Android Market Gets A $13,000 Per Month Success Story Of Its Own

In the months following the iPhone App Store’s launch in July 2008, it became clear that the platform was turning into a gold rush.  Success stories of one-man companies earning $250,000 in a few months became common. And even though the odds of striking it rich were clearly much lower than the media portrayed, a huge surge of developers started building iPhone applications. Android Market, where meager sales have been the norm, was left in the dust.

Now Android Market is getting its own glimmers of hope. Edward Kim, who built the application “Car Locator” around five months ago, has just announced that he’s pulling in $13,000 a month from the application, which “started as a little side-project while [he] was vacationing with [his] family”.

Kim writes that the free version of the application has been downloaded around 70,000 times, while the paid application has been downloaded 6,590 times. The price was initially $1.99, but he moved it up to $3.99 (he notes that despite doubling the price, the number of downloads didn’t decrease too much).

So what was Kim’s secret to success? Well, a big part of it seems to have come from the fact that Car Locator is now a featured app on Android Market, which means Google more prominently displays it to users than ‘normal’ applications. Getting featured increased the app’s revenue by over four fold. This probably comes as bittersweet news to developers (you can’t exactly count on being featured by Google), but Kim says that he’s ranked between 100 and 200th place in the Market’s ‘Paid’ category, which means that there are probably at least 100 other applications seeing similar success.  Android Market is still far behind the App Store in many respects (except for openness), but it looks like it’s finally starting to mature.

Kim is very optimistic about the future of the platform, telling me “Android appears to have grown enough that developers can make some money off of it, but there’s not SO many developers that you’ll never get noticed.”

Here are some of Kim’s other observations:

  • The application was netting an average of about $80-$100/day, until it became a featured app on the Marketplace. Since then, sales have been phenomenal, netting an average of $435/day, with a one day record of $772 on Valentine’s Day. Too bad I didn’t have a Valentines date this year — we would’ve gone somewhere real special!
  • There appears to be clear peaks on the weekends and during holidays. This was always my hunch, but I think I can finally say this with certainty since the signal-to-noise ratio is much better now.
  • Some may be quick to point out that a featured Android application is only able to net $400/day, while top iPhone apps make thousands. But the Android market appears to rotate applications in and out of the featured apps list in some psedo-random fashion. Every time I open the Marketplace app, the featured list is different and most of the time, I don’t even see my app on there.
  • The price of the application was increased from $1.99 to $3.99. I ran a few price experiments and was surprised to see that though I doubled the price of the app, the number of purchases decreased by much less than half. Android users appear to have a willingness to pay more than a couple dollars for apps.
  • Piracy appears to be an increasing problem. A quick search for Car Locator on Twitter reveals links where people can download the .apk file without paying. I tend to have the same attitude on piracy as Balsamiq, so I’m not too worried about it, but I would love to hear some typical statistics on Android piracy.