There’s little doubt that Google’s Android platform for smartphones has been a huge success. The search engine giant has managed to transform Android into the most widely used smartphone operating system, despite Apple’s immensely popular iPhone. While becoming the mobile OS leader is certainly cause for celebration, Android is slipping a bit when it comes to the production of new apps.
Flurry, a company that specializes in the analysis of mobile data, recently released the results of a study that details a potential lapse in Android’s app production. When compared to January 2011, last month saw fewer Android apps come to market than their Apple counterparts. For each Android app released, three Apple apps were developed. Just a year ago, the results were more positive for Google, as two Android apps were created for every three Apple apps. Peter Farago, Flurry’s VP of marketing, summed up the results by saying, “We saw a greater migration to iOS.”
It’s worth mentioning that Flurry’s study only tracked developers who designed their apps with Flurry tools, so it did not cover the entire app market. Still, Flurry tracked over 55,000 developers with 65,000 new app projects contributing to the study’s findings, which showed that Google’s attempts at also becoming the king of apps may not be working. Apps help to further enhance the functionality and appeal of smartphones, which can potentially lead to increases in customer retention. Currently, Apple’s App Store boasts a catalog of over 550,000 apps, while Google’s Android Market checks in with approximately 400,000.
Flurry’s numbers for January may show a bit of a slowdown in Android’s meteoric rise towards smartphone supremacy, but Google does deserve credit for its successful run since Android offerings first hit the market in 2008. According to Flurry, however, Android’s app growth in 2011 was approximately half of Apple’s, signaling a possible beginning to the platform’s relative downturn in app production.
Flurry isn’t the only research firm that has documented Android’s recent app woes. Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 2,000 app developers and noted that their interest had waned in developing for Android. When compared to June 2011, fewer developers said they were “very interested” in creating apps for the platform when asked in November. Their interest in development for Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, remained steady over the same time period. Although the surveys make for an interesting debate, representatives at Google and Apple declined to comment on the findings.
On the surface, one might think that Android would be more appealing to developers. After all, it stakes claim to being the most widely used OS on smartphones, which translates to more exposure. Also, since Apple’s App Store has more apps than the Android Market, it might be harder to make a splash in such a big pond. So, keeping these things in mind, why are developers leaning towards Apple and iOS?
In simple terms, it’s a matter of time and money. Developing for Apple takes less time, and the opportunities it presents for generating revenue are greater thanks to iTunes and other factors. Farago put it simply, saying, “Developers can make more money on iOS.”
A perfect example that displays the advantages offered by iOS versus Android is GameHouse, the company behind NCIS the Game and Doodle Jump. VP Ken Murphy said GameHouse’s turnaround time for developing an app is two months longer with Android. In addition, an iOS title generates three to four times the revenue of an Android title. With less time investment and greater return, it’s no wonder GameHouse prefers iOS.
Taking a closer look at what’s behind the time aspect reveals the added complication with Android development. “It’s nowhere near as simple as iOS,” said Murphy. For starters, unlike iOS with its iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, Android devices come from various manufacturers and boast different designs and capabilities. According to Murphy, GameHouse has to take Android’s variety into account when developing for the platform. With differences in accelerometers and other factors found in over 550 Android devices, proper development can become quite the time consuming task. Bill O’Donnell, GM of mobile products at Kayak.com, said there are too many Android devices to test for. “It puts developers in a tough spot,” he added.
Another factor standing in the way of Android’s app success is distribution. Apple’s App Store is its one-stop shop for iOS apps, while Android is spread across not only the Android Market, but several other app stores as well. This adds to Android developers’ workloads when it comes to marketing. Marmalade president Alex Caccia described the problem: “For Android, there are 90 app stores. And if you are serious about this market, you’ve got to do it.”
When you add Apple’s advantageous practice of storing user credit card information in iTunes for quick app purchases to the equation, Android has quite the mountain to climb if it hopes to reign over the app kingdom.