If developer enthusiasm is any guide, the iPad should hit the ground running with third-party applications. The number of developers starting new application projects for the iPhone OS that will power Apple's tablet device nearly tripled in January over the prior month to more than 1600, according to mobile app analytics firm Flurry.
"As such, we hypothesize that excitement generated by Apple's iPad event in January is driving this growth. For developers who get a jump on customizing their applications for the iPad, there may be an opportunity to stand out early on, and earn more downloads," stated a new Flurry report.
While new application starts for Google's rival Android platform have increased steadily over the second half of 2009 -- averaging 25% monthly growth -- that trajectory has tailed off following the iPad announcement. "The unprecedented surge in support for iPad is a positive early indicator for its commercial potential," concluded the analytics firm. Apple boasts an iPhone developer community of 150,000.
When it comes to app usage patterns so far, the iPhone and Android have proven to be strikingly similar. People tend to use apps on both operating systems for the same periods of time, with interaction gradually declining at the same rate over a six-month period.
Flurry attributes the identical trend to Android handsets attracting users, similar to the iPhone and the overall improvement of Android phones. Plus, more developers are creating Android versions of new apps.
The frequency and length of app user sessions also varied little between the two mobile platforms across categories such as games, entertainment, lifestyle, news and social networking. What does that mean?
"Our ultimate conclusion is that the content trumps the platform," states the report. "Just like the brand of flat-screen TV doesn't affect how much one enjoys a movie she is watching, the new class of touchscreen smartphones doesn't impact how well the user enjoys a game, social networking or other kind of application."
In other words, smartphones are becoming increasingly commoditized as media players. But with 135,000 apps, Apple still offers more than six times as many titles as the Android Market.
Yes, I understand that Apple offers six times as many apps as Android. First off, Android has only been on the market for a few months, and secondly - we need to develop an index for "quality" of apps, as opposed to "quantity". If the six times figure is bolstered by apps that imitate a machine gun or allow you to emulate a zippo lighter at a concert, you have to wonder about the long-term sustainablilty of these developers.