For a cool US$200, Android G1 users can buy at least one app that iPhone users can't: the "I am Richer" application.
On Friday, Google started allowing paid applications in the Android store and among the first to appear was "I Am Richer." Despite the high cost, users get essentially nothing. The application displays a blue diamond on the screen to "prove your wealth to others," according to the app's description.
The appearance of the program shows just one of a few differences between the Google and Apple mobile-phone application stores.
A similar app, called "I am Rich," briefly showed up in the iPhone App Store, where several people reportedly bought it for $1,000. But the application quickly disappeared from the store, likely pulled by Apple.
While Apple vets and monitors the applications in its store, Google has essentially left the door open. Anyone who registers for the Android developer program can upload an application to the store. That could mean that a wider variety of apps will appear in Google's store but it also makes it possible for fraudulent programs to make it in.
So far, the $200 "I am Richer" app appears to be the most expensive in the Android store. Jay Freeman, a developer who has started a Web site cataloging all the applications in the Android store, has compiled a list of apps by price. He reports a few around $25, 15 at $10 and far more at the low end: 136 apps cost $1 and 42 are being sold for $2, he said.
But some developers are complaining that, possibly because the Android market started out with exclusively free apps, they are having trouble selling applications.
"Over the weekend I've had a few downloads for my $0.99 app, but I guess I was expecting more," wrote "stonedonkey" in the Android forum. "I'm curious if people just aren't willing to pay, if they are having issues, or there just aren't really that many phones in use?"
"I was wondering same myself," wrote another developer, "Sundog." "I certainly expected a game with a demo in the top ten and an installed base of over 50,000 to get more than a couple of dozen purchases over the weekend."
He pulled the free version of his application so as not to compete with the paid version and thus lost his high ranking in the store. Google initially only allowed free applications in the store while it worked on a payment mechanism.
The transition to paid applications appears troublesome for other developer as well. Some expected that they'd be able to simply switch the price of the app from free to paid, rather than have to upload a new copy of the application. That would allow the developers to retain the ranking of the application in the store.
Google is one of a few companies that have launched or are preparing to launch application stores for mobile phones, hoping to mirror the success that Apple found with its App Store. Apple so far has about 15,000 applications in the store and boasts over 300 million downloads from the store. Microsoft, Nokia, BlackBerry and Palm are all also developing stores.