For mobile app developers, iOS vs. Android misses the point

I came across an article this weekend titled “Android wins devs’ hearts and minds.” It takes a look at some of the statistics regarding developer plans for 2011 in terms of which platforms they will be supporting and developing for. They make a point that Android may have more attention from developers and may be poised to unseat Apple’s iOS as the top platform for developers.

They go on to say:

    “When asked about their plans for 2011, however, developers said that 29 per cent of their new-platform efforts would be devoted to Android devices, versus only 8 per cent for the iPhone.

    Of course, since the iPhone already holds a lead in developers, its developer growth would naturally be lower than that of Android. But still, such a large disparity indicates that next year may see Android overtaking iPhone in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the all-important developer cadre.”

This may be true, but ultimately it misses the point. The key for today’s app developer is that iOS and Android isn’t an either/or decision. Android has proven itself to be a popular platform that the public is adopting, and the iPhone obviously has a massive user-base, and all customers are expecting quality, feature-rich apps regardless of which phone they have. This leaves developers with little choice but to support at minimum two platforms, however, that comes with some specific challenges.

At Urban Airship, we work with app developers regularly. Typically we see three key objectives they have when it comes to cross platform support.

•    Create a consistent experience – Ideally, app developers would like their mobile apps to have a consistent experience across all the mobile platforms they support. This is an issue we are continually helping our clients with. Whether it is consistent in-app purchases, enabling content subscriptions, or delivering push alerts and in-app messaging, developers want these things to be experienced the same across their different platforms. This is especially important when planning for new features and measuring app satisfaction.

•    Reduce the porting burden – Mobile app developers have the same goal as other developers that support multiple operating systems. They want to reach as many people as possible while minimizing the headache of supporting apps in different environments. Ideally they would have one product, with one feature set, and one experience across all the platforms they support.

•    Consolidate app evaluations – Ideally businesses would like to view the success of their applications not independently for a given mobile platform, but across all supported environments. For their key metrics, whether it is click throughs, engagement, uninstall rate, etc. they would like this to be something they could easily see as a whole and not in platform silos.

While iOS vs. Android certainly makes for interesting press and arguments, the real story is how they will support the top mobile platforms in a way that is most efficient and best for their business.