Report: Rampant App Piracy is Hurting Android Developers

It’s an established fact that mobile developers on virtually all major platforms have to contend with a rampant piracy problem. While most modern mobile platforms like iOS and Android offer convenient virtual stores for buying apps and prices tend to be low, there is still a large contingent of users who would rather get an app from a forum or BitTorrent site than pay $0.99 for it. Most of the discussion around app piracy so far has focused on iOS. A new report by research and analysis firm Yankee Group (in cooperation with Skyhook), however, is among the first to take a closer look at piracy in the Android ecosystem and finds that most developers there also see piracy as a major problem and often think that Google’s Android Market policies are too lax.

Android Piracy

The report is based on a survey and interviews of 75 Android developers conducted by Skyhook. Overall, about a quarter of all respondents (27%) think that app piracy is a major problem for their business on the Android platform. Another quarter (26%) of respondents thinks its “somewhat of a problem.” Still, while the vast majority of developers thinks  about half of all developers think their apps are not being pirated.


Where Do Users Get Pirated Apps?

While it’s hard to know where exactly these users are getting their pirated apps from, the developers think that piracy forums (41%) and  BitTorrent sites (26%) are the main sources. There are also quite a few developers (17%) who have seen users ask for refunds on copied apps. One issue that seems to be more prevalent in the Android Market than in other stores is the fact that it is apparently relatively easy for others to republish existing apps under a different name.

There are, of course, some anti-piracy measures that developers can implement, including Google’s own License Validation Library. Only half of all developers surveyed for this report actually use copy protection for the paid apps, though. Using copy protection, however, introduces a whole new set of issues, as users generally don’t like it and 62% of developers think they have lost sales because of it and 82% have found that it sometimes locks out legitimate buyers from using an app.


Given that Android developers already make less from paid apps than iOS developers (Android users simply don’t buy as many apps as their Apple-toting counterparts), it looks as if app piracy on the Android platform is a major reason why some developers shy away from it. While developers could implement subscription models or monetize their apps through ads, this isn’t a solution for everybody and it looks as if the various market places and Google itself will have to get a bit more proactive in discouraging piracy.

The full (paid) report is available here.