Speaking of Instapaper and Android apps, developer Ryan Bateman has written a fascinating postmortem on Papermill, a well-designed Instapaper client for Android. He covers everything from the development to its financial results:

I think this unhappy end-scenario — of applications that either compromise on quality or have not had the necessary time invested in their design — is as a result of Android users not being willing to pay for an app whose focus is quality and whose price reflects this. Instead, these users opt for a free but less refined experience. This has led to a race to the bottom, with independent developers creating applications are de-facto free instead and relying on ads for profit. The quality of the design and user-experience are subsequently not a factor in their creation, as there is both no great impetus to provide it nor any expectation from the user that it will be forthcoming.

I must gently disagree with the following parenthetical, however:

While “cheaper smartphones” is an entirely valid core market to target (and one that is actually Android’s strength — while device manufacturers will always be creating mid-range Android handsets and can edge into the high-end market, Apple is highly unlikely to create anything but a high-end smartphone), the resulting user expectations, and subsequent race to-the-bottom app development, is reflected in the current general quality of Android apps.

Apple may never release a new non-high-end phone, but they do have mid-range and low-end smartphone models: the iPhone 4 and 3GS. The brilliance of Apple’s move-last-year’s-model-one-slot-down-the-totem-pole pattern is that even their low-end model is a former high-end model, just two years removed. Apple gets to hit lower retail price points while avoiding additional fragmentation for developers. And a consumer who buys a new free-with-contract iPhone 3GS today gets a phone that is of significantly higher build quality than the free-with-contract Android phones I’ve seen.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012