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Android is for startups (audobox.com)
514 points by willwhitney on Sept 4, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments

A lot of people seem to be missing the main point here. I don't think the article is actually advocating developing for Android and NOT iOS. I don't think it is even particularly advocating releasing on Android first. However starting your development on Android - as your first way of prototyping and finding your MVP - gives you a tremendous amount of agility and flexibility. You can create as many APKs as you want, send them to whoever you want without any fuss and they can test them out. You can fix bugs or implement features for just one person and send them the APK the same day. You can integrate your app with the OS and other apps in ways that are impossible on iOS to find what really works and matters to your users. And you can do all this for virtually zero cost on commodity hardware with free tools.

In other words, even if you believe iOS is ultimately going to be your primary platform, there's still a strong argument to do your initial prototyping and development on Android.

None of what you said makes sense.

Firstly on iOS you can send as many IPAs as I want to friends, testers, colleagues etc provided I've gone through the 30s process of adding them to Apple's list. This isn't some giant inconvenience that warrants completely switching a platform.

Secondly if your app is intended to be cross platform. Then why would you start creating OS specific functionality you know will never work on the other platform. It's completely illogical.

iOS is likely to remain the primary platform for prototyping. Why ? Because it is just so much nicer. The iOS Simulator "just works" and exactly mirrors your target devices. Not the pathetic joke that comes with the Android SDK which has no relation to how your app will run on a Samsung versus HTC devices.

My company has prototyped on both platforms, and I strongly prefer Android for this purpose. Test flight is significantly more inconvenient for all parties than sending around Android apks. So is Apple's provisioning process for development (you'll certainly have to figure out how to re-provision your development devices a few times).

Android's OS integration also makes for better demos of our app. Since it's a remote control for another device it makes a lot of sense to have lock-screen and pull-down controls. We can't show that off on iOS.

Finally, the Android developers that I know simply don't use the simulator, they always use hardware. I found it strange coming from iOS, but I've gotten used to it. I weight this negative much lower than the deployment advantages that Android has for prototyping.

Of course in the end you'll have apps on both platforms, but here's a vote for doing early development on Android.

> My company has prototyped on both platforms, and I strongly prefer Android for this purpose. Test flight is significantly more inconvenient for all parties than sending around Android apks. So is Apple's provisioning process for development (you'll certainly have to figure out how to re-provision your development devices a few times).

Mine has also prototyped on both platforms and I will personally strangle anyone who suggests we do that on Android again. Slowly and painfully.

Sending applications for testing is somewhat more difficult on iOS, but that's really the only gripe we had. Between the useless documentation and the horrible development environment, it consistently takes us about twice as long to get an initial demo up and running on Android. This is especially on UI-heavy applications, considering that Android still doesn't have a decent UI builder.

(Just to put things into perspective: iOS's has incremental/convenience features over the original NeXTStep GUI builder, which basically puts Android's in a pre-1992 state).

The initial costs were higher for the Apple hardware, too, but even in the short term (1-3 months), it was worth it. This is especially true for a small company, that should prefer being punctual and keeping short deadlines.

> Finally, the Android developers that I know simply don't use the simulator, they always use hardware.

I also used hardware when developing for Android. However, that was not because I'm an uberdeveloper who has some obscure skill, it's simply because it sucks. It's slow, the debugger borks every once in a while, the management interface is unusable and while the list of integration features is longer, when you start crossing out those that break every other build you're pretty much left with just starting and stopping the simulator.

Great points (upvoted). It probably also depends on what skills and experience you have in the team.

SoundFocus is using http://hockeyapp.net/ to do distribution of betas. It seems very smooth from my experience.

I love Android. I really only develop for Android. But to say the Android emulators are better than the iOS simulator (or even comparable) is hilarious to me.

The reason everyone tests on hardware is because the emulator is %@$#ing slow. i7 @ 4.2GHz, 12 GB of RAM... the emulator still takes MINUTES to start and runs unusably slow.

The iOS Simulator on the MBP work gave me (mid-2010) runs at basically native speed.

I do some development with Cordova. During development I either test on my Android phone or an iOS simulator. Those are the only realistic options.

With regards to the speed, that's because the Android emulator is an emulator - it's converting ARM instructions to x86. Because of this, the Android emulator is actually a better representation of how apps run on real hardware than the iOS simulator.

There are x86 images available for the Android emulator, which will run as fast as your host machine will allow.

Does real hardware convert x86 to ARM ?

No. So remind me again what your point is ?

What? I can't tell if you're trolling, but I'll answer anyway...

The Android emulator allows you to run applications that were compiled for ARM because it translates the ARM instructions to x86. This is really CPU intensive and can eat a lot of memory as well.

Technologies like Intel HAXM[0] speed this up, which is how the x86 Android images manage to be so much faster than the regular ARM images.

[0]: http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/intel-hardware-acce...

It does run on native speed - that's because it's a simulator and not an emulator.

XCode compiles your source code to match your computer, not your phone, when you run the simulator. With Eclipse and ADT you build for an actual device, and then emulates the device running your app. That's why there's a speed difference.

However, when building for connected devices - both XCode and Eclipse+ADT compiles and runs at the same speed IMO.

The problem with the XCode approach is that some implementations can't be simulated (I remember trying to play a video from YouTube, embedded) - and needs an actual device to work. This hasn't happend with the Android emulator for me, because it actually behaves like a device.

I'm wondering whether you tried enabling acceleration (http://developer.android.com/tools/devices/emulator.html#acc...). If not, you might find the speedup rather shocking.

Did you think I said the Android emulator is better than the iOS one? I wasn't trying to say that. Maybe I confused the use of "simulator" v. "emulator".

Agreed, the Android emulator sucks and I don't use it. One of its many flaws is that it doesn't support multicast, which is pretty much a requirement for doing device discovery in a remote control app.

Have you tried using the x86 images with KVM? They're quite speedy.

try using genymotion. it takes 20 seconds on my mbp to starting up.

I'm always surprised when people complain about the slowness of the emulator and they haven't tried genymotion or the x86 emulator.

I mean, they're tools developed for your job, learn to use them!

It would be like coding using a plain text editor.. you can do it, but it's not what you're supposed to do.

