Since smartphone app stores have been a thing, one piece of conventional wisdom has refused to shift: iPhone users pay for apps, while Android owners expect everything for free. This – along with the fact that iPhones are uniform and therefore simpler to optimise – is amongst the reasons why the iPhone tends to get apps first before they’re ported.
But in 2017, that wisdom will tip on its head for the first time, according to research firm App Annie, which says that this is the year in which global Android spending will outperform the iPhone’s for the first time. This will be part of a predicted 33% growth in app spending in this year.
So is it time for app developers to start putting Android first? No, no it’s not. “Alan, you ridiculously handsome Apple fanboy,” I hear you ask, “whyever not?” Well putting to one side for a moment that this is just a forecast, and forecasts can be disastrously inaccurate, here are a couple of reasons off the top of my head.
Firstly, this figure comes from pitting the iPhone App Store not just against Google Play, but against every Android app store around the world – and especially those in China, run by the likes of Tencent, Baidu, Xiaomi and Huawei. If you don’t fancy doing a lot of localisation for global markets, then the App Store is still forecast to crush Google Play by $US60 billion to $US42 billion, with third party app stores chipping in an additional $US36 billion.
Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly for app developers, this projected increased spend on Android doesn’t seem to come from a sea change of attitude in phone use, so much as the sheer volume of devices in the wild running the operating system. In Q4 of last year, when BlackBerry famously hit 0.0% of the market share, Android accounted for 81.7% of the smartphone market. iOS devices hoovered up 17.9% leaving “others” with just 0.4%.
It’s not hard to see where I’m going with this: the spend per user on iPhone remains significantly higher than Android. There are plenty of good reasons for this – not least Android’s piracy problem and its popularity in the developing world – but until Android converts more of its users into paying app customers, you should expect developers to keep putting iOS first.