A survey of 600 developers, publishers and advertisers — conducted by mobile ad company Millennial Media in collaboration with Digiday, a digital media company, and Stifel Nicolaus, a financial services firm – suggests that Android will make significant gains in 2011.
Indeed, Android-based smartphones are becoming a favorite platform for mobile app developers. Specifically, 30 percent of respondents polled in Millennial Media’s annual State of the Apps Industry survey said they had developed apps in 2010 for the iPhone. Android phones came in second with 23 percent, and iPad followed with 21 percent.
Fast forward to 2011 and the mix shows Android pulling ahead. When asked which new app platforms they plan to support in the coming year, Android moves full-steam ahead with 29 percent. Interestingly, iPad and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 tie for second, at 20 percent each, followed by RIM BlackBerry (12 percent) and iPhone (8 percent).
Since this survey measures what new platforms are top of mind for developers (and this is U.S., not global) the low interest in iPhone might be due to the fact that the majority of developers have already jumped on the iPhone bandwagon long ago.
Multi-platform = more money
Will the exodus to new (and more platforms) mean more app revenues?
It’s a tough one to call, but respondents are bullish. They expect significant growth in their app revenue in 2011. Specifically, 31 percent of the respondents predict increases of 100 percent or more in 2011. And another 17 percent of respondent forecast growth of more than 50 percent.
The survey also asked respondents to name the top five criteria that play in favor of a platform (and their decision to develop for it) in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, reach is paramount. Other considerations are ease of use and higher sales potential.
This dovetails well with the findings of a much more ambitious global developer survey from VisionMobile, a market analysis and strategy firm delivering market know-how to the mobile industry.
The report, Mobile developer Economics 2010 and Beyond, based on a survey of 400+ developers and sponsored by Telefonica Developer Communities, is a must-read resource providing a wide range of insights into what developers demand and how the industry must respond. (You can find my earlier analysis of this milestone work here.)
A key trend that VisionMobile picked up on first: a mindshare migration away from incumbent platforms (Symbian, Java ME) to newer platforms (Android and iPhone). In fact, the survey suggest that nearly 60 percent of all mobile developers recently developed on Android, with iOS (Apple iPhone) coming in a second. Both outrank Symbian and Java ME, which held the pole position in 2008.
Why the overall shift from platform incumbents (such as Symbian) to platform newcomers (Apple and Android)? VisionMobile points out that developers are trying to make money with their apps, so market penetration (addressable market) and monetization models (paid apps) are deciding factors.
Symbian may be the incumbent (and have reach), but there are serious shortcomings.
Take platform complexity. VisionMobile’s benchmarks show that a Symbian developer needs to write almost three times more code than an Android developer, and twice as much code as an iPhone developer. Combine that hassle with the significant differences in time-to-shelf for apps (24 days for Apple, 33 for Android and over 54 days for Symbian) and it’s easy to see why mobile app developers are voting with their feet.
And let’s not forget the monetization potential presented by the Apple and Android app Stores. Both currently completely eclipse Ovi, making the choice to develop for Apple or Android an easy one.
Developer journey infographic available
The VisionMobile report opened eyes and sparked debate.
However, it’s the release of this simple and elegant infographic (detailing the entire developer journey) that expertly illustrates the choices and challenges facing everyone who wants to make a living from developing (and marketing) apps.
Kudos to Andreas Constantinou, VisionMobile Research Director, and his team for an excellent infographic and a top-notch work that tracks the entire mobile developer journey, from app design and platform selection to market delivery and monetization.
(Note: VisionMobile encourages us all to share this and/or embed this infographic. You can find the embed codes in a variety of sizes here.)
Meantime, work on Developer Economics 2011 is just a few months away.
VisionMobile urges developers who want to participate in the new app economy research and have their say on app development to sign up here.
What really counts
While we place our bets on which operating systems will ultimately lead the pack, it’s easy to forget that the so-called dumb phones (feature phones) have a comfortable lead in the market, a gap that VisionMobile reckons won’t likely close for another 3-4 years – at least (!).
Indeed, the 6th edition of the 100 Million Club – Vision Mobile’s semi-annual watchlist that tracks software products that have been embedded cumulatively in more than 100 million devices – confirms that feature phones (not smartphones) are driving the mobile industry.
At best, smartphones account for 20 percent of total handset sales. (Strategy Analytics recently reported that smartphones accounted for 19.3 percent of total 2010Q2 handset sales.) That’s a small percentage of the 620+ million phones that were shipped globally in Q1 and Q2 of this year.
Do the math, as VisionMobile does, and the mobile platform providers that have real volume (an installed based of 100 million or more handsets) are Nokia with Series 40, Qualcomm with BREW, and Symbian Foundation with Symbian.
The Million(aires) Club
A newcomer to the Club is RIM with BlackBerry. The new edition watchlist also includes Google (23 million), Apple (60 million) and Windows Phone 7 (70 million) for comparative purposes, but it’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out these platforms are lagging, not leading.
Android, for example, has grown from 100,000 activations per day in May 2010 to 200,000 in August 2010. But activations are not sales. VisionMobile provides us an overview of sales trends as part of the new edition 100 Million Club, which features cumulative shipments up to the end of Q2 2010.
The 100 Million Club features two essential watchlists: the Embedded Software watchlist that identifies the 24 products that have been pre-installed in more than 100 million handsets (such as the T9/XT9 text input engines from Nuance and the vRapid Mobile software update engine from Red Bend) and the Mobile Platform Shipments watchlist that tracks the most pervasive software platforms and operating systems.
iPhone is becoming a case of been-there-done-that as developers shift their attention to the new kids in town (Android and Windows). The multi-platform has arrived. It may be wise to pursue, but it will be interesting to see how developers tackle the monetization challenges that come with offering more apps across more platforms. (Indeed, the Millennial Media survey points out that only 6.7 percent of developers employ an external sales force to monetize their apps. A whopping 83 percent use a third party (like an ad network) to monetize.)
Granted, the advance of Android and iPhone operating systems (driven primarily by mobile operators pushing their OEMs to ramp up production of smartphones and fuel increased data use by subscribers) is having a significant impact on the platform landscape. But it’s far from transformational. The media excitement may be focused on smartphones (and apps) but the next billion (that is, people in emerging and exciting markets across Asia, India and Africa) will be reachable only via feature phones for a considerable time to come.
Disclaimer: Peggy Anne Salz is proud to be a VisionMobile Associate.