What top app developers really think of the app stores

App developers want approvals by the big mobile players who manage app stores to happen much faster and more transparently, a new study set to be released this week found.

Open First, a research advisory firm based in the U.S. and Europe, learned that in a survey of top application developers on the Apple, Android and Ovi app stores in which they evaluate their experience with the stores. Some surprising patterns emerged in the results, which VentureBeat reviewed in advance of publication.

Open First contacted developers whose application was listed as “Top” in some app category on the store. While the number of developers who participated wasn’t huge (110 developers from the Apple store, for example), it’s enough to give an indication of the mood of the best performing developers. Most respondents had published multiple applications.Across all the app stores, developers agreed on the importance of a quick, transparent and flexible application evaluation process. Nokia and iPhone developers complained that approval sometimes takes too long and it’s often unclear why an app is rejected. While 55 percent of Android developers are satisfied with the publication process (there is no quality review on the Android store which speeds up the publication process) they also criticized the lack of a centralized, quality review process as leading to poor visibility of higher quality applications and ultimately to low sales.

Developers across all three stores also agreed on the major problems: support and the inability to respond to customer comments and reviews. When asked about the support provided to app purchasers, only 13 percent for Android Market market developers were satisfied, while the figures were 24 percent for Ovi and 40 percent for the Apple Store. On the technical and business support offered to developers, respondents who were unsatisfied (27 percent of Apple developers, for example) said that new policies are poorly communicated and  support requests from developers often have long turnaround times.

Developers would also welcome a more effective way to interact with their users on the stores, e.g. to reply to user comments and reviews (including bad reviews) or notify them about updates. Bad reviews, in particular, have a negative effect on the ranking and therefore visibility of applications.

One of the most surprising results was on revenue. The survey showed 81 percent of developers for Ovi Store said they were earning less than they expected, with the corresponding figures being 49 percent for the Android Market and 28 percent for the Apple Store. Unsurprisingly, developers who reported low revenues ascribed this to a combination of inadequate promotion tools, application ranking systems and bad categorization of apps. On the other hand, 48 percent of iPhone developers reported earning more than they expected. So the Apple Store still appears to be the most lucrative for developers.

Overall 78 percent of iPhone developers said they are somewhat satisfied, satisfied or very satisfied. The same percentage was 63 percent for Android developers and 42 percent for Nokia developers. Some Android and Ovi developers said that they prefer the Apple Store because of its superior promotional support, rating system, reliability and ease of payment for end users. Even on the Apple store though, developers suggested that the store could be improved by making the approval process quicker, more transparent and consistent, making it easier to find apps and reply to comments.

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