At $work we had an IOS application developed. Test Flight wasn't too bad to setup, but it was a bit of a pain having to click the link in the email from within the IOS device (an old ipod touch in my case). Once Test Flight was setup, it was pretty smooth from my end to update, but certainly wasn't as simple as an auto-update in the Play store.

We're not a software shop, but we did make an iOS apps to interface with our hardware. Everyone in the development and testing was asked to jailbreak their phone. We probably had over 20 testers. By the time we reached beta and were ready for wider test market, we used Apple's signing process.

We probably broke some rules and while it's not for everyone, it worked for us. Jailbraking my phone was amazing simple and fast with tools like limera1n.

The easiness with which you can break an iPhone depends on the firmware it has installed on it and the precise moment in time you want to do it - if there's an easy jailbreak solution available or not. If it happens for an iPhone to be updated to the latest version for which there's no known vulnerability, you either have to wait some time for a jailbreak to be available or you have to go through hoops to downgrade it.

For me jailbreaking the phone just to be able to do development on it does not make sense. Why go through so much trouble, when clearly this hostility towards tinkering coming from Apple will likely get worse in the future.

You see, I believe in voting with your wallet (or time, or eyeballs, or whatever). If enough people complained to Apple that the current process sucks, then Apple might do something about it. But if the ones affected simply jailbreak their phones, taking the status-quo as a given and working around it, then Apple simply has no reason to change their policies.

We (developers) tend to have preferences and these preferences end up clouding our judgement. I love Android for example, but I hate it that I can't be a Google merchant on Google Play because of the country I live in. When something sucks, it sucks in spite of all the other things we love, and we really shouldn't let our preferences cloud our judgement.

> This isn't some giant inconvenience that warrants completely switching a platform.

WRONG. Contacting all 30 of your friends and WAITING for them to give you their device UUIDs and giving them long instructions on how to find it from iTunes if they don't know how? How is that easier than sending an APK to your friends which they can simply download and install? And you seem to just have glossed over how it's a waste of money to sign up for an iOS developer license to build an app that, you find out, nobody wants to use.

> why would you start creating OS specific functionality you know will never work on the other platform. It's completely illogical.

Uhhhhhh, what? What do you mean OS-specific functionality? GPS? File reading and writing? Motion sensors? Buttons and text fields? Are you kidding me? Both Android and iOS have those. Do you even own a smartphone?

If you mean iCloud, why is that a problem? Even if you're developing for iOS, you can use Google Drive. If my startup had something to do with cloud syncing, catering to platform-exclusive cloud services isn't illogical.

> iOS is likely to remain the primary platform for prototyping. Why ? Because it is just so much nicer.

I'm pretty sure a "prototype" doesn't have to be "nice."

> The iOS Simulator "just works" and exactly mirrors your target devices.

Again, WRONG. You're not supposed to rely on the simulator precisely because it DOESN'T exactly mirror your target devices. It doesn't have motion sensors, uses your computer's internet connection as its own, uses your computer's processing power as its own, doesn't give you the same retina iPhone experience, etc.

Gee, have you even tried developing mobile apps?

You know, there are dozens of free apps out there that accept an email address as input, and provide a MIME encoded UDID as output.

I know it's a pain in the ass to buy an entire Apple computer just to develop for iOS, but crikey, why are you so angry about it?

threeseed is well known to "favour" the Apple ecosystem and disdain the Google one. In other words, it's trollish

I spent many years in "agency land" developing for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone.

If you disagree that iOS is the more enjoyable platform to build for then contribute to the discussion. Otherwise you are the worthless one here.

1)I have a good memory, so I remember clearly that you developed for more than one platform, and, more than that, I remember you complaining about your agency application having to support ALL versions of Android starting from 2.1 (used by less than 1% of the market).

2)It is clearly visible from your comments history that you are biased (and that's ok, everyone is allowed to have a preference, I am biased as well), but also refusing to consider any arguments that go against your views, ergo the trollish behaviour. I especially dislike the way you address your replies. Most of the things that don't make sense to you, have a perfectly reasonable explanation if you only would consider changing your point of view for a while.

3)mattquiros already refuted your arguments on why iOS is more enjoyable as a platform.

4)I already commented elsewhere that as a developer you have to know your tools. Not using the x86 emulator or genymotion puts you in the position of the masochistic developer that wants to prove that the platform is horrible AT THE COST OF MAKING HIS OWN LIFE MISERABLE.

If you would developped for Android, you should have known that you don't simulate a brand.

You simulate application sizes :)

Ever developped for Android, because i doubt so.

Easier collecting feedback and faster "getting it out" iterations to improve your application.

We are not comparing Dev tools. We are comparing Dev life cycle and methodologies

We are talking about choosing iOS versus Android for prototyping. My point is that the iOS development experience is far superior to Android in particular because of the strength of the simulator. How you "get your code running" is the most important part of the dev life cycle.

On the other hand, for Android it's far easier to get your app running on the device itself. The only thing you have to do is to connect the device to your computer and click Run in the IDE. Beginners can get something up and running within minutes, which includes the time to download the IDE and create a Hello World. The whole workflow runs well, as you get the logs in your IDE or whatever and you can do debugging and so on and it's really not that bad, given that no simulator can match an actual device - there's something to be said about keeping the phone in your hand, rotating it at will and touching it to see how the app feels.

Apple's provisioning process on the other hand is the most painful thing I ever experienced.

> Apple's provisioning process on the other hand is the most painful thing I ever experienced.

Your information is years out of date. In XCode, you click 'use this device for development' and all the provisioning is done fully automatically.

So no. It is not far easier to get your app running on the device itself. That is just false.

I get the impression that everyone in this thread with strong negative opinions, regardless of platform, hasn't spent more than half an hour on the other one.

Perhaps for software development, but not for product development. Often as or more important to a product is finding out how it works for real users, and rapidly prototyping and disseminating builds is a good way to do that.

While software engineering is hard as a discipline, I don't feel it is the hardest part of building a startup.

How you "get your code running" is the most important part of the dev life cycle.

How you *get your code running on a device" is even better. And it's trivial with Android. It's a royal pain in the butt with iOS.

