Friday, March 29, 2013

Android's killing it globally: Why we're building our app in iOS and not Android

I have been working with a client company on building a product that is essentially controlled by a mobile phone so a more robust user experience can be created. Like many companies, there’s a real concern that this may not resonate with their core audience (it will) and the requirement of smart phone ownership will be needlessly constraining (it won’t – their core audience is higher income and mid-30’s age-wise. Smart phone nirvana). The key will be making the engagement truly engaging, easy to use, and on-brand for the platform on which it’s being used.

Android is taking share, so what's the obvious choice?

We have decided to build our product app solely in iOS.

Here’s why:

1. Platform consistency. No guarantee that Android phones will stay up to date. All iOS phones are routinely updated with latest software releases. But there are constraints as hardware becomes more sophisticated. An iPhone 3 will not have iOS6.1 for example. Still iOS6 is 83% of all iOStraffic. According to the Android Developer Portal 3/5ths are running on outdated versions of Android. Here is a great article on the topic from the Economist.

2. Device predictability. An article a few weeks back talking about how Nike has decided not to pursue an Android version of the FuelBand mobile software touches on the challenges that are parallel to ours. Essentially it comes down to something called “BLE” which is Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and what we are looking to use in our product. The net effect is that Apple have committed to having this hardware component in their phones, but Android let the handset manufacturers decide what they will put in the phones, meaning that a low-uptake early technology like BLE will not be consistently available in Android phones. A comment from the Economist article sums it up nicely:
The lack of more specific hardware requirements [for Android] appears to provide the perverse incentive for handset makers to scrimp on kit, too—at least on all but premium smartphones.

3. Revenue Generation: The way that the iTunes store links all Apple devices has created a massive amount of stickiness for their users, and the curation that the iTunes store does has folks generally more confident in spending money on iPhone apps than Android apps. By many accounts it looks like there is about a 5:1 index of apple revenue versus Android. In fact the most stable component of Apple’s revenue stream is the app store so expect it to remain an important strategic priority for them. That said, this is a fast-changing landscape, so we may start to see more revenue come from Google’s app store, and I'm betting that Samsung's commitment to the platform and their great products will yield progress on this front. But, it’s a ways away, so spending extra time and money today in anticipation of the ‘what if’ is not best use of resources for us.

4. Globally consistent. My client has a global footprint. This iOS dominance is consistent throughout Europe even though Android is outpacing through lower priced handsets, and increasingly in Japan, where the iPhone is now the topseller according to Kantar Media

5. Native – not HTML5. To get the most from the phone’s onboard ecosystem, you need to build in the phone’s OS. IF this were a simple app that didn’t require access to social, location, or the Bluetooth LTE we could easily build a multiplatform app. and some folks think HTML5 just "isn't ready"

This is a topic with a lot of passion around it - especially once the term 'fanboy' gets thrown into the mix... wondering what sort of feedback this will get...

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