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Google Play service fee reduced to 15% for the first $1M/year (googleblog.com)
501 points by h43k3r 31 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 334 comments



Worth remembering that as good as it is that Google is reducing it's abusive taxation on third party developers, the primary reason they're doing this is to try to quiet the majority of developers asking for stronger government regulations against this taxation without actually reducing their profit much, since the large companies which bring in the majority of revenue still have to pay full price.

Basically, they're hoping that this will stop some app developers from demanding the right to use third party payment processors, which would likely be used many of the larger >$1 million revenue publishers.

The Android Police article about this cites an example from iOS, that "On Apple's App Store, the 98% of developers who qualified for a lower revenue share rate were responsible for less than 5% of Apple's total collected revenue"


The primary reason they are doing it is because Apple did it. Same goes for every other rev share change that Apple has implemented.


That still poses the question: why did Apple do it? I believe the reasons are the ones explained by the parent comment.

Also, I don't think Google mindlessly copies anything Apple does. Sure, part of it is pure competition. But I'm sure they also evaluated the reasons behind Apple's decision.


Note that this is 4 months later. That's about as quick as things like this can be done in a big organisation like Google where the decision has to go via policy, legal, engineering, translation, etc.


I believe that Google's goal is to show regulators that Apple has market power. The easiest way to demonstrate that is to follow what they do and make it look like they are in control. The reason I believe this is that it is uncharacteristic of Google to blatantly copy something like this over the years, yet it is clear they are fast following all of Apple's decisions around the app store. I would expect Google to try and differentiate and come out with a new, competitive way to make the developer ecosystem happy.


> I believe that Google's goal is to show regulators that Apple has market power.

Unlikely, since Google and Apple monopolize in the same way. Google and Apple are close allies in this fight, and if the Epic lawsuit or an antitrust investigation goes bad for one, it'll go bad for the other.

> The reason I believe this is that it is uncharacteristic of Google to blatantly copy something like this over the years,

This is comical. Google me-toos everything. Google Home's entire product line being a blatant Amazon Echo rip off. Google Cloud needing to launch a copy of every AWS service, etc.


Actually they don't. Apple makes a consumer product and exercises control between developers and users. On the other hand, Google has power over the rest of the smartphone ecosystem via Android (practically speaking) and the installation of Google Play store. It's important that Apple move first as the "leader" and Google, representing the rest of the ecosystem "follow"


Which is odd... Users of the Play store and App store are a disjoint set. Very few users will switch from Android to iOS or back because in-app purchases are cheaper. Developers are generally forced to support both stores.

There wouldn't seem to be any strong reason for both stores to pick identical fee structures - they aren't really in competition.


Startups sometimes (initially) develop applications for only one platform. Reducing the cost for (new) developers makes platforms more appealing to target (presumably).


Speaking of swapping, I switched from android to iphone last spring since my old android phone croaked on teams and I couldn't get a new xperia fast enough.

The switch was actually relatively painless when it comes to the apps themselves, the biggest problem I have is the phone itself. Iphone has inconsistent UI/shortcuts and lots of hidden gesture based inputs that you just got to know to be able to use. I'm really tempted to switch back but the google tracking keeps me away for now.

So there are some who are in the market for both :)

The developer cut/price of apps is really low on my list of reasons to switch from one to another though so you got a good point there. I'm actually trust an app that costs 100 NOK (€10) more than a 10 NOK one since they will have less incentives to do shady things.


Users might not change phones but android users might have different behaviour to ios users in terms of how likely they are to spend. Which perhaps skews the developers towards starting on one platform or the other.

But generally yes I agree that it can't be all that big a difference.


Low end Android phones/tablets are so cheap that some serve as dedicated displays/devices. I have one that I use as a OBD2 scanner, another sits as a DRO display on a desktop mill. My actual phone is iOS.

If those facts mean I’m counted as an iOS user once and Android user twice, the iOS me spends a lot more in the Apple App Store than the two Android mes put together.


Very true, I have an old android tablet that's gotten too slow for normal use, but functions fine as a clock. Another shows my task list for household chores.


The discourse is that Play store and App store are monopolies (arguably duopolies) facing the developers, not the users.

I expect that developers for the Play store and App store are two sets with a big overlap


This is the story that Google wants you to believe by fast following Apple with pricing changes. They want to demonstrate that Apple has pricing power to regulators (just my theory). The reality is that Apple and Google are in competition, and if Google actually innovated on business model the way they do with every other aspect of their business, it would actually drive the app store fees down for Apple. Microsoft has tried to do this [1] but they don't have enough market power to move the needle.

[1] https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-store-now-gives-app...


I agree it is very odd. For other reasons too, including how Google tries to differentiate their smartphone ecosystem from Apple to try and compete. Innovating on a business model for developers would be a good differentiator.

This is why my theory for this blatant copying is for regulatory reasons. The app stores are under scrutiny right now and it is best for Android, which has very large market penetration with the Play Store, to make it look like Apple is in control of the market. Just my theory.


You know that Android is open source and you can just sideload apps, install a 3rd party app store or replace entire OS with your own ROM right? What, your app/game is not valuable enough to the user to bother with unless it's a single click install without having to enter credit card? Well...

Basically - Situation is not at all the same as with iOS - There is too much emphasis on friction-less low value installs and less on highly valuable things that users are willing to invest time and money on. Those apps would not survive without vendor-included single click app stores anyway.


Those apps would not survive without vendor-included single click app stores anyway.

I find this a little amusing because it's the exact reason why Microsoft lost their IE anti-trust case. Users were given IE by default, and because using something else required effort IE took a huge chunk of the market remarkably quickly. That was deemed to be violating their effective monopoly position on OSs to influence their position in a different market (browsers). Microsoft were made to add a screen in the Windows on-boarding process that gave users options about which browser they wanted.

Sometimes using user 'laziness' to maintain or gain market share doesn't work out so well for you.


I strongly believe that if the Microsoft anti-trust case happened today, Microsoft would easily win. The tech monopolies that we have today have a much bigger impact on society.


Absolutely! First time I loaded Google Search and saw ad under search box, where nobody else can advertise, no matter how much they offer to pay, saying “not using Chrome? Click to install now”, I thought to myself “damn they gonna get huge ant-minopoly lawsuit that will cost then billions”. And what happened?? Nothing! Other than Chrome is number one browser now for decades to come.


Microsoft's mere inclusion of a web browser (which is now a basic OS tool that is reasonably expected to come out of the box, but then was new) wasn't why they lost their case. They lost their case because they were demanding OEMs refuse to include any alternative browsers on pain of revoking their pricing agreements.


What was really the outcome of Microsoft losing the anti-trust case? Windows still comes with a preinstalled browser and I don't remember ever seeing a version of Windows without one.


They've reached a settlement equal to a slap on the wrist. They've agreed to share their API with third parties and a couple of people to verify that for a couple of years (it expired in 2007).

So basically nothing.


In legal terms they got off easy, but it did change Microsoft and computing forever. Microsoft became terrified of been seen as monopolistic and that lead to them effectively saving Apple, not buying Google or Yahoo, embracing Linux and so on. It was very much worth it.


"So basically nothing"

Umm..no.

IE could now be un-installed on Windows.

After various settlement fines in the US with several parties, the EU took it further and also leveraged its largest anti-trust penalty of that era. (~1 billion)

Microsoft were forced to share ALL their earlier private computing API's as open specs. MS word, excel formats, SMB, etc. This was amazing and resulting in several OSS libraries.


>>IE could now be un-installed on Windows.

Why is this important?


And I was never able to make it actually work. Like the whole system became much more unstable if you did uninstall IE.

That being said, I didn't know much about computers back then, so I probably messed up somewhere.


Avoiding security vulnerabilities.