I take it you've NEVER actually developed on iOS before.

The simulator in almost every situation matches the device. And I don't understand how connecting your phone to your Mac constitutes "a royal pain in the butt".

Oh yes I have. Both on iOS and Android.

While suppressing disbelief that this is even something being argued, I present the instructions to run your newly built app package on your Android device:

1) Make sure your the appropriate security options to allow app installs are checked in the phone settings. 2) adb -d install <path to apk> 3) Enjoy the your own app on your hardware you own without asking permission from anybody else

For iOS, start by paying $99 to Apple to register in the dev program. Then go through this tutorial explained with the help of >20 screenshots:


With TestFlight, it's very un-fussy to send test builds on iOS as well. It's perhaps more fussy than with Android (I'm not sure), since you need the people to sign up and add their device to their TestFlight profile, and you then need to add the device UUID to your provisioning profile. But we're still talking about very quick turnaround (like 5 minutes.)

Even easier than that in my experience. We've just been updating the provisioning profile with new devices and uploading the profile to Testflight, then sending testers a TF web link that they can click from their iOS device for ad hoc testing. As long as the UDID is in the provisioning profile, testers don't even need to register for a TF account. It really is a breeze.

On Android you can mail a file, people click on the attachment, click allow installation and they're done.

I'm not saying it's better, in fact I think TestFlight may have many other useful features that this crude method doesn't offer (like tracking the UUIDs)

If that's the point, start your prototype with Appcelerator, or to a lesser extent Kivy. Or popapp.in for that matter.

The dev distribution problem is thoroughly solved by testflightapp.com and I don't see anything else missing.

There are more Android apps than iOS apps, and this advantage has always been present.

So, why aren't Android apps already of superior quality?

Well, so many reasons ... until 4.0 the whole framework was ugly and the tools were very immature compared to where they are now. Few developers, especially ones who care about design, had much or any experience building apps for Android. A lot of early Android developers were either people with no experience at all or iOS developers who tried to apply iOS principles to Android development and failed hard. And it's possible the Android user base in general cared less about design so that in itself was not such a high priority (perhaps this is not so true now).

But aside from all that, this discussion is not really about quality per se. It is about figuring out your business idea, getting it right. Whether you then go and execute it well after that point is a different point.

> But aside from all that, this discussion is not really about quality per se. It is about figuring out your business idea, getting it right.

But surely the same logic applies to this too. Why haven't we already seen all kinds of innovative business ideas emerging through the rapid iteration that Android supposedly enables?

There are probably more innovative Android apps. Problem is nobody cares about the apps that much. When they choose a phone, they choose the phone first. Apps are an afterthought.

iPhone caught on for the phone itself, its ability to browse the web and make calls. iPhone didn't even start out with apps. Even then, apps didn't come into play because customers demanded them.

So you're saying Android users don't care about innovative apps? That makes this whole discussion moot.

I'm saying no users care about apps, or buy phones based on apps.

*no = very insignificant

Being in the process of registering my LLC for an iOS Apple Developer account, I couldn't agree more. It's been over two months now of back-and-forth with Apple and Dun & Bradstreet, and the end is still not in sight. All I'd like them to do is take my $100 and give me the ability to test the free app I'm making on a device and then publish it, but apparently Apple feels a longer-than-two-month turnaround time is acceptable. (And yes, I know I could just register a personal account and then slowly convert it to an LLC account. I shouldn't have to do that. As someone who's somewhat interested in their platform but not dying to develop for it, I'm not going to do that.)

I started off with a sole proprietor account, and then converted it to an LLC. It was "pending" for months. During that time, my Apple developer registration expired, and I renewed it... but because I renewed it for the LLC, not the sole proprietorship, and the LLC was "pending", my account expired anyway, and my app was removed from the store. Thanks, Apple.

I have my own company and wanted to do the same. Sadly for Swedish companies you have to be a "Aktiebolaget", you need to be on the stockmarket, to be able to have your company name in the App store.

My options waere to either invest about $8000 to become a AB or open a LLC in UK while living in Sweden. After half a year of trying and failing I just gave up and stopped developing for iOS.

Now I just started developing for Firefox OS and hope for the best. My first app is even on the Marketplace already: https://marketplace.firefox.com/app/feedmonkey/

Starting an AB does not mean that you're "on the stock market", it's just an LLC, you'll own all the shares yourself privately. You could also start an "Enskild firma" which doesn't cost much and requires no 50K SEK bound capital.

Ah ok, thanks for the clearification. I already have a "Enskild firma" and they don't allow them in the AppStore.

Registering my LLC for an iOS Dev account with D&B was a breeze. I filled out a form, waited a few days and picked up the phone. I registered right when Apple started requiring DUNS and this was posted to HN http://blog.metamorphium.com/2012/12/03/apple-duns.

Did you happen to use Apple's DUNS lookup form? https://developer.apple.com/ios/enroll/dunsLookupForm.action

I actually read your write-up before starting the process--thanks for putting it together!

Yes, I used Apple's D-U-N-S lookup form. Here's a quick summary of what's happened so far:

The first time I submitted the request for a D-U-N-S number through Apple's form, I did not receive a call. After ten days, I called D&B to see what was going on, and they said they didn't have a record of the request. So somewhere between Apple and D-U-N-S, the request was lost.

I submitted the request again, and I got a call from D&B five days later. They sent the D-U-N-S number after the call, but their email indicated it wouldn't be usable for 14 days! I tried it on the Developer Center registration form anyway, but, like they said, it didn't work, so I waited.

At the end of the two weeks, the Developer Center was down for new enrollment--for another two weeks. Once it was functioning again, I submitted the enrollment request with the D-U-N-S number.

Twenty days later, I received an email from Apple telling me that my LLC's legal status wasn't listed on D&B's profile, so I'd need to work it out with them. Oh, and I'd need to restart the enrollment process.

After contacting D&B, I received conflicting emails from them, one telling me that "my request was complete" and one sent at exactly the same time telling me that the changes would be made within the next week and a half. I sent Apple an email detailing this and asking for the enrollment to be continued where it left off rather than going to the back of the queue--which was twenty days the last time--so we'll see if that goes anywhere. I've read some accounts of having a months-long ordeal ahead even from this point in the process.

