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.