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Smartphone Adoption and the iPhone VS Android App Conundrum

A conundrum  has been on my mind for weeks now related to smartphone adoption, and I want to get your take.

An excellent trends presentation delivered by Mary Meeker at the recent D10 conference caught my eye this morning as I cruised through my daily learning and content sharing routine. Now a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mary is an American venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst primarily associated with the Internet. Her opinions are widely respected … and debated among people way smarter than I.

While the presentation focuses on Facebook’s lack luster performance in the passing weeks since the IPO, I found two slides particularly interesting on a somewhat related subject.

First, look at how her slide citing Morgan Stanley research as of Q4 2011. Holy potential, Batman! It’s safe to say that eventually, desktop web browsing could be antiquated.

Smart Phone Adoption

But now look at this data on the rate of what smartphone operated systems are being adopted by us consumers, cited from Gartner and Morgan Stanley research reports as of the same time period. Steve may be flipping in his grave by this point, right?

Android VS iPhone Adoption Rates

Now, according to an infographic posted on that sites Nielsen as the source of the data in 2011, Android owns just over 10% more of the market share than Apple does for smartphone operating systems. If you want to read up on some other interesting breakdowns of user traits for each platform before you leave your opinion in the comments, go back and click-through to that last link. I’ve set it to open in a new tab so you don’t have to back click to this post.

Android Users VS iOS Users - Market Share Statistics

What’s your take?

Instagram lived on iOS for well before Android users were given an app and allowed to play in the filtered photos game that has turned more than 100 million smartphone users into amateur photographers. That frustrated the hell out of me.

We are seeing the same thing happen with Viddy right now. While the app is already gaining traction and buzz from the iOS user community, Android users are sit waiting in the wings for their chance to play in creating social video.

Given the data above, does this not seem like a big ‘no-brainer’, that app companies like Instagram and Viddy are missing a big opportunity to bring new technology where the largest audience lives, thus capturing more of the market share?

So here’s your question for the comments — why on earth is it so attractive for app developers and marketers to launch apps on iPhone first and all but ignore Android until much later in the launch phase?

What’s your take?

  • Bryan Cristina

    The answer to your question is an easy one: The reason apps are launched on iPhone first is because it has a large enough base with a very small variance in hardware and software, making development considerably easier for your first launch.

    You’re a small company with an unproven product.  You might even be racing against other companies with similar products (and in mobile, this is probably going to be the case).  If you want to get out the door, have a strong product, few bugs, and easier support, would you target development to iOS5 and a possibility of 3 devices, or Android 2.3 and 4 and dozens of hardware configurations?

    As awesome as android is it’s just probably more resource intensive to get a fully functional product up and running on Android compared to iOS.  Even Instagram didn’t offer the product or all of the features to every handset because of different hardware configurations that needed to be addressed.

    • nateriggs

      That’s an interest response and thanks for the perspective Bryan.  I can see how for a small company and startup that’s strapped for dollars and available development talent, that scenario makes sense. Still, if that’s the case, doesn’t it then make the competition on the iPhone app market incredibly intense?

      Even with strapped resources and short timeline, doesn’t it make some sense to go where the resistance and competition is less?  Another question — what type of situation would entice an app developer to start on Android first?

      • Bryan Cristina

        There’s been plenty of competitors that have started on Android, but I think those have mostly been ones taking advantage of the ones that started on iOS.  Instagram has had tons of competitors that started on Android, because there was already demand for the product but no actual product.  Same with some of the games like Wordfeud, which took off pretty well as Words With Friends lagged its port.

        Other than that, devs might best start with Android if their app does things that Apple restricts, like having your own private APIs or other things that Apple would shoot down in their store.

  • Nicholas Riggs

    Beyond the market analysis of cost/benefit/implementation, there is somewhat of a cultural difference between iPhone and Android people – a direct result of years of marketing campaigns that have carved out two slightly nuanced niches. 

    Its a crude way to think of it, but I think it’s fair to say that iPhone people tend to favor usability over variability when it comes to the app market. Folks buy an iPhone for the clean design and quick interface. Android folks are bit more selective – the want options and search for apps that do stuff the iPhone can’t do. Android apps may not be clean or pretty, but they’re often more personalizable, thus, more marketable to people with a bit more nuanced technological style, who are (most likely) pickier and more selective users. Else they would probably have iPhones.

    I think Steve’s right here – wanna make a faster buck? Start with the iPhone.Wanna revolutionize some aspect of mobility and sharing? Probably makes more sense to put the effort into the Android app. The iPhone market becomes a sort of test market in that schema for working out the usability kinks. 

    Android folks tend to be more likely to filter through the crap. That, of course, is just my assumption.

    • nateriggs

      To be honest, that’s a really good assessment on the user behavior. I have had both platforms and agree with you on your thoughts on each platform.

      Another thing to consider is accessories for iPhone (in terms of apps) VS Android. For instance, while in the Apple Store the other day, I noticed a car mount for your iPhone that can turn it into a radar detector.  Not a bad innovation, but you don’t really see that type of thing for Android phones.  Hell, it’s hard to even find a decent docking station for my bionic, let alone apps that work with external accessories.

  • JB

    Nate, Mary’s presentation just confirms what we already know: the Android platform is maturing.

    But the iOS platform continues to be very profitable. One study suggests that for the same app, an Android developer will make $.24 for every $1 on iOS (

    Like most things, your question really boils down to economics. The tables will turn when developers can make the same revenue on an app with the Android platform.

    So what’s the tipping point? Assuming that iOS and Android are 50-50 in terms of market share, Android would have to increase it’s market share by 4X to bring developers the same revenue.

    That’s not trivial. Growing the market and closing the gap with Android platform innovation is going to take several years, to say the least.

    Oh, and have you seen Android on a tablet? Mary’s presentation doesn’t even include that stat – talk about a ‘work in progress’!