Recently I have been thinking quite a bit about the commercial viability of Android versus iOS – from the viewpoint of a commercial developer. Should I support both platforms (which is quite an effort for a small development team if you are going for native support and not some web-based stuff) or should I prefer one platform over the other. My concerns are (for now) related to the development of ADOM Live, a mobile descendant of ADOM, my vastly successful roguelike game.
For ADOM Live I have decided to stay with iOS and the iPhone as my primary platform. Despite quite a few folks asking for Android as being the preferred platform.
Why? Several reasons mostly centering about one core argument:
I am interested in the commercial success of the project and my guts tell me that Android so far is a huge commercial failure for developers.
Your mileage may vary and I would love to hear about it. So please give me your opinions – not your flames Here is my line of reasoning:
- Using iOS I basically have to support one unified hardware platform (ok, two resolutions if I limit myself to the iPhone, one more if including the iPad – but with a unified infrastructure). With Android I have a huge amount of different mobile devices and I remember very well the hassles required to support ADOM on Windows, Mac, BeOS, Linux, etc. Screen resolutions, etc. are a nightmare – especially on a mobile device with limited screen real estate and the customer expectation to really get beautiful and shiny apps.
- Using iOS I usually can rely on the latest version of iOS as Apple is pretty persistent about getting its users updated to the latest stuff. With Android there seems to be a vastly varied market with various versions of Android floating around – all more or less modified by the mobile device producers. Resulting in a market were you just can go for the smallest common denominator if you really want to reap the benefits of the platform and not just of the most successful mobile device(s) on it.
- I somehow feel that the Android PR machine is trying to trick me. Consider this: Apple obviously is pretty frank with its sales numbers and successes: According to the latest numbers Apple is vastly successful, primarily because of its iOS platform – a record revenue of $26.74 billion and record net quarterly profit of $6 billion. Google reported a revenue of about $8.44 billion and a net income of about $2.54 billion. Just think about these numbers: While the margins of Google obviously are much better, the profit of Apple is pretty close to the overall revenue of Google (ok, about 75%). Apple is earning loads of money with the iOS infrastructure, Google is only talking about the number of mobile devices shipped with Android. And that’s were my guts are telling me: The platform might be a success concerning that one single statistic. But what about the interesting ones? Earnings on selling the platform? The business model for the platform? App earnings concerning the platform? I have to admit that so far I searched only for about an hour and got sidetracked, but the only statements concerning these statistics I could find where older stuff from 2009 (e.g. http://larvalabs.com/blog/iphone/android-market-sales/) and some more recent and pretty imprecise statements from the beginning of 2011 (like e.g. http://www.enternet.org/3543741/google-not-happy-with-dawdling-android-app-sales/ and http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/google-disappointed-with-android-app-sales-923912). Hardly a fair evaluation but software development quite often for me is about gut feelings Back to my original point…
- Apple customers are accustomed to paying money for the devices and apps. And they also are accustomed to not taking the cheapest offer. Whenever I talk to Android supporters it’s always about “being free”. Which is extremely important. But which doesn’t help a commercial developer if you have to market something to a community base that wants most of their things for free.
So in the end it comes down to two points for me:
- Apple (at least for now) seems to have a much stronger commercial infrastructure up and running. Which potentially means higher sales to me.
- Apple has a lot more unified device infrastructure. Which means a lot less in costs and effort for me.
So please let me know your views – and if you have facts and figures to back them up so much the better. I would love to see more information about the hard facts.
As a side note concering iOS development I also have decided to stay with MonoTouch as my primary development platform for several reasons:
- MonoTouch allows me to use C#. C# is a modern programming language with all the efficient features from annotations to great library support for about everything.
- C# feels extremely similar to Java. For me coming from 14+ years of Java development this is a great benefit as I felt comfortable in the language after about a day. I tried Objective-C and I simply despaired. As far as I am concerned it’s an ugly language and it has a half-assed memory management (come on – I have programmed C for 10+ years I can live very well with doing everything myself – even if it cuts overall development speed significantly… but having to find with a weird mixture of reference counting and manual memory handling is about the worst thing I have ever seen).
- MonoDroid is a potential way to move my apps natively to Android should I become interested in that.
So there you are. Please give me your insights, opinions and feedback and not just flames ). I’m really thinking a lot about the whole issue and would like to become enlightened by other peoples opinions.