Android may have surpassed both Apple and RIM in smartphone marketshare, but app monetization on the Android platform is still not as easy as it is for Apple’s lineup of iOS devices. Part of the problem, of course, is Android fragmentation. With a slew of Android handsets out in the marketplace, developers have to account for a number of varying form factors and hardware. This leaves developers with essentially two options. They can develop for the lowest common denominator in an attempt to be inclusive of all Android handsets, or they can develop an app that won’t run on all Android models, leaving some owners frustrated in the process.
But even when a developer can deliver a polished app for a large number of Android handsets, iOS owners are still more likely than their Android brethren to purchase said app.
But don’t just take our word for it. In a recent interview with Peter Kafka, Bob Bowman, who heads up Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media division, explained that iOS users are more interested in purchasing apps than Android users.
The iPhone and iPad user is interested in buying content–that’s one of the reasons they bought the device. The Android buyer is different. It’s a great phone–make no mistake about it. But if you really want first rate digital content on a device, your first look will probably be an iPhone. And on the tablet, an iPad.
Indeed, a lot of people who purchase Android handsets aren’t planting their stake in the Apple vs. Google war, but rather just happen to be in the market for a smartphone and were sold on Android for reasons that might be as varied as price and the network they happen to be on. In other words, a lot of Android owners, relative to the iPhone, become so due to happenstance. In contrast, most consumers purchase the iPhone because that’s the device they’re actively seeking out.
“The Android user typically is less likely to buy,” said Bowman, “and therefore the ROI on developing for Android is different than it is for Apple… The iPhone and iPad user is interested in buying content–that’s one of the reasons they bought the device. The Android buyer is different.”
Just a few weeks ago, Bowman stated that MLB app sales on Apple’s iOS are 5 times greater than on Android.
And with over 1.5 million subscribers to MLB’s digital service, Bowman certainly has enough data to back up his assertion.
Still, it’s not as if MLB is ignoring Android completely. On the contrary, MLB recently expanded the number of supported handsets from 6 to 11 but Bowman remains convinced that the type of experience the MLB app delivers is more of an attraction to your average iPhone owner than Android owner.
“It’s a great phone–make no mistake about it,” Bowman explained, “but if you really want first rate digital content on a device, your first look will probably be an iPhone. And on the tablet, an iPad.”
Just a few weeks ago, Bowman also explained that Google needs to do a better job of curating its marketplace. While Apple gets a lot of warranted criticism for the way it operates the iTunes App Store, Google’s anything-goes approach is far from perfect. Bowman specifically pointed to spam apps that are released with similar titles to MLB’s $15 “At Bat” app, resulting in purchases of fake apps that leave users disappointed and out of a few bucks. While Bowman concedes that Google is often quick to remove these spammy apps, he notes that an approval process would help nip the problem in the bud.
Another problem is app piracy which Bowman told BusinessInsider was twice as badon Android than it is on iOS.
People hack the MLB app, which costs $15, and then distribute it for free in back channels. This is much easier to do on Android than for the iPhone, as you have to hack your iPhone to side-load pirated apps, and most people don’t bother to do that. Most Android phones can easily install pirated apps.
With a huge installed base of Android users out there, a number of developers are, in fact, making nice chunks of change on the Android Marketplace. But with many Android apps relying on advertising for revenue, Apple’s iOS platform remains the easiest way for developers to see a nice ROI on their app.
Lastly, while some may acknowledge Android fragmentation yet scoff at its real world effect on developers, it’s decidedly a significant problem for many developers. Rovio, the development house behind Angry Birds, apologized for poor app performance on Android as not all handsets were capable of running the app optimally. Moreover, some developers, like Smule, are avoiding Android altogether while other apps have been endlessly delayed due to fragmentation. If you recall, Netflix explained that they haven’t yet released an Android app because the platform lacks a universal DRM solution and that the company therefore has to “work with different handset manufacturers separately in order to ensure that the installed DRM protocol meets the requirements laid out by the movie studios.”