With Android's global smartphone market share at 80%, you would
think that Android would be the go-to platform for any third-party
app developer. But unfortunately for
), developers consistently choose to build for
) products first. Some people in the industry have been
prognosticating that developers will start going Android-first for
some time, but that hasn't materialized.
This weekend, programmer and tech writer
put the kibosh on the Android-first trend. On
, Cheney argues that developers will treat Android as a second
thought for the near future, regardless of its market share.
He cites several reasons. In the US, where much of the mobile app
money gets made, iOS is still very strong. This was true even
before the iPhone 5S went gangbusters last month. In July,
Apple's US market share was 40.4% compared to
, according to
). The dramatic user interface and design changes in iOS 7 really
spiced things up and neutralized some arguments for switching to
Less sophisticated tools and platform fragmentation make Android
more expensive to develop for. Different device manufacturers have
their own "skins," like
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) TouchWiz, and there is a galaxy of different screen
sizes and aspect ratios. And due to carrier restrictions, a huge
portion of Android users out there are still using the ancient
Gingerbread version of the operating system. Cheney says that from
his conversations with developers and investors, building for
Android costs two to three times more than developing for iOS.
Adding to that is the huge disparity in how much revenue the two
platforms actually bring in.
Not only is it more expensive to develop for Android, it's less
profitable. A study by
found that iOS developers make an average of $5,200 per month, and
Android devs get $4,700.
The analytics firm
found that Google's Play store gets 10% more downloads from Android
users than Apple gets through its App Store. However, the iOS App
Store generates 2.3 times more revenue than the Google Play store.
These figures don't even take into account the various other
Android-based app stores, such as
), carrier-based stores, or the various options in China. As we
found last week, iPhone advertising return on investment on
) beat Android by
an eye-popping 1,790%
67% of iOS apps are paid
, versus just 34% on Android.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said in June that the company has paid out $5
billion to developers in the last year. The latest estimates say
that Google paid out less than $1 billion in roughly the same
Anecdotally, through my own conversations with mobile developers,
even dyed-in-the-wool Android fanboys, I've learned that most go
iOS first and get around to Android later because of the more
attractive customer demographics. Apple users just have more
cheddar, and they are more willing to part with it.
Cheney's central argument, however, involves the economics of
startup capital-raising. In the beginning stages, a mobile startup
has to prove that there will be some users early on, in the early
rounds of raising capital, and there is only enough money at the
beginning to prove yourself on one platform. Cheney writes the
Almost zero startups are going Android-first under these
constraints. Why? Because founders know they have an extremely high
bar to prove traction on the primary platform, before they can
raise additional financing and accelerate into two platforms. The
second platform basically looks like a step function at Series A
(e.g. go iOS with the seed round, show traction, raise an A round,
then build for Android).
This makes sense. As we remember from last year, Instagram sold to
Facebook long before it had a single Android user. You can build a
$1 billion company without even paying attention to Android.
If you are interested in how mobile startups gravitate toward
Apple, Cheney's blog is very enlightening. It's not good news for
Google, but it's even worse news for
(MSFT) as it tries to attract developers and users. It's especially
poignant now -- tomorrow we might see some new iterations of Apple
products and perhaps even a fresh new device.