Developers Favor Apple iOS Over Android

IphoneThe Android operating system charts as No. 1, with 46.3% of U.S. smartphone owners running the mobile operating system. But Apple’s iOS platform remains tops in developers’ hearts, with 51% saying they plan to write for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch platform in the next year, according to Strategy Analytics’ survey for the last half of 2011.

The “App Developer Attitudes and Behaviors” report for the end of the year shows that developer enthusiasm for the iOS operating system has remained rock solid, with 51% of those surveyed saying they had built for the platform this past year and expect to do so in the coming year -- far outpacing any other OS.

While Android is rapidly approaching a majority share in smartphones among U.S. customers, interest in the platform among app builders has increased only 30% -- from 23% of developers having written for the platform this past year and 30% planning to write for it in the next year.

Piper Jaffray recently estimated that Apple’s App Store substantially outperforms the Android marketplace for developers, with Apple responsible for about 80% to 90% of revenue generated by the app market. 

Still, Apple’s most favored platform status among the people writing app code comes from the multiple device types now using the operating system, especially the iPad. For instance, developer interest in targeting the iPhone specifically has dropped substantially in the past year, with 43% of developers saying they wrote for the iOS smartphone last year and only 32% saying they will be writing for it this coming year -- a decline of 26%.

The real growth for iOS comes from the iPad, which attracted only 8% of developers last year but will get 19% in 2012 (+138%). With more than half a million apps now cataloged in the Apple App Store, over 150,000 are compatible with -- or written specifically for -- the iPad.

Despite the overwhelming saturation of the smartphone market by Android and Apple devices, developers are looking for fresh, less cluttered environments in which to attract customers. As Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia and other OEMs powers up, a new generation of devices running the Windows Phone operating system will be coming to U.S. and international markets in 2012, and the developers appear optimistic.

While this past year only 3% of them built for windows on smartphones, 8% expect to next year (+167%).

Strategy Analytics report author and director of apps research Josh Martin says that the developer interest in new platforms stems from the frustration of seeing relatively few app makers attract much of the revenue from the smartphone ecosystem. “We see strong interest in emerging platforms and new business models, such as virtual goods and in-app advertising over the next year,” he predicts.

Martin expects developers to favor platforms that offer the most diverse ways of generating revenue. In order to maintain a lead in the developer mindshare wars, Apple may allow carrier billing for app sales in emerging markets next year, Martin says.

Not surprisingly, developer interest in Research in Motion’s BlackBerry platform is in a death spiral -- down to 1% that intend to write for the platform next year, an 80% decline from the 5% who wrote for it last year.

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