7 Out of 10 Developers Agree: iOS Beats Android

With both Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) preparing to host their respective annual developer conferences this month, it's a pretty good a time to talk about developers. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, kicks off next week, while Big G's Google I/O takes place later this month, both at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco.

Each platform depends critically on its ability to attract talented developers to provide engaging content that keep users coming back for more. Developer loyalty drives consumer loyalty, so it all starts with creating quality apps. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has been taking notes as Android flails in the tablet market, which is why it's aggressively courting tablet developers for the impending launch of its tablet-bound Windows 8.

Survey says
According to a recent report from Flurry Analytics, iOS is still the preferred mobile OS among developers. The researcher tracks when companies start new projects on platform-specific software development kits, or SDKs, and here are how its results have come out over the past five quarters.

Source: Flurry Analytics.

Source: Flurry Analytics.

Apple continues to maintain its lead in developer interest, with 69% of new project starts focusing on iOS while 31% target Android.

Stop me if you've heard this one before
There are several key drivers to this discrepancy. The first is a theme that continues to pop up time and time again: fragmentation. Android's open nature inevitably leads to a slew of different hardware configurations and software versions that a developer has to target, which dramatically increases the costs of supporting so many devices.

Interestingly, chances are that iOS may add a layer of fragmentation to the iPhone platform this year with the all-but-confirmed 4-inch display that's expected on the sixth-generation iPhone. Rumor has it that Apple is keeping the same width while making the device taller. It may notably increase the pixel resolution to 1136 x 640, compared with the current 960 x 640.

This is important because it changes the aspect ratio from 3:2 to approximately 16:9, so existing apps can't simply scale up or down as they could when Apple merely doubled dimensions for the Retina Display. Most widescreen HD content is formatted in 16:9, so Apple may be looking to better accommodate HD videos.

My neighbor happens to work for an iOS developer, and here's how he put it. Developing for thousands of Android devices wouldn't be so bad if that was a fixed target, but it's not. OEMs are so prolific that more gadgets are hitting the market every month. One new layer of iOS fragmentation every few years is much easier to cope with than dozens each year.

Here's Flurry's visualization of the top 20 selling Android devices.

Source: Flurry Analytics.

Source: Flurry Analytics.

A picture is worth a thousand words, indeed.

Dollars and sense
For whatever reason, iOS users also have a higher propensity to pay for apps. Flurry notes that iOS apps generate four times as much revenue per active user on average relative to Android counterparts. Specifically, Android brings in about 24% as much as iOS for developers.

On top of that, Apple's continued iPad dominance means that iOS developers get exposure to another growing installed base of users in what Flurry calls "the most compelling 'build once, run anywhere' value proposition in the market today."

Simply put, iOS costs less and makes more for developers. Android's deep fragmentation adds considerable expense to developing and supporting the platform, while its users tend to be less willing to pay up for the finished product.

It should be a jam-packed month for mobile watchers and developers alike. Just don't expect Apple CEO Tim Cook or Google CEO Larry Page to get on stage and start a "developers, developers, developers" chant while sweating profusely.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2012, at 12:09 AM, aliattitude wrote:

    While I am not a developer, I am a user, and a Mac user and fan at that. I had an Android before I had an iPhone, because with my carrier, iPhone wasn't available yet. I very quickly became un-enamored of Android, to the point where I was hardly using it, and couldn't wait to upgrade to an iPhone. I have now had my iPhone for 6 months, and I couldn't be happier. Your report bears this out. And I know I'm not alone. Thank you for this validation. adgray

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2012, at 9:45 AM, SpaceVegetable wrote:

    Thank you Apple fanboys. Just because they start their development with IOS, doesn't mean they prefer it. I don't know any developers who prefer Objective C over Java, especially since Java has other uses on other platforms, so it's a far better career enhancement option.

    As for IOS making them more money, well sure. Apple users are sucker enough to fork over big bucks for the same stuff you can get cheaper elsewhere, so it makes sense to target them, knowing that they're likely profligate spenders.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2012, at 1:02 PM, davaidesign wrote:

    This isn't really relevant. A lot of the apps are developed cross-platform (HTML5) and compiled for iOS and Android from the same code base.

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