Hey Schmidt, it’s been six months and developers still prefer iOS over Android

Today’s the big day! It’s June 6, 2012. Exactly six months ago from today, Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt made a wild prediction saying that six months in the future, developers would prefer creating Android apps over iOS development. Well, here we are.

“Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking,” Schmidt said at the LeWeb conference in December.”There are so many manufacturers working so hard to distribute Android phones globally that whether you like ICS or not–and again I like it a great deal–you will want to develop for that platform, and perhaps even first.” He later responded to a comment from an audience member about iOS apps beating Android apps to the market by saying, “my prediction is that six months from now you’ll say the opposite.”

Did Schmidt correctly predict that developers now want to create apps for Android even before iOS? Let’s just play around with that for a bit. The iOS App Store still houses far more apps than Google Play does. As I write this, there are 218,497 apps made for the iPad and that doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of apps created exclusively for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Of course, when we get into such large numbers like this, they don’t really matter much to the end user — there’s an abundance of apps in either marketplace. It means something in the context of Schmidt’s quote. According to him, developers would favor the Android platform on this exact date. Still, the majority of mobile apps fall under one of these three categories: iOS-exclusive, iOS-exclusive followed by a later expansion to Android, or immediate availability for iOS and Android.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Google+ — you most likely don’t use it, but you’ve at least heard of it, I assume. On May 9th, Google typed up a blog post announcing a beautiful redesign of the app. It’s seriously stunning. It called the update a “mobile app with sense and soul” and nobody questioned the relevancy of those characteristics for it. The app was released for the iPhone first.

Google, the maker of Android, released an app update for the iPhone before Android.

It wasn’t even a few days before, which might be forgivable. The Android version of the update wasn’t released in Google Play until May 24th. The App Store’s approval process that Google has harped on so much over the years obviously wasn’t a big obstacle at all if its own app made it through weeks before it landed on Android. Whatever the excuse may be for the app’s early release on iOS, it doesn’t boost the Google’s credibility.

Admittedly, a few things have changed over the past six months that support some of what Schmidt said. Less developers are taking the iOS-exclusive approach upon releasing apps and are instead migrating toward the iOS-followed-by-Android approach or just simultaneously releasing them on both platforms. Instagram stuck with iOS for over a year until it eventually hit Google Play in April, as did Flipboard. Even Marco Arment, who has been adamant about not developing Instapaper for Android recently hired someone else to do the job.

For the first two very popular apps, I’d argue that they both had legitimate reasons to expand onto Android and they didn’t just do it because they favored the platform. Facebook famously bought Instagram for $1 billion and from that moment it was destined to eventually release on Android because Facebook has to cover all the angles to appease  its massive user base. In the case of Instapaper, it seems Arment was starting to feel the hit from free competitors Pocket or even Safari’s Reading List, so moving to Android is a natural decision to maximize profit. Flipboard is the one app I won’t make an excuse for because the developers obviously (and rightfully decided) there are benefits to entering the Android market.

While it’s true the herd of iOS-exclusive apps is slowly thinning, Android-exclusive apps are almost unheard of. All the above apps I mentioned were popularized on iOS first and gained enough traction to expand. If there are any apps exclusive to Android, they’re far from mainstream. Developers are seeing much more success by developing for iOS than they are for Android.

Let’s revisit the question I asked in the first few paragraphs. Did Schmidt correctly predict that developers now want to create apps for Android even before iOS? In a word, no. In the six months that have passed, a few things have changed in his favor, but it’s not nearly enough to corroborate his quotes at LeWeb. Is it possible that had he stretched his time span to a year or two, he would have been right? Maybe, but as of June 6, 2012, iOS remains the dominant platform for mobile apps.

  • I wonder why 🙂 OK, now, I have a not famous Android app (~10 000 downloads) and to tell you the truth, the transition from 2.x versions to 4.x is a nightmare. So, Android will start to suffer once WindowsPhone gains speed because they do not break compatibility so easy.

    • Anonymous

      Wasn’t a nightmare for my apps. Guess it depends on the experience of the developer. There’s a reason to be modular and separate concerns.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. A recent survey showed that iOS may have just now reclaimed an edge in developer interest. I also noticed that MS just released an Android only app…no iOS or WP version.

