New App Engine Pricing may kill Earthquake Alerter

To send immediate alerts of earthquakes to users of my Android app Earthquake Alert, I use Google App Engine as the processing backend for C2DM (cloud to device messaging).  Since this was recommended by the Google Android team, I thought it would be a great option.  However that all changed when Google changed their pricing model for App Engine.

Pricing Changes

In May, Google announced a new pricing model for App Engine.  While vague how it would affect my app at the time, they have since included a calculator to see a preview of the new prices with current usage.   For Earthquake Alerter, which simply loops over each registered phone and sends a push message to each, the app couldn’t be simpler.  Occasionally I hit quotas in the number of Task Queues I created, but I optimized there a bit to stay under quota.  The app was simple and as such was well under the free quotas.  For an app I released on the Android market for free (and benefiting the Android ecosystem), I was able to keep my server costs free.

However, when I view my estimated costs under the new model, the price jumps up to over 4 dollars a day.  While that seems low, I cannot really put in over 1500 dollars a year to maintain a free app.  Ridiculous.

I’m not the only developer who’s surprised and angry about the changes.

What’s Next

Earthquake Alerter will hopefully continue to function, but will hit the free quotas much much earlier in the day (possibly the morning).  As a result, users will not receive any alerts after this quota is hit.

In order to improve this, I will be possibly doing the following:

  1. Releasing a paid version of Earthquake Alerter
    • Users of this version will receive 24/7 alerts as is current today
  2. Continue to optimize the free version
    • Optimize my App Engine usage
    • Off-load some of the processing to my own server
  3. Migrating this service off App Engine entirely to alternatives including:
    • My own server
    • Amazon services
    • StackMob

Earthquake Alerter will be severely impacted by these new pricing changes.  For an unknown period (until I improve the app or migrate it off App Engine), the app may continue to function in a much degraded state (possibly never working depending of user counts).  It’s a shame Google decided to make such a drastic change.

  • Gabe

    Have you checked out Urban Airship? I believe there basic plan, which is free, gives you 1 million free push notifications. Also, what are your thoughts on adding some subtle ads to cover your costs? Keep up the good work buddy!

  • Antonio

    Hi, it is really sad the situation, your application is one of my favorites, and I only wanted you tell you that I am eager to pay for the app if it is necessary to keep it running. Greetings from México!

  • mike

    what has this world or man come to? to pay for life saving information…shame on google…shame on them!!

  • sheri

    Google is really wanting to outrage alot of people and its obvious they just don’t care! WHAT A SHAME INDEED!!!…..MORE PATHETIC THAN SHAME!

  • townie

    Would it help if everybody took off unnecessary alerts that they elected out of curiosity? ( myself included)

  • Josh

    @townie – that’s nice of you, but the main time is processing over 30K phones. I’ve been improving things in the background, and have been paying for this server so far to keep it going.

  • Josh

    @Gabe – Thanks for the support Gabe! I’m actually pushing close to 10 million a month, so with those numbers I probably need to stick with a custom solution.

  • Chris

    Guess I should have checked here first. I just downloaded and installed the Pro version of Alerter and its not registering with the Google Apps Engine.

    Have you been able to find a work-around Josh? Sad to see such a great app fall victim to this type of thing.

  • Josh

    Yes, I released an update that should fix this issue.

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