News Column

For developers, Apple still is the place for new apps

June 1, 2014

By Jefferson Graham, @jeffersongraham, USA TODAY

The Android smartphone platform months ago won the war vs. Apple's iPhone, dwarfing it in market share. And people download more apps on the Android platform than Apple's iOS.

So why do software developers who create apps continue launching them on iOS first -- months or years before making them available to Android users?

As Apple prepares to welcome developers to its 25th Worldwide Developer Conference today in San Francisco, the state of the app economy still rules in Apple's favor.

Android phones have an 80.2% market share, according to researcher IDC, compared with just 14.8% for Apple.

But consumers spend more time with iOS apps and are more likely to opt for in-app purchases, developers say.

"There's a fundamental difference between the way people consume apps on both platforms," says Matt Galligan, CEO of Circa, the news summary app released for iOS in 2012. It came to Android just this year.

App discovery, he says, "is different on the different platforms." It's easier for new apps to be discovered in the iTunes app store than on Google Play, he says.

Research firm App Annie says that Google surpassed Apple in downloads in 2013 but that developers generate two times more in revenue on iOS than Android.

"The bulk of new activity, it seems, is moving onto Android. But the value of the user is still higher on iOS," says Grant Cohen, who runs the Chirp mobile ad-buying service.

App developers have had a great year since the last conference. Mountain View, Calif.-based WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in February. Other recent acquisitions: the Natural Motion app for $527 million to Zynga in January and the WordLens translation app by Google last month for an undisclosed amount.

More than 120 billion iOS and Android apps have been downloaded to date by consumers, a roster that includes smash hits such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Candy Crush Saga.

Adam Huie launched his anonymous dating app, Sway, this year for iOS first; Android will be later in the year.

"Although Android is bigger, and getting bigger, there is something sexy about iOS," he says. "Whether it's Hollywood or media, people sort of put iOS still to this day on a pedestal."

Apple's iOS still has a huge advantage over Android in that there is only one phone size to be concerned about, with a uniform screen.

There are hundreds of different Android phones. "Developers just want to get their product out there, and it's easier to go iOS first," Huie says.

Apple could throw off developers with a new screen size for the next iPhone, which isn't likely to be announced at this week's conference. That would require the company to redesign its apps.

Meanwhile, what new features are developers looking for from Apple?

Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Pittsburgh-based language app Duolingo, says he'd like to see Apple's Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant, opened up to work with third-party apps such as Duolingo. "That would be awesome," he says.

For Cohen, it's back to the basics: He wants to see Apple "get a little bit of their mojo back" and show off some really cool, innovative new stuff.

"I'd like to see them finally get into things that are going to attract buzz and get people lined up outside Apple Stores again," he says.

Huie said he hopes Apple embraces the wearable trend, which Samsung has been exploiting with its Galaxy S models. The Galaxy 5S has a built-in heart-rate monitor, and Galaxy Gear smartwatches connect to the phone for a variety of functions.

If last year was about wearable fitness trackers, and sensors that connect via Bluetooth to your device, "Now I want to actually see that in the device," Huie says.

Meanwhile, are people getting tired of apps? Have we hit app fatigue?

"Absolutely not," von Ahn says. "Some 85% of our traffic comes from the app, and the numbers keep getting bigger and bigger on mobile."

And what will come of the iOS vs. Android market share battles?

With Android eclipsing iOS in market share year after year, developers know that eventually, Android will catch up monetarily.

"I would imagine that we're going to see a report any day that basically shows that Android spending is now eclipsing iOS," says Mike Jones, CEO of Los Angeles.-based tech incubator Science-Inc.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: USA Today

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