Snap (NYSE:SNAP) has been catering to iOS users for years, even though the Android operating system claims about six times more smartphone users.
Snap's latest earnings report showed its slowest user growth ever and seems to have been another wake-up call for Snap that there aren't enough iOS users for it to keep growing. In the past, Snap has alienated Android users by making quick fixes on the app when it really needed a complete overhaul.
But now the company seems well aware of how desperately it needs to get the new Android app out to users. After all, that's two billion users that Snap's missing out on.
Snap finally admits a brand new Android app is the solution
Snapchat's recent redesign was the redesign heard around the world. Both iOS and Android users seemed to almost universally hate the new design, and more than 1.2 million of them signed a petition on change.org asking Snapchat to reverse the changes.
On the latest Snap earnings call, company CEO Evan Spiegel noted that the developer team still had a lot of work to do on the redesign, especially for Android users.
That was worrying for investors who have been pressuring Snap to roll out a new Android app that will fix a host of problems from lag issues while scrolling, to random crashes, to poor picture and video quality.
Android performance has always been a weakness for Snapchat. The recent redesign was supposed to be a short-term fix for Android issues. But while it addressed certain problems, other problems have popped up in their place and led to a negative impact on Android users this past quarter, according to Spiegel's comments.
The issues with the redesigned Android app go back to Snap's legacy codebase, an ongoing problem for Snap. Legacy code is code that isn't engineered anymore, but is continually being patched. After a while, the constant code modifications meant to improve the app actually end up creating a mess out of the code to the point that if you go in to fix one thing, it can break something else.
That's where Snap is with the Android app. And that's why the redesign is a short-term, unsatisfactory fix for users. The only way to break the cycle is to create a brand new app.
That's what Snap is trying to do with the Android app now, and it hopes the rebuilt app will be ready in the third quarter between July and September. Snap has been slow to this game, though. Android users have been saying for a long time that the only way to fix Snapchat's Android problem was to quit taking shortcuts and rebuild it. Now Spiegel finally seems to agree that a complete overhaul is worth the time and effort for the potential long-term growth from Android users.
The Android growth spurt that has eluded Snap
Snap's disappointing growth story has a lot to gain from making the two billion Android users a priority.
In 2017, about 83% of smartphone users were using the Android operating system, while just 15% were using the iOS operating system, according to data from IDC. It seems like a no-brainer for Snapchat to cater to Android users rather than iOS users. But Snap has been dragging its feet about creating a high-quality app for the Android phones because there are more than 60,000 variants of the Android, while there's only one iOS variant. That makes things more difficult for Snapchat developers.
Snap openly acknowledged the glaring Android growth barrier in its SEC filing before its IPO in March 2017. The company wrote that if it were unsuccessful at improving the app for the Android operating system, then its business could be "seriously harmed."
Snap's predication seemed to come true with its recent poor performance. For the second quarter that goes through June 2018, Snap expects user growth to slow substantially as it continues to deal with the backlash about its redesign and continues to use its redesigned Android app as a temporary fix. But if it can get the new and improved Android app ready for the third quarter, it may be able to report improving user metrics.
In December, Spiegel admitted, "I wish we had done this sooner" about the redevelopment of the Android app. It's safe to say, Android users agree.