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The annual volume of smartphone app downloads will reach 56 billion this year, according to ABI Research. Of different OS platforms, Google’s Android will account for 58% of the total, with Apple’s iOS commanding an annual share of 33%. Microsoft’s Windows Phone will finish the year with a slice of slightly smaller than 4%, with BlackBerry trailing it with 3%. Mobile users will download around 14 billion tablet apps during the year. In the tablet segment, iPad’s lead as a development platform remains formidable, as 75% of the amount will be apps running on iOS. For comparison, Android will represent an annual share of 17%, excluding Kindle Fire. Downloads to Amazon’s tablets will warrant a market share of 4%, while around 2% of the total will be for Windows tablets.

 

With its vast installed base and the generally improved conditions for app building, ABI Research expects a growing number of smartphone-focused developers to adopt an Android-first strategy within the year. Senior analyst Aapo Markkanen, however, reminds, “Arguably the most pressing issue for Google is how much of this handset momentum will ultimately trickle down to tablets, where Apple is holding the fort remarkably well. We would argue that in this context Google will actually benefit from the efforts by Amazon, since the presence of Kindle Fire adds a lot of critical ‘code mass’ to Android’s proposition as a platform for tablet applications. It is worth remembering that Android’s so-called fragmentation problem isn’t only a problem, but that it has a certain upside as well.”

app share

The edge the Apple ecosystem has over Android is a limited number of supported devices that applications have to support. This ensures a more predictable user experience, regardless of whether the app is installed on a phone or tablet. When it comes to Android, there are so many different hardware vendors, and as a result, device performance in terms of processing power, screen resolution and memory affects how well an application will perform.

Despite this, Google does a fairly good job of managing device compatibility, stopping performance hungry apps being downloaded on hardware ,which isn’t suitable. However, it is impossible for an application developer to test new applications on every supported device, and as a result most Android developers end up spending a considerable amount of time tweaking code to solve hardware compatibility issues. Why would developers who create both Apple and Android apps knowing there will be compatibility headaches with the latter? The answer is critical mass. There are simply too many active Android devices to ignore, and for app developers, there are more options in terms of revenue, such as advert supported free apps, powered by Google.

The Amazon Kindle Fire is an interesting hybrid of both dedicated hardware and the Android open source OS. This ensures a more predictable user experience when compared to the same Android applications found in the wild. The Kindle ecosystem is geared around reading as its primary function, so users of Kindles are not going to be hard core gamers or serious power users. The seamless integration with the Amazon store provides the perfect migration for the loyal following of users who purchased printed books in the past, and who would like to continue this relationship electronically, without being locked into yet another proprietary OS.  

When it comes to Android devices and applications, there is still a perception that Android is suited to technically savvy early adopters - who expect teething trouble, whereas the Apple ecosystem is better suited to non-technical people who just want something that works. The initial ‘Cool’ factor marriage between software and hardware, which created the runaway market sensation for the iPhone and iPad, has lost its sheen for Apple during the last year or so as ‘sleeker’ as more stylish Android devices with larger screens have appeared. Users are willing to forgive a few software compatibility niggles to separate themselves from the mainstream Apple experience. I mean, who wants to wear the same clothes as everyone else?   

By Angela Sutherland

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