VisionMobile has released their 2013 developer platform, tools, and economics report and the results of the survey aren’t too surprising. Developers target iOS first, Android next, and Blackberry is holding onto third place. Windows phone is stuck in a “wait and see” pattern, but HTML is still in the running for its cross-platform code.
The survey of 3,460 developers around the world was sponsored by AT&T, Mozilla, and Nokia. Some of the interesting highlights, beyond the headline grabbing ones that people will lock onto, are things like Android is the preferred OS in Asia and Europe, but in North America iOS and Android are neck and neck. Also, almost 75% of developers work in two or more platforms (and there are economic advantages to doing that). Probably most surprising to many will be that RIM and Blackberry have managed to cling to third place. VisionMobile believes this is due to RIM’s developer outreach leading up to this month’s launch of the Blackberry 10. Keeping that third place mindshare/appshare is critical for RIM, because they don’t want to be stuck in the terrible position of the “wait and see” catch-22 that Windows Phone is in. Developers are waiting for significant consumer uptake, but I’m sure consumers are also waiting for great (and more) apps to come out.
First, let’s look at the Android-iOS duopoly (a term used throughout the report):
The green bars are the “category winners” if you want to keep score that way. So Android might have a lower development cost and learning curve, but you can make more money from iOS apps. Speaking of money, here’s how developers are making money through apps (and the platform where it’s used most often):
As we’ve talked about before, the in-app purchase model is one that seems to be working well for iOS app developers and has increased in the last year. While subscriptions look like the can make the most money, they aren’t popular among app devs, but are the choice of devs working in HTML5. I’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s step back and look at the bigger picture of where the platforms sit (this is world-wide data):
As expected, we iOS, Android, and Blackberry on top. I think the dark horse isn’t Windows Phone, but HTML (again more in a moment on that). What’s interesting about this chart is that this focuses on the main platform the developers are using, but remember about 75% of the developers make apps for more than one platform. Why? Because if you develop on morethan one platform you can make more money:
The report didn’t get into the cost of developing on more platforms, which I think could make these data more interesting. Like how much longer does it take to develop on a second (or third) platform? What does that time cost in terms of being able to work on other apps or make existing apps better? I’d also like to know if solo developers were more or less likely to develop on more than one platform. Which brings me to HTML (I think we should read this as HTML5, but the report just says HTML).
A good quarter of developers have HTML as their lead platform. It wasn’t too long ago the Facebook’s iOS “app” was just an HTML app in an iOS wrapper and the native code version isn’t that old. So, where are HTML apps most prevalent?
I don’t know if the increase in Android is for speed of getting an Android version out or something else, I think the iOS drop is due to pressure from us the app users for apps that are more responsive and can get better advantage of newer devices. Here’s the sticker—the why:
It’s the allure of “make once, deploy everywhere” that makes HTML compelling. Not to mention low cost (I would assume regarding tools or maybe developer SDKs), but there is a clear cost. HTML apps can’t tap into native APIs and the development environments aren’t a robust. However, if you can get a great little app out there fast and help that fund more development, it could be a good trade off.
Looking at these data and the platform portion of the report, I think that HTML could make a comeback as a big deployment platform if there are the hooks into native APIs. However, since that’s not likely, we’re looking at iOS, Android, and Blackberry for the near future.
Here’s the question: what will next year look like? Windows Phone in third and Blackberry in fourth place? Who knows, it could happen.
If you’re a developer or app maker, the entire 60 page report could be an interesting read for you. It’s a free PDF download.