Android Losing the Developer War, at Least for Now

Carl Weinschenk

There is a more subtle competition going on between Apple's iOS and Google's Android than the number of handsets sold bearing each operating system. It is vital, however; the ability to generate excitement and sign developers is a key long-term indicator of the likely health of each operating system.

Observers say that iOS is winning that battle. Indeed, the tilt of the battle is so great that, according to Ryan Kim at GigaOm, Google is setting up classes for developers so that they can better navigate both the code and the non-technical complexities of working with the famously fractured Android. The story has an excerpt and link to a Google blog post announcing the lessons and follows with its own take:

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Google Versus Apple: The Big Showdown

Unless Google gets more aggressive about addressing fundamental Android issues, Apple may ultimately win the mobile computing battle.

This is a nice step, but there's a lot more to be done by Google. Android is now up to 10 billion app downloads overall, at a pace of 1 billion a month, but it's not the primary focus for developers, especially among those eager to make money. A Flurry report comparing iOS and Android earlier this week highlighted the challenges for Google. It projected that 73 percent of fourth quarter app starts will be by iOS developers, compared to 27 percent for Android. That's consistent with previous quarters and and an improvement for Apple from the first quarter of 2011, when iOS represented 63 percent of app starts.

The Flurry report to which Kim refers is a bit stark. It is based on tracking 135,000 applications released by 55,000 companies that carry Flurry analytics. The post has a nice illustrative chart. It concludes:

Over the year, developer support for Android has declined from more than one-third of all new projects, at the beginning of the year, down to roughly one-quarter by the end. While the market nearly doubled for both platforms, we believe key events changed the proportion of support between these two platforms.

The writer goes on to describe those events. The most compelling reason is financial: For every buck a developer averages on an iOS-based app, he or she only makes 24 cents on the same app in Android.

Folks who track mobile OSes know the importance of tracking developers, and the Flurry report generated a lot of coverage. Clint Boulton at eWeek cited the money split - and also said, at least from developers' perspective, the payment process was clumsy:

Unlike Apple's iOS devices, Android does not force gadget owners to associate credit cards with Google Checkout on their new devices, which means slower revenue-generation possibilities. With Checkout transitioning to Google Wallet, Google hopes to change this.

The relative value of iOS versus Android from the developers' point of view also is discussed in an article at CNNMoney based on an analysis by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster and a response at VentureBeat by Dale Carr of LeadBolt.

Android faces several inherent disadvantages that it must overcome. There is, first and foremost, the difference in earnings. It also seems that Android, with all its vendor-by-vendor shades of gray and looser marketplace restrictions, simply is a greater hassle - perhaps, for many, more than it is worth.

The adoption of Google Wallet and the inauguration of Android U. (or whatever else they may call it) seem to be steps in the right direction. Apple's iOS clearly is winning - but it still is early in the game.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 22, 2011 8:21 AM Jay Jay  says:

The thing I like the best about Google Wallet is that, unlike many of its competitors, it would allow users to link all of their cards, regardless of brand (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) to their Google Wallet accounts.

From a consumer's point of view, the best mobile wallet would store all of our cards, as well as cash and checks. What we would not want to have is a clutter of apps for each individual card type or even each card issuer. So Google is moving in precisely the right direction and I hope the promised future versions will build on that foundation.


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