Retailers prefer to develop apps for Apple before Android

Retailers' technology teams prefer to develop for iPhones first, although the new Apple iPhone being launched today is likely to showcase features that already exist on Android phones.

That is the view of a leading retail technology expert and it contrasts with the findings of a recent report by analyst group Forrester. The analysts house survey, which included developers from retail and many other sectors, revealed that most mobile developers prefer to develop for the Android OS over the Apple iOS for iPhones and iPads.

One of the expected new features of the iPhone 6 is a "today" view, which will allow apps to place widgets about the day on the homescreen. For example, retailers could use it to alert customers to a delivery on the day, or if a certain item is in stock.

"It's [Apple] is playing catchup. Google Now already does this," admitted Dan Hartveld, CTO at retail technology experts Red Ant. Google Now is an in inbuilt Android phone application that searches your emails and apps to show useful 'cards' of information that you need throughout your day.

"The main difference is that most retailers don't accommodate for Android-first. They'll wait for iPhone first, then do it for Android."

Hartveld said that while developers like to build for Android because the OS has been designed with developers in mind - for example, it is written in commonly-used Java - retailers have business reasons for keeping the Apple iPhone users at the forefront.

"From a business retail perspective, there's a strong case for Apple. Customers with iPhones are more likely to use apps, and typically, iPhone users are a higher affluency level [and are therefore more likely to spend more with retailers]," said Hartveld.

Improved customer experience

Apple is also rumoured to be following in other phone manufacturers' footsteps by launching a phone with a bigger screen. This will improve user experience and mean that the trend for people shopping on their phones will continue, Hartveld said.

Other rumoured features, such as new developments in Apple's iBeacon proximity technology, will allow customers to use their phones in store more easily, he added.

Analyst house Forrester last week launched a report that strongly urged retailers to pay attention to technologies, such as the iBeacon, that embrace the fact that more and more people use their phones in store to do product research. Retailers could use this to their advantage by encouraging customers to purchase from their store by displaying offers local to them, for example.

New payments technology

"There are quite a lot of rumours about Apple overhauling their own retail technology," said Hartveld, who said that Apple store staff have said they are expecting new technology.

"At the moment, they're using iPods with a different manufacturer's [Ingenico] chip and pin. [The technology overhaul] implies they're building something that will make it easier for retailers to take payments in store."

This could mean that retailers that already have Apple devices on the shop floor, perhaps for stock checking purposes, could soon sell products and services quicker by taking payments directly via an iPhone or iPad.

Alain Falys, co-founder and CEO at Yoyo, a mobile payment, loyalty and discovery platform, said that Apple's entry into the mobile payment space would allow the technology to become more mainstream.

"We've been eagerly anticipating Apple's entry into the mobile payment space, as it will make mobile payments accessible and ubiquitous. Simply put, Apple enabling payments will be good for the entire industry," he said.

This story, "Retailers prefer to develop apps for Apple before Android" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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