For the April - July quarter of this year, Android made up 85% of the market, shipping a staggering 249.6 million devices. When you put that statistic, from research group IDC, in contrast to Apple and Windows, which shipped 31.2 million and 8 million respectively last quarter, it seems that Android is dominating the market.
So why do Silicon Valley startups resist developing for the OS?
In the article "Why Silicon Valley Doesn't Care About Android," Sandi MacPherson explores the contradictory state of Android in the hub of some of the most technologically progressive startups and established businesses. According to McPherson, who spoke with mobile entrepreneurs to conduct her research, these are the key points businesses fixate on:
• Building for Android is more expensive and time intensive, mostly because of massive fragmentation in hardware and software
• iOS users are much more valuable and monetize more than Android users
• iOS is more popular in the US, and that’s the market most US-based companies know best. While Android is just under 85% worldwide, it’s only about 50% in the US
These are some valid points, ones that, from an outside perspective like mine, never occurred to me. It’s easy to get pulled into the allure of a company that sells 85% of devices worldwide, and yet forget that it only makes up about half the user base in the country Silicon Valley-ites work in.
However, upon reading some of the quotes in the article, I’ve come to a few conclusions of my own on why iOS continues to dominate. Such statements include:
The problem with Android is really a problem of perception. People think that developing on the platform is inferior to iOS, that it’s difficult to monetize, and that fragmentation is a huge pain…This problem only becomes worse when interacting with non-technical founders and general business people who have so internalized iOS’s premium positioning that they would never consider building on Android first (I certainly haven’t met any).
-Cezary Pietrzyk, Founder at Cezary & Co.
With any development team, you will always have a more familiar platform. This platform is your team’s bread and butter. You can make magic happen…You feel infinite. And then there’s [Android]. This mystery platform monetizes poorly and is used by poor people. None of your friends use it. None of the tech press, the people who you want covering you, use it. It feels like it’ll take another thousand hours that went into designing and executing the original iOS application.
Seen in this light, we can empathize why we want to believe iOS-first is the best strategy. We don’t want to concede we’re pursuing a lesser strategy because it’s too hard. Cognitive dissonance is what leads tech CEOs to build arguments saying that going iOS-first is actually better for users.
-Jong Moon Kim, Founder at YC Startup
If you’re building an app for “mainstream” China, India or Indonesia, it probably makes sense to start on Android, or joint-launch today. If you’re trying to go after prestige users in those markets, then iOS still makes the most sense in that market… and that reasoning will probably hold for a while.
- Sutha Kamal, Founder and Former CEO at Massive Health
I don’t want to discredit these guys; they seem to know what they’re doing, and have reached a certain level of success within their field, which is admirable. I also want to disclose that I have a Mac Air, and with Netflix, those pretty much sum up my plans for a Friday night. But all these statements seem to suggest these things:
- If you want to be rich, you must emulate the rich, and only cater to the rich.
- The public perception of Apple as “hip” and “wealthy” is one of, if not the most, important factors.
- People do not consume consciously but, rather, consume what they believe to be the best because it’s pretty and costs a lot more, i.e. people are dumb.
- Technology shouldn’t be accessible to everyone, and maybe we should keep it elite.
The idea that Android is a cheap product for the lesser class is nothing new; ReadWrite had an article about it, Time analyzed the allure of Apple, and Gizmodo ran a story on it (complete with a picture of a homeless guy and racist allusions to the fact that because Hispanic and African-American households tend to buy Android more, this means Android must be a poor brand. Way harsh). The whole argument on which platform is better takes me back to 2009 - and, in fact, all those articles were written at least two years ago.
When you consider the fact that Android makes up 85% of the market, even if that market is overseas, then it makes sense to want to tap into the worldwide market. The economy is increasingly international, and while it feels good to develop for a brand that was created in and continues to have its headquarters in America, in contrast to brands like Samsung and Sony, that scope quickly begins to feel small if you only cater to American customers rather than looking at becoming a global player.
To say that Android is inferior based on what America is doing is a narrow point of view. For example, iOS apps currently equal 1 million, while Android has around 1.3 million. Plus, Android, with the help of Google, has made efforts to improve the current state of its apps. Are the critics just saying that Android is worse for apps because there's more competition, thus making it harder to get a return on your investment if it's not up to par?
Creating an app isn’t as easy as just plugging your code in, putting it online for sale, and then getting a nicely sized check in the mail. It takes marketing and the right combination of elements to ensure success, along with a lot of market savvy and a good sense of UI design. For me to sit here and speculate that these startups should absolutely cash in on the Android international market is easier than going out and doing it. But in a world where I see elementary school kids, and sometimes even younger, carrying around smartphones that have access to any online information in the world, the view that a product is somehow lesser than because it’s from another country seems antiquated. I mean, just look at Apple. They manufacture their goods in China.