Android Developers Bemoan Paid App Limits

Android apps can only be sold in 13 countries, leaving developers wondering why Google isn't doing more to help them profit on its platform.
Sales of Android handsets may be booming, but paid Android app distribution isn't keeping up.

Android developers can distribute their software for free in 46 countries, but they can only sell apps in 13 countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

As a point of comparison, iPhone developers can sell their apps in 90 countries. Nokia's Ovi Store says that in most of the 190 countries it serves with free content, customers can purchase content using a credit card and that 85 mobile operators in 26 countries support paid content through carrier billing.

As an additional point of complication, Android developers from only nine countries -- Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom or United States -- are allowed to sell apps.

On the Android Market forum, Android developers and users have been complaining about the issue for months.

"Android will never beat Apple if Google keeps stalling on opening the marketplace for paid apps in every country," wrote a user identified as "bushwacker" in January. "I live in Norway, and the Android marketplace is only giving me the option to download free apps. This is very frustrating as I really want to buy a lot of the apps that are available in some countries."

Disgruntled Android developers have been asking for the ability to sell paid apps in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, and Ireland, to name just a few countries.

Frustration with Google's glacial effort to address the issue is leading some developers to focus on other platforms. Noting that Google failed resolve the problem, a developer identified as "eamonodoherty" wrote, "[W]e have moved on and are happily targeting iPhone and Windows Phone devices instead."

Pingdom AB, a Web uptime monitoring company based in Sweden -- a country where paid Android apps aren't yet available -- raised the issue in a blog post on Monday. The company chides Google for pushing a forthcoming app copy protection system to deter piracy when the inability to lawfully buy paid Android apps in so many countries is encouraging piracy of Android apps.

Google may be close to resolving this issue, possibly before the end of the year. According to a report published by Bloomberg, Google is trying to reach an agreement with eBay to use its PayPal service in conjunction with Android Market app sales.

Google declined to comment on Bloomberg's report but acknowledged that international payments are difficult.

"There are many factors that come into play to make sure the selling and purchasing processes run smoothly," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail. "It takes time to bring support to more countries, which is something we are working hard to do."