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Apple’s iOS platform has been the first choice for app developers since the iTunes App Store debuted, but recent changes in the mobile landscape, namely Google’s Android OS taking the lead in worldwide market share and overtaking iOS as the leading platform for mobile ad revenue, mean that choosing a platform to develop on first is no longer a no-brainer.
As Cennydd Bowles, the design lead at Twitter, wrote in his now-famous post on Medium, “Why don’t designers take Android seriously?” the decision boils down to two points: which platform is easier to work on, and from which platform can I reap the most revenue.
For the first point, Boles argues that though Android can be more challenging, it is not so difficult as to flummox anyone familiar with designing apps.
Going on to the second point, Boles says that though the current perception is that Android users are less willing to purchase apps, a longer-term view of the mobile macroeconomic environment suggests that Android is the place for app developers to make their fortunes in the future, largely driven by the platform’s dominance in emerging markets.
With smartphone penetration reaching near full saturation in North American and European markets, the battle for mobile platform domination in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Latin American regions is starting to heat up. People activate one million Android devices every day, and the building of 3G and 4G networks, along with the development of cheap Android phones, means that developers looking to build “the next big thing” should also be developing for “the next big market.”
This strategy led WhatsApp to its 450 million user base and Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition. By focusing on Android users first, especially those in emerging markets faced with high messaging fees, the company was able to build itself into a prominent player in the social media landscape.
Life360 is another example of an app started on Android and that has gone on to be successful. You use it to keep track of friends and family members and receive messages and alerts when they arrive at school or preselected destinations. In the world today where parents have to work to and children are given more responsibility earlier on, it has proved successful in keeping family units informed about their movements.
Both apps are now available on the iOS platform as well, but had it not been for their starting on Android, it’s likely consumers would have never heard of either.
Ultimately, the decision is all about what market developers would like to focus on. Apple is still a good option for apps focused on generating revenue through purchases, but for apps designed to generate revenue through advertising to large user bases, the best choice for now and the future is Android.
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