Ina Fried

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Android Market Changes Aimed to Help Users Cut Through Clutter, Developers Make Money

Google said on Wednesday it is making a series of changes to its Android Market in an effort to help developers keep their apps from getting lost and also make more money off those apps that are downloaded.

“Android Market is a marketplace,” Google’s Eric Chu said during a technical session now taking place at Google’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco. “It is important we do everything we can to help you.”

On the monetization front, Google announced it is expanding the number of countries where Android customers can buy apps via the Market to 131, up from 32.

Also, on Tuesday, Google announced it was giving developers one-click access to set up an advertising campaign using the company’s AdMob mobile ad service. Google is also increasing the amount of sales data and statistics it gives to developers.

The biggest change came earlier this year when the company added in-app payments to Android Market, following the lead of Apple.

At this point, Chu said, nine of the ten top-grossing apps are among the few apps that have in-app billing options and 14 percent of average daily revenue is from those apps that offer in-app purchases.

As for clearing through the clutter, Google is launching new ways that apps can be merchandised in their market. Beyond the “just in” section, the company is adding several other featured categories.

The company is adding an “editor’s choice” section, as well as a category from apps from top developers and the ability for Android Market visitors to get personal recommendations based on the apps that a user has installed or viewed.

In addition, the company is adding Top New Free and Top New Paid apps to highlight apps launched within the past 30 days that have been doing well. Google is adding a new “trending” section that showcases apps that are getting a lot of downloads in a short period of time. These lists will also be regionalized in many top countries around the world, Chu said.

Google officials said the company will keep a close eye on the quality of apps on the trending list and other new categories to make sure that it isn’t filled with apps that have found a way to game the system.

The new categories are live on the Web-based Android Market and coming soon to the Market app that runs on Android devices, Chu said.

Google is under pressure to improve the Android market as competitors from Amazon to GetJar are trying to supplant the company by touting their storefronts as easier to sort through, among other things. Speaking to reporters, Google’s Chris Yerga said that his Android Market team is working to build the best app store it can, but said that the competition is ultimately going to be good for consumers since it will force Google and others to “up their game.”

Another Android Market change is aimed at making it easier for developers that want to support a particular set of Android devices. Starting today, on the Android Market Website, developers can upload an application and see how many–and which–devices their app should run on.

Starting in June, developers will also be able to create multiple versions of their apps for different devices and have them in a single listing in the marketplace with the proper version being delivered automatically.

The market for apps is clearly growing, at least in terms of number of downloads, Chu said. In 2010, the number of apps downloaded was eight times what had been downloaded in 2008 and 2009 combined.

The growth has continued this year, Chu said, noting that 2011 downloads by the end of March exceeded the first three quarters of 2010 and, as of yesterday, there have been more Android apps downloaded so far this year than in all of 2010.

International markets are also rapidly growing with six in ten Android activations now being for devices sold outside the U.S.

The bulk of devices are running on either Android 2.1 or 2.2, despite the fact that Google has released two versions of Android since then.

But, while there are still a lot of users on older versions of Android, Chu noted that Honeycomb and Gingerbread device owners are downloading apps at a far faster rate than those running older versions of the operating system. Chu also shared details on which application categories are doing better in an effort to help developers target their efforts.

Chu noted that developers of popular games like Gun Bros and Angry Birds Rio have targeted certain versions of Android that run on more than 90 percent of devices and can still achieve good performance.

In an interview, Chu noted that the company still has more work ahead of it on making it easier for people to find the apps they want.

“I would be surprised if any company running an app store would say ‘we are done with discoverability,’” Chu said.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald