Android First is the New Normal

The mobile platform landscape was fairly stable for more than two years. Having both won the platform wars, Android and iOS seemed quite settled into their market positions. Android selling the most units in every market, but with iOS taking a dominant share of the lucrative high-end. Similarly, Android’s greater developer mindshare was always counterbalanced by iOS developers making the most revenue, and iOS being the primary platform for more full-time professionals. In the last six months we’ve seen a very significant shift on that last point. Apple will now have to work extremely hard in the next few years to avoid giving up further ground.

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Why developers are prioritising Android

Towards the end of 2013, Steve Cheney wrote a very widely-read post on Why Android First is a Myth. We wrote a response at the time highlighting the strong silicon valley bias that made the conclusions doubtful, but also confirming with our data that, at least, professional developers were quite heavily prioritising iOS. In 2014 we heard that Android first was a fallacy – the user base might be there but fragmentation, plus inferior documentation and tooling, would make it a poor trade-off for many. In 2015 debate on the topic continued while our data showed Android gradually winning the priority of professional developers from other platforms, but not iOS. We entered 2016 with Android marginally ahead: 40% of professional developers globally prioritised the platform versus 39% for iOS. That seems to have been a tipping point, with our latest survey showing a large shift from iOS to Android. A massive 47% of mobile developers now tell us they consider Android most important, while preference for iOS has slipped to 31%.

The reasons for this shift are many but related. The fastest growing regions in terms of mobile developers are those dominated by Android already. New mobile developers are increasingly choosing Android first in all regions. Existing developers are shifting their priority to Android because the types of app they build are changing. We’ve been highlighting for some time that the app economy is shifting away from direct monetisation of apps, to using apps as a channel for some other business. Mobile commerce is by far the largest and fastest growing (at least in terms of total revenues) part of the app economy. Demographics still matter – users of iOS spend more on real-world goods and services through each device than Android users. However, unlike with downloads and in-app purchases, the difference is nowhere near enough to make up for Android’s larger user base.

Leveling of the playing field

For startups trying to find product-market fit, and enterprises needing to deploy across multiple platforms, a key reason to build on iOS first has been the ability to get to market faster. Android had more relaxed deployment policies and much faster publishing cycles, but it was was easier to develop higher quality apps for iOS. The most critical area in this regard has been the UI. Historically iOS had a few fixed resolutions and higher quality APIs for UI development. Android had a vast array of screen resolutions and aspect ratios, and fairly basic abstractions for dealing with that complexity. However, with the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus in 2014, along with split screen mode for iPads in 2015, Apple has forced iOS developers down a scalable UI path as well. Once the UI of an app has to adapt to multiple resolutions dynamically, the complexity isn’t significantly increased by having to work with many more resolutions (maybe in testing but not in development). So iOS development has become harder, whilst Android has had time to mature their UI APIs, providing support libraries to reduce fragmentation across operating system versions.

The other area where a major Apple advantage has been eroded is in the design of app interfaces. Both Apple and Google moved towards a flatter and more minimalist style, which shifts the emphasis towards animation as the way to both give an interface personality and help users to understand it. Apple’s approach has been to show rather than tell, and leave artists to create, while Google has provided extensive guidance to developers on how to implement their Material Design. The latter has been favoured by many developers that don’t want completely custom UIs deciding to design for Android and adapt that for iOS, where the reverse was previously the case.
Apple isn’t doomed just yet
It’s important to note that mindshare for iOS is still within the range it has occupied for the last few years at 52%. Developers are not abandoning the platform. Shifting developer priorities towards Android are quite a long-leading indicator for device sales, and Apple are already making big moves to counter this trend. Swift is a boost to iOS developer productivity. Cutting app review times increases iteration speed. Apple Pay on the web gives iOS a greater advantage in the booming mobile commerce market.

The danger for Apple is if Android first becomes firmly established as the new normal. If some of the best apps and services come out on Android first then some of the early adopters will start to migrate. Where the early adopter user base goes, other users and the cool startups will follow. Without an app ecosystem advantage, Apple would become almost entirely dependent on hardware differentiation to maintain a price premium. This battle is far from over but Apple will be working a lot harder to keep developers focused on iOS than they have in the past.

