In this new age of mobile computing, the long-term success of Apple and Google depends largely on their ability to amass third-party developer support. Developer innovation improves the way consumers connect with others, entertain themselves, work, and more, all through apps. The more a platform provider can attract unique and superior content, the more appealing the hardware device appears to consumers prior to purchase and the more loyal they become afterwards.
Last week, Apple reported that it had sold a cumulative 200 million iOS devices. Currently the App Store contains more than 425,000 apps, with total downloads surpassing 15 billion. From the developer’s point of view, the most attractive aspect of the iOS consumer audience is that they all have credit cards on file with iTunes. This means 100% of them can seamlessly pay for apps and in-app purchases. All told, the App Store offers a powerful business opportunity to developers and has attracted leading mobile developer support.
At the same time, Google’s more open Android OS distribution strategy has garnered the support of numerous notable OEMs, spawning a rapidly growing installed base of Android devices that is gunning to overtake the iOS installed base. With broader distribution across more carriers, Android device activations surpassed 500,000 per day tweeted Andy Rubin last month. This growth is up from 300,000 activations per day reported just last December. In terms of apps, the Android Market has 200,000, and Google said it crossed the 4.5 billion downloaded application mark in May.
At Flurry, we regularly track developer support across the various platforms that compete for their allegiance. When companies create new projects in Flurry Analytics, they download platform-specific SDKs for their apps. Since resources are limited, the choices developers make in building for different platforms strongly signal their confidence in those platforms. They are literally investing their R&D budgets in the hopes of generating future revenue. In total, over 45,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 90,000 applications. For this report, we compare Q1 to Q2 new project starts.
Studying the numbers, it’s readily apparent that Android has lost developer support to iOS. Specifically, Android new project starts have dropped from 36% in Q1 to 28% in Q2. Overall, total Flurry iOS and Android new project starts grew from 9,100 in Q1 to 10,200 in Q2. Of note, this drop in Android developer support represents the second quarter-over-quarter slide, which follows a year of significant, steady growth for the Google-built OS. Over the course of 2010, Android developer support had steadily climbed each quarter, peaking at 39% in Q4 2010.
Considering the events that could have precipitated this shift in developer support, Flurry has identified two probable causes:
1. iPhone Launch on Verizon: With iPhone’s arrival on Verizon in February 2011, three and half years after launching on AT&T, Apple closed the most significant vulnerability gap in its U.S. distribution, and likely worldwide. In fact, with its lengthy exclusive distribution agreement of iPhone on AT&T, it could be argued that Apple itself gave Android the opportunity to reach critical mass on other carriers, most notably Verizon. In that time, Google, Verizon and a host of OEMs worked hard and fast to push Android devices as an alternative to AT&T’s iPhone juggernaut. With Verizon’s launch of the iPhone, the pendulum appears to have swung back in favor of iPhone over Android development.
2. iPad 2 Launch: Establishing an installed base of more than 20 million tablet devices in less than one year, the iPad success story has been compared to taking a buzz-saw to the PC industry. Apple’s iPad shipments, from its last disclosed quarter, were higher than the initial first two quarters of iPad availability. Apple has additionally claimed that it is seeing the “mother of all backlogs.” Building efforts lag behind consumer demand for the device. We believe that wholesale consumer acceptance and adoption of tablets, which just a year ago was questionable within the industry, is further luring developers to build for iPad instead of Android.
While Android’s device installed base continues to surge, ongoing work to improve the Android Market layout and to push forward the adoption of Google Checkout are critical to its success. PayPal’s recent acquisition of mobile payment player, Zong, demonstrates that Google may not be enabling consumer payment quickly or well enough, which is inviting 3rd party competition and creating billing fragmentation. Furthermore, the development community is concerned about the rising cost of deploying across the Android installed base, due to the double whammy of OS and storefront fragmentation. With developers pinched on both sides of the revenue and cost equation, Google must tack aggressively at this stage of the race to ensure that Apple doesn’t continue to take its developer-support wind.