Fall is here and the aspens near our home base in Durango are starting to show it. Like any one of the beauties in the stand of aspens in this photo, it can be hard to stand out in a crowd. If you’re thinking about developing a mobile app, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is which platform will appeal to the broadest possible consumer base while helping you stand out from other apps like yours. The most common platform choices are iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and Blackberry, with iOS and Android leading the pack. Today we discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Android for your mobile app.
Although Android’s OS has fewer applications than iOS – just over 200,000, according to the May 2011 Distimo Report – its wide variety of available platforms give it a commanding lead in the actual number of smartphones owned and thus the number of subscribers who own them. According to the most recent figures, Android phones constitute 36.4% of the total U.S. market, leading Apple by a comfortable ten percent, and while Android has yet to best its competitor in terms of web consumption, there is certainly room for growth.
The bad news is that while Android has more available free applications than Apple, its subscribers are more skittish about paying for applications. This does not mean Android is not a viable choice – Google recently introduced an in-app billing system for Android applications that will render the freemium model more attractive to developers. Android’s in-app billing system has already begun to yield decent returns, particularly for game applications.
Apple’s app market insists on consolidation, which can be both a blessing and a curse; the same could be said of Android’s embrace of versatility. First, Android developers are “free to take advantage of the device hardware, access location information, run background services, set alarms, add notifications to the status bar, and much, much more.” In other words, to experiment with the device’s infrastructure without jailbreaking the phone and canceling the warranty. However, Google’s allowance of third-party apps has led to security concerns; in March 2011, Google had to pull fifty-eight malicious apps that collectively had been downloaded over 260,000 times. The good news is the security problems might not have been as bad as they were cracked up to be and most Android developers consider them merely a minor annoyance when compared to the freedom to develop without having to clear Apple’s vetting process.