The tip of the iceberg

We’ve just taken a deep dive into one interesting trend in the mobile developer ecosystem, there’s more going on with the mobile browser and Windows 10 too. We also have the latest trends from desktop, cloud and IoT, as well as new insights into augmented and virtual reality, plus data science and machine learning. Our State of the Developer Nation Q3 2016 report is filled with interesting trends as seen by 16,500+ developers across 145 countries.

Get it here

State of the Developer Nation: The App Economy Consolidates Before the Next Gold Rush

Our 7th Developer Economics survey broke all records again, reaching more than 10,000 app developers from 137 different countries. The full report with the survey findings has just been published and is available for free download!

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The view of the app economy that they collectively provide is one of consolidation. Developers are focusing their attention on fewer platforms and app revenues are becoming increasingly concentrated amongst the top publishers. Consolidation in the developers tools sector may also be partly responsible for the decline we see in tools usage. This is also reflected by the platforms, with BlackBerry moving their focus away from consumer smartphones and Microsoft killing their recently acquired Asha and Nokia X platforms to double down on Windows Phone. Fortunately there are several indicators that the next gold rush is just getting started.

Platform Wars

On a global level the platform wars are ending with iOS claiming the majority of the high-end device market and Android winning almost everywhere else. This results in [tweetable]Android leading in developer mindshare at 70% with iOS a clear second with 51% of developers targeting the platform[/tweetable]. However, we’ve been tracking this metric since 2010 and there is a new pattern. [tweetable]Windows Phone was the only platform to gain developer mindshare, rising steadily to 28%[/tweetable], despite failing to gain device market share. Although Android and iOS lost developer mindshare, this was not fewer developers prioritising either platform, rather more developers are now choosing sides. The average number of platforms a developer targets has fallen from 2.9 to 2.2 over the last 12 months, with more than 40% only targeting a single platform.

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BlackBerry 10 is rapidly leaking developer mindshare, down to 11%, having failed to gain traction with consumers. Meanwhile, it’s now becoming increasingly clear that [tweetable]the future of HTML5 lies beyond the browser[/tweetable]. Although HTML5 is used by 42% of developers as a technology for app development, only 15% still target mobile browsers as a distribution platform.

A surprisingly high 47% of iOS developers and 42% of Android developers are using something other than the native language on their platforms. While hybrid apps are the most popular non-native option for building Android and iOS apps, they’re only used by 13% of developers. Hybrid apps are HTML5 apps with a native wrapper, typically created by tools such as Cordova.

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App Revenues

The majority of app businesses are not sustainable at current revenue levels. [tweetable]50% of iOS developers and 64% of Android developers are below the “app poverty line” of $500 per app per month[/tweetable]. 24% of developers interested in making money earn nothing at all. A further 23% make less than $100 per app per month. The overall app economy, including all revenue sources not just the app stores, is still growing but the revenues are highly concentrated. At the top end of the revenue scale there are just 1.6% of developers with apps earning more than $500k per month, collectively they earn multiples of the other 98.4% combined.

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State of the Game Developer Nation

Games dominate app store revenues, yet most games developers struggle. [tweetable]33% of developers make games but 57% of those games make less than $500 per month[/tweetable]. Experience breeds success in the games market. The more games a developer has shipped the more likely they are to be financially successful. However, 70% of games developers have shipped less than 4 titles.

Games is a multi-platform world with the average games developer targeting 3 platforms versus 1.75 platforms for non-games developers. Multi-platform games benefit from cross-platform game development tools with Unity by far the most popular, used by 47% of developers. The next paid tool, Adobe Air, comes a distant second at 15%. Apple and Google’s latest graphics technologies launch a battle for the richest gaming experiences. Third party game development tools like Unity and the Unreal Engine will be key to developers exploiting these capabilities.

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Tools of the App Developer Trade

Third-party tools are a critical part of successful app businesses. There’s a strong correlation between tool use and revenues, the more tools a developer uses, the more money they make. We successfully predicted the rise of the Mega-SDK, where consolidation amongst tools companies allows developers to integrate multiple tool categories from a single vendor. Despite this, tool use is declining, partly due to the rapid influx of new mobile developers. These new developers are typically not aware of the tools that are available and thus reduce the average usage levels. 26% of developers that are interested in making money don’t use any third party tools, up from 14% just 12 months ago.

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The most popular category of tool is Ad Networks, with 30% of developers using them. However, this is one of the few tool categories that is not associated with higher than average revenues. More experienced and successful developers show a preference for Cloud Computing platforms, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, with 40% of those with 6+ years experience in mobile apps adopting them.

