Should You Develop Mobile Apps for iOS or Android?

Currently, the leading platforms for mobile app developers are iPhone and iPad (ie, iOS devices) and Android smartphones and tablets. As a developer of mobile apps, do you choose one platform to focus your app development efforts on, or do you support both? And what about the other mobile platforms such as Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry?

In making that decision, do you look at which platform has the largest installed base? Or do you go by which platform is currently shipping the largest volume of units? Or what about which platform has the highest overall in-app usage time? The answers vary drastically depending on how you frame the question.

We published a summary of the mobile app market this month – it is available for download here.

Most of the published data on mobile share focuses on platform market share, which shows a rapid increase of Android compared to iOS. However, an article published by Business Insider in March instead considered the amount of actual time spent online as a proxy for app usage, which paints a very different picture with iOS clearly dominating.

The rapid rise in Android smartphone market share compared to the iPhone is clearly indicated in Silicon Alley Insider’s chart of the day from November 2011 which shows Android smartphones at 52.5% of the market, while iOS is less than 20%.

At first glance, this type of data may give a developer of mobile apps pause: Should one be prioritizing an Android version over iOS or vice versa?

With all the talk of platform market share, what many of us forget is that the relevant question is the market share of mobile app usage time. After all, that is what users will ultimately pay the app developer for. Silicon Alley Insider’s chart of the day from March 13 2012 instead tells the real story of Android versus iOS.

The chart from ComScore shows the digital traffic market share of connected devices by OS in the US – it’s a very different story than what’s told by the device platform market share where Android shipments are now dominating. When you look at it by digital traffic – the actual mobile Web usage – the picture changes, with iOS dominating at 60% and Android far behind at only 32%. Similarly, Net Applications finds iOS has a 4.4x larger web share than Android. On top of that, a number of studies have also found that iOS users are much more likely to pay for apps or make in-app purchases. On average, developers make 6x more on iOS apps for the equivalent app.

This data seems to clearly indicate that the first platform of choice for a mobile app should still be iOS.

So if you develop mobile apps, what choices do you make? Please vote in our poll:

14 Responses to “Should You Develop Mobile Apps for iOS or Android?”

  1. 1 Tracy Pease, email at May 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I had read that same thing about iOS users being more willing to pay for apps than Android users, but I am uncertain as to why that is. Do you have any insight or guesses as to that reason?

  2. 2 jlc May 9, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Tracy – Thanks for your comment. One reason is the fact that iOS users can make a purchase with a single click – the payment method is already on file. In the case of Android, in most cases they will have to fish out their credit card to make the purchase, and that can be an obstacle to many prospective buyers, especially if they are on the fence about purchasing the app.


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