Why Do App Developers Favour iOS Over Android?

App developers still prefer iOS over Android, according to new figures released.

Statistics analytics software firm Flurry, found that 70% of apps made in the first quarter of 2012 were developed specifically for Apple’s mobile operating system whereas Google’s platform can only claim 31%.

Flurry’s software can be downloaded by developers and integrated into their apps in order to track how often they are being used. The estimations are based on the number of developers who installed the software, using figures from 70,000 companies, 185,000 apps and 100 million unique devices.

The figures are quite alarming since handsets running Android now outsell iOS devices more than two-to-one, with devices running Google’s OS shifting 89.9 million units in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 35.1 million Apple devices.

However, it seems that developers are not following the same trends as mobile consumers with many opting to develop for iOS ahead of Android.

At last year’s LeWeb conference in Paris, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed: ”There are so many manufacturers working so hard to distribute Android phones globally that whether you like ICS or not–and again I like it a great deal–you will want to develop for that platform, and perhaps even first”.

Schmidt went on to prophesise that in six months from the time of his speech there would be more developers working on Android apps than iOS. That time is now upon us and the recent figures show that this is clearly not the case. So why are developers sticking to Apple’s platform?

iOS Advantages

Flurry think the reason is partly due to Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. The firm’s report states: “Not only does Apple offer a large, homogenous smartphone base for which to build software, but also when developers build for smartphones, their apps run on Apple’s iPad tablets as well.

“Apple offers the most compelling ‘build once, run anywhere’ value proposition in the market today, delivering maximum consumer reach to developers for minimal cost.”

So the uniformity of Apple’s devices seems to be a major factor as to why developers choose it over Android. As there are comparatively few devices that run iOS, all of which are all made by the same manufacturer, there are a wealth of similarities between these pieces of technology. All iPhone screens have the same 3:2 aspect ratio for instance, a uniformity that undoubtedly helps developers to format their apps more easily.

Another advantage that comes from the single-manufacturer nature of the platform is the predictable, regimented schedule to which devices are released. A new iPhone can be assumed to be appearing each year, making long-term planning for developers much easier.

A further factor for consideration is that iOS users are far more likely to be using the latest version of the platform than their Android counterparts. Only around 7% of Android phones currently run the latest version of Google’s OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, with the platform’s previous iteration, Gingerbread, still holding over 60% of the market, more than eighteen months after it was released.

In contrast, the latest version of Apple’s software, iOS 5, took only fifteen days from its June 2011 release to reach a similar share of its market to that of Gingerbread. iOS users are clearly far more keen to stay up to date with the latest developments for their devices and the fact that more of them are running the most recent software makes it easier for developers who wish to utilise the latest features.

This is also indicative of something that has been suggested by a number of commentators in recent years – that many Android users do not use their smartphones to their full extent, whereas iPhone fans are far keener to leap on new features and developments.

Android Advantages

Android does have some advantages over iOS in terms of app development though. Google’s OS is based on the Java programming language, something that is very common and widely understood by software developers, whether they are in app development or other fields. This makes it easier for existing developers to move into the mobile sphere from other areas, and creates a wider pool of people who have experience with the relevant software.

iOS on the other hand, uses Apple’s own Objective-C language. Whilst this can be easily learned by developers familiar with the C and C++ programming languages, it is a far more exclusive system that can prove to be a stumbling block for those trying to enter the app market.

Perhaps the most well-known advantage is the certification process that new apps must undergo in order to be sold through each platform’s app store. Approval for Apple’s App Store can take up to 3-4 weeks (quite a long time in terms of the life-cycle of an app) whereas admission to Google Play is a far faster and simpler process.

Despite the enclosed and heavily regulated environment which Apple engenders, developers are still choosing the platform in their droves. Whether the trend will continue is difficult to tell, but Flurry also claims that developers make over four times as much money from apps developed for iOS than they do from Android. In the quick-profit, high-turnover mobile world this has to be a huge reason for software firms to turn towards Apple.

Whatever will happen in the future, it seems that Eric Schmidt was well off the mark when he made his claim six months ago and that, to app developers, iOS is still very much the platform of choice.

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