There was cold beer, hot pizza and shop talk at a recent informal gathering of Android programmers in downtown Manhattan. Inevitably the chatter turned to money.
One software developer, James Englert, 26, had just released his first application for Android, Google's operating system for cellphones. When asked, he tossed out an estimate for his take from sales of the app, a simple program that shows train schedules: "$1 to $2 per day."
The room erupted with laughter. "That's pretty good money," he protested over the clamor.
The others could relate to Mr Englert's situation because writing Android software is not yet a ticket to financial success. Even as Android sales surge -- Google says it is now activating around 200,000 phones a day -- the market for Android apps still seems anemic compared with that for Apple and its thriving App Store.
Experts and developers say that is in part because the Android Market, the dominant store for Android apps, has some clunky features that can be annoying to phone owners who are eager to make a quick purchase. For starters, Android uses Google Checkout rather than an online payment system that more people are familiar with, like PayPal. As a result, many Android developers make their apps available free and rely on mobile advertisements to cover the cost.