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Developers turning away from Android

  • iPhone and iPad still tops with developers
  • Fragmentation hurting Android
  • Windows Phone on the rise
Written by Adam Wajnberg
22/03/2012

For a year or two, Apple had a head start on everyone else when it came to the new-ish world of mobile apps. During those two years, Apple encouraged an environment for developers so rewarding that it yielded hundreds of thousands of high-quality applications before anyone else really got their foot in the door. To challenge the App Store’s dominance seemed like a Herculean task.

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But if anyone was up to it, it was Google, the search engine giant. Android, an open source mobile platform with a wide-open policy on apps, encouraged developers to start thinking binary- develop for both, to reach as many people as possible. But with the amount of handsets running Android reaching critical mass, developers are actually turning away from the platform, finding it too difficult to develop apps that can effectively take advantage of the widely varying screen sizes, processing power and overall specs of hundreds of phones.

UK developer site Appcelerator and analysts IDC have teamed up to release their Q1 2012 Mobile Developer Report, which surveyed over 2000 experienced mobile app developers. Apart from the revelation that interest in developing for Android dipped below 80%, other findings include a rise in interest for Windows Phone (the clear #3 priority) and a sharp decline in developing for BlackBerry OS (dropping from 20% to 15% in one quarter).

Meanwhile, developing for iOS, which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, remains a strong #1, with close to 90% interest for all. This is mostly due to the presence of over 150 million iDevices out there (a number growing at a rapid rate, with 3 million new iPads selling in the first weekend of release), and also due to the controls Apple have put in place. Every model of the iPhone, iPod and iPad out in the marketplace shares the same screen size as its forebears, and implementing updates to take advantage of upgrades in processing power is a relative snap. Apple’s decision to steadfastly avoid fragmentation is paying huge dividends, with Apple celebrating the sale of its 25 billionth app in February.

Tablets

On the tablet front, the story is playing out more dramatically. While interest in developing for the iPhone and Ipad is about equal, interest in developing for Android tablets is much less than in developing for Android phones. Android stumbled with its first foray into tablets, releasing Version 3.0 “Honeycomb” for tablets only, instead of a unified tablet/phone operating platform. Interest is concentrated in phones and tablets running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, but the release of this update has been drawn out and difficult, meaning that not enough Android users are updating to take advantage of new features. In comparison, upgrading Apple software is easier (though still a bit of a pain) and more widespread.

Still in competition

Nevertheless, the march of Android has seen them pull ahead of iOS in Australia, in terms of smartphone market share. Android runs on some 40-45% of smartphones (according to Q4 2011 figure), while iOS runs on 35%. The closest thing Android has to a single hit handset is the Samsung Galaxy S2, which is currently going for as little as $0 on the $29 Vodafone Cap. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the phone running the most optimized version of Android, is available from $5/month on an Optus $59 Cap plan.

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