Home > Blogs > The Fight for The Mobile App Market: Android vs. iOS

If you’re a developer looking to make an impact on the Android and Apple App markets, how do you choose your starting point? Do you code for the Google Play Store or do you code for the Apple App Store? Learn more inside about the keys to conquering the Android and Apple app market.

On its head, the choice seems obvious. The raw numbers tell the story. Reported in January 2014 by the research firm Gartner, 2014 will see one billion Android devices shipped and activated. Let’s say that again: In 2014, Android will activate one billion devices. The one billion activation in 2014 is in addition to the already 1.9 billion Android devices already utilized around the world. This means by the start of 2015, Android will have an active mobile base of nearly three billion devices.

In comparison, according varying reports (Asymco, Gartner, Forrester, The Verge), at the start of 2014, Apple had shipped 700 million iOS devices to date. Of these, multiple reports state roughly 200 million of shipping iOS smartphones and tablets are no longer active. This brings Apple iOS global market down to 500 million.

On its head the choice between being an Android App developer and an iOS App developer is a matter of sheer numbers, three billion devices compared to 500 million devices. With a wider and more varied market, the numbers suggest developing Android applications is a smarter bet carrying with it the higher possibility of landing a viral downloadable gem).

Yet, the choice isn’t that simple.

Understanding the Metrics: Google Play Store vs. Apple App Store

Mobile application creation is not only a matter of creating a killer application using various programming languages (check out some InformIT titles on Android App Development and iOS App Developement, respectively), it is a matter of understanding the marketing behind applications with the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. With Android rounding out at nearly three billion active devices by years end, you would imagine the Google Play Store would have exponentially more applications for download than the Apple App Store. Surprisingly, this isn’t the case.

As of the writing of this article (June 9, 2014) the Google Play Store has 1,239,315 applications available for download. Conversely, as of the writing of this article, the Apple App Store also holds 1.2 million applications for download. Getting a bit more granular, within the Google Play Store consumers have downloaded apps a total of roughly 80 billion times. Likewise, on June 2, TechCrunch reported there have been 75 billion Apple App Store downloads to date (linked above). This said, from data published by multiple sources, Google Play downloads are tracking 45% ahead of Apple App Store downloads.

This leads the app developer to believe that although the total amount of applications and total downloads across both platforms are very similar in depth and breadth, Android Apps are rising faster than iOS Applications in terms of popularity and profit.

Yet, before an app developer can decide what his/her first app should be coded for, we need to address the marketing behind free applications and paid for applications.

When it comes to the financials behind both platforms, more contradictions abound. As previously stated:

  • There are more Android devices in the world
  • Google Play Store downloads are rising faster than Apple App Store downloads
  • Both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store have roughly the same amount of mobile applications for download

All this said, as noted by the excellent tech blog ReadWrite:

“The App Store had its best year ever in 2013: Apple on Tuesday said customers spent $10 billion on apps over the last year, which was highlighted by a record-breaking December with over $1 billion in sales.”
“…Though Android dwarfs iOS in devices and downloads, Apple rakes in an estimated $5.1 million in revenue from the App Store each day, while Google banks just $1.1 million per day. And Citigroup analyst Mark May believes Google Play pulled in only $1.3 billion in revenue last year—just 13% of Apple's haul—even though Android accounts for roughly 75% of all app downloads (the App Store's share was just 18%).”
“..So to clarify: Google has a larger installed base than Apple, it has more products and properties than Apple, and it’s on more smartphones than Apple. So why is Apple’s App Store so much more lucrative than Google Play?”

The answer is found in marketing and advertising matched with the open source Android community vs. the closed world of Apple App development. This can’t be stated enough, the Apple App Store markets their applications better than the Google Play Store. Due to marketing, iOS applications stand a better chance at being purchase and downloaded.

Additionally, iOS apps produce more profit because the Apple device market – and thus the Apple OS market – is more tightly controlled than the Android market. As of January 2014, 78% if iOS users are running the latest version of their iOS. In comparison, only a little more then %50 of Android device users run the most current versions of Android OS. Not only does this mean iOS developers have less to worry about it also means Android App developers have to pick and choose the OS version their applications will work for while leaving the rest behind.

Call it a fragmented market. Call it an overabundance of Android devices. Call it better marketing. The simple truth is although the app markets are remarkable similar, Apple developers stand a better chance to get recognized, become highly viral and gain more downloads. All this leads to bigger profit margins both Apple and the devs toiling away.

So, the question: Is it better to code your mobile application for the Google Play Store or for the Apple App Store?

The Verdict: Android Apps vs. Apple Apps

Sorry to say, but we don’t have the answer. Instead, we will let the numbers speak for themselves. In the end, if you choose the Google Play Store as your first line of attack, you can be satisfied in knowing that if your app becomes viral, you can pay someone to transcribe it for the Apple App Store. And vice versa.

This is all the more reason to beef up both your Android App Dev and your iOS App Programming skills. Check out some of those titles and get cracking! We here at InformIT can’t wait to play with your mobile app.

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