Over the past 18 months, Google has made significant updates to its Android operating system in an attempt to attract developers who are looking to make high-quality applications for the platform. Android-powered phones now make up the majority of the smartphone market, but to the surprise of many, lots of developers still prefer to create applications for Apple’s iOS. Some readers might question how a developer can prefer the more constricted iOS-style development to Android’s open market distribution system, but professionally executed surveys and studies by research companies such as Flurry have revealed a variety of different reasons as to why this preference may arise.
Firstly, although there are now more smartphones running on Android than on iOS, Apple’s iPod Touches and iPads bring the total number of iOS-powered devices on the market to nearly 200 million. Despite the recent growth in tablets running Android, there’s no way Google’s platform will be able to match the number of iOS’ widespread audience members any time soon. A bigger user base means a better chance at for a developer’s application to be downloaded, and that reason alone makes it worth sticking to iOS for many — especially those developing applications for which the user has to pay.
Along with a larger total number of users, Apple has its App Store designed in a way that exposes a large number of different applications to users. Top rated free and paid applications, applications of the week, and staff selected applications are a few of the different categories where sets of applications are highlighted. Developers want their application to be discovered, and the open nature of Android leads to many uninteresting applications cluttering the store, meaning users are going to be less likely to find and download the quality applications they’re after.
iOS is often criticized because of the limited number of devices that run it, but in reality, this prevents the disparity between devices that Android-powered units often face. Since every Android-powered device is so different, it’s nearly impossible for developers to make their applications run perfectly on every device.
According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, users are far more willing and likely to pay for applications on the iOS platform compared to the Android OS. The average selling price for an iOS application is $1.48 per download. Developers are far happier making applications that don’t need to earn their profits from advertisements because in most cases, an app will look and run better without ads filling up the screen. The better an application looks and runs, the more likely the developer will be praised for his or her work. Since many Android applications are uploaded and offered free of charge, developers feel a stronger obligation to release ad-cluttered applications in the Android Store without cost in order to compete for downloads.
There’s no question developing an application for iOS comes with a higher start-up cost than developing one for Android, but in the end, users are far more likely to find and pay for an application released on iOS. This isn’t to say Android application development should be abandoned by any means since there is still a sizable market for them, and with some hard work, it’s very possible to make impressive and powerful Android apps. However, with the sheer number of iOS-powered devices on the market today, there’s no question that any developer should jump if iOS application development as an option.