May 13th, 2011 → 2:00 pm @ Rekha at PRX
We know, we know. Android users want the Player, too.
Oh, the drama.
Here’s the deal. PRX wants to develop the Public Radio Player for Android. We know the Android OS dominates in smartphone sales. And I know we’ve been putting out teasers for a while – sorry about that. We made big progress last summer, thanks to the Google Summer of Code. But the app is pretty complex, and there’s a lot left to do. The original grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting did not fund Android – at the time of the grant, Android went from non-existent to fledgling. Meanwhile, PRX expanded our mobile app offerings to public media organizations, including This American Life and several stations. We’re a small team, and we’ve been busy with that.
But that’s not the only reason. Since last summer, we launched the This American Life Android app, with the same design and features as their iPhone app. That was a cautionary learning experience. For one thing, the adoption of the Android app has been less than 10% of the iPhone app. This, despite the reams of requests PRX and This American Life received from desperate Android users right up until launch. That may be an extreme situation, but — and I know all you Android users will not like to hear this — it’s true that app use by Android users is currently lower than Apple iOS users.
Yet it cost no less to develop.
There’s more. The beauty of Android’s openness is also a headache for developers (and it hasn’t changed much since this post last year). It’s many different versions of an OS across thousands of different devices. Despite our best efforts at testing, the This American Life app on Android is, shall we say, challenging for us and our users. As of now, media playback varies widely across devices, and it’s likely we’ll have to build our own solution. Netflix just announced they’re handling Android’s lack of a media playback standard by releasing on only five devices for now. Five, out of hundreds.
Plus, it’s not just about developing an app, it’s about caring for it once it’s in the wild, and caring for you, our *ahem* vocal audience. Audio playback sourced from thousands of station streams and podcasts compounds the issue. That’s true of the iPhone, but it’s even more true of the Android.
Oh wait, there’s even more. We are gearing up for a development sprint on the iPhone soon (watch this blog for an invite to give us ideas). We want to get at bugs and UI pain points, and make improvements for stations and users alike. When we do move forward on Android again, we want it to have the newest version of the iPhone app. So yes, more waiting.
I have an Android phone. A couple of my colleagues do, too. We would love to have the Public Radio Player (I use it on my iPod instead). But for a small, non-profit organization with tons of awesome stuff going on, it’s going to take more time.
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