Currently, the mobile app market is largely split between Apple’s iPhone and devices powered by Android, the mobile operating system developed by Google. BlackBerry has set up its own marketplace, BlackBerry App World but that seems to be nowhere when compared with the Android App Store or the iPhone App Store.
To give you a better idea, every month the three stores generate 1.6bn downloads – 1bn for Apple’s App Store, 500m for Google’s Android Market and 90m for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World. Therefore, the first decision a budget-sensitive marketer has to make, is where to put your money: iPhone or Android? For the most part, there are some definite pros and cons to both platforms.
The promise of Google’s Android Market was that it would be dramatically different than Apple’s approach to distributing mobile software. Google created a transparent “Market” rather than a “Store”, with an open platform (with no approval process, a la Apple’s App Store), for developers to enter the market seamlessly.
In reality though, the majority of paid apps on Android clock less than 100 downloads. A report from Distimo found that 20% of all free apps and 80% of all paid apps have been downloaded fewer than 100 times on the Google Android Market worldwide to date.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, 96 apps have been downloaded more than 5 million times in the Android Market, with Google Maps achieving 50 million +. It’s not easy to make money from paid Android apps.
Some blame the billing system, others blame the lack of discovery features, and some even suggest that Google has a deliberate strategy of marginalising paid apps in order to force developers to make their apps free and advertising-funded.
Android Apps – The Future
Google have been busy working on a number of improvements to help mobile developers; these include new country-specific charts, Editor’s Choice picks, a special icon for so-called Top Developers to help them stand out on the store, improved suggestions for related apps when someone is browsing the store, and a section to show currently trending apps.
Android has the potential to be a much more lucrative platform for paid apps, alongside its undoubted strength for free apps, and now is the time for marketers to be setting their sights on this market.
One of the major drawbacks for Android is fragmentation of the operating system. According to Google, about 65 percent of Android devices are running version 2.2 “Froyo,” while 21.2 percent are running Android 2.1 “Eclair.” Other versions of Android are in use right now, as well. That’s not a good thing for Google or Android.
The iPhone has had four OS releases and only four generations of the device — the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4. All four generations have had similar hardware, meaning that most apps are compatible across the board. The Android, with its many devices and variations, means developers have to keep upgrading.
Apple has also nailed the ease of app purchasing. Purchases are done through your existing iTunes account that is linked directly to your credit card — a few clicks and you’re downloading.
Apple Apps – The Future
Consumers are downloading more apps–and spending more for each one–for their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
iOS device owners will download 83 applications this year, compared with 51 a year ago, a 61 percent increase. More importantly for Apple and the app developer, consumers will spend on average $1.44 per application, a 14 percent increase from a year ago.
Apple’s advantage continues to be the sheer number of applications available to its customers. Apple’s App Store has more than 425,000 applications, compared with 200,000 available to the Android Market. In May, Google said it crossed the 4.5 billion downloaded application mark. Last week, Apple said it crossed the 15 billion threshold.
The company’s iPhone is still the top smartphone in the world, and its tablet is easily outselling any other alternative in the market. Apple is a threat right now to Android and Google will need to do a lot to stop Apple’s runaway success.
The best way forward
So what’s the best way forward for marketers? As we can see, both the Android Market and the iPhone App Store have their pros and cons. In a recent forecast report by Gartner, the outlook for Android was decidedly positive, as they predicted Android would account for 49.2 percent of the market share by the end of 2012, versus Apple’s iOS predicted share of 18.9 at the end of the same year.
But where is the best place to spend your marketing budget? In the long term you will need to have both an iPhone and Android app. App development is not as expensive as many people think. The average cost of an app is approx. £10k.
Many of your competitors will be well on their way to creating their app for these stores, or at the bare minimum investigating both options. The App Stores are only going to get bigger and more successful so it’s vital that your company is involved.
In terms of budget I recommend creating the iPhone app first. Apple has a greater hold in the App market. Consumers are currently more impressed to hear you have an iPhone app. Also, there is a greater chance your audience owns an iPhone. Once the iPhone app is settled in the store I would recommend creating the Android version.
You would have learnt a lot about the development of an app, Apple’s App Store, how to market an app, download volumes, etc., which can only help when making the decision to create an Android version. By creating an Android app you double the potential audience to download your app overnight. Not a bad thing.