Android Uncertain in Battle Versus iOS

It’s hard to deny the success of Google’s Android platform. In its relatively short existence, Android has managed to overtake both Research in Motion and Apple to become the leader in the smartphone market. While the popularity of Android is easy to see with customers, its appeal to developers is another story.

Apple’s iOS is the major threat to Android in the development arena.  Several reports have come out recently regarding the popularity of both platforms with developers.  The major problem with the reports is that there seems to be no true leader.  If you take a look at two recent stories from PCWorld, for example, you can see the contradiction.  One cites a study that shows a positive outlook for Android with developers, while the other favors iOS.  Of course, statistics can often be manipulated to convey a certain point, so you have to keep the goal of the company collecting the data in mind.

So, if you can’t necessarily trust the released studies, where does the truth lie?  It may not be easy to predict the future, but there are some reasons that point to a favorable app development future for Apple’s iOS over Android, as stated by Tony Bradley of PCWorld.

One reason why app developers may focus on iOS is the sheer size of its market.  Sure, Android has become king of the smartphone market, but iOS is much more than just smartphones.  When you throw in the iPad and iPod Touch with the iPhone, iOS has the potential to reach 200 million customers.  Android, on the other hand, is exposed to just 135 million customers.  Android’s numbers are improving thanks to more activations than iOS, so the gap of 65 million customers should close a little.  However, Apple could easily cut into Android’s activation momentum with some new moves of its own, such as the release of the iPhone 5, iOS 5, and iCloud.

Apple’s App Store is another area where iOS should appeal more to developers.  The App Store not only wins the numbers game in terms of available apps, but it is also more dynamic.  A recent study by Distimo, a Dutch research firm, found that the Android Market has only seen 26 apps make its top 10 free and top 10 paid applications lists.  Meanwhile, 94 different apps have made similar lists for the App Store.  Distimo also noted that approximately 25 percent of the Android Market’s free apps and 79 percent of its paid apps have failed to surpass 100 downloads.  In addition, only two paid Android apps have each been downloaded over 500,000 times.  A look at iOS tells a different story, as it has six apps that have exceeded the 500,000 download mark over just two months.

What do the statistics from Distimo mean?  In basic terms, your app will have a harder time achieving success via the Android Market.  The fact that 79 percent of Android’s paid apps have been downloaded fewer than 100 times means there are plenty of app developers who failed to profit from their work.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of iOS for developers is the fact that its users purchase more apps and also pay more for their apps.  Even if Android held the edge in terms of its exposure, and even if it had a more dynamic app market, money talks.  If you are a developer who creates apps as a hobby, this factor may not sway you.  Most, however, probably want to see some profitability for their time and resources spent on development.  This is where Apple holds a solid advantage.

Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, recently shared some figures showing how iOS customers purchase more apps and pay higher prices for them when compared to other mobile platforms.  According to Munster , the average iOS user now downloads 83 apps, which is an increase from just 51 apps last year.  Each app has an average sale price of $1.48, which is 19 cents higher than last year’s average.   Munster added that the average sale price of the top 30 iOS paid apps also increased 36 percent from last year to $6.32 each.  The statistics show that Apple does not seem to be slowing down in terms of app profitability.  That alone could prove to be a major obstacle for Android in its quest to lure developers.

Besides the aforementioned reasons favoring iOS, Android has other issues to contend with.  Android has been slapped with various patent infringement lawsuits as of late, which could cut into funds that could be used for growth and development.  When you combine its legal issues and stale app market with Apple’s aggressive nature, the overwhelming success Android has enjoyed up to this point could come to an end.  Of course, Android does not show signs of disappearing completely, but you have to think that developers will want to be on the winning team to maximize their efforts.  In the case of apps, that winning team is iOS.

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