Look at how Apple, and to a degree Google, are controlling/constraining mobile apps today and imagine that Microsoft had done that (x10... they were much worse in their time) 20 years earlier on the desktop. They were pretty successful in choking off the growth of Netscape (the browser) and Java pre-DOJ action and would have likely used similar strategies against web companies (which were completely dependent on and at the mercy of the desktop OS back then) before they became large enough to be a competitive threat.


Google exists, for one. Microsoft decided against early attempts to acquire Google or block their toolbar in IE because of the fear of further antitrust legislation.


You think Google would sell to Microsoft? Larry and Sergey are one the smartest founders ever. They had clear vision and mission for Google.


Microsoft was in a position to put Google entirely out of business at the time, and buy it for pennies on the dollar. Internet Explorer was THE dominant browser at the time with over 90 percent market share, and Microsoft was considering blocking the install of Google Toolbar (the vaguely malware-esque add-on Google paid Adobe to inject into Flash Player and Reader installers) and preventing Google from modifying the default search.

Google would not still exist without the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft that scared them into playing it safe.

Also, Larry and Sergey's vision was an academic search engine that wasn't tainted by the mixed motivations of advertising[1]. Since they built the world's largest ad company, it's fair to say they sold out their vision and mission and the first opportunity for a lot of money.

[1] http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html appendix A


Well, they had a clear vision about "organizing the world's information", but ads did not enter the picture until year 2000.

In 1998 they were decidedly anti-ad, but after failing to monetize differently, I guess they caved in.

However, that anti-ad approach and an attempt to avoid the results being gamed with PageRank made hordes of "us" (geeks who were being called in to help others with their "computer problems") to get everybody to switch to Google Search.

But I doubt they planned all of that, especially not to turn their company into an advertising company.


For a while copies of Windows sold in Europe let the user choose which browser would be installed by default during the setup process.

Microsoft's obligation to do this ended in 2014 and now we're back to them begging everyone to use Edge.


Microsoft didn't lose the anti-trust case.

Go check Wikipedia.


They did loose, then they appealed and settled.


Yeah, people should start treating, morally, settling just as losing a case. This doesn't apply for individuals, but companies settling for millions and millions are morally admitting defeat. Corporations can afford the drawn out court battles, so if they're not continuing them, it means that they're admitting they lost.


no, people should consider settlements on a case-by-case basis depending on the actual terms. entities settle totally unfounded suits all the time just because it's cheaper than taking them to court. just because a giant corporation could afford to doesn't mean settling isn't a rational choice.


Settlements are a win because they don't set precedent, and are often much cheaper than going to trial, and much, much cheaper than losing. There are plenty of companies that skirt the law or civil agreements hoping that, in the worst case, they can just settle if they're brought to court.


I think European court system is not based on precedents, so while someone can point at any particular ruling in another case, it shouldn't affect ruling in their own case.

IANAL though :)


Applies in the UK, though, we got our case law system from them.


> You know that Android is open source...

Technically Android is OpenSource.

De-facto - its not.

For many many years now Google is adding all non-os functionality into "support" libraries, "Google Services" - the name changes periodically - but the essence is the same: Making sure that any Android that is not "Google certified" won't be able to run Android apps - which all use these libraries - and won't have apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Photos come pre-installed..


But there is an opensource implementation of those support services (microg) which work for most apps.


Except the drivers are always closed, so you cannot run any OS that you like or have long-term support.


oh, nice.

I didn't know about it.

It is a huge undertaking, google has services from "simple" things like location, to complex things like face recognition.


I believe many of the microg services are mocked out in a way that makes apps 'work', but complex things like step counting in Google fit or face recognition will always return some bogus results.

Still, it makes 99% of apps work.


A third party app store can not automaticly apply updates to apps. The user has to explictly approve every update. This puts the play store in a privileged position of lower ongoing friction.


There was a recent Android blog post that said "we will be making changes in Android 12 (next year's Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices". https://android-developers.googleblog.com/2020/09/listening-...


I bet they only announced that because Epic sued them on these grounds soon before that.


"Android has always allowed people to get apps from multiple app stores. In fact, most Android devices ship with at least two app stores preinstalled, and consumers are able to install additional app stores. "

What is the most common preinstalled app store besides Google play?


I'm going to guess the Samsung one.


90% of future Android 12 users will only get it when their phone dies and they buy a new one.


It's actually getting better. New versions of Android are getting adopted faster: https://www.gsmarena.com/report_android_11_has_the_fastest_a...

It's not yet at iOS levels, but Google is actually getting there, I'm impressed. It's much easier to pull this off when you're a huge company making the hardware and the software and you can just boss OEMs and telecom companies around, it's much harder when you have a Microsoft Windows-like arrangement.

They're still at least 5 years from getting near iOS, but still... progress! :-)


IF one happens to own a flagship Android device from top brands, nothing changed for the devices that most people actually buy in large quantities for their pre-paid cards.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/4/20847758/google-android-up...

Google's own security reports marketing usually only focus on the devices where they can sell a nice Treble picture.


It will trickle down. Even for those top brands it was a struggle.


Nokia will gladly sell me a new device for Android 11, even though other devices from them of similar age as 7+ already got it, and they are one of the best update stories currently.

Meanwhile most shopping malls in Germany still sell pre-paid phones with Android 7 and above.


It will be ages before Android 12 is on a plurality of devices, not even a majority.


That's assuming the feature even materializes. I don't it's cynical to assume that Google might shelve a "feature" that undermines their own business at the first opportunity.


I bet they invest billions of resources to this feature.


A lot of apps can do substantial changes to functionality with just serverside changes. App developers are already used to a good chunk of users having updates disabled. Those users update every 1 or 2 years whenever they get a new phone and reinstall your app.


this opensource thing is not so straight as you have explained.

In Android these days I find lot of finance app using some proprietarytechnology like google safety net. And most app are using google play services which again is closed source.

Android is not true opensource software ...


Snaps in Ubuntu also has proprietary components.


Yes, the store. And advanced functionality is only available to paying users.


"Advanced functionality" such as the ability to take full control of when apps get updated.


And many on HN have reservations against snap for that and more.


Many, _many_ Android phones cannot work with any known custom ROM.

Where's a custom rom for my Blackberry Priv, for instance?


It is worthwhile to read the google anti-trust complaint:

https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1328941/downl...

It's clearly written, a short read and gets interesting each subsequent page.

The android stuff begins on page 19.


> You know that Android is open source and you can just sideload apps, install a 3rd party app store or replace entire OS with your own ROM right?

User installable 3rd party app stores are cannot compete with the Play Store on feature parity because 3rd party app stores cannot implement automatic upgrades, background installation of apps, or batch installs of apps like the Play Store can.

Manufacturers fight against users' abilities to root or replace their OS on the phones they sell. There are thousands of models of phones that will only ever run their OEM installed ROMs, and there are millions, if not billions, of Android devices that cannot be rooted or won't run custom ROMs, and more are produced every year.


> or replace entire OS with your own ROM right

For over 90% (rough guess) of devices this isn't true.

ARM isn't an open platform like Intel/PC.


Is your feeling on what Google's hopes speculation, or do you have some inside information?


I imagine that it's speculation but it's reasonable speculation, since maximizing profits is pretty much the sole goal of a publicly traded corporation at the end of the day.


I don't think that supports the speculation since as the GP stated, Google is actually doing the opposite of maximizing profits in this case.


The over $1 million crowd is 98% of their revenue. So in this case they're reducing revenue by about 1%... because they know if they don't, government regulations will take the other 98%.

It's still about maximizing profit, even when they appear to be reducing it.


It is exactly what you’d do if you maximise profits. The general argument against the Apple/Google tax is “think of the small businesses!” They use this argument because no politician wants to be against the small business owner.

