Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system may power half the world's smartphones, but Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS platform is capturing developer mind share.
New application-development projects for iOS outnumber those for Android approximately three-to-one, according to mobile market analytics specialist Flurry.
Flurry tracks developer support across platforms and culled its data from developers who set up analytics for roughly 50,000 applications. Overall, the company lays claim to analyzing data concerning a combined 25 percent of all applications downloaded from Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market.
As Flurry's chart shows, Android began the 2011 campaign with 37 percent of new developer starts in the first quarter, compared with 63 percent for iOS. However, Android's share dipped to 27 percent in the second quarter and 25 percent in the third, and will be an estimated 27 percent in the fourth quarter. iOS commanded the remaining developer market share for new applications.
"Over the year, developer support for Android has declined from more than one-third of all new projects, at the beginning of the year, down to roughly one-quarter by the end," said Peter Farago, vice president of marketing for Flurry.
There are a number of reasons for this. Despite being somewhat Draconian in its application acceptance process, iOS is often described as being easier to build applications for. As such, developers have said they prefer to launch applications first on iOS, then Android later. Blogger Robert Scoble cited the popular iOS-first applications.
The Android Market is also something of a Wild West store, where Google doesn't curate the user experience. Naturally, most Android users feel safer sticking to free applications. Developers told Flurry they make three-to-four times as much money developing for iOS than for Android.
"We pulled a sample of in-app purchase data from a set of top apps with versions on both iOS and Android, comprising of several million daily active users," Farago said. "Running the numbers, we find that, on average, for every $1 generated on iOS, the same app will generate $0.24 on Android.
One reason is the payment-processing platform. Unlike Apple's iOS devices, Android does not force gadget owners to associate credit cards with Google Checkout on their new devices, which means slower revenue-generation possibilities. With Checkout transitioning to Google Wallet, Google hopes to change this.
Also, the overarching fragmentation issues continue to plague Android, notwithstanding Google's valiant attempts to fix the problem with the unifying Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich platform.
Moreover, Apple this year significantly boosted the appeal of iOS by launching the iPhone on Verizon Wireless and Sprint after three years of exclusivity on AT&T's network. Apple's launch of its extremely popular iPad 2 and the new iPhone S accounted for some of the increased developer support as well.
"By contrast, Android does not enjoy a truly recognizable flagship device among its army of OEMs supporting the platform," Farago noted. Android is activated on over 200 million devices worldwide, 550,000 devices daily.
So there are plenty of reasons why more developers are choosing to invest their R&D budget in iOS. Programmers have the most confidence in iOS, from which they expect the greatest return.
Whether or not Apple can help the developer share translate better to market share is another story.