I realize things are probably a bit worse at the moment because of the Developer Center problems, but that doesn't change the fact that this process is extremely off-putting and it sours me a bit to development on their platform.

The US Federal government also requires a DUNS for any contractual interaction with a business or non-profit. They have a streamlined process set up here (it is also free): http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform

If you think you may ever apply for a government grant or contract then you will need a DUNS. I applied through this page for a Canadian non-profit and got the number in less than a week (though I had to go through a web chat on a different D&B page to actually find a D&B employee who would give me the number since they never emailed it to me).

It's still a shitshow, and Apple should either work with D&B to develop a more streamlined process like what they have with the Government, or find a better provider.

No registration allowed from your country? We registered a developer account on our business in The Netherlands a while ago. No problem at all.

Are you saying that you opened a bank account in Netherlands or that you have business entity there? (I am genuinly interested in this) Netherlands is among the supported countries [1], so the latter should work. But it makes no sense - what, I have to open a Ltd in another country just because Google doesn't support mine? Apart from that, Apple users are used to paying and thus pay more.

[1] https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answ...

Why don't you want to register a personal account and convert later? It seems odd to complain about this when it's very straightforward to do, and you can be up and running almost immediately. I haven't even bothered with a business account, even though I've incorporated and have been selling my app for > 1 year.

Bit of a strange thing to say. Yes, I could solve it easily, but I'm not going to do that.

It's not really a solution--it's a hack to get around their horrible process. I want to correctly publish what belongs to and was created by the LLC under the name of the LLC, not my own name.

Yes. What you are doing makes sense from a legal liability point of view, which is why you would set up a LLC in the first place.

Just to offer a counter-anecdote, I created a federal corporation in Canada, did the process to get a DUNS number using the free option (which everyone warns against, but I was in no big rush), and had the number the next day, and then the fully validated Apple developer corporate account. Was the most painless, brilliant process I could imagine.

Lots of "Android apps are no good" chiming in going on here. I've been an iOS user since the week after the first iPhone came out and still am (due to an iPad mini). But gave up on iOS for my phone because I can't find the following apps on iOS.

1) Alternate Launcher with pretty much infinite flexibility on look and feel.

2) Swype like keyboard options. Typing anything on iOS now feels like I travelled back in time to horse-and-buggy era.

3) Tasker app. Enough said.

4) Google Now. Enough said.

5) This is not an app per se, but the "share with" option for pictures etc that simply let me chose any suitable app on the phone that lets me share that particular object using pretty much any means of sharing out there.

And this is not even counting all the hacker'y goodness of having a full root shell with an almost complete debian environment on my Nexus devices. No "jailbreak" required. Nexus devices are rootable by design.

If you call yourself a hacker (this is hacker news... right?) and have turned your nose up at Android so far, you're simply missing out on the future of portable devices. iOS is catered to non-technical consumers and its feature-set (both for users as well as for developers) is accordingly restricted. The future killer apps are being written for Android today and you're not aware of what a mobile device is (and should be) capable of today and by extension, tomorrow.

[Edit: 1, 2 and 3 in that list above are paid apps btw. Checkout out the install numbers for those three on the play-store. Android developers writing stuff for Android (and not just copying stale iOS material) are making plenty of money]

Android is awesome for the way it lets apps interoperate. The "share with" functionality is just one example and it's not just for photos either. For example if you have Readability installed, you can "share" the article to Readability from within both Chrome and Firefox (speaking of which, Firefox isn't available on iOS because Apple doesn't allow it).

I would like to add to your list the ability to completely block phone calls and SMS messages from annoying numbers, with no traces left in the phone's logs. Or the ability to automate your phone settings, depending on time or location, like turning the data off at 11 p.m. for battery preservation or turning silent while you're at work.

I don't know if such apps are still banned on iTunes, but it's what made me switch from an iPhone 3GS to a Galaxy S.

I didn't go into details of the Tasker app (#3 on my list), but that's exactly the context dependent automation I use it for. And yeah, there' no equivalent for such a broad ranging "device-wide programming" app for iOS. Nor is there likely to be one given the fundamentally "isolated apps" model of the world wherein iOS operates.

4) Google Now. Enough said.

You are aware that "Google Now" is available for iOS

In some form yes. But really the killer feature that makes it "Now" is the fact that (on Android), you don't have to do anything to activate it. It just quietly works in the background and notifies (btw, Notifications, another key feature for a phone that iOS doesn't do too well) you of things you need to know at the time you need to know them (e.g., delays on flights you might have searched for or may have received boarding pass for etc... it has been amazingly useful in exactly such scenarios for me).

That doesn't work on iOS. Probably due to limitations on background processes.. or perhaps because google doesn't feel like providing the full feature-set it on the rival platform... I don't know. But without the automated notifications for things I'm not even aware I should be searching for yet, the magic just doesn't work the same way.

So... Paid for alternate launchers and task switchers are the future of mobile operating systems?

I know I'm feeding a troll here (I've checked your comment history) but what the heck. What is a "task switcher"? And corollary question, do you have any idea what you're talking about?

Why would I bother to answer a deliberately offensive comment from someone who's own posting is deeply partisan?

I use both platforms on a daily basis. I used an iPhone exclusively for 3+ years before my first Android device. I'm working on products that help devs on both platforms to make their apps better.

Being a developer, I have solid reasons to prefer one over the other for my personal use but I know a large number of people prefer the other. If that makes me somehow "partisan", so be it.

Now, would you explain what you meant by a "task switcher"?

Or perhaps you could simply admit that you made that comment based on the name "Tasker" without having any idea what the heck it was. That would work too.

Ok - so you've justified your opinion. How do you justify your offensiveness?

I know that Android users are starved for slick apps that look good and work well, because I'm one of them (when using my Nexus 7). But as a developer I know that I can't make money from them.

There is no way forward for (paid) Android apps that can make a living. You need to sell on iOS in order to make any sort of revenue.

So if your startup is built on a free app, then by all means use Android to test your idea. But if you want to make things and sell them for money, then putting up with the App Store model is more than worth the amount of money you can make compared to Android.

