I really was disappointed with the design and usability of all the Android apps that I tried on my Fire — at least the ones that weren’t a popular iOS game already. I actually didn’t think a well designed Android app existed, so much so that I started to write a post about how stupid it is that one doesn’t exist.
I thought: surely it is possible and at least worth someones time.
As part of the research for that post (yeah I occasionally research) I Googled: “Best Kindle Fire Apps”. After looking through stupid slideshow after stupid slideshow1 I finally found one app that looked like it might actually be decent: Evernote.
Now, I am not an Evernote user, nor am I someone who understands the allure of the app. It was however free and looked promising so I downloaded it — I used Evernote back in 2009 so I had an account and a bunch of notes in it already to play with.
I have to say, Evernote is a really great looking Android app and it works well to boot. Evernote gives you a good idea of just how good an Android app can be — that means that most Android developers either don’t care, or don’t need to care about the design of their Android app.
I am so happy to have found the Evernote app that I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a clone of another UI Evernote has used on iOS or the Mac — it isn’t. In fact the iPad, iPhone, Mac and Android (Fire) all have their own UIs that make sense for each of the devices, imagine that.
This isn’t a review of the Evernote app — that app just serves as proof that you can make great looking and highly useable Android apps.
This post is about why Android developers don’t make great looking apps — generally speaking. (Though Evernote is literally the only app, games aside, that I have found to look really nice.)
One thing that has become abundantly clear after reading through all the Kindle Fire reviews is that apps matter. No matter the platform or device, what makes or breaks a tablet is the overall depth and quality of the apps that the tablet has at its disposal.
On the episode 35 of the the B&B podcast Shawn said (roughly): “If I had to choose between only getting the built in iOS apps, or only 3rd Party apps, I would choose 3rd party.”
That’s a pretty powerful statement too, because it says that what makes the device so valuable is not what it comes with, but what can be added to it. Apple wouldn’t ever include an app that uses a camera to deliver your heart rate, but for $0.99 I can buy one (it works too).
This is where most other devices get it wrong. The absolute best looking and feeling app that I downloaded for my Fire before outwardly searching for a fantastic app was: Angry Birds. Ask me the same question about my iPad and I couldn’t choose between the plethora of great apps that I have currently sitting on my home screen, not to mention the 100s of others I have yet to try that many others say are excellent.
Why? Why are these apps missing from Android?
It’s not the user base, because that is supposedly pretty high. I can’t believe it is because “Android users don’t buy apps” because I think that is largely due to the fact that there aren’t apps worth buying.
I can think of a few reasons:
- Pirating is supposedly rampant. So developers are naturally wary about the platform.
- Copyright infringement from what I hear is not only common, but not dealt with very quickly.
- Fragmentation between screen sizes and specific Android OS builds is high. This makes it harder to make one app that is great on all the Android devices.
- More than one store on a device so picking which app store it be in is a bit of a pain.
Even with all those reasons, I just can’t believe that there is still only one Android app that I can look at and say: “yes, that’s what I am talking about.”
Even if all the above reasons for not developing for Android are true, it would still seems highly unusual that I was only able to find one good app.
The best guess I have has to be that the “market share” is just not that high, thus not making it “worth” it for developers to make amazing apps for the platform. If that is the case, then that is a shame — I think a large part of the reason Android doesn’t appeal to me is because of the lack of apps.2