Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vendor portals for app developers compared

After some months of developing for different platforms, I'd like to compare the vendor portals of the different "app stores". Even though I just used the term "app store" I won't include Apple's App Store into my comparison, because I didn't yet have the possibility of using it – developing for Apple's products is just way too expensive. I think by now the term "app store" isn't a trademark but a generic name.
But enough with the ranting. I'm going to compare the vendor portals of the following App Stores:
  • Android Market
  • BlackBerry App World
  • Palm App Catalog
At first I'd like to tell you what and how easy you can work with each portal (don't forget the looks). Of course the process to register has to be described to – at least the part I remember. At the end of the article there's a summary table for those who don't want to read a lot of text but just see a résumé.

Let's start with the Android Market's Developer Console:
As expected for a product developed by Google, the Android Market Developer Console is a very clean and easy to use portal to manage your Android Apps and App Widgets. In the Developer Console you can modify your public Market profile, edit/update published Apps and create new ones. Creating and editing Apps is very easy and straight forward.
You can also view the rating and install statistics of your apps (as already described in my last article). Those statistics are very detailed. One really awesome thing is the possibility of checking for errors that occurred in your app. For each app there is a link in the Developer Console that allows the developer to list the stack trace of exceptions that users reported. So it's really easy to pinpoint problems – at least if the users report them.
Since I didn't (yet?) release a paid app I have no experience in sales reports, but I can imagine that those are pretty good too.
The registration was very easy too: I just had to enter some personal information for the vendor profile and create/link a Google Checkout profile (to pay the registration fee of just $25) and I was able to upload and publish apps immediately.

Next up's the BlackBerry App World Vendor Portal:
Before I developed the Geocaching Helper for the BlackBerry PlayBook I didn't even know how apps get distributed on BlackBerry devices – at least I wasn't interested in those (ugly) business-devices. And after owning the BlackBerry PlayBook my feelings didn't change. Even tough the PlayBook is a neat device, I'm, not really satisfied with the whole BlackBerry experience.
The App World Vendor Portal is not really easy to use – RIM announced an update, but for now that update just arrived for the App World's storefront. The Vendor Portal is a ugly as business applications have to be.
Creating and updating apps is very complicated. You have to answer hundreds of questions (at least the first time) and uploading the app is not straight forward either. The portal is not optimized for all mainstream browsers and as Google Chrome user, uploading app screen shots and icons didn't work and froze the whole tab.
The statistics that the vendor portal is very poor too (as you may remember) and the comfort of the Android Market Developer Console is missing. You also don't get errors from users but I think that's a problem of the BlackBerry Tablet OS that doesn't support error reporting.
The registration was also terrible. You have to fill out what feels like hundreds of forms and then send them a copy of your passport or a notarial certification. When I registered the registration fee had been waived for a limited time but if I remember correctly the normal fee was $200 for ten submissions (or apps?!). I just checked again and it seems as if the registration fee has been waived completely – at least there's no note that it's just temporary.

Last but not least, the Palm App Catalog Developer Center (or is it the HP App Catalog?):
As with the BlackBerry App World, I had no interest in webOS devices before I developed the Geocaching Helper for the HP TouchPad. Until then I knew that webOS existed but never had the chance to test one, because they are not that popular. Now that I developed using the new Enyo framework (for the TouchPad) I can't wait to create another app – unfortunately I currently don't have a great idea.
Now the App Catalog MyApps section is very straight forward and the design is OK. It's easy to create and edit apps, but making errors isn't a good idea because even though, after submitting an app for review you can request rejection, a reviewer has to approve that rejection. As in the Android Market Developer Console the information you can provide is enough to promote your app.
Unfortunately the statistics are not as great as they could be. They are easy to use but those tables are not really easy to read and don't include much information.
For the registration I didn't have to provide much information but that information I had to provide was not easy to understand. The registration fee was (and is) also waived for a limited time and I didn't find any information about regular fees.


Résumé


The lesson is clear: RIM and HP have to improve their vendor portals if they want to compete against Android (and I'm sure iOS). For me, the Android market Developer Console is the best because it's straight forward and offers all I need. The Palm App Catalog Developer Center is not bad, but needs some improvement. And unless RIM updates it's BlackBerry App World Vendor Portal I won't give another statement.

I hope that soon I'm able to review Microsoft's App Hub – currently I don't have a powerful enough Windows PC to develop and test on the emulator (and there's no free Windows Phone 7 device in sight either ;).

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