Side-Effects of not Launching with Android

The recent launch of Vine made me wonder why a big company with plenty of resources wouldn’t launch with Android support. While I think there are tons of merits to being lean and getting one platform out there, not launching with cross-platform support has some nasty side-effects, especially¬†when the other platform is the largest market percentage.

Even when you later release an Android app, here’s what happens:

  1. Android users have already accepted that they can’t use your app. Getting users to install your app at peak hype is great. If you release an Android version even a month later, I’m likely way less interested in playing around with it, because I’ve already seen other people use it, have an understanding of it, and it lacks freshness and excitement. I can’t be an early adopter? I don’t want to join late to the game.
  2. Android users may never know you now support Android. One of your biggest moments of PR is likely product launch. One of your smallest is probably the same exact features on another platform. Unless your Android support is somehow a huge story that gets written up on every tech blog like your launch, I’ll probably never see it and will never know I can begin using it, even if I¬†am really excited about it.

Both of these happened to me with Instagram. When I first heard about it, it sounded cool, so I looked for it on the Android market and realizing it wasn’t there, made a sad face and went on with my life. I didn’t find about their Android support until much later (unless you set up a Google Alert for “instagram android”, I’m not sure how you would), and by then the hype was gone and being such a late adopter wasn’t nearly as interesting.

On a higher level, this probably creates a negative feedback loop for non-iOS platform shares. These factors mean you engage a lower percent of Android users, biasing its share. This leads to others looking at that data and using it to validate an even more delayed Android launch, and so on.

Of course, this applies primarily to the mobile phone space. Some apps have released only for iPad, and as the Android tablet space doesn’t seem as mature and doesn’t have nearly the market, that decision seems reasonable. What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Side-Effects of not Launching with Android

  1. David Muir

    In many ways I think you’re right, but it misses a few things. Firstly, I think if you look at market share, those who own a capable Android phone (Nexus 4, Galaxy S2 or S3 etc) are still in the minority. Android as a whole has basically been eating away at Symbian’s market share, which is mostly made up of cheap sub $100 phones. Basically Android phones that aren’t great for much more than phone calls and text messages, and maybe some very occasional browsing. As those low-end devices get better and better, then yes, I do believe that Android will be a good target for app development. Unfortunately it has two other things working against it:

    Android had a reputation of having mostly non-app purchasing users. If you’re going to write an app to sell, the impression I have is that you write for iOS.

    App developers I’ve met who had worked on Android and iOS have said that iOS was much easier platform to work with.

    Reply
    1. mrooney

      Thanks David for the response! I’m not sure what you define as a capable phone, but according to http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html, 90% of Android phones run 2.3 or greater. Is it perhaps CPU / memory on the lower-end phones that makes app development challenging? I wonder if there are statistics around this kind of info like the version share above.

      While I agree about Android’s monetization reputation, the two big examples I used aren’t paid apps. I’m mostly criticizing large companies that definitely have the resources to cross-develop, and these are rarely paid apps, but free apps that increase engagement. Also, while Apple has successfully conditioned its customers to pay for apps, that only seems like a bonus to developers, not users, which are the majority. As an OSX user who migrated from Ubuntu, the things you are expected to pay for that were free before is kind of shocking. I can’t avoid the side-rant here of pointing out that you need to pay to properly MAXIMIZE WINDOWS on OSX (http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/).

      Regarding your last point, I’ve heard the same as well, that iOS was more pleasant to develop for. Though I’ve also heard time and again from friends and clients who have failed to get approval that it is much more unpleasant to release an app in.

      Reply
      1. David Muir

        Haha, got to love the lack of decent window management on OSX. The new full screen feature, although welcome, doesn’t quite do the same job as a maximize. As much as people complain about Unity, I find it much easier to use than either OSX or Windows.

        What I meant by capable phones was more to do with cpu and memory on lower end phones, and to a lesser degree software. More than that though is the type of user who gets the lower end phone. Those lower end phones are typically the cheapest option you have, and I believe the majority of people who get one simply want a phone. So although they now count as part of the “Android market share” they’re really there for the phone and don’t use the rest of the features. It’s probably better to put them into a 3rd market share group (together with those who get a free iPhone). Call them “owners, but not users”. They’re not the market share you want to be looking at when deciding whether to commit resources or not, because in all likelihood they won’t be installing any apps, except maybe Angry Birds ; ). You would hope they eventually become Android users, but right now, they are Android owners.

        On the tablet side, however none of what I just said should apply. If you buy a tablet it’s not because it came free with a contract. It’s because you wanted a tablet.

        The App store approval process does seem a bit hair-raising. You won’t know if your app will ever see the light of day until it’s done and sent in for approval? That’s just silly. There should at least be a pre-approval process where you can submit a mockup, explaining how you’re going to do x,y,z and then have Apple respond with something like “x is fine, y is ok as long as you do it our way, but z is not allowed”. At least then you don’t have to spend a year developing something just to have it rejected. That said, you might still get through the pre-approval process, only to have the rules change 3 months later… Does Google Play have any of these problems?

        Reply

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