Google and Apple understand this well. Since small businesses account for a small % of their revenue, they simply offer a better deal to those small businesses. Now Spotify/Epic Games/Candycrush people will have to argue “but think of the large businesses!” That doesn’t have the same ring to it somehow.

The majority of App/Play Store revenue is protected from government intervention, and profits are maximised. Make sense?


> Google is actually doing the opposite of maximizing profits in this case

You've chosen a difficult position to argue.


> maximizing profits is pretty much the sole goal of a publicly traded corporation

Would that extend to for-profit private companies? Employees? Sub 1m revenue app developers?


> they're hoping that this will stop some app developers from demanding the right to use third party payment processors

I thought you could do that for apps through the Play store. For example I pay for the Windy app through Paypal.


This is actually somewhere Google has generally been more accepting than Apple. While Apple has been very harsh on both the app purchase and any in-app content or services being through them, Google has been more lenient, historically, on the latter.

Google has actually changed their minds on that, and will start being Apple-level strict in September of this year: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/09/google-announces-cra...


I believe Games is the one exception - Games must use the Play Store for all in-app purchases.


I don't think that developers, as a group, have much political power, or that Google is afraid of who developers will vote for.

To the degree that Google cares about developers, it is because of:

https://tenor.com/view/microsoft-windows-steve-ballmer-devel...

It's hard to retain Android developers already when there is less money to be had vs iOS, especially after Apple cut their take.


Apple and Google have held a duopoly in the mobile app distribution market for over a decade now. It's time for the market and consumers to enjoy the benefits that real competition in this space can bring and to rid them of the years of anti-competitive stagnation they've had to suffer through for benefit of Google and Apple's shareholders.

While Google's change is nice, it doesn't address the core issue at all.


I agree, and even with a selfish motive, this is still a positive move on their part (and Apple's). Companies changing their behavior to avoid regulation is a better outcome than regulation in some cases, including this one IMO.


But can't Google avert this by paying off politicians? You know, with the legalized-bribe political contributions that are so popular?

Anyway, Google's hold on mobile ecosystems is really a menace. So much so that it's difficult to even tell apart Google Play the store, Google Play the service(s), Google Play the library(/ies), and whatever else they call by that name.


Paying off politicians has worked well for Google since the Obama era, but it's not working anymore. Reason why was Trump's election. Politicians realized that Google's services, and how they're moderated, can do a lot more to affect an election than a donation ever could.


You have a point there... but even so - Google has been censoring non-mainstream political views, and artificially promoting mainstream news media (the big networks anyway). Isn't that enough to curry favor?


Not really. Perception is everything. Democrats believe Google allowed Trump to be elected by valuing profit on platforms like YouTube rather than intervening in extremism. Republicans believe Google and it's largely liberal-leaning employees are censoring conservative voices via algorithm updates and deplatforming.

The truth is probably both are right in certain respects, and so Google finds itself now without many friends in the political sphere.


What's also not being said here is that ~99% of apps on Google Play don't make money this way either.

Due to a combination of Android user's reluctance to spend money on apps at all and the rampant piracy that Android's open model makes trivially easy, most developers only way to make money is through in-app advertising, which this change obviously makes no difference to.

Google Play is mostly a pyramid scheme. Developer's can only make money from showing ads and at the same time can only get downloads if they place ads on other people's apps. And Google just happens to own all the mobile ad companies.

This 15% cut ends up "costing" Google virtually nothing.

And as for Google "helping developers build sustainable businesses", the only times they've ever reached out to me were to offer me the opportunity to have someone help me spend thousands of dollars a month on mobile ads. Never, for example, to actually take down all the scam apps that use my app's name, icon and screenshots.


This is not true. Yes, Android users tend to pay less for apps, but useful apps that provide daily utility actually make good money as well.

If you have a brand-name app like Runtastic, Netflix, Headspace or whatever, the platform doesn't really matter. You buy the product, because you want it.

It's probably different for utility apps like a different Camera, a photo editor, small productivity apps you need only once per month.

I'm happy about this change and it will definitely affect my bottom line in the range of several thousand euro per month – and I'm an indie dev.

Edit: I just looked it up and calculated the difference. I will make roughly 17,000€ more per year through this change.


Congrats on the 17,000€ - happy to hear that this change puts that kind of money into "small" app developer's pockets.


I'll also make more because of it. I'm just saying that it won't make that much difference to the vast majority of developers.


Yeah but that comment is kind of ignoring the segment for whom it does matter...

There are tons of free crappy apps on Android, but for the ones that generate moderate value and are paid for because they are functional apps and not games or ad-ridden networking apps then this is a huge change.

The "vast majority" of developers might just not be making apps that benefit from this but its a bit misleading to say this isn't a good change or helpful. If anything it will incentivize people to perhaps look into developing more away from an ad model into a sustainable paid model (given the margins just got 100% better)


So maybe this is a very calculated financial incentive to nudge the "vast majority".


Congrats. What app is this?


It is just true. Compared to the only other major mobile app ecosystem, Android users are relatively cheap. That doesn’t mean nobody pays or that nobody who distributes an app earns money through purchases. It just means that on Android it’s a smaller group than on, say, Apple.


It's pretty straight forward. Users buying phones that cost $250 on average [1] will also spend less money on apps that users buying phones that cost on average closer to $700.

That being said, worldwide Apple only has 20% of the market now so while the average user is cheaper, there are quite a bit more users. That's probably why ad-based monetization also works a lot better on Android (more users).

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/951537/worldwide-average...


Even though Android is 80% of the market, the numbers are still shockingly tilted.

People who choose the cheap option really don't do much discretionary spending, people with iPhones actually make up the majority of revenue for many apps.


I'd actually argue that Android users have more options, thus the market price for apps is reduced by the amount of supply.

When you're looking for a "Todo" app, there's 1000's on Android, and many or most are free. Many people might be better served by a quality app, but when the alternatives are good enough, it's a hard sell.


>Android users have more options

> When you're looking for a "Todo" app, there's 1000's on Android, and many or most are free.

There are also a massive number of "Todo" apps on the Apple app store. Searching for numbers online seems to indicate that there are about 50% more apps total on the Google play store than the Apple app store, but for the more common use cases that still means massive numbers of choices on each store, both free and paid.


I'd like to say that users on Apple's AppStore is especially great about paying for digital contents, rather than users on Play aren't great.


> Due to a combination of Android user's reluctance to spend money on apps at all and the rampant piracy that Android's open model makes trivially easy

Ridiculous allegation, which doesn't take into account the wealth inequality around the world. Hundreds of millions of people in the developing world have a smartphone today due to Android; a $1000 phone, or even a $400 phone is way out of reach for them.

So the "reluctance to spend money on apps" is that it's a choice between that and food on the table.

Also, very few people are side-loading apps - the rest are too tech illiterate to make that happen.

Add: I responded to your post because you're calling Google Play a "pyramid scheme". From fisherfolk trying to sell at optimal prices to daily labourers hunting for jobs, you've no idea how many people are enabled by the platform and its apps.


I make kids apps.

Firstly, I'm not sure the struggling to survive demographic are the ones giving devices to their children.

Secondly, kids (and adults for that matter) have been conditioned by the market to expect software for free. You can read all my reviews on Google Play to see how offended they are that stuff isn't free, with some even moaning that there should be video ads that will unlock the app for 30 minutes.

Thirdly, I've seen YouTube videos made by kids specifically giving instructions how to download my apps for free. In fact, generally you just need to sideload just one "alternative app store" and you're good to go. This isn't rocket science. It's following a few simple steps that aren't hard to find.

Finally, I'm making broad generalisations about the vast majority of app store activity. The existence of fisherfolk isn't relevant here. I know people are enabled by the App Store existing. I've been lucky enough to live comfortably for the past decade entirely because App Stores exist. I'm merely offering a few thoughts from the perspective of a long term app developer that some people may not have realised.