>> There is no way forward for (paid) Android apps that can make a living. You need to sell on iOS in order to make any sort of revenue.

Yes, that is kind of sad. As someone who does pay for Android software, I imagine I'm in the minority. I've got extended family members who balk at the notion of paying even a dollar for software on Android.

OTOH, I'm curious how many paid apps on the iOS App store actually hit the break-even point.

As of May 2012, 60% of developers didn't break even. http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/05/ios-app-success-is-a-lo...

That's actually fantastic, because it means 40% of developers are breaking even while only probably 10% of them are making anything decent (just based on the 90% of everything is crud rule, which seems to hold quite true for mobile apps).

Not an Android user/developer so I'm completely ignorant on this topic, but is advertising revenue on Android apps not enough to make it worthwhile?

> I know that Android users are starved for slick apps that look good and work well, because I'm one of them (when using my Nexus 7). But as a developer I know that I can't make money from them.

> There is no way forward for (paid) Android apps that can make a living.

Why do you say this? I concede it may be true for games, but games are actually one of the hardest places to make a living. Make not-game apps and your expectation of payment and your likelihood of piracy plummet.

Maybe it is just for games, but that's the segment I pay the most attention to. I'd love to be proven wrong through experience, so maybe I'll throw some Android apps out there.

Personally, I know 3 people who make a living doing productivity and utility apps on Android now.

I've actually never personally met an indy iOS developer making their money on not-games, come to think of it.

I easily spend $15-30/mo on android apps. I go out of my way to buy ad-less versions but I do appreciate that I can try an app for a few days even with an ugly, unfit ad.

The Amazon app store has millions of paying customers waiting for your app.

... to go on sale for $0.

Because that's the only way most people will ever hear about your app, but if you can get in front of them through press or optimizing your text and images plenty of people will pay.

> But if you build an app on Android that’s on par with the design quality you’re used to on iOS, your users will love you. The press will love you. Gizmodo will feature your app just so they’ll have a nice header image for their “Android Apps of the Week” post.

That's nice, but will it translate into sales? Probably not, given the horror stories of Android piracy that seem to come out every few weeks (particularly in the gaming market).

Of course, many startups profit in hype instead of dollars, so maybe that's irrelevant.

In the real world, those "horror stories" don't make it out of HN and tech blogs. Android is now the biggest platform out there, time to get back to earth. I've been on Android for a year now and know many noobs who are too, never had a virus, most people don't install much apps anyway and they usually only install the most famous ones when they do.

But the point of the article is that android is a better place for startups to develop apps (than iOS, specifically). The existence of 'noobs' who 'don't install much apps anyway' doesn't sound like it makes Android an attractive place for startups.

Android piracy isn't a horror story for users (unless they download a pirated app that's been injected with an address-book upload trojan, which is not unheard of). It IS a horror story for a startup trying to make money on Android, which is why it gets deserved traction in tech blogs and HN. And which is why the original article is flawed in the way the OP indicated.

I didn't make myself clear, most people on both platforms are noobs that don't install much apps (iphone and android) or only the most famous ones. Most noobs I know used to be iphone users too. Remember, in the real world, most people are noobs. As for apps stealing your address book, that happened on iOS too and no one cares but HNers and some tech blogs. Get over it.

Of course, the other stat is that almost all that piracy comes from China, which doesn't have the Play Store so people there can't buy your apps anyway.

Go with Android because that's where all the users are!

Piracy? Meh, all those users are in developing countries and won't buy your app anyway!

Users in China don't have access to the Play Store and aren't even counted among the activations that Google reports. The reason that there is more piracy in China is because of no access to the Play Store.

And, additionally, Chinese pirate iOS apps just as much as they pirate Android apps.

Android Apss are easier to deploy, but becuase of that, you get bad code - or WORSE - viruses! There are several Andoid apps that are Malware - there is not one in Apple App store.

So you're saying that Android should make it more difficult to deploy to decrease malware and bad code? Come on, stop drinking the kool aid.

Trick is to find a balance in the process so that author of an App is legally identifiable. This is to avoid episodes like "Fake Angry Bird App" and "Fake Mobile Banking App".

IMO, when I download ETrade App on my smartphone, it is good to know that someone checked that it was submitted by someone who is from ETrade really. If the process is rigorous for E*Trade, so be it. But as an end user I'd prefer it to be that way instead of making it _my_ responsible to verify before installing the app.

Note that this is a problem both stores share:


From what I understand, absent a legal judgment Apple doesn't do much to police copycats, misleading names and the like.

Malware apps come and go in both platforms, and both platforms actively try to stop malware when it's reported.

Seriously. It's documented iOS has had malware: http://www.forbes.com/sites/adriankingsleyhughes/2012/07/06/...

There's a big difference between a platform with several hundred thousand known pieces of malware in the wild vs a platform with a tiny handful of what are mostly proof-of-concept apps.

Open vs closed & other religious wars aside, it's ridiculous to imply that both platforms carry the same risk to end users.

I didn't say that nor imply it. What I said was that both platforms do have documented cases of malware. The post I replied to made the obviously false claim that the iOS store has never had malware.

I'd like to point out that "in the wild" on android literally means "they're not in the play store", but rather downloaded from somewhere else.

The play store scans every submitted the apps for malware (in the last versions it also scans applications NOT installed through the play store).

I don't want to be pedantic, it's just that I know more about this platform and I would like to be corrected if I say something wrong about platforms that I'm not familiar with.

Wow! Bad karma for dissing Android! For the record - my family has every platform, including Andorid phone, kindle, and set top boxes. I personally had 2 malwares installed on my Galaxy that bricked it. Also there are way too many apps on Android that ask for information access they should not have - like my GPS location or contacts info for a game. Andoid needs a little higher bar to remove this crapware.

I highly doubt that malware could brick a phone.

If your phone was truly bricked, how did you identify that it was indeed "two malware" that bricked it?

I know of at least two security researchers that got malware into Apple's App Store.

Given the review process, the odds may be longer that a particular app is malware, but given the size of the store I think it is virtually certain there is still some undetected malware in it.

