Opinion: Why Apps devs choose Apple's iPhone 5

By Jonny Evans

Developers, developers, developers: you're going to make more money building apps for Apple [AAPL] and iOS than you'll gather building for Android, claims Flurry Analytics. It seems no amount of (could it be?) reality distortion on the part of Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, can transform this environment, at least, not yet.

[ABOVE: Samsung's latest Apple cult-bashing ad. I'm not convinced Android offers "tons of places" to buy movies."

When users don't use

MobiLens says that for the three months ending in October, Android devices represented 46.3 percent of US smartphone subscribers in contrast to 28.1 percent using iOS. Apple claims over 250 million iOS devices have been activated in contrast to Google's claimed 200 million Android devices. 

Flurry's findings show that despite Android's larger marketshare -- NPD says the OS commands 53 percent of the US smartphone market -- when it comes down to apps users aren't especially interested. Granted, Google's achieving a claimed billion app downloads each month, but Apple sees 18 times that.

So, right now, we can see that apps use on the Android OS is dwarfed by that of iOS, despite which Schmidt told France's Le Web conference that within six months, Android would be the first platform developers will build apps for.

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Explaining Flurry's methodology: "When companies create new projects in Flurry Analytics, they download platform-specific SDKs for their apps. Since resources are limited, choices developers make to support a specific platform signal confidence, as they invest their R&D budget where they expect the greatest return.  Further, because developers set up analytics several weeks before shipping their final apps, Flurry has a glimpse into the betas developers are making ahead of the market."

These stats seem fairly representative: 55,000 companies use Flurry's tools across over 135,000 apps. They estimate that Flurry Analytics powers around 25 percent of ALL apps downloaded from the Apple app store and Android Market. These figures show new project starts for iOS outnumber those for Android approximately three-to-one.

"Over the year, developer support for Android has declined from more than one-third of all new projects, at the beginning of the year, down to roughly one-quarter by the end," Flurry say (though final quarter figures include some extrapolations for likely outcomes in December).

Why?

-- Distribution: Apple's iPhone is now available on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

-- The successful launch of the iPad and tablet market dominance.

-- The successful launch of the iPhone.

-- "Android does not enjoy a truly recognizable flagship device among its army of OEMs supporting the platform," Flurry explains.

-- Google hasn't yet created a stable base of customers willing to share their payment details, though things like Google Wallet and Google Checkout may change this over time.

-- Developers make more money on iOS than Android.

More money?

"Anecdotally, developers consistently tell us that they make more money on iOS, about three to four times as much," Flurry says, also citing its own data which shows that for every dollar you might make on iOS you'll make 24-cents on Android.

Why do I think there's this diconnect between unit sales and app usage? Fragmentation cuts both ways -- it isn't just about having a plethora of differently featured devices, it's about a plethora of different usage needs.

Put it this way, in some cases an Android device owner only wanted a phone but was passed a low-spec Android handset. Those choosing high-value top-of-the-range Android devices may be more interested in using apps. All these users have different expectations. Many just want a cheap iPhone.

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Another problem is that not every app runs as well (or at all) on every phone. Rovio a few months ago issued a public apology for the poor performance of Angry Birds across a multitude of Android handsets.

There's other elephants in Android's room: device fragmentation, security (RIM and iOS are more secure platforms for most users, a report explains) and malware weaknesses, and a lack of transparency when it comes to the road map for software updates for existing devices -- not every device gets an update, even when all the devices are relatively new.

So is Schmidt right about the immediate future for Android developers?

No.

"Now Android is a growing platform and it's not as if money can't be made there at all, but the real moolah lies with iOS. For Schmidt to suggest that developers will be eyeing Android over Apple's iOS in just 6 months demonstrates Schmidt's blatant disregard, or perhaps willful ignorance, of what really drives developers – the ability to write code and earn a living," writes Network World.

"There's absolutely no reason to assume that Schmidt's prediction will even come close to taking shape in 6 months," that report concludes.

In the end, Google knows this is true. After all the term "iPhone 5" was the second fastest-rising search term on the search engine in 2011. iPhone sales are strong and demand is increasing, according to Morgan Stanley, where analyst Katy Huberty predicts up to 36 million iPhones will sell this quarter, and could hit 41 million unit sales in Q1 2012.

I'm not saying there won't be a time when Android apps development will become a compelling proposition, but right now developers, just like device manufacturers, will be asking themselves, "where's the money?"

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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