Climb­ing on the an­DroiD banD­wagon

app de­vel­op­ers who adopted early see more growth in com­pe­ti­tion to lure po­ten­tial pur­chasers

Austin American-Statesman - - TECHMONDAY - By Mike Swift

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Beth Mezias lost her soft­ware job at Adobe in a down­siz­ing at the end of 2008, she sur­ren­dered her em­ployer-is­sued iPhone and bought an An­droid phone in­stead. “And,” she said, “I got on the band­wagon.”

Eigh­teen months af­ter Mezias hopped on the An­droid “band­wagon” — Google’s then-new mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem — and be­gan learn­ing the soft­ware, she has four smart-phone apps avail­able for down­load in the An­droid Mar­ket.

“I can’t say I’m mak­ing a ton of money on it,” she said, “but I am get­ting a lot of in­ter­est in my ré­sumé.”

With sales of An­droid-pow­ered smart phones sur­pass­ing Ap­ple’s iPhone for the first time in 2010, an An­droid-pow­ered Google TV built by Sony to hit the mar­ket late this year with a whole new set of app pos­si­bil­i­ties, and the po­ten­tial for other new de­vices rang­ing from tablet com­put­ers to cars, the An­droid band­wagon is sud­denly a heady ride — for de­vel­op­ers, ad­ver­tis­ers, smart phone man­u­fac­tur­ers and other mem­bers of the An­droid “ecosys­tem.”

An­droid’s ex­plo­sive growth is ben­e­fit­ing de­vel­op­ers who find them­selves in more de­mand and who make money when some­one pays to down­load their app, or who get rev­enue from ad­ver­tis­ing that runs in a free app. Man­u­fac­tur­ers like HTC are see­ing their brand aware­ness boosted by their An­droid phones, and ad ex­changes are serv­ing more ads over An­droid phones. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based mo­bile ad ex­change Mob­clix says ad pub­lish­ers spent more money on the An­droid plat­form in the first half of 2010 than they did in all of 2009.

Google said in late June that about 160,000 new An­droid smart phones are be­ing ac­ti­vated each day — for ad­ver­tis­ers, that works out to nearly two new sets of eye­balls ev­ery sec­ond — up from about 100,000 a month ear­lier. There are now 60 An­droid-pow­ered de­vices avail­able in 49 coun­tries, and the num­ber of apps is grow­ing by 30 per­cent each month.

For early adopters, that growth means their early bets on An­droid and Google are pay­ing off.

“We wanted to be a big­ger fish in a smaller pond,” Steve Brown, the CEO of San Fran­cisco-based Snap­tic, said of his com­pany’s de­ci­sion to en­ter the An­droid mar­ket early in­stead of try­ing to push into the more crowded iPhone app mar­ket. “But it’s turn­ing into an ocean.”

Snap­tic has seen more than 4 mil­lion down­loads of its three most pop­u­lar free An­droid apps, which in­clude a com­pass and a note-tak­ing app named 3banana, and says it is see­ing a 20 per­cent monthly growth in down­loads. Brown said the growth also means his com­peti­tors are pro­lif­er­at­ing.

“I’ve been in mar­kets that were not grow­ing, and when you are in one that’s grow­ing ev­ery day, the whole en­ergy level changes. Stuff hap­pens ev­ery day. You’re in a race. You can see your com­peti­tors and what they are do­ing,” Brown said.

An­other ben­e­fi­ciary of an early bet on An­droid is the Tai­wanese smart phone man­u­fac­turer HTC, which built the first four An­droid de­vices and makes pre­mium An­droid phones like Sprint’s Evo 4G.

“You are in­vest­ing a lot of money, a lot of re­sources and a lot of ef­fort into some­thing com­pletely un­proven,” said Keith Nowak, an HTC spokesman, who said the part­ner­ship with Google has boosted HTC’s plans to raise aware­ness of its brand with con­sumers. “We saw a lot of po­ten­tial, but there are grave­yards of failed

smart-phone (op­er­at­ing sys­tems) out there.”

With about 70,000 apps, the An­droid Mar­ket still of­fers only about a third as many apps as Ap­ple’s App Store, which of­fers more than 200,000. The An­droid mar­ket­place is also dif­fer­ent in that the ma­jor­ity of the apps are free, while most in the Ap­ple store come at a cost. While de­vel­op­ers say the abil­ity to make money through ad­ver­tis­ing or paid down­loads has not yet matched iPhone, the gap is shrink­ing.

“Some­where last fall, the de­vel­op­ers I was talk­ing to, they were start­ing to make money from ad­ver­tis­ing,” Brown said. “When you are mak­ing a few thou­sand dol­lars a month from ad­ver­tis­ing, that’s a liv­ing.”

The surge in ad­ver­tis­ing spend­ing on An­droid — Mob­clix says it grew 23 per­cent be­tween the first and sec­ond quar­ters of 2010 — is also at­tract­ing de­vel­op­ers who be­fore were fo­cused ex­clu­sively on the iPhone.

One of those is Gar­rett Dodge, co-founder of Ap­petyte, a San Fran­cisco devel­op­ment com­pany that makes an iPhone app called Fido Fac­tor, a sort of Yelp for dogs that fea­tures user­gen­er­ated list­ings of dogfriendly restau­rants, parks and other ser­vices.

“Un­til re­cently, we didn’t think there was the same kind of adop­tion and use of An­droid apps as iPhone apps, and there­fore it wasn’t at­trac­tive enough to in­vest the re­sources” to of­fer An­droid apps, Dodge said. But he’s now look­ing for de­vel­op­ers to pro­duce an An­droid ver­sion of Fido Fac­tor, as well as ver­sions of a new mu­sic app for both An­droid and iPhone that Dodge hopes will trans­form how peo­ple in­ter­act with mu­sic in pub­lic venues.

For Mezias, 43, de­cid­ing to learn An­droid soft­ware has been a great ca­reer move. One of her paid apps, Alar­moid, can sched­ule an An­droid phone to go silent at times so you don’t get those pre-dawn calls from the East Coast. Joker, a free app Mezias cre­ated, delivers new jokes to a smart phone each day.

“I’m feel­ing the ef­fects (of An­droid’s growth) be­cause I bought in early,” she said.

In­deed, a few min­utes af­ter com­plet­ing an in­ter­view with a re­porter at a re­cent de­vel­oper meet-up in Moun­tain View, Mezias got an e-mail from a team of re­searchers at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity who plan to use An­droid smart phones for health re­search.

The e-mail con­tained a job of­fer, which she ac­cepted.

Pa­trick Tehan pho­tos San JoSe Mer­cury newS

Beth Mezias lost her job at Adobe in 2008. In the 18 months since, she’s learned the An­droid mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem and has apps for sale in the An­droid Mar­ket. Mezias, 43, re­cently found a per­ma­nent job based on her An­droid work.

Mezias cre­ated Joker, a free An­droid app that sends users a joke a day. The An­droid Mar­ket of­fers about a third as many apps as Ap­ple’s App Store.

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