As a primarily-iOS user / developer who also has an Android tablet (last year's Nexus 7), completely agree with both points made here. [The first being that Android development is better, and the second being that the vast majority Android apps currently suck compared to the iOS equivalent, making for a nice opportunity.]

It's hard enough to peg a real user need and deliver on that need in a satisfying, sticky way. It's at the core of what a startup needs to do to cultivate that product development discipline as a team, and tools that make that harder are insult to injury.

As others have mentioned, though, none of these app startups are launching just for a smooth development experience. And Android just hasn't shown that users will reliably upgrade their OS, much less pay for apps like iOS users do. Until that changes, even if the better dev experience will accelerate a shift, it's sort of a chicken-and-egg problem on app quality.

> making for a nice opportunity

You are assuming that there is demand for anything but free apps. I know that I personally would kill to pay for top-quality Android apps like I do on iOS, but I don't think I speak for the majority of Android users. Based on everything that I've seen, they just don't want to pay.

Completely agreed (and would also kill to pay); what I meant at the end of my comment that it's that it's a nice opportunity predicated on being a quality app right when the market starts to shift.

Which I think is what Will's betting on.

I'm more than happy to pay money for a good product than waste my time suffering though shitty free ones that throw ads at you.

I've always thought Google's greatest achievement was to convince people that they are getting free services..

I just spent $20 on MailDroid to have a good IMAP/Exchange client (to replace Gmail + stock Email).

I spent $20 on this over the free options (like K9 email) or the free ad-supported MailDroid version, because it is a high quality app and it looks very, very nice. Especially on my new Nexus 7's full HD screen.

That said, I'm pretty sure I'm not part of the majority here. Just raising a hand saying that some people will pay serious money for good stuff. And they're not all on iOS.

Industry numbers I've seen suggest that this is changing rapidly. I think what we're seeing is that Android is attracting a lot more high end smartphone customers and they are buying more apps. The gap is still big, but it is shrinking rapidly.

> making for a nice opportunity

One tricky thing is that even if your app is really nicely crafted, it might be hard for users to find it without lots of out-of-play-store promotion.

This seems like really forced wishful thinking. Sure Apple makes you jump through a lot of annoying hoops, but it doesn't matter how cynical you are you can't hand-wave away the security benefits, and you certainly can't ignore the revenue differentials. I think Android is moving in the right direction, and actually I've used it as my primary phone for years now (I've owned 2 Nexus phones and the old G1), but waiting 5 days for approval (which is the average I've experienced for 6 submissions over the last 2 months) is not as big of a hurdle as the article paints. There's certainly nothing that requires waterfall development or "waiting months".

This is such a weird piece. It seems to get why, despite the onerous restrictions Apple puts on devs, iOS has great apps and huge numbers in every direction, but then just says Android is better. Perhaps a better argument would be to understand why the gain is worth the pain, and then move to saying that the gain without the pain would be even sweeter.

I dunno, I make web stuff. I just like watching you guys duke it out.

What I took from the piece is that Android is far more developer friendly in terms of ease of development, deployment to devices for testing, and releasing.

Whether that is enough to make it a 'better' platform depends on what your needs are.

If I were doing a mobile startup and needed fast feedback on devices, Android's fast turnaround sure would be interesting. Not the deciding factor, but definitely a check in the Android column.

Hmm, I think a lot of people are missing the whole point in this article. I do around 60% Ruby on Rails, 35% iOS and 5% Android dev. The idea around a "lean" startup being, that an MVP, or each new feature, or even testing a change to a previous feature is usually done in quick succession. This being testing with current users over a period of say, a week, and then from the results, changes can be made and the team have learned from the testing.

So really, Android allows for this quick succession of testing features and iterating as quick as possible, with even to a few hours turnaround. Also, that it would cost a lot in development time to get something "just right" for the App Store for it to be accepted, whereas with Android you can keep on iterating and pushing changes without having to spent a huge amount of time making everything look perfect, and be absolute minimal in terms of bugs.

I love iOS development, and yes, I agree with most people on here about the revenue from iOS, the people paying for apps, Apple's process of helping keep out most malware etc. etc., but for the sake of a "lean" startup, spending extra weeks testing apps making sure it's completely bug free and "looking good enough" for iOS, as well as the wait for Apple to accept the application (and then for users to download the update, in the case of iOS 7, this has been solved), Android is a much better dev option for these changes.

Of course, when the team knows that the app is something that people care for, and they have a decent knowledge of what users want, what features they use, and the kind of value that the mobile app brings to them, then they can go ahead and make the best possible iOS app.


Saving time, money and quick iterations, learning from customers and getting quick data for problem validation, is much easier and faster on Android, than the process on iOS. Think Lean Startup.

As a mobile app user, I don't want daily updates from your app as you "iterate" away and try to figure out what to build. I want to download the finished product that works.

I'm not your free beta testing service. If you want to test concepts, do proper market research.

Well then you wouldn't be the early adopter :) The idea is to test it against early adopters who don't mind about these quick changes and are less worried about bugs, because the idea/product is something that's good enough to help you in some way, shape or form.

May I ask, what's proper market research? Considering you can get so far with "proper market research", but it definitely doesn't tell the whole picture. People often don't know they have a problem until one is solved and a good way.

I should have said, "traditional market research" instead, including trend and competitive analysis, segmentation, primary research such as focus groups and surveys, prototyping in front of a representative sample of users, etc.

An iterative approach is fine, once the above basics have been done, but if you need to deploy code changes in an app every day or even every week, the product is probably not ready for V1 yet.

Well of course all that is done before all of the developing of the app. The idea is to reduce the amount of uncertainty by not creating a full blown app that has had a lot of time and money put into it, when some of the features aren't helping in terms of getting new customers, keeping old customers and bringing any value to the product/service.

Isn't beta testing a problem more suitable for a third party service (https://testflightapp.com/)? Using app store to distribute beta quality product is a subpar solution IMHO.

Yes, TestFlight is absolutely great for beta testing.

However, in the startup sense, it's not exactly beta testing, it's testing the market, so beta testing would be fine to test something you've built works, but by no means will show what people will think of the app/product.

