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To Android or not to Android

Now and then I get a request from someone to make one of my apps available on Android. So far I never considered developing for non-iOS platforms (Android, WP7, BlackBerry) and I have no plans to change this any time soon. Why?

How it all started

Back in 2008 I was looking for a GPS dongle to geotag my photos, an iPod and a new mobile phone. Around that time, Apple launched the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone with a built-in GPS) and the App Store. I decided to buy an iPhone 3G and in my spare time, I made my own photo geotagging app that I also started selling through the App Store.

How it went on 

Developing iPhone apps for the App Store turned out to be a really fun and fascinating hobby. And a cheap one too compared to that other hobby of mine, photography. Besides buying the iPhone 3G, the only other cost was the yearly iPhone Dev Program fee (99$). Mid 2009 the cost of the iPhone 3G was totally compensated by the GeoTagr sales!

I discovered a new hobby that made me some money instead of costing me money. On top of that I got a lot of satisfaction from selling my own stuff worldwide. And I could do it at my own pace. Besides the regular app updates, I launched about one new app a year:

  • 12/2008: GeoTagr
  • 06/2009: Scotty
  • 08/2010: WiiPhoto
  • 04/2011: PhotoMeta
  • 03/2012: Visage

In 2010 the iPad was launched and in order to properly test my iPhone and iPad apps, I had to buy extra hardware. I currently have an iPod touch, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, the original iPad and the new iPad. That's 6 devices to target an iOS audience of over 360 million users. And 5 of those 6 devices are used on a daily basis by my family members. They're not hidden in a drawer until I have to do some app testing. 

Also important to know is that I cover more than 99% of that huge iOS market by supporting just iOS 4.2 and iOS 5.

Add Android to the party?

In the past years I've followed Android very close. I'm not married to Apple and although I'm a long time Mac user, I don't consider myself an Apple fanboy. 

I constantly ask myself: What would change for me if I would start developing Android apps? With an installed base that exceeds iOS it looks tempting at first sight, but:  

  • None of the existing iOS code can be reused, so I have to build Android apps from scratch.
  • To cover more than 90% of the Android market I have to support 6 Android versions (2.2, 2.3, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 4.0)
  • I need to buy a lot of hardware to have a decent coverage when testing my apps. 400 devices is probably a bit over the top, but I'm not going to cut it with 6 devices either.
  • The total amount of money paid to Android devs is less than 10% of the total amount paid to iOS devs.

I don't see any good reason to start developing for Android. Supporting 6 OS versions and testing on a lot of hardware is not really my definition of fun. On top of that there's no guarantee that app sales will compensate for the hardware I have to buy. That could mean that I don't break even for Android.

I also keep reading stories of Android devs that confirm all the above. The latest one I read was from the guys at Avatron.

The future

There are no signs that the Android situation will change any time soon, so I won't bring my apps to Android in 2012.

If you're an Android dev I'm looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.

References (3)

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Reader Comments (2)

I think that with the release of Galaxy S3 the situation might change. And actually I think that you should consier creating an Android version for at least one of your app. Firstly, because it's cheaper than creating Apple apps. Secondly, there're a lot of people who prefer Android to Apple. And finally, you will get answers to most of questions about Android app development yourself)

More Android fragmentation charts and figures via Open Signal Maps

May 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterChris

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