Anyone who suggests that the “iPhone 4 is nice” but that developers should code for Android first is truly out of touch with the realities of developing for these platforms. Now, let me be clear, I’m rooting for Android because competition is what spurs innovation by giving consumers choice and keeping platform providers honest. I own a Nexus One (currently my primary device) and have developed profitable apps on the Android platform but thinking “Android first” right now is extremely idealistic. Especially with the announcement of the iPhone 4.
Pundits continue to see the flooding of Android devices into the market as the sign that Android has won…or at least as an indication that it will win in the app marketplace. I debunked this idea some time ago but it’s worth re-iterating one point in particular, especially now with Android’s growing influence: the best apps on Android devices are still Google’s apps. Android devices are not purchased because consumers want third-party developer apps. Instead, they want Google Voice integration, a native Gmail client, tethering, or to be on an “open” platform. Just ask Nokia (Symbian) if having a leading market position, with probably the largest diversity of devices, helped or hurt them with the Ovi Store.
Compare the best Android apps to just three apps that were announced yesterday for iPhone 4: Netflix, FarmVille, and Guitar Hero. Each of those are killer apps and they highlight Apple’s commitment to consumers and by winning them, they will let the developers follow the money trail. Yes, Apple focused on the form factor, display, camera, and iMovie…does that do anything for developers or early adopters? Possibly, depending on who you ask. More importantly, however, is that these new apps and features aggressively market to established audiences like Facebook-farming fanatics. They’ll also cause a consumer to think twice about purchasing a Flip and new smartphone or just buying an iPhone 4 that has HD recording and editing capabilities. Apple’s betting big on consumers and with their 150M credit cards on file through iTunes, they’re guessing that they won’t have any problems keeping those $1B checks to developers coming.
Let’s get into the details a bit more though…
Aside from my own experience, other developers report that they make significantly more on the Apple platform compared to Android. This thread last week got significant attention because the developer shared that the same app is making 3x more with Apple than with Android. With the latest numbers showing the worldwide operating system smartphone market share of Apple at 42% and Android at 25%, it’s a small indication of the disparity between the two platforms.
If you spend any amount of time in the Android Market, you’ll quickly realize that the best third-party apps are not paid but ad supported. It’s the Google model and it seems that for the time being Google is willing to subsidize these apps, offering outrageous CPM’s, until they get the distribution they want. Android developers are also generally happy with this approach (and these CPM’s) because fragmentation is not a made up issue. Not offering a paid app means they don’t have to care as much about the deafening number of customer complaints about device / OS compability. Most Android Market reviews are not actual reviews but instead are rants about an app not working properly because of the device / OS combination. Apple’s approach generally has this area under control but that’s even more true because they keep retiring older devices (bye, bye iPhone 3G).
These facts do not negate that Android is an up and coming player. But guess what, so is the iPad and now, iPhone 4. In fact, I recently re-launched one of my most popular iPhone apps as a Universal app onto the iPad and saw sales improve 3-4x immediately. They’ve stabilized at around 2.5-3x with a general upward trend. In particular, I’m still seeing huge opportunity on the iPad and I’m doubling down there and am urging developers and others I talk with to do the same. Idealists and technologists can embrace tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot support and complain about AT&T. But I’m going to hang out with the consumers who are going to line up to purchase the iPhone 4 on June 24th. And then, I’m going to build them some more apps to buy.