Android has had a very tough uphill battle with Apple over developers. This has been because of 2 reasons. One reason is that Apple had the headstart in both iPhone units and customer base, but also in the ecosystem. This made it so most new mobile developers would be naturally inclined to go with the iPhone ecosystem first. The more developers there were working for the iOS platform and more success stories appeared, the more wanted to join it.
The second reason was that Google hasn’t really cared about developers until more recently. In the first few years there were few Android units out there, definitely fewer than iPhones, but the Android Market was also poorly developed, and it wasn’t even available in a lot of countries. It wasn’t until last year that developers even got the in-app purchase system. So it has been very hard for developers to monetize their applications on Android.
But all this is changing now, with Android catching up with iOS not only in the billions of app downloads it gets per month, but it has almost caught up in the total number of applications, too, and that’s considering the iPad apps, which really gave the iOS ecosystem another boost not only in apps, but also in developers.
The developers were already starting to consider Android more before the iPad appeared, but once the iPad came out, they started doubling down on iOS instead, and focus on making new apps for iOS rather than Android. It certainly didn’t help that even after a year, Google still botched up the Honeycomb release, not just with it not being fully ready for release, but also with the big pricing mistakes that some of the initial tablet manufacturers made.
Now that we are starting to see more tablets being sold, and a lot more Android phones, to the tune of 700,000 devices per day, it’s only a matter of time before developers focus on getting their apps on Android, and for some their first application will be on Android, because it’s much easier to release it there without a very restrictive market policy.
Google has recently announced their style guide for Android app design, so that should make it even easier for developers to get started on making polished apps. Truth to be told, Google should’ve done something like that a long time ago, and this is one of the reasons why a lot of apps on Android still don’t like that great. But with the new design guide and resources, and with more competitive developers coming to Android, that will change fast in 2012.
Ovum, a research company, says that in 2012 Android will pass iOS in userbase (yes iOS still has a few tens of millions of units ahead of Android right now in total user base) and once that will happen, it will clearly be not only the most popular platform to develop for, but also the one with the most potential. IHS, another research firm, has already said that Android will have 58% of the market in 2015 (well, if you believe 3-year predictions that is).
The good thing about all of this, is that once Android becomes the most popular platform, it will also benefit from the same type of natural forces that helped iOS in the beginning, which means most developers will start focusing on Android first.