While Android is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most popular smartphone platform for users, app developers like to work on iOS applications more. In the following piece, some probable causes for this greater interest in iOS among developers have been explored.
In a study conducted in the third quarter of 2014, it was revealed that Android had an overwhelming 83.6% share in the global smartphone market. iOS was a distant second, with around 12.5% market share. However, when it comes to developing apps, most developers worldwide still prefer to work on the iOS platform rather than target the much larger volume of Android-users. Surely this is some sort of a paradox? Let’s find out some reasons behind this behavior:
- Market share figures do not reveal the entire picture – iOS dwarves in comparison to Android in terms of market share percentage, but the sales of flagship iPhones is at par (if not better) than most individual Android devices in the same price bracket. The considerably lower market share can be explained by the simple fact that, while Apple has just the one smartphone (iPhone) in its corner, there are hundreds of Android handsets launched every year. Comparing the adoption figures of one phone with the combined count of many others is not a fair calculation.
- iOS promises greater earnings – Over the last two years, mobile app developers have earned around $ 3 billion more from working with software on the Apple platform, in comparison to what they have made from making Android apps. Professional app companies are, at the end of the day, after profits – and iOS continues to be the better platform for doing so.
- Differences in user-behavior – Reports from mobile app development companies show that Android apps have nearly double the user-base than iPhone apps. However, the propensity to actually spend on apps is much, much lower among owners of Android devices (around 1/4th of their counterparts with iPhones). This, in turn, pulls down the ‘Average Revenue Per User’ (ARPU) for Android. The interest of developers to create apps on this platform is also, understandably, lowered.
- Most apps release on the iOS platform first – This stems directly from the previous point. Since the earning prospects are more from iPhone apps, developers have a tendency to create iOS versions of their applications first. Later on, if they are interested, an Android version is created – with appropriate app-monetization strategies (freemium or inclusion of advertisements, etc.). Unless clients specifically request for Android apps at the time of asking for free app quotes, companies do not start off with Google’s mobile platform. The general perception that Android-users are less willing to shell out money on apps is at work here.
- Android-domination is more in nations with lower income levels – Another factor that is often not taken into account while summing up mobile market trends is the geographical areas where each platform has the upper hand. In developed, high-income, smartphone-oriented societies like that of United Kingdom, Australia or the United States, iOS has the upper hand (in Aus, the fight is too close to call a clear winner). On the other hand, Android rules the roost in comparatively low-income countries, particularly in Southeast Asia. Obviously, money from mobile apps come mostly from the well-to-do countries – and as a result, iOS gets an advantage.
- Positioning of iPhone and Android devices – iPhones are positioned as ‘premium’ smartphones (let’s forget Apple’s disastrous flirtation with budget smartphones, iPhone 5C, last year). Months before the iPhone 6/6 Plus were launched, everyone knew that they were going to efficient but ‘pricey’ gadgets. On the other hand, Android has a host of smartphones targeting the lower end of the buyer-spectrum (the recent Android One project is a classic example on this count). Interestingly, while all the flagship iPhones have been successful, many low-end Android phones have failed in the last few quarters. This clearly shows that iOS, due to its strong brand positioning, is a ‘safer’ platform for developers to create apps for. Google Android, with Galaxy S5 at one end and sub-$100 phones on the other, is just too diluted.
- Creating iPhone apps is a lot simpler – Making Android apps that deliver value AND are optimized for all manufacturers’ devices (from Sony to Samsung, and from Asus to Micromaxx and Google’s very own Nexus) is tough work. During the building and mobile app testing phases, developers have to check whether their software is optimized for every popular Android device. A lot of time-consuming research needs to go into this. In contrast, an iOS app needs to be optimized for the latest iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch. This makes the job of coders as well as UI/UX designers a lot easier.
- Perceived intent of buyers – The average price of iPhones is just a shade under $600, while that of Android phones hovers around $275. Even so, flagship iPhones outsell most high-end Android handsets. What’s more – the debacle of the much-hyped Samsung Galaxy S5 is a clear indication that smartphone-users are not quite ready to take to pricey Android phones. Mobile app development experts interpret these trends (correctly) to conclude that iOS-users trust their devices more, and are more likely to download apps on them. With Android, there is always some uncertainty in the air.
- Poor app consistency on Android – While cross-platform app developers might disagree, the fact remains that apps initially optimized for the iOS platform do not work nearly as well on Android phones. Right from mobile games to magazine apps, the iPhone version of an application is almost always more user-friendly and has better features than the Android version. Compounding this problem is the presence of so many Android devices. People invariably want a consistent app-using experience: iOS delivers it, Android often does not.
- The vicious cycle affecting Android – The popularity of Google Android drops further owing to a circular phenomenon. Since the chances of making money on the platform are lower, either free or lower-priced versions of apps are released on it, they (understandably) do not make much money, and developers get further disinterested. In contrast, iOS app developers are more than happy with their average earnings – and the financial motivation spurs them on.
- Chance of app bugs going undetected – Practically nil at the Apple App Store. The same, however, cannot be said about Google Play Store. Unlike iTunes, there are plenty of buggy apps in the latter. If someone downloads an app with malware and reports it, that not only seals the fate of that application – but also affects the reputation and goodwill of the concerned Android apps company. It takes 10-11 days on average to get apps approved via iTunes Connect, but the wait is worth it – since there are no chances of bugs going undetected.
- Favorable share price movements inspire confidence – Just like general stakeholders, app developers too take a hint or two from the movement of the share prices of the companies they would be building apps for. Over the last year (figures till this trading week), while Google’s share price on NASDAQ has dropped slightly ($564.52 to $496.17), that of Apple Inc. has surged from $76.13 to $112.01. It’s not that Google as a company is in any sort of strife – but the picture is pretty clear: people, including mobile software developers, have greater confidence in Apple. That is reflected in the iOS apps vs Android apps debate.
- iPhone-the status symbol – Let’s just finish off with a psychological factor. Till this date, flashing out an iPhone out from the pocket and using apps on it is a matter of pride for many. Android phones, even the high-priced ones, are a lot more commonplace. The sustained strong sales of every new flagship iPhone proves that people are ready to pay more to own a device that doubles up as a status symbol. As a result, iPhone apps have greater acceptance than Android apps. Developers are fully aware of this.
There are app development experts who forecast that Android would become the more popular platform for developers within the next couple of years. The impressive adoption rate of Apple Swift among coders confirm that there is no waning in interest about the iOS platform though. Unless the next couple of flagship iPhones bomb badly (unlikely), and Google manages to come up with a truly amazing Android phone in the interim – iOS will still remain the preferred platform for most mobile developers.
What’s your take on this?