Over the last few years Android and Apple have come to dominate the smartphone market. A recent comScore report found that 85% of mobile devices run on either Android (52.5%) or Apple’s iOS (34.3%). Blackberry and Windows have seen their market share evaporate over the last few years, and at this point Android and iOS are the only mobile platforms that matter.
Yet despite Android’s 52.5% to 34.3% market share lead over Apple, nearly all app developers you talk to recommend building for iOS if you have to choose between the two platforms. Why?
(1) Developing for Android is more complicated, and thus more expensive than building for Apple.
Since iOS only runs on Apple products, there are a relatively small number of devices you have to account for (iPhones, iPads and iPods). In contrast, there are an estimated 3,997 distinct Android devices produced by 600 brands. Screen sizes vary widely among these Android devices. This diversity makes it difficult to build something that will provide a good experience on all phones.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Android users are much less likely to keep the operating system on their phone up to date than iPhone users. If you develop an app in the latest version of iOS, you can be confident that the vast majority of iPhone users will update and run the app. The same cannot necessarily be said for Android users.
(2) When you build for the iPhone, you are also building for the iPad.
iPhone apps can be run on the iPad. So by building for iOS you are able to reach both smartphone and tablet users.
(3) Web statistics reinforce the dominance of iOS.
According to recent research, iOS devices are responsible for 65% of all mobile web traffic. The statistics for the websites we manage show a similar trend. Over 65% of our mobile traffic comes from Apple devices while only around 26% comes from Android.
While the app market is clearly a different animal, when you see one operating system dominating another to that degree it will impact your app strategy.
(4) Apps built for the iPhone make more money than those built for Android.
This tidbit from a recent Forbes column sums up the disparity pretty well:
“Distimo, a mobile consulting firm, estimates that the Apple App store generates $5.4M/day for the 200 top-grossing apps while Google generates just $679K for their top-200 grossing apps. That is almost a 8:1 revenue ratio.”
Further, it is estimated that 92% of mobile purchases are made from iOS devices and 84% of online gaming revenue is generated by iOS devices.
If you are a developer who wants to charge for your app, iOS is the only choice.
The most recent numbers I have seen show Apple with significant leads over Android in total apps (500K to 440K) and total app downloads (25 billion to 10 billion). Until Android becomes easier to work with and closes the revenue gap significantly, I would expect developers to continue building for Apple first.