Why the lag in Android tablet apps?
By Rimma Kats
March 25, 2013
It is clear the Apple’s iPad is dominating the tablet marketplace, especially with the 300,000-plus device-specific mobile applications available. However, perhaps due in large part to fragmentation, marketers are not flocking to the Android market as quickly as they are for Apple.
Nowadays, marketers and retailers are first rolling out tablet apps for Apple’s iPad. So why are marketers more excited about the iPad? What’s the missing piece for Android?
“For starters, revenue from app sales on Android is just a quarter of that on Apple's App Store,” said David Berube, vice president of strategy and business development at MojoTech, Providence, RI. “Another big issue is that it's easier to get started with iOS development.
“There is less device fragmentation, so you only need to build apps once as a universal binary and have them work reliably across the entire iOS ecosystem,” he said. “The Android landscape on the other hand contains many different devices with completely different internals, screen sizes.”
Fragmentation continues to be a problem in the mobile space, reinforcing the need for retailers and brands to include multiple operating systems as part of their mobile strategy.
And, although variety is a good thing, different devices, platforms and screen sizes are causing fragmentation in the emerging space.
“Unless your product is inherently designed for larger screens, tablets are going to continue to play second fiddle, since more people have and spend much more time on their phones,” Mr. Berube said.
“It's also an added cost in both and time and money to build an app that works on phones and tablets across multiple platforms,” he said. “I've read reports that say iPads are still the dominant players in the tablet space, but I think this year we will see that gap close dramatically due to low-cost, good-quality Android tablets.
The iPad mini
“That is something I know companies take into account when choosing which devices and platforms to develop and focus on.”
It seems in large part that a majority of tablet applications are available on Apple’s iPad.
There are a variety of Android tablets in the marketplace including Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
Unlike Apple’s iPad – and the new iPad Mini – Android tablets come in a variety of different sizes, which continues to be an issue for many marketers and developers.
However, many industry experts believe that over the next year or so, the Android market will continue to mature and grow.
"Every year we see Android continue to mature, polish itself and innovate," Mr. Berube said. "Android and its manufacturers are the only ones who have been innovating in the mobile space as of late.
"Couple that with the doubling quarter-over-quarter of the Google Play Store’s revenues, and I see the app disparity between the two ecosystems narrowing," he said.
There are certainly mobile apps in Google Play that are designed for Android tablets.
According to Jeff Orr, senior practice director of mobile for ABI Research, Oyster Bay, NY, most apps are being started on iOS first and then introduced across Android.
“I don’t think there’s a shortage of Android apps necessarily,” Mr. Orr said. “I’m not seeing any apps that are necessarily lacking or missing categorically, but I am see apps being developed first for iPad devices."
Mr. Orr believes that marketers need to develop apps for where the audience is. And a majority of the audience is leaning more so towards Apple’s iPad.
“The Android marketplace is getting bigger and it’s difficult to say there’s going to be a particular app or type of app that’s making a significant difference,” Mr. Orr said.
“We see the momentum shifting because there are a lot of Android opportunities and developers are looking at that angle and that edge,” he said.
According to Vanessa Horwell, chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, Miami Beach, FL, Android may be the dominant smartphone operating system, but that friendly ecosystem comes with drawbacks.
Giving Android users hyper-customization and personalization control means that many non-native apps run more slowly, eating up system memory over time.
Many reports suggest Android development is around 22 months behind Apple. And yet IDC predicts Android-running tablet shipments will outpace iPads for the first time later this year.
“While that statistics doesn’t address apps specifically, it’s likely that increased shipments imply increased popularity,” Ms. Horwell said. “If that is the case, heightened app development shouldn’t be far behind.
“If, however, there is a design and release lag in Android app development, I think it relates to open source issues I mentioned earlier,” she said. “The Android app market, with less central oversight and control as iTunes, requires more testing and coding before apps can be released.
“Compared to Apple, this slows down the app release process.”
Smartphone and tablet adoption rates hover around 55 percent and 30 percent respectively.
New data from ABI Research suggests that tablets apps account for a third of all app downloads, possibly overtaking the app download market – in terms of revenue compared to smartphone app downloads – by 2018.
“To me, all signs point to impressive growth,” Ms. Horwell said. “I’m not an analyst but I would be investing here. – it’s no secret Apple has had a rough couple of months.
“Its stock price is down 14 percent from this time last year and a delayed post-Jobs innovation slump has been settling in. Android remains the dominant smartphone operating system and Google Play revenue grew 200 percent in the fourth-quarter of 2012, compared to Apple’s 20 percent growth,” she said.
“While I wouldn’t not bank on Apple the company is clearly facing some headwinds that don’t appear to be calming. I will be looking very closely at the innovations coming out of the Android marketplace within the next 18 months. Without the strict controls, high fees and being the dominant smartphone OS, it’s crazy to think that marketers won’t invest a lot more into Android than iOS app development don’t you think?”
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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