Apple remains more lucrative for app developers than Android

A new report is suggesting that smartphone app developers make more money on Apple’s platform than on Google Android – why? And what can we expect from both company’s upcoming app developer forums?

With all due respect to the other smartphone rivals, namely Microsoft-Nokia and RIM, the app market remains a two horse race between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

As CBR, and indeed the market, has stated time and time again, it is the product eco-systems surrounding these two OS’s that define them, and thus engagement with the app development community has become a key part of both company’s business plans. Microsoft and RIM have caught wind of this a bit late, and are now frantically attempting to make their own dev conferences relevant.

As well as unveiling new software (Apple is widely expected to announce iOS version 6, and reworked iTunes software), Apples World Wide Developer Conference and Google’s I/O is a chance to entice, motivate and showcase the best app developers for their relevant platforms.

Flurry Analytics, a dedicated mobile app development analytical firm, has released research showing that nearly seven of every 10 apps being created in the first quarter of 2012 were for the iOS platform; the remaining three going to Android (69% to 31% respectively).

The two prior quarters have seen 73/27 and 75/25 splits, despite the fact that Android accounts for more than half of all smartphones sold. So this is an improvement for Android, driven by red hot devices such as the just-launched Samsung Galaxy SIII (which CBR is reviewing currently). RIM, Nokia/Windows and others remain at insignificant percentages.

Apple’s favourable results are due to three things – a fragmented Android market, greater return on investment, and the ‘two for one’ iOS proposition.

The two for one proposition is thus, an app developed on iOS will work on both iPads and iPhones – the development platform is identical. This means while Android is selling more phones overall, the iPads astonishing 88% domination of the tablet market gives the brand a leg up. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab accounts for just 9%. Other Android brands are insignificant.

One of Apple’s advantages when it comes to app development is that there is a limited hardware product line to choose from – iPhones across generations 3 and 4 and iPads.

Flurry’s research shows that Android devices are dominated by the Samsung Galaxy SII (18%), its little brother the Galaxy Ace (9%), and then a host of other devices hovering around the 3-7% mark. This means a professional app developer can look forward to a lot of app testing, and potential patching to suit the 100s of models available – it also brings the dreaded ‘system requirements’ checklist back for consumers.

Each of these devices is running a different version of Android. Even Android tablets have their own OS (Honeycomb). Smartphones are split between Gingerbread (v2.3) which accounts for 70% market share, Froyo 16% (v2.2) and the latest version, Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0) is at 7%.

The fact that Gingerbread remains the dominant Android OS is not a good sign, its three generations old now. Android’s roll out of ICS 4.0 has been a disaster, it has mostly left it to the carriers and hardware manufacturers, all of whom have different plans and schedules, incredibly frustrating for both the consumer, and the app developer who needs his software to work on as many devices as possible to generate a safe return. Apple’s product are all linked to iTunes and update automatically, solving the problem instantly.

App developers looking to scale Android apps also have to worry about single, multi and quad core processors all running at different speeds – some up to 2+ years old.

Yes, Apple does have similar speed optimisation problems (anyone still using an iPhone 3GS on the latest iOS5 can attest to its near crippled performance) – but there are fewer models to optimise for, and, again, iOS is a uniform platform.

The final point to note, is profitability. Other than the added costs due to dual development streams (Android app developers having to create separate software for tablets and phones), the aforementioned issues with testing and patching – the simple fact is that Apple consumers appear to be just that, better consumers.

It is also worth mentioning that the 7/10 figure favouring Apple is for first choice app development, it does not mean that these apps will not appear on Android at a later point. Again, this reinforces the idea that Apple is the ‘first port of call’ – as seen with the Instagram app, which launched on Android to much fanfare, but a year after the iOS version.

This is partially the problem Microsoft is having with its app store – no one will develop for it first, therefore it can’t differentiate itself, therefore it cant catch up – despite claims it has now breached 100,000 apps.

Apple still leads in terms of the numbers of apps available, at around 600,000. Google claims to have reached 500,000 in May.

Apple demands a $99 one-off development fee compared to $25 for Google. Both Apple and Google keeps 30% of app revenue. However overall Flurry’s research shows that for every $1.00 a developer makes on iOS, they can expect to earn $0.24 on Android, even when using cross platform tools.

Hopefully by the end of June we’ll have some guidance from Google and Apple’s leaders about where they expect the market to end up in 2012, but for now Apple retains its lead.

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