ATandT To Charge App Developers, Android Lacks Programmers

In an attempt to ease customer fears about data overage charges, AT&T announced that it plans to launch a new service in 2013 that will charge content providers and app developers for customer data use.

AT&T’s innovative plan was announced in Barcelona, Spain, during the Mobile World Congress and reported by the Wall Street Journal.  The service would essentially add a reminder to let customers know that by using the app they are about to download, no data usage would be incurred.  John Donovan, AT&T’s network and technology chief, described the service further, saying, “A feature that we’re hoping to have out sometime next year is the equivalent of 800 numbers that would say, if you take this app, this app will come without any network usage.” 

The reasons behind the plan benefit multiple parties.  Since major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless have done away with unlimited data plans, customers often have to worry about racking up expensive overage charges if they exceed their plans’ limits.  By moving the burden of data usage over to developers and content providers, mobile customers can more fully enjoy their devices with some added peace of mind.  In addition, the carriers can benefit greatly from the new revenue streams generated from developers and content providers. 

According to Donovan, AT&T’s plan has already generated interest from video providers and other companies, as they see potential rewards streaming from the increased data downloads that would follow once the service is put into place.  “What they’re saying is, why don’t we go create new revenue streams that don’t exist today and find a way to split them,” Donovan told the Wall Street Journal.

While the plan is being looked at as a positive on the provider front, some app developers will likely resist the change.  Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics, believes the change will increase app developer flexibility, however.  For instance, customers can download an app’s free version or opt for a $2.99 premium version that will not use up their data.  “Somebody always has to pay the piper,” he added.

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{mospagebreak title=Android Seeking App Developers}

App Developers: Android Still Lacking

Google’s Android platform has seen significant success in the mobile market, as it has become the most widely used operating system around.  While consumers have obviously fallen for the Android craze, many app developers feel that it’s lacking in several ways and hope that Google will listen to their concerns to help simplify the app development process.

Many firms have released statistics recently that show Android’s meteoric rise to the top of the mobile arena.  For example, ad network Chitika reported that Android earned a 51.6 market share in December 2011 according to its ad impressions.  Apple’s popular iOS platform came in second with 46.5 percent.  As Android’s market share increases, however, it seems as if it’s failing when it comes to appeasing app developers for a number of reasons. 

Android’s most problematic characteristic, according to ShowNearby founder Douglas Gan, is fragmentation.  Simply put, there are too many variables across the platform for developers to keep up with.  “[Android] seems to have the biggest range of devices with different computer processing units, camera qualities, screen sizes and screen resolutions,” Gan told ZDNet Asia.  Apps Foundry CEO Wilson Cuaca agreed: “The number of screen sizes should be limited. It’s hard to develop and design for an operating system with over 16 different screen sizes. There also needs to be better support from OEM device makers to upgrade to operating system.”

Although fragmentation is an obvious obstacle for app developers to overcome, Android’s rapid release cycle is another thing that stands in their way.  For instance, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) debuted last October.  The next major release, Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean), is currently in development and could become available in the second quarter of 2012, giving developers little time to catch up.  Smoove CEO Steve Wah further explained the problem: “It takes time for developers to customize and update their applications for each device in the market. We have to also take into account the time needed for the manufacturer to customize its own user interface on the operating system, so we still need to focus on older versions as well because the apps are not always backward compatible.”

It’s safe to say that most app developers seek a return on their investment of time and resources, so Android’s lacking payment systems are another cause for concern.  Cuaca cited the lack of support in many countries for paid apps as a major issue.  While Android apps can be purchased in over 130 countries, some massive markets such as China are still not supported, leaving a major gap in potential revenue.  Gan described his problems with app monetization, stating: “We were contemplating a model to charge users for additional content and this could have result in [increased] revenue share, but the lack of market support for local currency, local payments, etc, made it hard for us to move to that model.”

All of the aforementioned issues must be addressed by Google if they hope to not only dominate the mobile OS market, but also the ever-growing app market.  Only time will tell if the search giant decides to listen to developer concerns, but it’s likely that they will in order to capitalize on such a booming industry.

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