Developers prefer Android, says survey


news Google’s Android operating system has replaced Apple’s iOS in terms of importance to developers in the Asia-Pacific region in the last 12 months, according to a new survey by independent technology analysts Ovum. However, both still form the core of developer support and almost all developers support both platforms. The survey also reveals that there is increasing interest from developers in Blackberry OS and Microsoft’s Windows phone.

The Ovum survey was aimed at finding out how changes in the device market had altered developers’ preferences when selecting which platforms and technologies to use when building mobile applications for smartphones. According to Adam Leach, devices & platforms practice leader at Ovum, “A smartphone platform’s success is dictated not only by the pull of consumers and the push of both handset vendors and mobile operators but also a healthy economy of applications delivered by third-party developers. Therefore, it is important for all players in the smartphone ecosystem to understand the choices developers are making today and the downstream impact of those choices.”

From the results, it is apparent that developers have been quick to respond to the exit of once-important smartphone platforms such as Windows Mobile, Symbian and WebOS and have embraced opportunities that have risen through emerging platforms. The trends reflect closely changes in the wider smartphone market.

Throughout last year Android had been chipping away at the iOS operating system’s lead in the smartphone segment in the Australian market. Tracking sales trends over the first quarter of 2011, analyst firm IDC had predicted that by the end of the year, Android based smartphones would overtake Apple iPhones in Australia. It was already apparent that Nokia, with its Symbian platform, which all along had been the market leader, was fast losing out.

By the end of Q3 2011, Samsung, which uses the Android operating system, had already claimed the top spot in the Australian mobile phone market, beating Apple. Android, with 49% of the market share, now stood over Apple whose share of the pie stood at 36%. That Apple slowed down its shipments to prepare for the launch of the iPhone 4S didn’t help its cause either in retaining its No. 1 spot. But that is only one of the reasons it lost out, the other being that the Android operating system can operate on many different smartphones and is quickly becoming the choice of cost-conscious customers.

Leach said: “The growing momentum behind Windows Phone indicates that Microsoft has managed to convince developers that its platform is worthy of investment. However, its main challenge now is to persuade consumers.”

Another interesting finding of the survey is that when it comes to building cross-platform mobile applications, developers are focusing more on web-based standards (HTML5) and moving away from traditional approaches (such as Java, Flash, WAP). However, despite increasing use of cross-platform approaches, most developers still use vendor specific distribution channels such as the Android Market to deploy applications, as this is seen as the best way to reach the largest possible audience for their applications.

One example of an Australian developer who launched on the Android platform first has been a new company, Native Tongue, which makes apps to teach people new languages through fun video games.

“The Android version was launched in early November and the iPhone version was launched last week,” wrote Native Tongue developer Matt Ho on the Silicon Beach Australia startup mailing list yesterday. “We launched an [minimal viable product] first on Android, iterated, released new product features, tested, analysed the stats and learnt a lot from that experience. We then used that feedback to polish up the iPhone version. There’s a lot of benefits for launching first on Android because of the easier approval process and ability to test immediately.”

Image credits: laihiu, Creative Commons


    • I wonder who they surveyed. Programmers may prefer Android, though iOS has benefits in that you can use native code. Always a plus for squeezing some performance out of a game. If it’s those that like to see a profit iOS still makes much more money per title than Android. Who are these “Developers” Was it a survey on mobile developers web pages that every fanboi and not necessarilly a true developer can tick their preference? The survey is useless without information on where the information was collected from. It might have that information but the article has no link to it…

        • Cool, that will help. I was last exposed to mobile development just over a year ago. Most was Windows mobile and iOS. The iOS versions of the games had a 2-3 times speed advantage over the managed only Windows mobile platform. I thought Android was also only managed. I guess if it was it isn’t any more.
          I was mainly working on PC and consoles at the time so didn’t get too much exposure to the phone games.

          The big killer for Android that I know of, from speaking to the guys that did Angry Birds, Flight Control, Fruit Ninja, etc, is the sales. Even with equal numbers of users the iOS customers purchase 5-10 times more than the Android customers. The Android customer tends to wait for the app to be offered for free apparently.

        • BTW, how does it go using native with multiple target platforms? Does it require a seperate version for each target or can they be combined into the one package? Maybe with a managed version of the code for non targeted devices.

          • Most Android phones run on ARM, so it isn’t as much of an issue as it appears to be (although if you want to target the GPU it can be a different story altogether since some phones have discrete GPU’s, and others don’t, etc etc)

            In all honesty the nice thing about Android development is the fact that you can use a language that doesn’t require you to manage memory (i.e. java)

            Apart from that, in terms of SDK’s and Tools, they are probably equal (in fact I would probably put XCode ahead of Android in this regard because of how integrated the toolchain is for iPhone development). Its also easier to code in native code (if you choose to do so) since you only need to target one device

    • I found more information. Apparently they interviewed 100 developers. I would still like to know what they class as a developer. Is it someone who cares how many copies are sold and if a profit is made? Or someone whose interest is in how it is to develop on the platform. Nice SDKs, not restricted to Mac platform for development, etc.

  1. At Native Tongue we use a cross platform development kit, Corona by Ansca and have found it to be an excellent choice although not without trade offs. Even still it’s more efficient to develop (I don’t mean “code”, I mean complete end to end development, including beta and user testing) on Android and there are definitely benefits to deploying an MVP via the Android market where you can deploy version updates daily or even more frequently should you desire. With iOs our apps have sat in the queue for a week before they are assessed. This means we will always release on Android first, then iOs as any issues found on Android can be fixed in hours whereas with iOs you have to wait a whole week (not that we’ve had any such issues to date).

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