> struggling to survive demographic are the ones giving devices to their children.

You will be surprised. It is common for India to own a smartphone but not a toilet. IT is also common for the entire family to use the same smartphone and as the working dad returns home the kid jumps on his phone to play his/her favourite game.


Do you see a difference with the Apple App Store?


For my latest app, which is free with in-app purchase area unlocks...

Google Play: 10 times the amount of downloads than Apple Store

Apple Store: 2.5 times the income of Google Play.

Reviews on Google Play frequently mention how everything should be unlocked for free. Apple reviews seem to focus more on what extra content they would like to see.

Piracy on my paid apps seemed to be way, way higher on Android.


Have you tried switching to the ads model on Android (like suggested by your app's Android feedback/reviews)? I am curious if that would increase your revenue from Android users and somewhat lower piracy?


I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of advertising to children directly in an app.


Good for you as a parent I don’t allow my children to use apps with adverts. If the app is free with ads we buy the ad-free version or it’s a no go.


What if the developer has an app where the benefit of the app is to get users out of the app as soon as possible. For example, I have an app that helps me copy magnet links on my iPhone. I never spend more than two seconds in the app every time.


This is definitely an interesting data point that might support the ideas that a) walled gardens with DRM reduce piracy and b) iPhone owners tend to spend more.

Since kids tend to have more time than money, I'd also expect games/apps they use to have a higher degree of piracy, at least when it is relatively easy.


Thank you for bringing this up. I find HN's obsession with getting rid of ads and replacing them with paid subscriptions disappointing for this reason. While everything is ad supported, it is easier for users in developing nations (like my country of origin) to afford services subsidised by users in wealthier nations (the ads the former group see are probably worth much less anyway, due to their limited purchasing power.) When services switch to a paid subscription model, this is much harder to justify since end users can see price differences across markets and will often try to use accounts in other reasons to get cheaper prices (Steam prices are the best example here.)

The existence of ad supported apps and services and free software is what allowed me to teach myself programming and graphic design in school. In HN's dream world of hundreds of dollars of SaaS subscriptions, this would not have been possible, or certainly more difficult.

Disclaimer: I work for Google


> The existence of ad supported apps and services and free software is what allowed me to teach myself programming and graphic design in school.

I don’t know what country you are from, but I’m guessing the “free” vastly outweighed the “ad supported”. Furthermore, given the low ad revenue in developing countries, an organization seeking money probably could have gotten just as much by seeking a government grant or funding from a non-profit/NGO, and the whole process probably would have been easier in terms of securing revenue as well as app design (i.e., not having to design the app around ads).

I appreciate what you are saying broadly, but google ads doesn’t seem like the optimal way to facilitate this type of information creation and dissemination in developing countries.

Furthermore, Google has shifted from having “don’t be evil” as part of their code of conduct to straight up doing evil things. Trying to dress these actions up as being a boon for the developing world is approaching if not reaching the level of being a corporate shill. Again, there are better and probably easier ways to do this other than kowtowing to the Googlith.


> I don’t know what country you are from, but I’m guessing the “free” vastly outweighed the “ad supported”. Furthermore, given the low ad revenue in developing countries, an organization seeking money probably could have gotten just as much by seeking a government grant or funding from a non-profit/NGO, and the whole process probably would have been easier in terms of securing revenue as well as app design (i.e., not having to design the app around ads).

I agree, a hypothetical universe with paid apps subsidised for students and for people from developing nations would be better, but I haven't seen this happen in practice (and it's difficult for the reasons I mentioned before - it's hard to ensure that it isn't abused.)

> I appreciate what you are saying broadly, but google ads doesn’t seem like the optimal way to facilitate this type of information creation and dissemination in developing countries.

I said nothing about Google Ads in my comment - the best example of an ad subsidised service that helped in this context would be Stack Overflow, who, AFAIK run their own ad network.

> Furthermore, Google has shifted from having “don’t be evil” as part of their code of conduct to straight up doing evil things. Trying to dress these actions up as being a boon for the developing world is approaching if not reaching the level of being a corporate shill. Again, there are better and probably easier ways to do this other than kowtowing to the Googlith.

I just wanted to share my personal experience here in the hope that folks here take the users I mentioned into account - whether that's through an ad supported business model, or subscription based business models that are affordable for them.


Imagine a dystopian novel where people who don't own toilets are forced to lose a quarter of their portable device's viewport to look at glamorous photos of products for rich people living on the other side of their globe.

That's Android right now. Yeesh.


Whenever I try to picture who wishes to put ads in front of people making less than 5$ a day, all my ideas are social media hacks trying to goose up engagement, or evil companies like Monsanto ... and Google.


Why should we be willing to subsidize developing countries with our attention? My obsession with creating subscription models instead of ad-supported is entirely based on my unwillingness to pay with attention any further.


See my other comment - subsidize it directly, if you can make it work with subscription models; I don't care. It's just that from what I've seen so far, this is harder to do with subscription models and so often not done at all.

As for why you should do this: the opportunities created this way are good for everyone in the long term. See: all the companies started and being led by people from developing nations, in developed ones.


I think it's going to be a really tough sell to convince me or anyone else that we should pay more in cash or attention for products to subsidize developing nations. We've been doing it for decades on things like tech and pharmaceuticals and it seems like people are getting tired of sacrificing for the rest of the world.


You are talking about a target market's ability to pay, which is a real and important consideration.

I think shimfish is talking more about a market's willingness to pay, which is a very different consideration. You can absolutely poison an otherwise viable marketplace by setting the buyer expectation to be free.

I think "reluctance to spend money on apps" is a big problem on Google Play outside of the population that must chose between a $5 app and food on the table. I've just seen a lot of grumbling among even affluent people about dropping a few dollars on an app when they'll easily spend 3x as much on a single drink. That's a problem in the perception of value.

I wonder if app prices could be more on a sliding scale by geography? Has that been tried?


Google Play (unlike Apple) allow you to set prices by country.

I don't think the precise pricing is so much the issue though. It's more free vs not free.


On the other hand, it heavily influences the perception of the platform itself - for a random utility that does something, my expectation is that there will be free apps for that on Android, while the iOS equivalent will cost a couple euros. Multiply that by many apps and that's a reason to choose an Android phone if you want to avoid all these extra fees for every app you'd use. It would be compensated by a richer choice of apps, but it isn't in practice, Android is large enough so that there's a good app for everything anyways.


> So the "reluctance to spend money on apps" is that it's a choice between that and food on the table.

Sometimes yes. But also, spending money on apps you dont need is not virtue. For that matter, spending money on stuff you dont need is not virtue in general.


(googler opinions are my own)

At least according to this site[0], Google play moves $38B, while Apple moves $72B (annually). So people are spending money on Google play, just less. But I also believe more people have android phones vs iPhones, so that dilutes the per person revenue even more.

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/444476/google-play-annua...


Apple has much stricter requirements on payments outside the apps though, is that considered in the numbers? If you can get direct payments from Google customers but have to go through Apple and give a slice in their platform, that would mean the higher store revenue number is actually partly squeezed from the developers instead of profiting them.


Different demographics use iPhone than Android. There are more Android devices in the world than iOS ones but people with greater purchasing power use iPhone that's why there is such a big difference in revenues of App Store and Google Play.


Android phones are approx. 2.5x more than Apple phones worldwide

Also Play store has 1.5x more apps.

So almost 8x difference for developers. (per person)


What's difference in average cost of an Android phone versus an iPhone?


Huge, but in the end metric is revenue per user. Luckily game engines targeting both automatically, otherwise Android would suffer much.


