It is our experience that the more types of devices that a product attempts to reach, the more it costs to develop and the longer it takes to deliver the product to the market. Businesses developing online products may find themselves trying to make a choice between targeting Android devices or iPhone/iPad (iOS) devices. Or perhaps both. The question of which device to target also concerns us as mobile application developers. So we've done some research.
Relative market reach
To gain perspective it's useful to understand the relative extent that Android and iOS devices have penetrated the market.
According to research by Kantar, Android has an average market share of about 50% of the main markets collectively, being Great Britain, the United States, Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. By comparison, iOS has about 25%. Gartner claims that, of sales of operating systems (OS) that are open to third party application development, about 49% are Android and 19% are iOS.
The view on a world-wide scale is a bit different. Google has stated that it passed 100 million activated Android devices world-wide in May, 2011. Numbers of iOS devices reached 187 million world-wide in March, 2011.
In the US, Comscore's research indicates that iOS devices have reached 37.9 million, compared to Android at 23.8 million, which gives iOS an advantage of 59% in the US. There are 78.5 million smartphone subscribers in total in the US.
But what is the relative growth rate of Android relative to iOS?
The general consensus is that Android is outstripping iOS growth-wise. Gartner predicts that Android will become the most popular OS worldwide and Canalys claims the use of Android is growing at more than twice the rate of other OSes.
According to The NPD Group, Android continues the dominance of U.S. smartphone market share it established in 2010, accounting for 52 percent of units sold in the second quarter (Q2) of 2011.
In Australia, Android has recently out-sold iOS in smartphone sales. Research by Kantar showed that of total devices sold 42.9% were Android devices versus 37.2% iOS devices, in the 12 weeks prior to August 2011.
The video below provides a visual view of the growth rate of Android around the global. The most interesting part starts at 1 minute in, where it focuses on the growth in the USA alone. The first burst in growth comes with the release of the Motorola Droid.
In what other ways do the OSes segment the market?
Apple traditionally takes the luxury ground in the technology product sector, and indeed market research indicates that iOS users appear to be weathier than users of other devices. Apple is the most valuable brand at $153B according to BrandZ, which calculated an 84% increase in value in the last year. By comparison, the Google brand has a value of $111B and has shrunk in value by 2% in the last year.
The popularity of the OS can vary considerably by country. In Japan Android has increased its installed base by around 3.8 million users, where the market has increased by 4.1 million users in total.
What does the future hold for the OSes in the market?
But Apple clearly has a head start, and with billions in the bank and control of 50% of the profit made in the mobile industry, Apple is strongly positioned to maintain the lead in innovation. Even though iOS may have lost market share to Android, Apple maintains it's hold on the wealthiest segment of the market, and may reverse the trend in market share with it's impending release of the iPhone 5.
Android's growth in the market may be temporarily restrained as Google has not completed it's base-line technology strategy for Android, with a merging of the Android platforms for smartphones, tablets and other devices planned in the next major release of Android. While Apple has a strict quality standard, there are only early signs of estabilishing quality standards for Android device OEMs, such as making updates to the OS available for their devices.
Obstacles to the market for online products
In our experience Android products have fewer obstacles to reaching the market. Google's overt strategy for Android applications appears to be lower cost, faster delivery, whereas Apple, taking the quality high-ground, demands a higher standard to be met. The Android market imposes fewer restrictions on products, whereas Apple's AppStore has much tighter control over quality standards to met by products before they can be listed.
Our conclusion from our own experience and the facts and figures we have presented, is that in making a choice between Android and iOS, businesses need to consider the geographical location of their market, their target audience, the speed at which they wish to get their product to the market, nuances of their product that may not meet restrictions on listing the products in the marketplace, and nuances of the platform that may present obstacles to the standard of quality they wish to achieve.
A business may favour Android if they are targeting a younger audience, or a low-cost, high-speed release to the market. The Android market is perhaps more favourable to for early releases of products intended as exploritory of the market, or for products that are being positioned to take advantage of Android's increasing market share.
Conversely, a business may favour iOS if thet are looking for a more mature, wealthier audience, perhaps in the business/finance space, or if they are targeting the US in particular.
Wicker Software has expertise in native iOS and Android application development, and we also have an approach that allows us to develop mobile applications independently of the Android or iOS platforms, and then generate deployable packages for both Android and iOS devices.