Why Smule won’t be developing mobile apps for Android

Wed, Mar 10, 2010

Featured, News

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 hasĀ 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.


, , , , ,

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Dror Harari Says:

    I won’t be at all surprised if in a few years we will all learn that Apple (or even Steve personally) has threatened Smule to yank some of their apps from the apple store if they will port their apps to Android.

    Just read Jonathan Schwarz from Sun recounting the time Steve call him to threaten Sun with a patent infringement suite if they ship their Looking Glass desktop… (see his post at http://jonathanischwartz.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/good-artists-copy-great-artists-steal/)

  2. Ben Says:

    Who knows, maybe evil Steve Jobs threatened Smule to not port to Android… but isn’t it more likely that they are just using common sense?

    Android’s fragmentation is a big problem. Some devices have hardware keyboards, others have on-screen. Different resolutions, different versions of the OS (1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1). It’s a complicated and expensive task to keep up with all the variations.

    On the other hand, the iPhone and iPod Touch are pretty much the same. As a developer you have to be concerned with very minor differences in the devices.

  3. Sigh Says:

    It’s amazing how people spread this perception of Steve Jobs. So many people have told so many lies about Steve Jobs for so long that jonathan schwartz can get away with making up a lie like that and people simply believe it.

    Maybe Steve should publically denounce or repudiate these lies, but if he did that, you people would still believe the lies, wouldn’t you?

    Yet if you take a second and look at the way apple operates, you think they would be effective if they went around threatening third party developers? You think smule is lying here? You think smule would want to make apps for the iphone if they were getting threatened?

    How about this — the obvious facts are simply true!

    It is a fact that the android platform is fragmented. As a developer I can confirm that it would be a major PITA to develop for that platform.

    So, rather than believing that smule is lying and apple is dishonest, you’d prefer to believe that jonathan schwartz is honest and apple threatened smule?

    Whatever, dude.

  4. Yeah, right Says:

    Those of us who have developed iPhone apps and have considered ports to Android have learned how silly that idea is without losing more than a half-day to do the research.

    Search the Internet for reports of the way that handset manufacturers have split and destroyed any hope that Google has ever had in creating a successful platform that developers will get behind, and Apple’s so-called death grip on the platform will not seem so ridiculous. You may even come to the conclusion that development companies make decisions based on potential profitability as opposed to dreaming up visions about Steve Jobs caring enough about one developer that he would actually threaten to sue for porting an app. That’s no different than the theories that make Bill Gates is the anti-Christ, and that’s just silly.

  5. Havekk Says:

    Apple will also start to see problems with fragmentation. It has already started. There are already things that the 1st gen Iphone can’t do, and we will add multi-tasking amoung those. Once the new Iphone is released, it will have better hardware, a higher resolution and better graphics processing power then the previous generations. This will mean that new developers who would like to take advantage of the new hardware will have to make apps that only run on the one device (or two counting ipad) due to the fact that the previous gen. phones will not be able to handle the new apps. Unless you only have one phone that is supported at any given time.. you will always have fragmentation of some sort. Perhaps not to the degree of Android, but it will be there none the less.

eXTReMe Tracker