Is Android losing appeal with developers?

Developers are favoring iOS over Android because there are more iOS users, and those users download more apps

Android is a phenomenal success story -- skyrocketing from nothing to surpass both RIM and Apple and become the dominant smartphone platform in only a couple years. Recent studies, however, indicate Android may have lost some luster with developers as iOS seems to be the primary platform developers are working on.

Or, maybe not. Just in the past month or so PCWorld has had conflicting stories. In June, there was "Mobile Developers Still Choosing Android Over iOS", followed recently by "Developers Favor iOS Over Android, Study Shows".

Which is it? When you're dealing with studies, surveys, and statistics, it is often hard to tell. You have to understand the angle of the company conducting the survey, or the agenda of the organization that commissioned the study.

There are some legitimate reasons, though, why a developer faced with a decision between creating an app for iOS or an app for Android might lean toward the iOS side of the fence.

iOS Is a Larger Market. Android may have surpassed Apple in the smartphone arena, but iOS is bigger than smartphones. If you include iPads and iPod Touches in the mix, iOS has an audience of about 200 million possible customers compared with only 135 million for Android.

Android activations seem to be outpacing iOS, so Android is closing that gap. But, when the iPhone 5 -- along with iOS 5 and iCloud -- hit the street, things may shift back in Apple's favor. If the rumor of T-Mobile and Sprint also offering the iPhone 5, or the rumor that Apple will also offer the iPhone 3GS as some sort of economy version of the iPhone come true, iOS sales could quickly leapfrog Android.

iOS App Store Is More Dynamic. Not only does the Apple App Store have more apps than the Android Market, but there is more activity and greater turnover in the App Store.

Distimo, a Dutch mobile apps research firm, was quoted in a recent PCWorld article explaining lower Android Market sales with the following statement: "The top 10 free and top 10 paid applications together have seen only 26 applications in the Google Android Market, while there have been 94 applications in the top 10 free and paid in the Apple App Store for iPhone."

According to a report from Distimo, 25 percent of the free apps, and 79 percent of the paid apps in the Android Market have been downloaded fewer than 100 times, and only two paid Android apps have managed to sell more than 500,000 downloads ever. The report contrasts that with six paid iOS apps that had each sold more than 500,000 downloads in only a two month period, and only counting U.S. sales.

iOS Users Buy More and Pay More. This is really the main point that matters. Android could have a larger audience than iOS, and have more apps in its market with a high degree of turnover in terms of which are the top, or most downloaded apps, but most developers are in it to make a profit.

GigaOM recently shared some data from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster indicating that iOS users buy more apps and pay more for them than other platform users -- including Android. Munster reports that an average iOS user downloads 83 apps (up from only 51 the year prior) at an average sale price of $1.48 (up from $1.29 the previous year). Munster also states that the average sale price of the top 30 paid iOS apps is up 36 percent from 2010 to $6.32.

These points, combined with the slew of patent infringement lawsuits plaguing Android, suggest that the glory days of the Android OS may be waning quickly. I am not suggesting that Android will fade into oblivion -- just that patent licensing fees and a stagnant app store will not support the kind of rapid growth that Android has enjoyed up to this point.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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