When I started developing a mobile strategy for Cheezburger, I dug into the data to discover which devices were most popular and what platform(s) my company should devote our limited money, time & developers to and quickly came to two conclusions: there were more Android devices on the market, but iOS users were more active.
Android is winning?
It felt like every month there was a new report regarding the ever increasing number of Android phones being sold and how Apple was losing the mobile OS war [ref]I’m not going to talk about profit share vs market share. Go read Daring Fireball for that.[/ref] just like they lost the PC wars. Most recently, Gartner reported first quarter 2013 sales of Android phones were four times greater than iOS. Given the sheer numbers of Android users, why would anyone develop for iOS first or at all?
Usage matters more
As an app developer, number of phones shipped or activated is interesting, but somewhat irrelevant. [ref]I say “somewhat” here as a hedge for a possible future when people start to use their Android devices as pocket computers instead of just a big screen phone[/ref] Usage is what really matters and looking at that data is pretty convincing. Given that app usage number for (at the time) a non-existent product are hard to come by, I used our mobile web traffic as a proxy for demand by platform. iOS web traffic for our sites was roughly 2 to 1 over Android and according to Netmarket, worldwide mobile Safari (iOS) had a 59% market share vs the default Android browser’s 23%. Most other browsers are pretty much a rounding error.
Pocket computers vs phones
So there are 4x the number of Android phones sold in a quarter, but 2 to 3 times as many iOS users actively using web sites, what’s wrong with this picture? I’ll get into theories about that in a future post, but currently, iOS users are using their phones more as pocket computers than Android users are. Given that, I know that I wanted to devote most of our efforts into iOS.
At last night’s kickoff to the All Things D Conference, Tim Cook laid it out a bit more succinctly – â€œWhat the numbers suggest over and over again is that people are using our products more.” If you are developing mobile products, you have to ask yourself, do you want to be exposed to the largest number of users or the largest number of possible devices?
Should you ignore Android? Well, no. Android’s usage numbers are growing and I think perhaps before long Google’s strategy may overtake Apple. That said, I think it’s safe to adopt the strategy that many have and to develop for Android second depending on the product you are developing.
How did it work out?
We released both apps around the beginning of December and when I left at the beginning of May, Cheezburger’s Android app usage trailed iOS by a larger margin than the web stats, but my hypothesis that web stats would be an indicator of app usage was correct and the bet was a good one to make.