How China Could Lift Android Over iOS

Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system. Last quarter, nearly 80% of the smartphones sold worldwide ran Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) open-source platform. Yet, despite its market share edge, Android continues to lag Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS in one key area: software.

But one thing could change that, or more accurately, one country. Android is the primary smartphone platform in China, and as the world's most populous nation becomes a larger player in software development, made-in-China apps could give Android the lift it needs.

China is Android country
Android absolutely dominant in China. Last quarter, it powered roughly 70% of the smartphones sold. And that's just phones sold in a recent quarter. Back in May, Android passed the 50% installation mark; now, more than half of all existing phones in China run Android.

For comparison, Android's position in the U.S. is far less dominant. Last quarter, Android accounted for just 52% of the smartphones sold -- a majority of the market, no doubt, but not that far ahead of Apple's iOS at 40%. This difference is even less significant when one considers that many Android owners in the U.S. probably use their phones as little more than feature phones -- iOS continues to far outpace Android in terms of user engagement.

Thus, if you're an app developer in the U.S., you're probably more inclined to go with iOS, at least at first. There are numerous examples of apps that have started off on iOS and only later made their way to Android, including Instagram and Tinder. Electronic Arts' new hit mobile game, Plants vs Zombies 2, remains an iOS exclusive for the time being.

But that isn't the case in China. According to analytics firm Flurry (via Computerworld), Chinese developers build two-thirds of apps used by Chinese smartphone owners -- and given Android's total dominance in China, it isn't surprisingly that developers favor Android.

Even Android app stores are big business. Back in July, Chinese search giant Baidu bought 91 Wireless -- an Android app store -- for $1.9 billion.

Made in China, downloaded in the West
One day, China's love for Android could spill over into the West. Presently, few Westerners use Chinese-developed apps, but that could change. Chinese developers have begun to export to the rest of Southeast Asian, particularly to Korea, Japan and India, according to Flurry.

Could Chinese-developed apps become popular in the U.S.?

If they do, it would terrible for Apple. Although there are number of reasons to pick an iPhone over an Android-based competitor, a better selection apps is one of the biggest reasons. In terms of hardware, Android has the edge -- there are handsets available in every possible size, shape and price-point. Software is where Android still lags.

Google in China
Google has had a complex relationship with China over the years. After ceasing its operations in the country back in 2010, some may have concluded that the Chinese market was no longer important to the search giant.

But that would be a mistake. Although Google may not directly benefit from China's horde of Android smartphones, the longer-term consequences of Android's dominance in China could be huge. Should Chinese developers ever become a force in the global app community (something analysts at Flurry expect) Android could finally gain the edge over iOS in software.

Given that the app market remains iOS' primary advantage over Android, a wave of Chinese-developed apps could tip the smartphone balance decidedly in Google's favor.

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  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2013, at 1:23 PM, twolf2919 wrote:

    This whole article is based on a false premise: that Android lags iOS in app development. According to this article (http://mobilesyrup.com/2013/07/24/google-play-now-home-to-ov... there are over a million apps on Google Play vs. Apple's 900,000.

    Of course, raw numbers say little about how much revenue the respective app stores make - there, iOS is actually ahead by a margin of 2-1. But this article really doesn't seem to consider revenue at all - otherwise it would have pointed out that adding a million Chinese apps doesn't necessarily add much revenue (the Chinese market is ripe with piracy - there seems to be a cultural bias against paying for content!).

    So, again, not much to gain by reading this article.

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2013, at 2:04 PM, secularinvestor wrote:

    What an incredibly misleading article which totally and utterly fails to explain what is really happening with Android in China. Anybody reading the headline and the article would come to the conclusion that Android and therefore Google are doing well in China. In fact the total opposite is the case.

    Android is totally fragmented in China, where piracy and malware are rampant, making it almost impossible for developers to make any money. The moment they produce even a moderately successful App, the market is immediately saturated with numerous pirate copies which suck up all the profit.

    The reason is that most of the growth of Android in China comes from "white box" devices using forked versions of Android which shut out Google search and Google Play. This means that not only is Google almost completely excluded from the Chinese market but the so called "Chinese Android" market is in fact a lawless Wild Wild East in which it is almost impossible for legitimate developers to make money.

    This leaves Apple's iOS as the only properly regulated Apps market where developers can make money. For this reason there has been a huge upsurge in Chinese developers of iOS Apps.

    china.org reported "Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Monday that Apple has more than 6 million registered developers globally, with 1.5 million added in just the last year.....According to UMeng, a Beijing-based startup focusing on serving app developers with detailed apps-usage data, the total number of Chinese iOS developers has increased 9.3 times from 2011 to 2013."

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2013, at 2:49 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    Not just misleading, but irrational

    "Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system. Last quarter, nearly 80% of the smartphones sold worldwide ran [Android]"

    "..,made-in-China apps could give Android the lift it needs."

    "...Android absolutely dominant in China. Last quarter, it powered roughly 70% of the smartphones sold. And that's just phones sold in a recent quarter. "

    No, sorry. Android has a lower percentage of the Chinese market than of the rest of the world. So how does that support your argument?

    If 70% more than 80% in your world?

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2013, at 6:20 PM, secularinvestor wrote:

    @ twolf2999.

    The mobilesyrup article you site contains a lot of marketing hype and claptrap.

    1,000,000 Android Apps? Google have played the numbers game trying to catch up with iOS Apps. Google themselves admit that there are numerous duplications of Apps with pirate copies which they are now going to try to eradicate from Google Play - after criticising Apple for years about their walled garden and quality control of Apps....LOL.

    There is also huge quality difference between between iOS Apps and Android Apps, which Catalysis and other researchers have identified. Google don't exercise tests and quality control so many Android Apps are just F.rt ware and cr.p ware, which would not get near being approved by Apple.

    Another major problem is the way Android is so fragmented, along with countless hardware variations of Android smartphones and tablets, which means that it costs developers a lot more time and effort to develop and test Apps for Android than for iOS. The huge hardware and software fragmentation results in developers producing Android Apps to the lowest common denominator which results in sever quality degradation with many features often omitted which can be found in the developers iOS Apps.

    In many cases Android smartphone owners find Apps just won't work.

    There are also major security problems with Android with over 100,000 malware many of which are in Android Apps. 90% of all viruses and scams are aimed at Android, with almost none at iOS.

    As you rightly point out Apple iOS generates far more income for their iOS developers than do Android Apps.

    Finally, Google claim to have activated 70 million Android tablets. Similar hyped up "shipment" claims are made by the likes of Strategy Analytics. However there is a major problem with these claims, which is that Android tablets just don't appear in web usage stats from many different sources. For example Chitika has found that iPad web usage has increased from 81% to over 84%, while Android tablet usage declined.

    Browsing the internet is the most obvious use for tablets, so why do these Android tablets not register in web usage data?

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