Steve Ballmer was right. It really is “developers, developers, developers” in the smartphone world. There are countless platforms that could have succeeded in the mobile world but they all lacked one major element of the story. Applications.
Third-party application support remains one of the most important strategic defences available to mobile platform owners Apple and Google. No new entrant can hope to compete with the volume of titles available for iOS and Android. There’s no way into the iOS system, and while a number of manufacturers have looked to Android’s partly-open nature to sideload some applications, without signing up for Google Play support there’s no way to have the apps the users expect.
The wall around iOS and Android is made of individual applications, but both platforms are inside looking out. The majority of developers will work with both platforms, but those that don’t find that life is acceptable on one side or the other. That said, if you had to choose a platform to develop your app on, the latest data suggests that you go with Apple’s iOS platform.
Even though Google’s ecosystem is significantly larger by volume, Apple’s mobile platform delivers more revenue per app to developers. That’s the conclusion of the latest report from App Annie. In broad strokes, Apple’s App Store looks to be generating twice as much revenue overall even though it only has half of the number of downloads.
It’s also a gap that is increasing. Comparing the Q2 2016 numbers to the Q1 2016 numbers, although the percentage gap between downloads remained iOS pulled ahead on revenue by another ten percent.
There are a number of factors at play that have tilted the playing field towards Apple. The most obvious is the nature of individual devices. When your sales are built on $400 to $700 smartphones you attract a different level of economic supporter than the Android devices that are incredibly popular in the $100 to $200 market. That stretches to regional variations with Android supported heavily in the BRIC countries where credit card update is not as strong as Western Europe and North America.
Much of Android’s market share is built on smartphones that are used more like feature phones than smartphones – beyond calls, messages and perhaps a touch of social media and web browsing these phones are unlikely to be loaded up with apps, which reduces the addressable audience.
The Android market suffers from fragmentation between devices and multiple versions of the OS trying to co-exist in the world. While this has been portrayed as a theoretical issue by some, yesterday’s news that Salesforce is restricting its enterprise application to the latest Nexus and Samsung devices divides the platform once more.
Finally, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Android has been seen as the weaker platform for developers, so more of them have turned to iOS. Which leads to more weakness being shows and more moving to iOS. And so the story continues.
The upcoming public releases of Android N and iOS 10 will alter the ecosystems, but not have a significant effect. Developers will go where the money is, and while each platform will have its own nuances and work for hire options, more money is available within the iOS ecosystem each passing day.