While Android is a growing and compelling platform for mobile applications, developers still clearly prefer making iOS apps, according to brand new data published by Flurry Analytics.
The fact that nearly seven out of 10 new applications are developed for iOS devices is particularly relevant given that both Apple and Google are about to unveil new tools, bells and whistles at their annual developer conferences. Apple's WWDC begins June 11 while Google's I/O conference will be held on June 29.
Here are the key reasons why developers still prefer iOS, even as Android smartphones are owned by more consumers.
The dominance of iPads
While Amazon's Kindle Fire and the range of Samsung Galaxy devices offer up some innovations, no other tablet even comes close to the iPad. In fact, as noted by All Things D columnist John Paczkowski, the closest competitor to the new iPad are old iPads! Flurry describes it as "The Apple 2-for-1 Proposition." Developers know that if they create universal apps, then they can still reach consumers who own an Android (or other) smartphone and an iPad. There is no real market there for iPhone owners who have Android tablets. Of course, with hundreds of thousands of apps created for iPads, discoverability is a major issue. Still, it's better to have a shot in a competitive platform than have a notable app in a platform that a fraction of the population embrace.
Too many devices on too many operating systems
Although Android's newest operating system -- Ice Cream Sandwich -- has been available on handsets for nearly a year, most Android-powered smartphones still run on the earlier Gingerbread OS. Compare that to Apple. When the company presumably unveils iOS 6 next week at the WWDC, developers will know where all the action will take place. Apple has a more systematic and understandable method for new updates, which puts consumers, developers and manufacturers in sync. Google is still more wild west, where owners of presumably state-of-the-art Android devices can't update officially unless they unlock and 'root' their device. Crazy.
Further, while the iPhone has a predictable form and function (which only gets updated after Apple unveils new versions), there are dozens of Android variations. An Android developer has to account for touchscreens, slide-out keyboards, variations in camera quality, varying screen sizes and a multitude of other variables. That means Android apps are harder to develop, QA and standardize. It is also a more expensive process that can never guarantee quality across all the hardware/software permutations.
Follow the money
A combination of the issues described above, as well as the more clumsy way consumers purchase apps from Google Play and other stores (compared to the iTunes App Store) means that developers on average make four times more revenue for every user they touch on iOS compared to Android. Here you have a self-fulfilling prophecy, of sorts. Developers don't invest as much on Android because there is not as much money in it. Consumers don't embrace Android because they know the best apps are released first (and oftentimes exclusively) on iOS devices. Developers go where the consumers are.
Of course, Google will likely, eventually figure things out and at the very least have standard and sequenced OS releases. And, largely through developer payoffs (ahem, incentives) Microsoft is becoming a relevant player in the app space and recently welcomed its 100,000th app available to Windows mobile devices. With BlackBerry on the ropes, perhaps we'll see RIM acquired by Microsoft. There's no telling how a three-way race here will impact the incumbent leaders.
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