Is Google losing the plot?
I have something I need to get off my chest.
I’m finding that I’m not liking Google as much as I used to.
I recently realised that I’d started to feel this way around the time that I decided to become an Android developer, and it’s only been getting worse since then.
Becoming an App developer
I was one of the “early” Android adopters here in a Australia, picking up a HTC Desire a little over a year ago.
After I’d gotten over my initial addiction to Robo Defence, I decided it was time to investigate app development for Android, which brought me to my first frustration. Google didn’t support paid apps outside the US and a few select countries at the time.
Googling this revealed rumours that other countries would be added to the paid app list, but Google’s only response was something along the lines of “we’re working hard at adding more countries to the list”. A quick browse of the Android support forums revealed that they’d been hard at work for over 18 months with no apparent progress.
As there was no hint of a change in the near future, I gave up thoughts of app development until October, when Google surprised Australians (and others), informing us that we would finally be able to sell paid apps. I signed up that same day, paid my US$25 and discovered my second frustration: Australians couldn’t enter bank account details for the paid apps they were trying to sell, so they couldn’t be paid.
It took Google a month to fix that little problem and complete the “launch” of paid app development in Australia.
Solar Explorer and the mystery of the install counter
By December 2010 I had began serious work on my first app, Solar Explorer which eventually took five months to complete (working on it part time). In late May my baby was delivered into the market as a $2 app, followed a short time later by an Admob supported free version.
Less than two weeks after I’d released the free version, I noticed something strange: the install counter on the developer dashboard stopped climbing, while the download counter continued to rise.
Surely 100% of users that were downloading the app weren’t uninstalling it, were they?
No, they weren’t uninstalling it. The dashboard’s install counter had become “stuck”.
I searched for a way to report it to Google, but I couldn’t find any contact details. Eventually, I ended up at the developer support forum again, where a lot of other people were complaining about the same thing. Reading through the comments, other developers were apparently under the impression that the forum was the main contact point for Google, and that Google market representatives would see the problems and sort it out.
Except they didn’t.
For two weeks.
Eventually someone at Google must have noticed it because the problem was finally added the known issue list, and a few days later the counter slowly started to creep higher as a database was apparently being rolled forwards, replaying the missing install updates. After several days of this the data caught up and Google removed the issue from the list.
A week later, the same thing happened again: the counter got stuck, loads of complaints, no sign of a Google rep and finally, the counter starts moving up after days of waiting.
Round three happened in early July though this time it played out a little differently. Google eventually noticed the problem as before, the issue was added to the list and then the counter started to rise, which is where it deviated from the plan. For some reason, several days before the data had caught up, Google decided the problem was fixed, removed it from the known issue list and walked off, leaving the counter stuck.
A job well done.
Since then the counter has finally caught up again, but I didn’t notice when it did it. I stopped paying attention once I’d implemented Flurry into my free app.
For nearly half of the eight weeks I’ve had an app on the market, I have had no idea how many people that were downloading the app were keeping it. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad if Google had at least kept their developers informed about what was going on, but based on what I saw, Google honestly had no idea that there was anything wrong.
The worst part is that the only communication channel developers are provided, for our 30% fee, is about as useful as shouting into a wet paper bag.
Wake up Google.
You aren’t providing a free service, we’re paying you, so it’s about time you did something to earn that money.