At least they aren't charging $100 per year to be a developer like Apple does. I would have liked to make my apps multiplatform, but it just doesn't make sense at that price.

Edit: It's great to see that this platform likes downvoting people who release their software for free. Profit matters above all else. I guess next you all will tell me my job is worthless and I suck at life because I make under $100k.


I had a free app on the Mac App Store with no ads. Last time I checked, it had an average of 60 downloads per day. Not much, but I guess it was valuable to some people. I still use it almost daily.

After a couple of years I decided it didn’t make sense to keep paying $100 to Apple every year just to host a small free app.


If it doesn’t make sense at $100/year, your apps just don’t make enough to matter to your budget at all anyhow.


Of course it doesn't make money - it's free. It doesn't have ads either.


I'd love to see that if your app was free with no ads, you didn't have to pay for a dev account.


Presumably this would result in a flood of "free" apps that are nothing more than facades for scams (e.g. a fun personality/quiz app -- look ma, no ads! -- that makes you reveal your secret questions and answers).

Maintaining the integrity of an app store is a very non-trivial task, and building an entry barrier in the form of developer fees is one way of doing it. Not saying this is the only solution or even a particularly good one, but every solution will have its share of unintended consequences and exploited armor chinks. Making dev accounts free for no-ads would be an interesting experiment, though. I'd support it for science!


Ha, that's a good point, though I think if Apple were to implement something like it, there would be a ton of rules. Perhaps banning network requests from the free app (no saas, no tracking) or limiting it in some way from being abused.


Same, help my FOSS projects out!


This discussion is about how the vast majority of apps don’t make any money. What needs to make sense for that completely arbitrary fee?


The $100 a year ensures that trash doesn’t litter the App Store and also supports the ongoing development of tooling and management of the store (manual review, Xcode, documentation, distribution, APIs like Metal, etc).

If you’re not committed enough to releasing something with >$100 in value or not committed to releasing something high quality, the App Store doesn’t need you or your app - period.

As a user (and as a dev), I like this. The bar does not need to be lower.

Also if you look at a platform like Unity, the Hobbyist license is $25 a month and the Pro license is $125 a month.


> The $100 a year ensures that trash doesn’t litter the App Store

As an Apple fan, I really wish that were true.


I think that if you were to round up 100 people off the street and take their phones they all have more or less the same apps on them.

90% of what you find in the app stores of Google and Apple is fluff.


> The $100 a year ensures that trash doesn’t litter the App Store

And yet I found a half of a dozen Chinese knockoff BonziBuddy clones on the Mac App Store.


If $100/yr is too much, then it’s very likely your app isn’t profitable. A person doesn’t say “I would sell my product at Target, but spending money on gas to deliver it to their distribution center is too expensive.”

Literally, it’s $8.33 per month to be a part of the Apple Developer program. If your app isn’t making that much in a month, then your app isn’t very good or you’re bad at business. No disrespect intended, but $8.33 as a cost of doing business is so trivial as to not even be worth mention.


I pay $100/yr to keep a few free apps (no in-app purchases, no ads, no commercialization attempts at all) in the App Store. I get emails all the time from people who want to buy the apps and ruin them.

I've been doing this for about ten years.

Now, my development time is worth a lot more than the accumulated $1000. But it's free time, and I volunteer it.

I also recognize the value of $100/yr as a "bozo filter" to Apple. But every year when they auto-bill me, I read the email and think about how it also excludes lots of good people from participating in iOS development.

It'd be great if there was a "NCA" class of app. No commercialization allowed. Always free, never ads, no in-app purchases ever. If all of your apps are NCA, your developer fee would be waived. This is probably too complicated for an Apple product though. :) And I think alternate App Stores or side-loading would be a net negative for the platform. So I pay.


I read a few years ago that only about 0.01% of Android apps make enough money to cover development costs. It isn’t the end of the world if there were slightly less competition driving down peoples revenues


But it does mean that your app needs to make $8.33 a month, whether via ads, in-app purchases, cost of the app, or all of the above. On Android, an app doesn't have a floor. You could make a free app, with no ads, and not have to make any money.


I think this is an over-attribution of this cost. Even if you release the same app for nothing, and that cost went away, your overwhelming cost would still be your time, and the value of that time. $8.33/mo isn't even a rounding error in the grand scheme of things.

What it does do is pay for all the app store infrastructure, IDE development, etc etc, so your choice to release something for nothing doesn't externalise those costs on others.


It's cost but sometimes it's fun for developer and makes resume/GitHub/fame good. Paying $100 isn't fun or good for anyone.


The same reasoning applies for time and money. It's all the same. $100 + $10000 worth of time to make resume/GitHub/fame moves. The $100 is minimal.


Most apps don’t make any money, in fact that’s what started this particular thread. Many apps are also free.

And $8/month is not trivial for billions of people. Consider yourself fortunate that you’re not one of them, but it’s useful to have a more global perspective when discussing the accessibility of a major platform.


Or maybe I released it as free software.


Application software such as this shouldn’t be free. It hides the true cost to developers from consumers and, if they’re ad supported hooks into one of the most insidious, malicious systems we’ve ever devised.

I won’t work on free software. I have too much respect for myself, my family, and my colleagues to do that.


> I won’t work on free software. I have too much respect for myself, my family, and my colleagues to do that.

This is a strange attitude for me to see on HN, considering how much most of us love FOSS.

I can understand saying you don't have the time, or simply aren't interested, but to frame it as having "too much respect for myself" seems arrogant and spits in the face of the people who have written major software used in servers around the world.


They were simple apps made for learning and to improve my resume.

I happen to like FOSS. It's voluntary after all. I have a bigger issue with how the industry interviews and assesses employees.


> Application software such as this shouldn’t be free

Who are you to tell someone how they should or shouldn't spend their free time?


I’m offering an opinion about providing software for free, not trying to dictate the use of anyone’s time.


> If your app isn’t making that much in a month, then your app isn’t very good or you’re bad at business.

Yes, many indie developers are bad at business, but they made good apps. Their month sells might one or two. They pay the $99 to Apples per year just to prevent their apps from being removed App Store.


>Google Play is mostly a pyramid scheme. Developer's can only make money from showing ads and at the same time can only get downloads if they place ads on other people's apps. And Google just happens to own all the mobile ad companies.

Most businesses fail because they don't get customers... that doesn't make starting a business a pyramid scheme.

App stores are super saturated with apps, there's the reason you can't make money. If you can't and choose to use ads ... that's your business decision...

Sometimes I think the issue of fees and other issues including poor customer service from google gets tied up with the difficulty of even just making any money on the play store / a whole glut of apps that straight up most won't make money no matter what happens.


You're blaming piracy? Color me incredibly skeptical.

How about occam's razor instead: people who buy cheaper phones have less cash to spend on "premium" apps.


Why is that a simpler theory than "why pay when it's incredibly simple to download for free"?

https://venturebeat.com/2015/01/05/monument-valley-developer...


> the rampant piracy that Android's open model makes trivially easy

Respectfully, I would like a citation on this. How is piracy for Android any easier than say, Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux?


I guess the point is that of the two main mobile platforms, it’s much easier to pirate Android Apps than iPhone Apps.

Desktops are a whole different kettle of fish, which is why profitable companies have (mostly) given up on selling software & are making money via SaaS approaches on desktop.


That's most likely not [1] why software companies like AutoDesk, Adobe or Microsoft (with Office365) are moving towards a SaaS model: regular monthly payments add up to more than one-time licenses, and provide a more predictable revenue stream.

Market was willing to accept that, so there was no reason for them not to do it.

[1] Citations missing for my claims too! :)


Why leave out the only actual platform that android competes with, iOS?


