As the two great mobile OS rivals warm up for their big respective confabs, the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and Google I/O, the advantage among developers remains decidedly with iOS. According to analytics firm Flurry, despite Android smartphone dominance in the worldwide market, only 31% of new app project starts including the Flurry SDK were aimed at the Google platform in Q1 2012. That share is up only somewhat from late 2012 (27%) but diminished from the 37% share it had in Q1 2011.
Flurry’s Peter Farago argues that Apple is still enjoying a dual advantage over Android, even beyond the iOS enduring cool quotient. Developers see in iOS the added benefit of being able to run on the ever-widening base of tablets. Eighty-eight percent of tablet sessions recorded by apps using Flurry analytics were coming over iPads, with only 9% from Samsung Galaxy Tabs and 3% from Amazon Kindle Fire. The metrics suggest that tablets provide a multiplier effect that developers appreciate. “Apple offers the most compelling ‘build once, run anywhere’ value proposition in the market today, delivering maximum consumer reach to developers reach for minimal cost,” says Farago.
And fragmentation is continuing to be a big deal for app builders, since only 11% of Android devices are running under the two most recent iterations of the OS. Seventy percent are using Gingerbread. And while device diversity under Android is not as critical an issue for some app genres as for others, the fact is that other than the Galaxy S II, nineteen different devices running some form of Android divvy up only single-digit shares of the market. Samsung’s dominance (12 of the top 20 devices) is clear, however, and that OEM may be in a better position than even Google to impose greater predictability to app behavior on this OS.
Arguably, the pace of Android development is likely picking up. My gut is that the raw share numbers here don’t reflect the much greater prevalence of major brands on Android now than just a year ago. At the top end, I think the quality is improved from the sheer mosh pit that was the Android Market a couple of years ago. I don’t think Google Play gets enough props for improving the app shopping experience considerably. Even on Android tablets, the store parses out the growing directory of apps that format well on the larger screen.
I have been trying to use both a Galaxy Tab 2 and low-end Sprint ZTE Optik more often to get a feel for iOS-less tablet computing. While there still is no comparison to the iPad experience, I have been pleasantly surprised by the app choice and usability of the latest Android builds.
Regardless, developers are still interested in the bottom line, where Android apparently has not budged the needle in the past year. Flurry reports that as it found last year, an Android app makes only 24% as much revenue per user for its maker as an iOS app. Until that changes, the green robot is barely nibbling at Apple’s app empire.