Android App Development: Time for Holdouts to Plunge In?

For years, many mobile developers shied away from building apps for Google Android, despite the ubiquity of the platform. Their reasoning was pretty straightforward: the Android platform was fragmented, and iOS users tended to spend more on apps (on average). For indie developers without a lot of resources, that meant focusing on iOS to the exclusion of Android.

But new data from App Annie suggests Android apps are becoming more profitable. “Google Play narrowed its worldwide consumer spend gap with iOS in Q1 2018 by 10 percentage points quarter over quarter, resulting in the smallest percentage difference since Q1 2016,” reads the firm’s latest report. “Consumer spend on Google Play grew 25 percent in Q1 2018 year over year, while iOS saw 20 percent year-over-year growth.”

What’s more, much of the expansion took place in the United States. Music, audio, and entertainment apps enjoyed the largest “slice” of that growth. “This speaks to the larger trend of consumers choosing to sign-up and pay for music streaming and video streaming subscriptions in apps,” the report added. “The experience is quick, frictionless and secure.”

For mobile developers who haven’t yet built Android apps, is it time to jump into Google’s pond? Depending on time and resources, the answer may well be “yes.” Although fragmentation remains an issue for the Android ecosystem, with a significant percentage of phones running outdated versions of the operating system, it’s clear that Android-focused consumers are gravitating toward a handful of expensive devices that are more rigorously maintained by manufacturers. These include Google’s Pixel smartphone line and the Samsung Galaxy.

The Android platform itself is also at an inflection point. The next variant, codenamed “P” (at least for the moment), is due this year; in prepping the ground for its release, Google announced that app developers can only use public, Android-specific APIs from now on. In addition, all app updates will need to target at least Android Oreo by November 2018, and support 64-bit hardware. For those who’ve already launched apps for Android, this may translate into a lot of updating and readjusting code; but those new to the platform can build with the latest requirements in mind.

Although both Google and Apple have made subtle (and not-so-subtle) attempts to impede cross-platform frameworks that allow developers to easily port apps between iOS and Android, Google has recently started pushing Flutter, a cross-platform SDK for native apps. While individual developer mileage may vary, this could help those interested in building for multiple platforms (including Android) adjust their resource expenditure accordingly.

Of course, not every developer has the time and money to support apps on multiple platforms. But for those who’ve always debated whether to built or port apps for Android, the landscape is looking pretty good.

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