Becuase I want to know if the reason they say piracy is easy is because users can install their own apps (which to me is a red herring, as Windows and Linux, this has been true for decades and there are established ways to curtail piracy[1]), or if there is actually a reason that piracy is easy on Android.

[1] https://v1.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/114391-Valves-Gabe...


I don't think Android really significantly competes with iOS or vice versa. Android and iOS are almost entirely independent markets. The competition for Android devices is other Android devices. The competition for iOS devices...isn't.


That's an interesting take. I think you're right. I don't think that was the case 8 or so years ago, but I agree it appears that way now.

(Anecdotal: gave my dad two hand-me-down iPhones. Because of the cost he was never going to buy one (on a fixed retirement income after all). Him and his wife having used iPhones now seem to have crossed over. I suppose I'll have to keep sending him over my old phones from now on.)


From 2015. No reason to believe things would have got better since then.

https://venturebeat.com/2015/01/05/monument-valley-developer...


> How is piracy for Android any easier than say, Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux?

I'm not arguing if it is easier, I am asking how is it easier? That article does not answer how.


Aren't APK files simply java .jar packaged together? It's trivial to fully decompile java binary (bytecode) directly to source code.


Google offers protection via obfuscation. I've seen the results of its decompilation and it's practically useless.


Client applications should be assumed to be insecure. If you’re app doesn’t load content from a secure (paid) backend, you’re not going to make much money on the Play Store.


iOS is full of the same free ad-supported games that seem to solely advertise other free ad-supported games. I wouldn't be surprised if Google own all the ad companies they're using too since Apple ditched iAds.


99% of YouTube channels, Facebook pages, personal websites, Flickr users etc don't make money. Sometimes people just like doing things and sharing. That doesn't make it a pyramid scheme: no one is cheating anyone and people are just building and sharing.


I am indie developer who makes and sales apps on Android. I can tell you this is not true. Users are willing to pay for good apps.


I've always wondered what it is about Android that makes users reluctant to pay for apps. I'm guilty of it too. I have both iOS and Android devices and I spend far more money buying apps on my iOS device.


Trust. Any experienced marketer will tell you that is the most difficult part of securing a transaction. Whether Android users and fans agree or not, the purchase behavior on iOS vs Android mirrors any other comparison of luxury or near-luxury shopping behavior compared to lower rent shopping options.

The rent is higher to get in to the AppStore, too, given you need a $100/year subscription and a Mac. Apple keenly understands aspirational marketing and it trickles down to apps.

Of course Android has millions of users that simply can’t afford to buy apps, but even among those that can, it is a psychological difference.


> Of course Android has millions of users that simply can’t afford to buy apps

I think the portion of Android users that can't afford to buy an app is very, very small. It's no where near big enough to explain the difference between the two platforms.

> but even among those that can, it is a psychological difference

I think so too. Even people who are able to spend a dollar or two on an app are unwilling.


pure speculation, but I doubt there's some intrinsic quality of android that makes users reluctant to pay for apps. more likely, people that are very price sensitive are more likely to have an android phone to begin with. the cheapest new iphone is already $400. while it may not be a good long-term value, you can buy an android phone for $50.


I think there is some intrinsic quality of Android hardware and software. It might be that it's from Google and so it feels like ever swipe and tap is monetized in some way. Or maybe it's the latency of the display and the way so many apps have display issues that makes everything feel second tier.

Apple's stuff feels better in the hand and I think that makes a user more willing to invest in it.


meh. the apple hardware and fit/finish is unquestionably better, but neither platform offers anything that I personally want to "invest" in past the purchase price of a serviceable phone. google doesn't respect my privacy, but apple doesn't respect my judgement.


IMO it is because Apple got people used to buying on iTunes when it was only music. Apple's put the effort in to get people used to purchasing digital goods from them. Google's focus has always been ads first so they never created the same mindshare around expecting to purchase software from them, at least not at the consumer level.


Aren't there fewer free apps to choose in iOS? They charge $100 per year to be a developer. That's kept me from making my apps multiplatform.


There's no shortage of apps of any kind in Apple's store as far as I can see. I would say the same is true of the Play store. There are some exclusives on each platform though, but nothing without competitor.

FWIW, I avoid free apps and apps with subscriptions as much as I can.


How many places are you going to restart this same well trod argument?

I wouldn’t say anything except this is twice you’ve brought this up out of the blue under one thread that I’ve seen and this isn’t even talking about the Apple ecosystem.


The structure of the ecosystem precludes some free apps from being listed for iOS. That structure seems to incentivize app makers to monetize, which could explain why people spend more on iOS apps.


Is the $100 fee really the difference and is it comparable with the man hours you would spend porting?


It's absolutely the fee. I can't see paying $100 every year just to let other people use my apps that's $1k over a decade!). If it were a one-time fee like Google, then I would have done it.


I do that as well.

If it's true or not, I don't know. But my impression from using both platforms daily is that iOS paid apps are higher quality, in both design/looks and performance.


You can buy an Android phone for $25 in the US, and much of the rest of the world is completely priced out of buying apps or subscriptions. There are many people who use Android phones because they're affordable, but they can't afford to buy apps, though.


I don't believe that there are many people who can afford a phone and monthly service but a $1 app is out of reach. They exist, but not in numbers high enough to explain the gap between the two platforms.

Because Android is the default phone, there are a lot of people who get one and then never install a single app on it because all they really wanted was a mobile phone and a camera.


There are quite literally billions of people on Earth for whom a smartphone is a necessity that they will save for to buy used, but for whom paid apps are superfluous and whose costs cannot be justified.


Even in markets where that isn't true, it doesn't explain the gap between spending on apps by Android users and iOS users.


Ease of access to piracy could play a big role. I haven't looked into this for a long time, but last I checked an iPhone needs to be jailbroken to side-load anything not from the AppStore.

While with Android even with most default roms it's just a matter of changing one setting in the options and transferring the pirated apk file to the device to launch it.

A much more straight-forward process with Android devices vs iOS devices and piracy strives on convenience.


I think the platform makes little difference. The app store/play store app game is a long tail one: most apps make exactly 0 money and see very little traction.


Piracy isn't google's fault. It's a byproduct of having a system that is at least a little bit more open than others like iOS. This isn't munch different than the situation developers face with piracy on a PC.

Otherwise, this is a big win for small developers. Most developers probably don't approach the $1M cap, and all of them will see their fees drastically reduced.

Of course I'm cynical enough to view this mostly as a defensive measure against monopoly concerns, but that doesn't mean there's no benefit for many developers.

What do you believe, with respect to the app store, would be a more developer-friendly change? I'd like to see then allow developers to use different payment providers and not fight against alternate app stores that much. However for things that go through the play store even with a different payment provider, I think Google deserves some small cut for hosting all these apps and providing the platform. Something like a one-time fee for all paid apps or apps with paid content. It seems reasonable to pay them for use of their infrastructure in some form. Apps that make use of less of it-- like not using it's payment system-- would pay less.


Honestly not even that- I have blokada so no ads for me.

But I do wonder if the problem doesn't lie in the fact that there are 5000000 apps and yours is just 5000001 that nobody is going to use. App market seems saturated.


Actually this change helps me a lot with my app. This reduction will pay for servers and data sources alone, which helps me 'build a sustainable business'.


> Due to a combination of Android user's reluctance to spend money on apps at all

Rule of thumb: No matter the distribution of devices across your users, the majority of revenues comes from iOS. Often supporting Android is almost not worth it.

I've seen a lot of mobile dev shops, and customers always want the iOS app to be the first on the market. Often the Android one is effectively a port.


I found more horrible monetize method for Apps: residential proxy SDK like Luminati. Anyone knows how many apps uses it?


Not true. I have multiple successful apps. Didn't spend a single dollar on marketing.


That's exactly one of the reasons, but a representative one, why Google needs to be broken apart


Wouldn't more competition be the logical thing to ask for instead?


