Code Anarchy

Android is Winning

And it’s a healthy victory, at least worldwide. So why doesn’t Android get any love from developers? Why do developers keep releasing for iOS first?

Fragmentation seems like a convenient explanation: there are only a handful of iOS devices, and a veritable onslaught of Android devices. iOS users upgrade faster (many Android users can’t upgrade at all without buying new hardware), so it’s safer to ignore old OS versions sooner. It has to be frustrating testing for several different OS revisions on a huge number of devices. It makes sense developers wouldn’t want to bother.

We’ve seen this story before, though. The PC market today is vastly fragmented: you have Macs and Windows PCs, and a Windows PC could be anything from an Atom-based tablet to a netbook to a hardcore Core i7 desktop powerhouse with 3 monitors, running any of a number of versions of Windows. I don’t think anyone would claim Windows users are starved of available software, though. There’s money in building for Windows, so developers grin and bear the pain.

So how’s Android different?

Lucie Mclean from the BBC writes, “Back in July, when we launched the Olympics app for iPhone and Android together, we saw over three times as many downloads of the iPhone version.”

Boris from The Next Web writes:

All of that wouldn’t have been a problem if we had seen a market for our magazine on Android. And we did believe there would be one. We had gotten enough requests for it and had gotten the impression there were thousands of anxious Android tablets owners holding their breath for an Android version of our magazine. Unfortunately we’ve found out that although Android users are very vocal they aren’t very active when it comes to downloading and reading magazines. Or maybe they just don’t like our magazine. You never know.

To give you some insight in how little uptake we saw on Android here are some statistics: for every Android user that downloads an Android magazine we have 80 iOS downloads.

Flickr has long reported the iPhone is an incredibly popular camera with its users, not just among smartphone cameras but among cameras in general. (This doesn’t mean the iPhone has taken the lion’s share of Flickr photos: “These graphs show the number of Flickr members who have uploaded at least one photo or video with a particular camera on a given day over the last year.” But this does indicate a large number of Flickr users own and use iPhones.)

iOS also enjoys higher browser market share than Android, and advertising to iOS users yields more revenue than advertising to Android users (presumably because iOS users are more likely to tap on ads and buy things).

So yes, Android is winning, if you’re talking about unit sales. Android is still quite a bit behind, though, if you’re talking about active users who might visit your Web site or buy your app or even bother downloading your free app. Android users are a bigger audience in theory, but iOS users are a more active audience.

Where would you build first?