> Also, that it would cost a lot in development time to get something "just right" for the App Store for it to be accepted, whereas with Android you can keep on iterating and pushing changes without having to spent a huge amount of time making everything look perfect, and be absolute minimal in terms of bugs.

This is highly misleading. The App Store review process does delay iteration, and heavily crash apps are rejected but there is no requirement to spend a huge amount of time making things look perfect or absolutely minimal in terms of bugs.

Another thing that bothers me with development for iOS is that you need apple hardware and software. I can't develop an iOS on my Linux machine (I've tried running OSX in virtualbox, but it's slow and not to mention illegal).

I really wish Apple would make their platform a little more available. Lowering the $100 yearly fee would be a good start...

If you can't even afford $100 a year you probably can afford anything you would need to develop for the platform (e.g. a mac).

If $100 a year would allow me to develop iOS apps on my Linux laptop I'd be fine with that. But $100 a year + paying for overpriced apple hardware doesn't sound appealing.

Exercise for people who think Macs are overpriced: find a machine with a solid state drive, excellent battery life, well built case, and high quality keyboard and trackpad for substantially less than the price of a Macbook Air.

(writing this from 15" early 2013 rMBP) You can build a hackintosh with comparable specs for much cheaper than the equivalent Mac Pro, but the laptop space is no-contest

Sorry, should have specified laptop. The Mac Pro is a terrible way to purchase raw computing power - it's there mostly for OSX-based media professionals.

Just remove well-built case and high-quality keyboard from that list and I can buy a laptop with much, much more power for the same price as a Macbook Air.

Lenovo Thinkpad.

And that is where the line divides. Android users are like you... they don't want to pay for software and go for cheaper hardware when they can.

I'm a Linux and Android user. My Android phone wasn't any cheaper than an iPhone and I can most certainly afford any Apple hardware I want. I also don't use Linux because I'm cheap, I use Linux because I love it. The hardware was exactly what I wanted too.

I don't develop for iOS because I don't want to own a Mac. I (as a long-time Linux user) find OS X incredibly frustrating.

There's also absolutely no reason to force developers to use a particular brand of hardware or a particular operating system to develop for a particular phone.

There's also absolutely no reason to force developers to use a particular brand of hardware or a particular operating system to develop for a particular phone.

Well, it costs money for Apple to support development on Windows and Linux platforms. Who's going to port Xcode and the simulator to run on those platforms? How many different types of Windows and Linux configurations are out there?

> Well, it costs money for Apple to support development on Windows and Linux platforms

The cost of doing that pales in comparison to what they are making off of iOS. If they can afford to keep developing iTunes for Windows, they can afford to port their other software. For some reason, I don't think Apple will go out of business if they give it a shot.

> How many different types of Windows and Linux configurations are out there?

So target the most prevalent ones. I don't know about all of the various configurations on linux, but it's really not so bad with Windows - just target Windows 7 or higher, and you should be good. Nobody is saying it needs to look nice or even look like a native program; we just want something we can work with, even if it looks like dog shit.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to buy something when you are only developing for it and not actually planning on using it. I sometimes develop software for Windows, and I hate running it, so I won't purchase a copy of it. But that shouldn't prevent me from developing for it.

So advocating piracy are we?

There are ways to develop for Windows on other OSes without piracy (e.g. WINE).

I really doubt the quality of WINE for such purposes.

No, I'm saying that I cross compile and have others test things out. I develop mostly with C++ and rarely need to use OS-level APIs that aren't included in things like Qt or Boost.

To speak nothing of whether or not that is actually true, what is the problem with opting for cheaper hardware?

XCode's requirements are pretty modest. Get a second-hand Mac Mini or something (you may want to add memory to it).

> you need apple hardware and software

It's worse than that, I'm afraid. You need the absolute latest of both.

My perfectly fine Macbook from 2008 should be more than adequate for developing iOS apps. It's a core2 duo with 2GB of RAM. I mean, these aren't exactly the days of Pentium 60 vs. XT 8088.

Yet the max OS I can upgrade to is Lion. And that's with going through Snow Leopard first. And who knows how much longer Xcode will work on Lion.

"5 years old" is a pretty far cry from "absolute latest". My 2008 Core2 Duo MacBook, upgraded to 5GB of RAM and an SSD, works like a champ for iPhone development. I don't understand this complaint.

at best you can run OS X Lion. That's it. Before you even get to that, though, you have to upgrade to Snow Leopard for silly arbitrary reasons.

OS X is currently on Mountain Lion, going to Mavericks real soon now. I would not count on Xcode running on Lion for any real length of time now. After that, you're 100% screwed.

Contrast that to Windows XP, where I can still run the latest iTunes and sync the latest iPhone 5 with. Can't do that in Leopard, either.

OK, so ~6 years later, I get a new laptop. The only reason I haven't already is because the MacBook was a great machine to start with.

I understand the complaint if mobile development is a hobby (then yes, iOS development gets expensive very quickly), but if it's how you make your living then it's literally a rounding error.

Wow, I'm amazed they dropped support for computers that recent. New versions Windows/Linux will still run on very old hardware, there are usually drivers around.

He apparently had the bad luck to own the most recently made model of Macintosh that will not run Mountain Lion; virtually every other Mac from 2008 is OK.

The business case for supporting older computers is very different for Microsoft (or for Linux) than it is for Apple.

I have a 2008 MacBook (5,1) which I upgraded to 8GB RAM and an SSD. It runs Mountain Lion just fine. I use it for all sorts of things including Xcode. No idea what you're talking about here.

He must have the last plastic MacBook (4,1), which has a 32-bit EFI firmware and will not boot a 64-bit kernel; Mountain Lion only has a 64-bit kernel. So, even if one thinks it should run Mountain Lion, it can't run Mountain Lion. End of discussion.

If he wants to actually run Mountain Lion and develop for iOS (instead of complaining that he can't do it on his current machine), then $850 at the Apple Store will get him a refurbished MacBook Air (last year's model) that will be probably be much nicer to use (it will certainly be much lighter and have longer battery life). He could probably get a couple hundred bucks for his old one if it's in decent shape.