More competition how?

MS-DOS cornered the desktop market around 1981. It remained the dominant desktop OS, despite being an utter piece of crap OS and technologically obsolete even at the moment it was introduced, until around 1990, when it was overtaken by products from the same company, Windows 3.1 and later Windows 95.

Windows 95 then took over in... 1995 :-) Windows is still the dominant desktop platform in 2021, and it will probably be for at least 1 more decade.

Linux took over server environments around 2005, I think, and its still dominating in 2021. It will probably dominate for many decades more.

Smartphone OSes are in the same place. Smartphones have matured, they're primarily slabs of glass/metal/plastic. You either get Android or you switch both hardware AND software and get iOS.

Android is almost free for manufacturers and customers, so it's even worse than Windows. How is it ever going to be displaced? Keep in mind that not even beauties such as Windows Me, Windows Vista, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 made much of a negative dent in the Windows marketshare.


> MS-DOS cornered the desktop market around 1981.

Sorry, but in what concerns Europe, the desktop market was split across boring PCs with MS-DOS, Atari and Amigas, and in 1986 the option was still between ZX Spectrum and Commodore descendants, with most people migrating to 16 bit desktop systems around 1990.

In 1988, our computer club at the school just had a couple of newly bought Amstrad PC1512, where I got to play Defender of the Crown, with students having turns at the keyboard.


Break Google's ad business off the company.

It'll cause some churn, and a lot of Google stuff will die, but it needs to happen.

Strangling the revenue pipe, while owning most platforms to ensure most people are forced through said pipe, is harmful to the greater internet ecosystem.

Google does amazing, great things. But they're funding them by dumping toxic waste out the backdoor.


The first step in fostering a healthy competitive market is breaking down the monopoly, which is prob what the prev comment was suggesting.


Indeed. But suggesting to break Google apart nets in -4 karma on HN. smh.

Let's not even start with all the evil they've been doing in the recent years since Pichai Sundararajan took over.

Google has too much concentrated power and it is a monopoly. Search + Ads alone, a browser, a DNS network, an OS, cars, cloud. It's just the tip of the iceberg.

And it's using its influence exclusively for their own advantage and to crush people who oppose them.


Further evidence that developer pressure and legal pressure on smartphone platforms work, that they aren't a waste of time.

Prolonged campaigns for better terms can make a tangible difference, and we should be encouraged by this result to advocate for even better terms. It turns out that when they have real pressure, it is possible for Google and Apple to come up with better terms.

Keep in mind that the reason Google is being sued for antitrust isn't because it was taking 30% -- it's because it forced manufactures not to install or bundle any 3rd party stores by threatening to remove access to the Play store if any competing storefronts were enabled by default on consumer devices. So this doesn't change the original complaint, but it's still a very big win for smaller developers.


> Further evidence that developer pressure and legal pressure on smartphone platforms work, that they aren't a waste of time.

Sure, if you're Epic. For the rest of us minnows, we just have to play the hand we're dealt.


This change directly impacts minnows, it's a revenue cut for companies making less than a million dollars, not more.

And if your point is that it took a company as large as Epic raising a fuss to get that change, well... why should I care? It's still a change that will help smaller developers.

Honestly, I don't get HN's position on this. When Epic sued, people complained that Epic was too big and progress would only be made if an ideologically pure company pushed for it. When conversation started talking about regulation, I heard people complain that it wasn't going to go anywhere and that regulators didn't care. Then when other companies like Hey and Microsoft started joining in making statements against current app store terms, people complained there weren't going to be any changes, that this was just a farce that would result in at best a backroom deal with Epic and/or Microsoft that wouldn't affect smaller devs.

Now there's a tangible policy change that will have a huge impact on smaller devs, and the complaint is that the wrong company had a role in it? What do you want?


I'm not saying we don't benefit from it, or complaining about Epic's involvement. I'm just observing that this result came about solely because the interests of a behemoth (in Epic) happened to briefly coincide with ours. It's not like it was the result of a successful grass-roots campaign.

The App/Play Stores are borderline anti-competitive due to the huge imbalance of power. A 30%->15% reduction doesn't change that. So while it's nice, the fundamental problem hasn't been solved.

What do I want? Pretty simple. I don't want to run my business at the whims of two unaccountable monopolies, and I want the option of extricating myself from their ecosystem. Specifically, this means:

- My choice of store/payment processor on both iOS and Google devices

- a clear, impartial and independent review process that determines whether or not an app's removal from the "official" stores was legitimate.

Ideally I'd also like direct installation ("sideloading") to be as simple as desktop software, but that's probably a bit of a reach.


> This change directly impacts minnows, it's a revenue cut for companies making less than a million dollars, not more.

Do note that while the Apple policy won’t benefit Epic, the Google one will.

Apple swaps from 15 to 30% cut when you reach 1 million. Google gets 15% from the first 1 million, then taxes the rest at 30.


HN is not a hivemind, those were all different people with opposing views.


It puzzles me that some people still think 30% is a reasonable cut for any kind of online store.

Imagine you're 3 guys / girls and working on an app / game / .. whatever and one person only does "distribution" of the final asset. You are working one / two years or more on it, and one person only checks / verifies the final asset and organizes hosting. How is this in any way justified? And the days that person made any marketing / visibility are long gone. I think more "fair" is something like 5%, more in the line of what a payment processor does. Which probably, at this point does more than.


Masters of Doom described a similar sentiment circa ‘93 only now “tech” are the perpetrators.


A reasonable amount is literally any amount the market will tolerate. Seems 30% nolonger cuts it in any of these stores.


You need a certain amount of competition before a market can give you a "reasonable" price. The market for phone app stores doesn't meet this bar.


MobiHand on BlackBerry, a third-party sales and distribution platform, used to take 40% and fees on top. I stopped working with them long before this incident, but appears that wasn’t enough[1]. When the Apple App Store launched with 70/30 it felt like a very generous offering, and the first-party App World launched with the same split later.

[1] https://forums.crackberry.com/developers-lounge-f9/mobihand-...


No, it would not be reasonable if certain participants in that market have a large amount of market power.

That is how things like anti-trust law work.


Exactly this, it's harder to make money on the store these days, people can't tolerate high fees anymore


For physical products in physical stores the cut can be higher than 50%. Online referrals can be up to 20%, without the actual distribution.


That's a great point, so do the physical stores get 50% of an iphone or ipad sale?


For iPhones and iPads probably much less. For clothing, the margin can be 60%, for toys even more, for books 30-40%.

[These figures were approximately true some years ago in Italy]


Here's the next achievable goal to fight for: I want the fee structure Microsoft provides on the Microsoft Store.

https://blogs.windows.com/windowsdeveloper/2018/05/07/a-new-...

Microsoft takes only a 5% cut if customers click on a link on my website with my referral code, taking them directly to the store details page.

Otherwise, they take a 15% cut.

> consumer applications (not including games) sold in Microsoft Store will deliver to developers 95% of the revenue earned from the purchase of your application or any in-app products in your application, when a customer uses a deep link to get to and purchase your application. When Microsoft delivers you a customer through any other method, such as in a collection on Microsoft Store or any other owned Microsoft properties, and purchases your application, you will receive 85% of the revenue earned from the purchase of your application or any in-app products in your application


One other case where imo the 5% should apply: if someone goes to the store and searches for your app by exact name.

Ie if I go to the store and search "Netflix", the store hasn't helped me discover that product.


That makes sense on paper, but in a world of instant search, search completion and search suggestion, doesn't it become a bit murky?


They have, in a way, by providing the index you use to find it. They're your portal to apps in a sense. Frankly it makes more sense to me to charge more when people find your app through the app store. It makes less sense to me that they take 15% if someone Googles your app to get the app store link. They didn't even use the app store search to find it.


