App Developer Conversations: Is developer interest in Android waning?
In this week’s App Developer Conversations we discussed recent reports that developer interest in developing for Android continues to diminish.
We had a couple key observations:
- Fragmentation is real and it’s definitely giving people pause.
- In our businesses we’re actually still seeing positive trends in Android interest.
Watch to find out more about Android developer interest:
Robi: Hello. Welcome to the next installment of App Developer
Conversations. I am here with Ryan Morrell, of Place Play, and Ian
Sefferman, of Mobile Dev HQ. We are going to dig in a little bit on a
topic that a lot of people like to talk about.
Appcelerator came out with some data around, and that is Android’s
adoption among developers, is it waning? Appcelerator says over the
past four quarters it has been dropping and they are seeing more and
more healthy interest in iOS development, but that it is waning in the
Android space. The question is, should we take these numbers
seriously, and what should we be thinking about as app developers?
Ryan, why don’t you kick it off.
Ryan: It is a grain of salt, to some extent. I do not know that
Appcelerator would have any specific agenda for promoting data that
looks like this, but we have not seen any data to support that the
developers are losing interest in Android. We actually have more
Android developer than we do iOS, so I do not know if that is entirely
true. I certainly do hear people saying, ‘We are going to do Android
when we can,’ and that, lots of times, leads to, ‘My stuff is going so
well. Do we want to update the content so frequently that, that means
Android slips?’ We have had lots of conversations with developers who
say, “Yes, it is about 80% of the revenue. There is 1X to 2X the work,
in terms of development.’ I think that probably the biggest challenge
that developers have is now that once you create your app, now what?
There is Google Play, Android, and carrier stores, that’s a lot of
work. What do you guys think?
Ian: We are in the same thing, in that we have not firsthand noticed that.
We have always seen our customer base be 80/20, iOS to Android.
Anecdotally, I have seen an increase in people caring about Kindle,
and that might be a Seattle-bias or whatnot, but that is another
interesting data point. I think that if I were to look at, whether or
not that study is true, if I were to look at, if I were to assume it
is true and think about why it might be the case, one, Apple has done
a fantastic job of updating their OS so frequently that developers
just need to keep on the train and have a little bit less time and
resources to do other things. Two, traditionally, I have always
thought of Apple and iOS as [inaudible: 02:44], as the high-end of the
smartphone, but when you actually look at what they have done, I am
constantly surprised that they now have free phones. It is really not
super-expensive to get into iOS anymore. When you start to think about
how they have captured the low-end of the market, or they are
capturing the low-end of the market, at least in the United States,
that that is super-compelling to a developer who says, ‘I actually
want to focus on the lower-end because I am working a weird game or
some product that targets those consumers, rather than the high-end. I
would have traditionally said “Go to Android first,” but now you can
actually go to iOS first, even in that type of situation.
Robi: I think one of the things that Appcelerator stated when they came out
with their study was that people are fearful for the fragmentation,
that problem continues to be something that makes people hesitate or
might be limiting the interest. The fact of the matter is that Google
needs to be more aggressive about phasing things out and making sure
that the updates are going out. There is an argument to be made that
they have lost so much control that they cannot actually do that.
Apple is continuously doing things that upset the developer community,
but the thing that pleases the developer community is how quickly they
are pushing Legacy OS versions off, from a support perspective, and
they are not even supporting NX codes, so you cannot really build for
it, and so I think that makes a lot of lives easier.
Ryan: Every time Apple updates their OS, they also provide developers with
new features that they can take advantage of, as well as the consumer
community. When developers have new features they can play with, they
want to go do that. They are consistently updating apps to take
advantage of that, consumers are updating software to take advantage
of that, so it creates this nice rising tide. With Google, and now we
even see this with Windows Phones 7, software gets updated and only
some percentage of people do it. If you are a developer you say, ‘I
got to . . . not only did I develop this for multiple versions of OS,
now I got to go do individual updates based on . . .no.’ They think
that is too much work.
Robi: That too much work question hits organizations large and small. We
are saying it is not just the independent developers here facing this
problem, it is the large companies with mobile presences are already
behind the 8 ball, they do not have enough resources to do what they
are doing. Things are moving way too fast, so that decision is really
a painful one for everybody in the ecosystem, it seems like, to us.
Ian: Yes, I agree.
Ryan: How much of that do you think is reality versus the momentum of
perceived reality? I technically do not know. We are not developing
apps and doing stuff for Android, but my perception is that, and the
noise we hear is that it is hard. Is that really true, or is that just
the momentum of the perception, is it just perceived that way so
people say, ‘No, I do not think so’?
Robi: It does seem be challenging. We make an SDK for Android, more and
more people are using it, but what we have found is that there are
some issues with documentation. Recently we ran into an issue where
the documentation and the Java doc that you could download was not the
same as the doc online, and it was recently downloaded, so they did
not actually specify something that they did online, and that caused
an issue for us. That stuff is a little bit amateur hour, I think.
When we think about how we design the UI on iOS, we say, ‘Here is what
we want it to look like.’ We draw it out, design it, and make sure it
works. ‘OK. Good,’ you put it out there and do some testing.
With Android, you say, ‘This is what we want it to look like. Now what
can we actually accomplish? It looks like on this portion of devices,
that is going to be a crappy experience, so let us go back,’ And you
are constantly fighting that game of lowest common denominator. It is
just not a good place to be.
Ryan: Ian, you had mentioned the low-end market and Apple kind of capturing
that. That has historically been owned by Google, to some extent,
despite Samsung’s progress of the high-end. Do you think that over
time people . . . are developers caring less because that low-end does
Ian: That is a really good question. You probably actually have more data
on that, in terms of advertising than we do. I think that, just as in
the real world, there is a lot of money to be made in the high-end,
there are also a lot of businesses to be built in the low-end of the
things, especially the Walmarts of the world do not carry luxury
goods, but Walmart makes a lot of money. I have a feeling that it is
both, and it is just dependant on who you are going to target. Did you
seen any of that on the [inaudible: 07:40] side?
Ryan: Yes, everything. Yes, of course. More people want advertising on the
Android because they cannot make money elsewhere. We all know that, A,
advertising revenue on Android is not as good as it is on iOS,
partially because of this low-end, high-end perception of people. How
long does that last? Our own advertising pays pretty well and
developers like it, but it is not Dragonvale, you are not bringing in
$15 million a month from the app store, so it is hard to know if that
can support an entire economy of app developers.
Robi: That was very good conversation of the wax and waning interest in the
Android ecosystem. Join us for the next installment of App Developer
The problem is somebody needs to actually be pushing the HTML5
platform forward. It seemed like Google is doing that, and maybe,
arguably, they still are but they have pulled back. They seem confused
about this. If it is not Google, then who else would it be?