For Android to thrive, Google must do more

For months, I have been toying around with the Android SDK.  There are a number of reasons that I have decided to being creating Android applications that range from the potential money I could make to the fact that it is an open source OS and I don’t have the money or time to invest in a Mac and learning Obj-C just so I can make iPhone apps.  Along the way, I have come to realize just why android isn’t an iPhone killer or at least not at this stage in the game and that reason is Google.

I will admit that for the most part, I am a big Google fan (not a fanboy), I believe that they aren’t doing what they could be to really help their products, specifically, Android.  As I am sure you are aware by this point, Android is Google’s mobile operating system.  While it certainly has its its drawbacks, I am sticking to my belief that in the end, it will wipe the floor with the iPhone OS primarily because it is open and designed to work on many different phones.  There are supposed to be at least 20 android phones available by the end of this year alone (the main reason I think it will eventually beat the iPhone).  Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to achieving this goal is android’s creators, Google.

There are a couple of big obstacles that Google is creating that aren’t making things better for them.  The main obstacle is applications.  There are some amazing applications for android that are far and above many iPhone applications but there is a big problem, there aren’t very many of them.  Last I heard, the iPhone had over 50,000 apps and growing rapidly.  How many apps does Android have?  The last I heard was around 5000.  Unfortunately, I believe that is Google’s fault.  Why is that Google’s fault?  One word: documentation.

In my months of playing with the Android SDK, I have discovered the documentation in many places are terrible!  In many places, there are examples using code that has long since been removed from the SDK, other lines of code that just don’t work and even some that are not necessary.  This is especially true if you want to do anything with multimedia.  Want to record audio?  You are in for many hours of headaches if you are going by the examples in the android dev guide (trust me on this).  The bottom line is that if Google expects to have more applications and be a real competitor for the iPhone, it needs to do all it can for developers and that includes keeping documentation up to date.

The one other big issues I have is with advertising.  It wasn’t until recently that Google finally announced the ability to put ads in mobile applications and even that is reserved for a select few that meet the various requirements including 100,000 impressions.  Having such a small group of people able to take advantage of it is bad, especially for those that want ad supported applications so they can give away their applications.  Free applications attract far more customers than paid ones, but developers still need to make money for their time and effort.  Without advertising, this won’t happen like it should.  Considering the fact that Google is in the ad business, you would think that they would have had this out and ready to go the second android launched.  Clearly, Google lacks focus and dedication to Android.

If Google became truly focused and dedicated to Android, I think that within a year, it could be ahead of the iPhone, but until that happens, the only advantage they have is the ability to put their OS on many phones.  Wake up Google!