I recently had the opportunity to attend AndroidTO, “this year’s must-attend mobile technology conference for all Android enthusiasts and developers”. A day-long dual-track event, I was interested to see what Android was up to in my hood.
Because I’m not a developer, I exclusively attended the Professional track panels, focusing more on the business end of the Android ecosystem.
Most notably of all of the (great!) panels presented, there was a roundtable in which a number of local industry muck-a-mucks explained how most of them had built and launched iOS apps and were thinking about rolling out an Android app, or were starting to look for Android developers. On a panel of five, only one participant had actually made an Android application.
Another panel’s slide deck illustrated the vertiginous profit-per-user differences between iOS purchases and Android purchases (in the last year or so, anyway), despite the very similar number of apps available.
Perhaps unfortunately, the reason for this disparity and focus on iOS at an Android event seems to stem from two significant differences: iOS users’ apparent willingness to slap cash on the barrel-head and Android’s increasingly fragmented handsets and app markets. This leads to a considerable lead for iOS in paid downloads, and a scramble toward in-app payments and/or advertising on Android.
Android’s fragmentation was clearly illustrated on a panel by a local games developer, speaking on how launching their game on Android involved basically ignoring one fifth of all Android users, simply because their phones were too old, too new, too weird or too insignificant to bother with. They were leaving money on the table because it was simply too difficult to reach the entire market.
Apple and Google, as shepherds of their respective mobile operating systems, have very obviously different ideas on where to focus their efforts.
Apple, typically, has focused on presenting an extremely polished and frictionless user experience such that you don’t notice the walls closing in on you – if you don’t like the Apple way, tough nuts. Google, on the other hand, has focused on choice. Don’t like your current Android experience? No sweat – there are myriad other options.
In a perfect world, the ‘open’ option would be great for developers – few restrictions, publish where you want, reap the benefits of working within a framework you control. What I learned at AndroidTO was that in the real world, the closed, controlled choice (currently) offers a better chance for success.
You may also want to read my co-worker Ash’s post on the same event.