If you’ve taken note of the many young entrepreneurs who are making noise in the tech world, you’ll notice a trend. Whether it be the impressive rookies, like the three Ivy League sophomores at Side and the youthful businessmen who, along with rapper T.I., are behind Yopima, or the big boys of the game, like the Nike+ Fuelband app and Facebook-owned Instagram, many of your favorite apps usually share one thing in common: they all get released, sometimes exclusively, on the iPhone and iOS app stores before anything else.
If the Samsung Galaxy, for example, is your phone of choice, it could be a frustrating reality to cope with — there is no doubt that watching “#TeamiPhone” post Vine clips all over social media for six months made more than a few people jealous, before the app was (finally) made available for download on Android phones in June.
No matter what phone you carry in your pocket, though, it’s hard to argue against the notion that the trend can feel like a bit of a mystery, especially when you consider the numbers, simply because, as Stuart Dredge points out for UK paper The Guardian, Android phones are really, really popular. Just consider the numbers.
Nearly 80% of smartphones sold between April and June were running on Google’s Android operating system, while 62% of tablets shipped to retailers during the same time period were running on Android. This all begs one question: why? Why is it that developers insist on releasing the next big thing on Apple products while being seemingly content with depriving Android users of the same joy?
For this, Dredge offers a few answers.
“Developing iOS apps means ensuring they work nicely on a small range of iPhones and/or iPads: generally 6-8 different devices depending how far back the developer wants to go,” Dredge said in a report written last month. “On Android, it’s a different story: nearly 12,000 different devices out there in the hands of people, with a wider range of screen sizes, processors and versions of the Android software still in use.”
The suggestion behind the first reason Dredge offers as an explanation of developers preference for the iPhone is pretty clear. It’s much easier to plan and to engineer a release on iOS app stores for the small range of Apple products than it is to develop an app that is compatible with, not just the hundreds or thousands, but over 10,000 devices that run on Android.
And it’s not just the number of platforms, it’s also the differences in technical DNA of all of those devices that makes releasing an app on Android phones a less appealing prospect. In short, going with the loved and established known that is Apple is just the go to. That is an assessment that many of the tech world’s freshest faces are likely to agree with.
“We chose to build on the iPhone as opposed to Android because we felt as if it would best to come out on a platform that everyone in the team understood and was comfortable with,” says Serge Efap, CMO of new startup Connect Now and a member of this parish. “Don’t get me wrong, Android development is crucial and it is something that we plan on developing very soon, but initially, we wanted to launch on a platform that we felt the most accustomed to.”
The reasons behind developers going to Apple-first, however, are not just matters of technicalities, but perception as well. Many of the entrepreneurs, Dredge argues, that are behind startups (especially those that are strapped for cash) feel as though they’re making a safe bet with their money. There’s not only the brand loyalty that techies feel toward i-Products, but also the statistically proven idea that there’s more money to be made in the world of iOS.
Between the revenue generated from the iOS app store and Android’s equivalent, Google Play, together, Apple owns a 73% share.
But as Android phones become more popular, and as people begin to consider more alternatives to the iPhone (and as Google itself continues to progress towards closing the gap that Steve Jobs created when he established his mobile products long before Android was even a thought), it’s only natural that developers begin to change the way they think about the task of releasing the first versions of their apps.
“Developers are starting to move from creating new products on the basis ‘iPhone, then maybe Android’ to ‘iPhone and then Android’ or even ‘iPhone and Android at the same time,'” says industry analyst Benedict Evans. “Cool little apps from seed-funded companies are still iPhone-only, but most big well-funded businesses are doing both.”
In the end, the winner will be us, the consumers, as Drudge says competition can be expected to do what it always does, prompt the creating of better products for the buyers.
“The bigger point here is that the competition between these two platforms is good news for users of both,” he says, “as Apple and Google battle to win the hearts, minds and roadmaps of app developers with better devices, more features and improved ways for us to find the apps that they create as a result.”
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