Enterprise Apps – The Next Gold Rush

[tweetable]Enterprise apps are already the safest bet in the app economy and they’re only just getting started[/tweetable]. 67% of mobile app developers primarily target consumers and 11% target professionals directly. The 16% of developers who target enterprises are twice as likely to be earning over $5k per app per month and almost 3 times as likely to earn more than $25k per app per month.

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Penetration of enterprises with mobile devices and solutions is already broad but not yet deep. Currently iOS appears to be winning the battle for enterprise adoption and revenues. Yet many developers are focusing on the wrong platform with 10% more enterprise developers targeting Android than iOS. Although enterprise apps have been a historical strength for them, Microsoft and BlackBerry are seeing very weak adoption for their new platforms amongst enterprise developers due to lack of demand from enterprises.

This battle is in the very early stages. Microsoft is re-focusing on their core competence in productivity software while Apple and Google move rapidly to embrace enterprises. [tweetable]Google’s integration of Samsung’s Knox platform into the Android platform is a major step forward[/tweetable]. Meanwhile Apple’s new partnership with IBM gives them a strong proposition in all the major vertical markets. These moves will undoubtedly drive greater adoption of mobile technology in enterprises and create countless opportunities for developers to help re-think the way we work.

For more information, download the full Developer Economics Q3 2014: State of the Developer Nation report!

Developer Economics: Ecosystem wars drawing to a close

Welcome to the brand new Developer Economics report! Now in its fourth year and 6th edition, the latest Developer Economics survey reached over 7,000+ developers across 127 countries, setting new standards in developer research.

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Get your free copy here and read about the movers and shakers in the app economy. Dive deep into our rich dataset and discover how developers select and prioritise platforms, which developer tools they use and how their choices translate to revenues.

As always, we have a lot more data available so get in touch (moredata@visionmobile.com) to get the data you need if you can’t find it in the report. Continue reading Developer Economics: Ecosystem wars drawing to a close

Mobile Money: Did T-Mobile just pull an Android on banks?

Operators have been trying for ages to launch mobile banking schemes hoping to create new revenue opportunities for themselves. T-Mobile’s latest attempt, dubbed Mobile Money, offers a refreshing new perspective on the space. Drawing on the playbook of innovators like Google and Amazon, T-Mobile uses two strategies that are indeed quite un-carrier-like. Analyst Stijn Schuermans explains.

Did T-Mobile just pull an Android on banks?

Many people that follow what’s going on in mobile might have shrugged their shoulders at T-Mobile’s announcement of the new Mobile Money service. “Un-carrier brings its revolution to personal finance; frees consumers from Outrageous fees!”, titled the press release. An enjoyable bit of drama, but nothing new, right? After all, operators have been trying for ages to launch mobile payment and banking schemes. Remember all the NFC buzz of the last few years? Direct competitor Sprint launched its Mobile Wallet (a very similar service) back in May 2013, leading Forbes to label T-Mobile as “The Late Adopter That Picks Up The Innovation Kudos”. Continue reading Mobile Money: Did T-Mobile just pull an Android on banks?

Top 5 VisionMobile articles for 2013

With 2013 drawing to a close, we’d like to present you with the top articles from our blog for this past year – and wish you a happy and productive 2014! So, without further ado, here are the top 5 VisionMobile articles for 2013 – enjoy!

5. Developer Economics: App market forecasts 2013-2016

by Andreas Pappas
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The global app economy was worth $ 53Bn in 2012, and expected to rise to $ 143Bn in 2016. As part of our new Developer Economics: App Economy Forecasts 2013-2016 report, Senior Analyst, Andreas Pappas, examines developer population, platforms, revenues, and revenue models and shows how app store sales are just a small part of the app economy. Read the full article. Continue reading Top 5 VisionMobile articles for 2013

How do developers prioritise platforms? iOS vs Android vs HTML5

How do developers perceive different platforms and how is their platform choice affected by the type of apps they developed or the way they define success? Andreas Pappas looks into the data from VisionMobile’s Developer Economics survey in Q3 2013 to shed some light on these questions.

