A sad but true fact: the developers of Android devices never got their just due of donations. Five years ago, I had a developer friend on XDA who commented that a 10 year old kid with a paper route made more money than he did on donations - and that just isn't right. (shaking my head)

Sent from my Note 3, using magic and TapaTalk version 2.4.15 ...


Silver Member
Sep 5, 2011
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The path to revenue in the Android market is App-side for the most part. As an example: UCCW. An amazing, free custom widget that allowed functionality far beyond simple clocks, continually updated at no cost and in a timely manner by the original developer. People who created their own widgets from it, however, could save them as a stand-alone APK and sell them on Play, making revenue off of another party's labor with relatively little investment themselves. This has happened with other apps, with tweaks bootlegged off of what others have done and turned into apps, etc.

Development really does have to be done for the love of what it brings the dev and the software's users, all the more so because XDA, Rootz, etc, do not as of the last time I checked allow direct marketing of developed software through their sites, only donations. The largest audience that helps to refine what is brought there and who would initially be most likely to benefit from the work will always have free access aside from any donations that they choose to make. App-side is where the dollars flow.
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