Android Outpaces iPhone: Developers Still Wary

by Jeff Wiener on December 8, 2011

Android is ahead of the iPhone now. It was this bold claim made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt that temporarily silenced a room full of Apple device laden entrepreneurs yesterday. Schmidt’s reasoning for his claim was simple, Android beats the iPhone in all the categories that matter (to Google), “unit volume, Ice Cream Sandwich, the price is lower, (and) there are more vendors.”

While I can’t deny that Android is truly a smartphone success story, with Android-powered phones now out-shipping, out-pricing, and ultimately outselling their iPhone counterpart, for me it’s still far too early to crown a winner in this ongoing smartphone battle.

You see, while Android is clearly moving units, the single most popular smartphone choice for consumers and, perhaps equally as important, for developers is still clearly the iPhone. But Schmidt is confident that soon those wary developers will embrace Android with open arms…whether they want to or not.

Android is indeed a success, and I for one applaud Google’s open source OS for helping deliver advanced smartphones to the general public at an affordable price. From a business perspective, however, I have long seen Android as a lifeline for many smartphone manufacturers, a saviour of sorts struggling midrange companies that allows them to make a profit in an increasingly competitive mobile market.

Given the fact that Google’s Android OS is free and open source its an attractive option for companies that have slim profit margins, as no licensing fees and the ability to customize the operating system to fit each company’s individual needs makes the platform infinitely more attractive to mobile manufacturers than Apple’s more expensive proprietary platform.

Unfortunately, those key features seem to be the same reasons why developers remain wary about programming for Android, as complaints of Android fragmentation, insecurity, increased malware, and vulnerabilities continue to make Android the clear runner-up for app development.

In fact, while Google’s Android Marketplace continues to grow daily, it remains common practice for developers to create software for Apple’s iPhone first, and then see if resources are available for an Android app somewhere down the line.

That said, Google is certain that regardless of what developers think about Android they’ll soon come around and start programming for the OS. “Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking. There are so many manufacturers working to deliver Android phones globally,” Schmidt said. “Whether you like Android or not, you will support that platform, and maybe you’ll even deliver it first.” (Italics mine)

So there you have it folks. According to Google Android has beaten the iPhone, not because it’s the better OS, but because soon developers will have no choice but to start programming for Google’s OS. Personally, I think I’ll withhold crowning a winner for just a little while longer.

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