Android Gains Apps Developer Love
The wireless app developer industry has more or less bifurcated into two camps: Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone iOS or Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android. Apple has led, but the Android army is growing as hardware manufacturers -- most recently Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) -- introduce new phones with beefed-up capabilities. (See Samsung Gets Epic With WiMax Smarty for Sprint.)
Samsung’s latest handsets, which will launch with six of the top US carriers, for example, include high-definition video, video chat, and a built-in compass. But analysts say that, while these new hardware capabilities are notable, they aren’t what’s causing developers to flock to Android.
“Since hardware will vary per device and per smartphone manufacturer, I think it might be difficult for apps developers to address their activities for specific hardware developments,” said Anthony Cox, senior analyst at Juniper Research Ltd. , in an email interview.
Instead, it’s the operating system and, of course, revenue-generating potential that’s drawing developer interest.
According to an Appcelerator Inc. survey released this week, developers are concentrating the most on iOS now, but they are placing their long-term bets on Android. Interestingly, every platform outside of these two is taking a backseat.
Specifically, 90 percent of developers said they were very interested in creating applications for the iPhone, 84 percent for the iPad, and 81 percent opted for Android. The next closest OS was BlackBerry, which only captured 34 percent of developer interest.
The developers said that Android will win because of its OS capabilities, openness, and long-term outlook, but 61 percent were worried about fragmentation in the platform.
Appcelerator’s developers indicated that testing and developing across the various Android OS versions and devices is cost- and time-prohibitive and is their biggest worry for the platform. Given this, they aren’t as likely to get excited about one new device as a customer might.
SPB Software Inc. is a video-focused company that offers both a free Android and iPhone live TV app. Juggs Ravalia, the company’s vice president of strategic alliances, says that a fancy new device doesn’t sway his willingness to develop. He’s going to port his app to each new phone either way. Juggs does note, however, that it could be a different story for a smaller company or guy-in-his-garage developer that has fewer resources, a fact that Appcelerator’s findings back up.
“We don’t worry about there being too many versions of Android,” says Juggs. “We’ll work through it.”
New hardware capabilities might not inspire new apps, but some existing apps could get a lot more attractive when the device capabilities improve. Moving streaming site Qik, for example, has an Android and iPhone app, but the mobile video sharing app is more compelling where a front-facing camera is available.
SPB, too, has to optimize its platform for every device, and Juggs says that more advanced hardware can mean more innovative capabilities, like better graphics on its live TV service. SPB will build for one OS then tweak that service for every phone available based on the capabilities of the OS and the hardware.
Even if hero device capabilities don’t end up driving a new wave of apps, new hardware sets in motion a cyclical process for Android. The more Android devices that enter the market, and the more operator support they receive, the larger their addressable market becomes. In turn, the more attractive Android becomes to profit-motivated developers.
“Capability is important, but it comes down to how much revenue can be generated from the platform,” says NPD Group Inc. analyst Ross Rubin. “Some of that is dependent on how engaging it can be, but more significant is the installed base, how likely they are to download apps, and how good of a job the marketplace does of pointing customers to apps they would find of value.”
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile