Which platform do I develop my mobile applications for?

13 May 2011

For those of you still undecided about mobile applications for your customers, I thought I would share some data on the rapid growth in the ownership of smartphones in the UK which may prompt some action. Having just read the latest Wired[1] article on the “Android Invasion”, it is clear that although iPhone has been one of the most popular phones, Android is forecast to dominate market share in the smartphone market.
Of course the first place to start for any company wanting to develop a smart phone application is to research your own customer base and focus on what your most valuable customers are using and how frequently. Companies such as First Direct have been quite surprised by the high usage of their iPhone application and their “Talking Point” comments suggests that their customers are badgering them to get their Android application ready as soon as possible.
Research company comScore published the smartphone uptake figures for Europe in April 2011 showing the UK market grew by 70% in the last year to more than 11 million smartphone users with 4m aged 18+ using Android. The UK with 22.9% smart phone ownership trails behind Italy with 32% and Spain with 28.3% but the recent rate of growth has been much higher in the UK.
There are a number of trends which should spur companies into dipping their toe into the world of mobile applications. Firstly recent research has shown that smartphone users of social platforms such as Facebook use these networks twice as often as those using them on the PC[2] and once users buy a smartphone their usage of the internet increases rapidly. Social commerce is also starting to go mainstream as travel companies and retailers embed their search engines and shopping baskets within their Facebook pages – (blog to follow on this topic). I found a very colourful infographic from Madras Geek in Facebook which illustrates nicely some of these trends[3], showing that already 50% of Twitter’s 165million use Twitter mobile.
In addition smartphones are now used by 250m of the nearly 600m Facebook users so they are no longer a small minority. Often you will see the iPhone or HTC name listed on your Facebook fan postings so you can start to look at your fan posts to see the prevalence of each device.    
UK smartphone ownership shows Android ahead according to a YouGov[4] poll of 2,000 adults for Intelligent Environments, a digital banking provider:
28% Android,
26% iPhone
14% BlackBerry.
Interestingly this poll also showed that the profile and behaviour of each type of phone user varied.
- Android users were most likely to spend time mapping and planning travel
   34% rated this in the top three "apps'', compared with BlackBerry and Apple at 28%.
- Blackberry users had higher average income levels over £50,000
- iPhone ownership of 42% was much more dominant in London versus 15% for Android and 11% for Blackberries.
Given all the hype of the iPad and iPhone launches and sheer volume of their application downloads you might wonder why Android is poised to dominate. The Wired article demonstrates that the clear driver of growth is the sheer number of devices (170) that run on Android versus only 5 that use Apple’s operating systems. This is in addition to the benefits of the favourable deals that Android cut with Verizon which provides a stronger incentive for Verizon to push the application growth.
The ratio of Apple downloads to Android downloads has shifted from 50:1 in 2008 to 4:1 in 2010[5]. The gloves are off and it’s going to be a tough battle ahead as to which platform will dominate. Rather than wait for the battle to play out, the growth stats suggest you are likely to be losing business to your competitors if you have not embraced the smart phone opportunity.

[1] Wired Magazine Android Invasion June 2011 edition pages 116- 121
[2] Mari Smith – Social Media Success Summit 2011
[4] You Gov Survey with 2001 UK individuals – 18-21 March 2011- key smartphone stats in link below
[5] Wired Magazine Android Invasion June 2011 edition pages 116- 121
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