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Not long ago, the choice of a mobile platform, i.e. which mobile platform to support was a key question for developers. That question has more or less been addressed now: iOS and Android accounted for 94% of smartphone sales in Q3 2013 and there is little doubt that they will continue to dominate the market in the years to come. For organisations that require massive scale, combined with all the perks of a mobile ecosystem (monetisation, distribution, platform services), iOS and Android are the platforms of choice with a combined Mobile Developer Mindshare of over 85% based on the last Developer Economics survey in Q3 2013. Continue reading How do developers prioritise platforms? iOS vs Android vs HTML5

The Naked Android

It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked. Senior Analyst Stijn Schuermans explains how Google made it tough for ambitious rascals to fork Android and dump Google.

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It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. The operating system had been forked by Amazon and too many Asian handset makers. Worse, it had become too easy to replace Google Play with a proprietary app store yet leverage existing Android apps; too easy to replace Google’s services (Maps) with 3rd party alternatives (Nokia’s HERE). Even the Android brand wasn’t the king of the hill anymore, being eclipsed by Samsung’s Galaxy.

Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked. Continue reading The Naked Android

Learning From Blackberry's Decline

After Blackberry announced disastrous Q2 results, news broke that Fairfax’s offer to take the company private had hit funding snags as pension funds were uninterested. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, but it means that a break-up is now the most likely outcome for the embattled smartphone manufacturer. Let’s use Blackberry as a lens to see what we can learn about declining businesses.

This article, by Sameer Singh, was first published at Tech-Thoughts.

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1. Companies cannot attack established ecosystems from behind

The easiest takeaway from Blackberry’s decline is that no single company can compete against an established ecosystem. Blackberry’s decline began once iOS and Android were firmly entrenched as leading mobile ecosystems. Blackberry failed to understand that creating a viable ecosystem around the BB10 operating system was extremely unlikely given the timelines. By the time BB10 was productized, iOS and Android already held dominating positions in the market and developers had no reason to look back. Continue reading Learning From Blackberry's Decline

App trade: a global opportunity

As we launch our new Developer Economics survey [UPDATE: Survey now closed – results out Jan 2014], Senior Analyst Andreas Pappas quantifies the international dimension of the app economy to visualise app trade routes. With barriers to international expansion disappearing, today’s app economy knows no borders. But almost 50% of developers are not yet crossing those borders.

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One of the things that make app development attractive to developers is the relatively low effort involved in selling apps across international borders, compared to other forms of international trade. The low barriers to selling apps internationally make app development attractive even in regions where smartphone penetration and app consumption has yet to reach a level that can effectively support local app development. This is the case in Asian countries with smartphone penetration below 20%, compared to over 50% in Western Europe. To some extent, app development is even more attractive in Asian regions, as labour and other costs are lower, compared to western app economies. Continue reading App trade: a global opportunity

Infographic – Developer Economics Q3 2013 – State of the Developer Nation

As we’re about to launch the latest Developer Economics survey [UPDATE: we’ve launched the new survey – you can take it here!], we’d like to present you with an infographic with some key stats and figures from the latest, Q3 project, to whet your appetite. This infographic holds just a sample of the dozens of insights from the Developer Economics Q3 2013 report ([vm_form_download link_text=’full report available for free download’ product_id=’4062′]), tracking the state of mobile ecosystems, developer mindshare, monetisation trends, revenue models and developer tools.

Insights from this infographic:
– Android and iOS lead in terms of mindshare, HTML5 comes third: 71% of mobile developers use Android, 57% use iOS, 52% use HTML5
– Most developers go straight to the browser: The largest share (38%) of HTML5 developers develop mobile websites with another 23% developing mobile apps
– There are more iOS developers also using Android than vice-versa: 69% of iOS developers use Android, but just 40% of Android developers use iOS as their second choice, just ahead of HTML5 mobile (29%)
– iOS leads in average monthly revenues – but Android is closing the gap: At $5,200 per developer per month on average, iOS continues to be the most revenue-generating platform for developers, ahead of Android by a margin of 10%
– The global app economy was worth $ 53Bn in 2012, and expected to rise to $ 68Bn in 2013: The mobile segment corresponds to 12.6% of the global developer population. In other words, 1 in 8 software developers is involved in mobile development in 2013
– Creativity (53%) and the fun of building an app (40%) are the top motivators for developers

Can’t wait for more Developer Economics? Our new survey is just around the bend [UPADTE: new survey is live]- stay tuned and take the survey (if you’re a developer), or help spread the word (if you’re not)! For the moment, enjoy this great, new infographic!

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