That's a nice fee structure, but honestly I don't care if Google and Apple increase the fee to 90% as long as there are alternative stores that can realistically compete against GPlay and the App Store.

That means no scary warnings and endless dialogs filled with FUD about malware and stealing personal data, or requiring non-technical users to understand and enable a checkbox hidden deep inside the settings app, or dedicating full-time teams of security researchers to finding and irresponsibly disclosing vulnerabilities in competing stores, among other things.

Because when there's competition, a fee structure like what the Microsoft Store has will naturally appear.


> 5%

That’s less than the Stripe tax!


Stripe is 2.9% + 30¢, isn't it? What am I missing? I guess you're implying that these transactions are normally so small that the 30¢ raises it to above 5%? I think it really depends on your price structure.


It depends on where you are. International payments to India could cost up to 6.3% including currency conversion charges.

https://stripe.com/en-in/pricing


Stripe has real costs because it has to interact with the visa and MasterCard networks. The app stores basically have zero incremental costs. They just let you download a file from a directory of listings


In addition to the bandwidth costs for serving the binaries, don’t app stores have to deal with the same networks too for processing their in app payments? How are those any different from Stripe?


These credit card fees are likely under 3% in the US. So taking 5% adds about 2% for convenience.


Interchange fees for credit cards are about 1.5% + 10c. For debit cards its even less.


They host the files and pay for the traffic, that's not insignificant at the scale of Google and Apple, even considering their enormous size.

There was a story a couple of years back about how Apple's AWS bill was $30 million/month, I'd bet a large chunk of that is the App Store.


> They host the files and pay for the traffic

That's BS because they don't give you the option to host it yourself and avoid the fee, plus it costs them nearly nothing. $30 million/year dollars might seem like a lot until you realize Apple makes over $70 BILLION/year from app store revenues alone.

Also, what traffic? Organic traffic on app stores has always been terrible. In most cases, you can't even find an app by searching for it directly unless it's well-known like Netflix or Amazon. Even developers who have been "featured" over the years have reported a huge spike in traffic followed by an immediate fall-off and return to the same traffic numbers before the feature.


only 30 million? considering how much apple makes in profits from their app store thats a lot less


That's only servers - they still need developers, managers, reviewers etc.. Apple surely does not make a loss, but the server bill is probably a negligible part of the cost.


Poor Apple:

> In 2020, customers spent an estimated 72.3 billion U.S. dollars on on in-app purchases, subscriptions, and premium apps in the Apple App Store.

The App Store is a money printer for Apple, that's how low their operating expenses are. It's rent-seeking at its best, abusive landlords would be proud of them :-)


Better title: Google matches what Apple already did.

I said it about Apple and I’ll say it about Google: this is a PR move, nothing more.

Google really missed an opportunity here to put Apple in a tough spot by just cutting it to 15%.

Your biggest users of your payment infrastructure are also the most likely, most willing and most able to handle their own payments because they already do (eg Netflix, Epic).

If either company has reduced their cut to 15% for only their largest customers then this would make sense as a business decision. Doing the opposite is trying to stave off government intervention, nothing more.

The writing is on the wall for being the sole payments provider AND charging 30% for it. The only question is what they will be forced to do and (imho) you’re better off placating your biggest customers because they’re the ones who will likely sue you and lobby against you in the US/EU.


> Google really missed an opportunity here to put Apple in a tough spot by just cutting it to 15%

Why would Google want to start a bidding war here? They're both monopolies and they don't compete with each other. If Google lowers the fee to 5%, that's not going to convince developers (and their customers) to leave iOS for Android; it's just going to shift revenues out of Google's piggy bank and into developers' piggy banks in the best case.

In the worst case, it will increase anti-trust scrutiny, either because Apple doesn't lower it so they're showing they don't need to compete, or they do lower it despite it being an illogical business decision (and possibly inviting lawsuits from shareholders), suggesting that there's some collusion going on to stave off anti-trust regulation.


Google's proposition is better still.

If I make $2 million on Apple i'll have to pay $600k in fees.

On Google it's $450k.


Does Apple really do that? If you make $1m, they'll take $150k but if you make $1 more they'll take $300k? Really?

I assumed it wouldn't be that dumb. Is it really the case?


If you can convince apple to let you into the 15% program and then hit $2M, you'll pay $450k for that year and then get kicked out of the program. Subsequent years you will pay $600k if your revenue stays the same. If your revenue drops below $1M at some point, you'll have to pay 30% for that year, but the next year you'll be able to re-enter the program.


It's that dumb and convoluted like Dylan16807 explained.


It is the case.


I'm glad Google didn't choose the unnecessarily convoluted and worse solution Apple did that only adds more bureaucracy.


“ The App Store's standard commission rate of 30 percent remains in place for apps selling digital goods and services and making more than $1 million in proceeds, defined as a developer's post-commission earnings” [1]

What is convoluted and worse? I am not a mobile Dev at this time, just going by what I see online.

Edit: [1] https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2020/11/apple-announces-app-s...


If you make $999k in revenue, you will receive almost $850k in profit. If you make $1000k in revenue, you will instead receive $700k in profit. You're strangely incentivized to completely shut down your app as you approach the 1000k mark, unless you're confident you'll make it past the 1200k mark, where it's worth it again. Silly system.


Not strictly true.

Your earnings after the first 1M in a calendar year will become subject to 30%. Your earnings before that aren't affected.

However, you are then kicked out of the program for the whole following year and can only reapply for the year after that if the next year's earnings are under 1M.


That does seem terrible. It should be bracketed how our taxes are, honestly.


Thank you, great information. Those incentives then have to change. I wrote a few apps back in the day, and 30% seemed high, but I never hit over $100k in rev. I was hoping the little guy who scaled would have won here.


Wealth distribution is exponential, meaning almost nobody will fall in the small revenue gap you mentioned.


Until you’re that somebody, and then you make a post about it and it blows up on HN.


It is not automatic, you need to enrol into the programme.

It only work for first year, subsequent year revert back to 30% if your previous year exceed $1M. ( the 1,000,000.01 problem )

Google also has a much more flexible definition of Services, Teaching to a group of Students via Video Call is not considered as Digital Services as on Apple App Store, and hence requires 30% of commission when signing up. ( And since been exempt after bad PRs )


1) Can you can explain what "And since been exempt after bad PRs"?

Does Apple does not charge for Teaching to a group of students anymore?

2) and is "teaching to a group of students" just an example for teaching to groups, or does it really only apply to students and to groups, but not when teaching to one person interested in guitar for example?

Thanks! PS: any good ressources that distill such App Store & digital services? (even better would be also comparing them)


>Does Apple does not charge for Teaching to a group of students anymore?

This wasn't enforced or known until fairly recently [1] and finally got its public attention during pandemic. Those bad PR was what caused Apple to make concessions. Basically since 2018 Apple has been steadily Pushing these changes for their Services Strategy revenue target. If you look around on the Internet or places like MacRumours, you find a group of "Apple Apologist" who are perfectly in flavour of Apple charging 30% for these educational digital class.

>but not when teaching to one person interested in guitar for example?

Teaching one to one are exempt from sign up link. Which is basically a FaceTime Call. But that is only on the basis if the teaching is "live". If you are showing large quantity pre-recorded Video you might / will be counted towards "Digital Goods".

But again Apple Apologist thinks it is Apple's platform. They can do whatever they want.

Edit: I wanted to add some additional context. A lot of these were rules not previously enforced before 2016 / 2018. So App Store has been perfectly fine for many conducting online / digital business. And the App Store problem isn't just about the 30% commission.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/apple-extends-fee-waiver-for...


Apple will hopefully realise how silly their system is. The way Google is doing it makes much more sense.


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