Why Pocket Rocket isn’t available for Android

Pretty well the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd questions that we fielded regarding Pocket Rocket went like this: Why isn’t there an Android version?

The answer is, because there is no appreciable Android market. Let me explain what makes a market: people willing to buy, the ability to complete a transaction, and people willing to sell. Spoiler: All three points = FAIL.

1. Are people willing to buy? A long-time inspiration, Philip Greenspun says, in a net pro-Android analysis, “in nearly 2.5 years of using Android daily, [I have] never purchased an application.” Philip has his fuck-you money. He can buy any app he feels like without thinking twice. And still, he hasn’t bought a single one, more or less since Android shipped.

2. Are people able to close a purchase? Have you seen the nightmare that is Google Checkout in Canada? Developers hoping to offer in-app purchase have to create a US corporation so they can run Google checkout transactions. News flash: Many of us have better things to do.

3. Do developers see an incentive? I am loath to give our esteemed competitors airtime, but Rocket Radar has been the victim of a sleazy knockoff in the Android Market. They are truly the only game in town on the Android app store, and yet the sleazy knockoff that is TTC Radar has one rating (four stars) among their less-than-fifty installs.

The answers, for Canadian developers, with Canadian users, aiming at a market for Candians, is no on all counts.

Let me be clear: We could write an Android app. My partner Bill has sucked up the misery that is figuring out how to develop for that platform. I know Java to the point where it bores me. I have a handful of offers from Indian and East-European firms to take our code and port it over for under a thousand bucks. And even so, the best vendors in the Android market aren’t able to manage more than 50 installs.

There just isn’t a viable business in the Android market unless you are a port of a multi-million-install game or social-networking app on iOS, and even then, I’m not sure it matters. Apple iPhone and iPod touch owners are inured to buying new features through the App Store and in-app purchase. They really, genuinely, don’t mind. Apple has returned a billion dollars a year, roughly, to developers. How many cheques has Google cut?

Let me put it another way. If anyone feels like making an Android version of our app, using our source code, algorithms, original artwork, and blessing: we will take you up on it. Our price is a really nice night out on the town for myself and my three partners.

Tale of a morning commute

We just shipped Pocket Rocket, and I thought I would share an example of what it can do. My morning commute is on the 501 Queen from Jameson to Spadina.

If I pull out the app, the first stop I see is the one I’m standing at: Eastbound at Jameson.

If I tap the line with “Jameson”, I am told that I will get to Spadina in 18 minutes.

So I tell my employee, and right on time the streetcar shows up:

I even got a seat! At the predicted time, 10:02, I get to Spadina and my little slice of productivity heaven:

Tiny Planet's offices

If this is the kind of useful app you can use, you can get it right now, in the App store.

Bitten by bugs

So there I was, thinking that WordPress was really the most amazing piece of software. I was well and truly flying: I had uploaded 14 images, it had properly resized them.  I was writing a blog post including a number of styles, image treatments, and so forth, all in valid XHTML.

If this had been Drupal I would have been tearing my hair out 3 minutes in,  cursing that system’s developers and everyone who ever thought it was any good. But WordPress? Schlick schtuff: wow how I was  having fun.  I’d forgotten web publishing can be like this.  Whee! Look out world, here comes blogger Steeeeeeeeeeeve with his TITLE attribute set! Banzai!

Then my browser crashed.

Web browsers are such a blessing, and such a curse.  I don’t know if the Internet would be better off without them.