Friday, July 22, 2011

Android Marketplace Allows Different APK for Different Phones and OS Versions

Google has created a plan that will allow developers to have multiple APK in the Android Marketplace.  In other words, a solution that they think will deal with the dozens of mobile devices and the fragmentation issue.

According to Google, developers "can now upload multiple versions of an APK for a single product listing, with each one addressing a different subset of your customers".

Earlier, I had said that the fragmentation issue is just as much Google's fault as it is the developers.  I used Netflix as an example. Netflix is essentially making it easier to fragment the platform by artificially limit which devices can install it app.  Device makers and users will be forced to pick and choose what to support.  At the end of the day, users will become confused what which device can or cannot use an app in the future.

Google seems to think offering multiple versions of an app will solve this issue.

However, I'm not sure this will make things any easier for users.  In fact, this could make things worse over time for us.  In the same post, Google said "Multiple APK support gives you a variety of ways to control app distribution. For example, you could use it to create separate APKs for phones and tablets under the same product listing. You could also use it to take advantage of new APIs or new hardware capabilities without impacting your existing customer base".  

What that sounds like to me is that it allows developers to leave some users behind while continuing to update their apps for users with better and newer devices.  

If that isn't bad enough for users, it can open the door for device makers to further drag their feet on Android updates and instead try to get users to buy new phones.  And if users do update their phones, it is not yet assumed that the app they purchased for their old phones will automatically be given an update.  Developers can choose to make users pay for the app all over again.  

What's worse is that certain carriers can pay developers for versions of their apps specific to their devices.  Just imagine Samsung paying Rovio extra for special Angry Birds levels available exclusively to the Galaxy.  And then when you switch to a Droid or HTC phone, that app lo longer works and you'd be forced to buy a new Angry Birds app.

Is this likely to happen?  There are multiple Android app stores outside of Google's official Marketplace and exclusives have been offered already.  And it's no accident that Amazon has its own Android store that it will use to support its own Android devices.  You don't think Amazon is above requesting exclusive contents that is available only for its tablets (or maybe even smartphones)?

We'll see how this plays out.  It'll be interesting to see if it works out the way Google wants.  My guess is that whoever came up with this idea is did not look at the whole of Android as one single ecosystem.  But that may not matter to Google much as long as it is able to continue selling ads.

Source:  Google Android.

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