Apple’s App Store is in many ways the lynch-pin that helps the iPhone maintain its status as the top smartphone on the market. While competitors continue to mimic the iPhone’s UI, one area where companies like Google, RIM, and Palm have struggled is in creating an app store comparable to the massively successful iTunes App Store.
Recently, though, Android has emerged as the most potent threat to the iPhone. With overall sales of Android handsets increasing, some have suggested that Apple’s lead in the mobile app market will wither away as developers begin porting their apps over to the Android Marketplace.
But not so fast there, chief. Even if the number of Android users continues to rise, developers may very well stick with the iPhone platform because it allows them to scale more efficiently across various hardware devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) with minimal cost.
Smule is one such example.
Smule is the development house behind some of the more popular iPhone apps ever made, such as Ocarina and I Am T-Pain. In 2009 alone, Smule’s I Am T-Pain and Leaf Trombone 2 comprised two of the top 10 selling iPhone apps. Ocarina, meanwhile, was arguably the first iPhone app whose name started popping up in the mainstream media due to its popularity, and not app store related controversy. To date, Smule has sold over 4 million apps and over 500,000 songs via in-app purchases.
Put simply, Smule is a big time mobile developer, yet when All Things D caught up with Smule co-founder and CEO Jeff Smith for a video interview, Smith articulated why Smule isn’t planning to port their popular iPhone apps to the growing Android platform.
“Android is not in the plans for Smule,” Smith stated, “We just don’t see an opportunity for us to make money short term with Android.”
“The challenges with Android,” Smith continued, “is that the retail distribution is not clear for us and we don’t see how we can monetize through their current distribution. It’s not one platform, they’ve worked with handset manufacturers, the carriers, and so from a developers standpoint, its expensive to get with Android because we’re gonna have to test across all those platforms and develop across all those platforms. It’s not a clear return on investment for us right now. So we’re gonna wait and see. What’s strategic for us and what’s always been strategic for us this the inception the company is Apple.”
So while Smule will be ignoring Android for now, one platform they’re really excited about is the iPad. Smule CEO Jeff Smith said without hesitation that the “iPad is perhaps the most significant thing that’s happened to [Smule] since the launch of the iPhone.”
Smith went on to say that the iPad will not only redefine home computing, but home entertainment as well, and that Smule sees endless opportunities to leverage many of the iPad’s unique features to create even more compelling, entertaining, and exciting apps.
Tellingly, Smith said that the development cost to port an iPhone app over to Android is significantly higher than it is to port the same app over to the iPad. “Our incremental costs to go to Android is probably about 2x-3x the first time out,” Smith noted, “To build for Android, that’s substantial.”
In contrast, Smith said that porting an iPhone app to the iPad only results in a “2, 3, or 4%” increase in development costs as it’s the same OS wrapped a different form factor, which Smith notes is something they can factor into their code and ultimately have just 1 app for both platforms.
And if you’re one of the few people not familiar with “I Am T-Pain”, check out the video below.