Recent surveys of mobile app developers found that 66% of them feel Google+ could catch up to Facebook.
When asked why they liked Google+ for mobile devices, respondents said Google's wide range of assets -- search, Gmail, YouTube and Android -- together create a powerful network effect when combined with Google+.
The survey findings (download PDF) are from Appcelerator and research firm IDC, which is owned by IDG, the parent company of Computerworld. The findings are based on two surveys conducted in 2011 and updated with a third in January involving more than 2,100 respondents. All of the respondents were Appcelerator customers -- developers who use the company's software tools to build mobile apps.
Facebook already has a huge lead over Google+, with 425 million mobile users and 900 million overall users.
"It might be expected that Facebook would be vastly more important to social strategies [for mobile developers] than Google," the authors wrote. "However mobile app developers see the world differently, with potentially significant impacts to how social plays out in the mobile space, especially for the next billion social users."
The authors noted that in the most recent survey, 39% of developers said that the network effect of all of Google's assets like search and Android "are more important to them than Facebook's social graph."
A social graph is a term of art that refers to the global mapping of people and how they are related. The new survey found that many mobile developers simply don't understand Facebook's social graph and are struggling to leverage it in their app development.
While the survey showed a strong belief in the future of Google+, there has been an erosion in developer interest in building apps for Android phones and tablets.
Interest in building apps for Android phones dropped 4.7 percentage points to 78.6% compared to a survey done last fall. Meanwhile, interest in building apps for Android tablets dropped 2.2 percentage points to 65.9%.
The authors blamed the decline on fragmentation of the Android platform, with so many models of smartphones and tablets on the market from different device makers. With sales of iPads outselling all Android tablets combined, developers tend to be swayed towards iOS and away from Android, the authors noted.
Still, Android is in second place behind iOS, the research showed. Fully 89% of developers were very interested in developing for iPhone, while 88% were very interested in developing for iPad79% were very interested in Android Phone development and 66% were very interested in building apps for Android tablets.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.