    • Anonymous

      Let’s not forget that photoshop was available on android first and the android app continues to outperform the iOS app

      • Anonymous

        They also ignore the whole point of Instagram in the first place. Sharing sucks on iOS and Instagram was a solution to that. Android is built for sharing. There was no need for Instagram to begin with.

      • We can start naming back and forth different apps that are exclusive to iOS or exclusive to Android, but I think it’s clear that there’d be more exclusive to iOS, especially of those that have become mainstream. I did write that the number of iOS-exclusive apps are slowly declining however, and I stand by that, but Schmidt is far from accurate.

        • Anonymous

          you are saying that adobe’s photoshop touch isn’t mainstream? I think Schmidt is spot on on his prediction. Six months ago the idea of a big company such as adobe launching a mobile app first for android would have sounded absurd and it still does now, to an extent, as Photoshop Touch requires android 3.0+ to run which is still is short of 15% of android devices at the moment.
          If that isn’t a sign that developers prefer android over iOS I don’t know what could be…

          It’s dificult to claim that developers would prefer one over the other platform but in the past free has always been a very good argument. It costs absolutely nothing to run eclipse and write apps for android, there is even a free app at the playstore that allows coding and running directly on android tablets, hard to beat that from an apple perspective

        • Anonymous

          Lets clarify some things here. What is mainstream? How is Instagram mainstream with only 30 million users but you take a shot at people having not used Google Plus with 170 million users? Chances are most people haven’t used Instagram but you seem to think its mainstream.

          Second if you only try to count the iOS exclusives then of course you’re going to end up with more iOS exclusives. This counting is probably done by someone who uses iOS as a daily driver. Let someone who uses Android as a daily driver count and you’ll start to find that not only are there many exclusives for Android but many of these exclusives aren’t even possible on iOS. It lacks the APIs to build these types of apps. The difference is that the Mashable’s and TechCrunch’s of the world don’t run around pumping up these apps. These are the same places that call Google Plus a “ghost town” while folks like Robert Scoble are racking up over a million followers which he hasn’t been able to do on any other network. Looks like there’s a pattern there.

          No the real story here is that the tech media only wants to report on hipster apps which go to iOS first so they can keep that stock climbing for their own benefit.

  • Slicker than the average

    It’s simple people with iPhones pay for apps Android users prefer freebies so of course you are going to make an app for a os that requires you to buy it instead of letting you get the same app for free. Seriously who has a Android phone and buys the TomTom app, or buys a music app ? No one. I tried to switch to the iOS but all the apps I needed required cash in app store and were free in Android market so it was a no brainer

  • Anonymous

    hey you hijacked MG Siegler prediction and make it your own. wow! You must be an avid MG follower

    • I didn’t “hijack” his. It’s been known by most people in the blogosphere that today is six months from Schmidt’s quote. I’m sure he’ll be publishing his own opinions at some point and I look forward to reading them.

  • Andrew Dickel

    Actually I have developed for both iOS and Android, as far as ease of developement and code maturity Android wins hands down (java is FAR superior to OOC).  In development tools, i have to give this to iOS, the emulator is better and GUI designer much more streamlined.. kudos to Apple on that (Android emulator is like hog where iOS Emulator more like a… leopard).  When talking about what platform poses more profit, this is hard, iOS users tend to pay for more apps, but there are more Android users.. this one is split.  The platform I choose to develop for.. Android.  This is because 
    1. The android OS has better designed source code (iOS has no equivalent of the Intent object which is f**kin amazing if you are developer.)2. Android is a more open platform. think theres a bug in the OS. Simply go to the source for the offending Java code, its readily available at the click of a mouse.  iOS source is closed and developers must wait for Apple to fix it.

    3. Eclipse is better than xCode.  Eclipse has been built for many years to develop java code (java being the most widely used and mature language on earth, look this up please) and has been refined and seen by thousands of developers, it rarely EVER causes problems and if it does.. its open source, check the code or tell someone else to.

    4. The android market.. (or play store), got an app.. put it up, simple, easy, nuff said.  

    In my opinion Android is a far surperior platform for many other reasons and people will say fragmentation has ruined it, but really taking the time to track down memory usage and seg faults (OOC) is about the same amount of time it takes to support multiple platforms, screen sizes, and users across the globe.  

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