This little Android app went to market

Developer William Francis shares his thoughts on distributing Android apps via three channels: the Android Market, the Amazon Appstore, and your website.

Distributing an app via your website

There is nothing stopping you from posting an APK on your website and handling downloads and sales that way. It's a good way to provide your app to users who have trouble with more traditional marketplaces because of their geographic location or the limitations of their Android-powered device. I don't suggest this approach as the sole distribution channel except in very specific cases.

Pros

  • You get full control of when your app is available and to whom.
  • You can employ traditional web hosting tools and techniques for gathering advanced metrics about your users.
  • There are no fees associated with distributing your app this way, so if you are charging for your app, you don't have to give 30% of your profits away to the distribution channel. (A 30/70 split has become the defacto profit sharing model for the majority of app stores these days.)

Cons

  • You become responsible for marketing your app, implementing a payment system, and keeping up with who has purchased your app so that when your customers upgrade their devices they aren't charged for your app again.
  • All the major app markets available today handle notifying users of updates and installing upgrades and patches. If you choose to distribute your app from your website, it's up to you to build this non-trivial functionality into the app itself, along with the necessary backend web services to support the notification and update process.
  • Users will have to open their devices up to unknown sources, and without a "market app," you'll have to instruct users on how to clean up remnant APKs off their devices after installation and/or when downloading new versions.