We’ve heard a lot about Android’s popularity; it’s a machine that’s clearly outpacing its rivals like Apple’s iOS… in market share. It seems that, although Android is super popular and great at attracting customers, it loses support from other parties that are vital to the success of the OS, like developers.
Why does Android have such a hard time winning over developers? More importantly, how can they win over the developers? Well, let’s take a quick look at the state of Android for developers right now.
Bigger Is Not Better?
The iOS App Store is much bigger than the Android Market. It has a much larger library of applications available and has created a reputation for iOS to be the more app-savvy platform. Just look at the billboards Apple put out that tout their App Store based solely on the number of apps available.
In the UK at least, if you walk into a phone store, the choice is very simple. You’ve got a choice between a bevy of Android phones (ranging from the dirty-cheap, resistive touch ones to the more expensive handsets from HTC and Samsung), an iPhone or a BlackBerry. Android has become the “default” option that’s replaced some phones in the bottom-end. If you want a phone and it’s not an iPhone, there’s a big chance it’ll be powered by some variant of Android. Therefore, less tech-savvy users are buying Android and might not necessarily be aware of, or know how to, download apps.
Android phones can be cheap or expensive, attracting a ton more customers as they replace more traditional calling options.
iOS Isn’t Just About Phones
Android is already taking steps towards putting apps on mainstream, non-phone devices, but iOS still wins in this respect. An iOS app is available on at least two (and up to three) different devices: the iPhone, the iPod touch and the iPad. A lot of people use their phones in conjunction with other mobile devices, and as such you’ll see many non-iPhone users carrying around an iPad or an iPod touch. Not only does the iOS app developer catch the phone users, but also the MP3 and tablet users too.
Of course, Android is taking steps to cover these markets as well. Samsung’s Galaxy Player is a mobile handset without a phone, like the iPod touch, but not only does it lack the mainstream attention that Apple’s offering commands, it’s alone in that specific category. Likewise, although the frequency of well-built Android tablets is increasing, they don’t have the critical mass that will allow developers to reach non-phone markets under Android.
Apple puts a lot of effort into promoting apps.
How Can Android Attract More Developers?
Android is taking steps to attract more developers. In the past year, efforts have been made to extend Android’s reach into new categories of devices, like those that the iPad and iPod touch are insanely popular in. As more devices come out, hopefully for Android, the mass of app downloaders will follow creating a more viable market to attract developers. Ultimately, if Android becomes a more critical part of our day-to-day lives, we’ll buy more apps; I certainly invest more in apps on my phone and tablet than I do on my Mac because I spend more time using them.
Like I said before, the diversity of Android allows it to cover different ranges of demographics, but not all instantly know how to pick up their phone and start downloading apps. And it seems that neither Google, nor the handset makers, try to push Market-bought apps as being so vital to the phone as the stock ones are. Instead, adverts like that for the Samsung Galaxy Tab seem only like desperate attempts to push the technical specifications of the device in comparison to the iPad’s, whereas Apple run whole advertising campaigns focused purely on showing the app platform, not the device. Android needs to address this issue and offer its developers some promotion in the way Apple does.
There will be other reasons that iOS and other rival platforms win over developers more so than Android, but the main reason seems to be that hardware makers are trying to fight for their position in the market rather than make their product a better deal for customers and developers.
My advice to Android: support your developers more by making the Android Market a more significant part of a device’s marketing, and trying to push the apps available as being integral parts of the experience, rather than some tucked away feature. Treat the phone as being the platform, not the product, and you’ll see the developers arrive.