I think the $100/y makes sense from Apple's perspective and is probably one of the reasons why there are fewer shitty apps than Google, this along with all of the other confusing stuff they do, like provisioning profiles. It simply scares off the hobby developers who don't really want to build for the platform but rather try it out.

Sure, the release process might be easier on Android, but there are other factors involved in app development. Android is becoming a kind of curse word at my current job. Getting a working emulator can be a huge exercise in frustration (like for gMaps v2... forget it). Every and any feature or UI widget can break in unexpected ways on different devices. The tools are very functional but about as unintuitive and finicky as you can get. And I can tell you the documentation is not shorter because it's better.

I have nothing personal against Android, but let's not just skim over the actual DEVELOPMENT process.

Sorry but it sounds like you are a android noob

Sorry, but it sounds like you are a troll.

I'd be happy to give details if you don't know (or don't care to see) what I'm talking about. But based on the upvotes to my comment and very similar complaints in other comments to this article, many people agree with me.

I love the point about iteration here, but I think this post is a little bit disingenuous.

The problem with developing for Android as a startup is that baseline reliability is incredibly resource intensive.

If you want your app to work on the most popular few devices, you will still have to spend a considerable amount of time and money testing the different configurations and fixing bugs that have nothing to do with your core functionality.

If you want broad support to address most of the market, you're going to be spending a huge amount of development time tweaking little details of your code. When you fix a bug for the Galaxy S4, it'll start crashing on the HTC One X, and the Galaxy Note will never look quite right.

Iteration is valuable, but iOS lets you build one product and iterate on it, to build for Android, you have to start by building 15.

Any specifics on that? Unless you are doing something really weird, there shouldn't be compatibility issues between recent devices like that. Generally the issues are with older devices that have very little ram etc, which are becoming less and less common.

There we go with this fragmentation bullshit. Say something concrete.

BTW I had the same problem - what works on iPad 3 didn't work on iPhone 4 and I fixes something that didn't work on touch.

Great post -- As a newly diehard Android user, I will agree that while Android is definitely getting some amazing and beautiful apps, it's nothing like on the App Store. If you spend the time to design a beautiful app, there is a larger opportunity for you to unseat very popular Android apps. Android users crave great design too. Start building.


Now ... we tried to register apple dev account in late 2010 for my company. The first thing they required was a lot of documents. We send them. Then came the payment ... they refused to accept our credit card and refused non credit card payment methods. The email we got back from apple was a exercise in absurdity - (this was 2012 already after a lot of back and forth) - they wanted the details of the company credit card send to them BY FAX. In 2012 they wanted for us to send the full details of a credit card written on paper. By fax. So we told them to fuck off. Triple checked - it was not scam or phishing letter.

Then we made a simple single developer account ... personal. It took only a month.

It's perfectly fine to argue the merits of Android development, but arguing that it's hard to run an app on your own device using XCode is dishonest. It handles provisioning profiles automatically, and you can even hit "fix it" if it doesn't find a valid one when you try to run it.

I've been building an app for Android for 2 weeks now, and I still can't get the phone settings on an Android phone to use it for development. This may be MY problem because I'm a terrible developer, but it's still a problem.

"Note: On Android 4.2 and newer, Developer options is hidden by default. To make it available, go to Settings > About phone and tap Build number seven times. Return to the previous screen to find Developer options."


I know man, still not working. No idea why, probably just something I'm missing because Eclipse is ugly and difficult as sin.

Dump Eclipse. No really.

New Android studio based on JetBrains' IntelliJ is so much better it makes me wonder how I would ever endure using Eclipse for anything.

Try it. It'll take you less than 5 minutes from download to having your hello world on device, in debugging mode. It'll be the single best thing you did all day.

Free apps do well on Android. Paid apps (Outright & Free + In App Purchases) generate more revenue on iOS. Being able to show traction is important for startups but, being able to show increased revenue is equally if not more important.

Until Android on a whole proves to be more lucrative to monetize apps, many developers will continue building iOS first (imho).

Your statement is true, but sort of missing the point of the article. Sure, "many" developers "will" wait "until" Android "proves" better. But some won't, and there is value in being part of the early ones to jump. The article is advocating jumping now and gives some arguments (not all of them convincing IMHO) as to why that's a good idea.

You're just saying that not everyone will take the advice. Well, yeah. :)

Android might never prove better. When/if it ever does then I will reevaluate and deal with being a fast follower rather than a first mover.

However, it is premature at this stage to state that Android is the better platform for startups.

The iOS development cycle works the way it does to protect Apple's customers. The people that pay for your application deserve and demand a certain level of quality. They also shouldn't be constantly bothered with updating your hastily developed, poorly tested, 'rapidly iterating' product.

As for Android, Google doesn't care. The person with the Android phone is not their customer, they're the product. Google is in the business of delivering users to advertisers. They are just barely in the business of making devices, and that's really just to feed more users to their advertisers by making a product that's as good as the iPhone and also to hedge against a single Android phone manufacturer from owning too much of the total Android market.

FYI android apps update automatically without intervention from the user. yet another way android wins.

and then for good measure you repeat the nonsensical statement that google doesn't care. of course they want users to love android and increase their audience.

It's not just the annoyance of having to manually perform the update, it's that your device/network takes a performance hit when it happens. As for my use of the phrase "doesn't care," that was poorly chosen. But they care less. They see their users as the product and that leads to very different choices and a different relationship. I would argue that it leads to an inferior user experience in many ways.

I'm an android developer and I agree with this comment. The article as a whole paints a really bad picture of Apple's development process when, in honesty, I wish Google would learn a bit from the things Apple does really well. I really hope people don't think it's okay to ship an app with a typo in the title -- that's just lazy and irresponsible. While I wish the $99 fee was only required to publish an app (as opposed to being required to develop one), I'm still waiting for the day when Google can truly compete with iOS on a platform and tools level. In my opinion, Google has a long way to go on that front despite their increasing market share (and all revenue advantages that ensue).

Say what you will about quality differences in the tools, but the availability of the tools comes down heavily in Android's favor. Further, getting through the developer-license-acquisition process is hit or miss -- some people have it easy, some have it hard. Despite whatever advantages it has, iOS obstructs the ability to learn from users' needs and iterate quickly. Yes, there are things that could be better in the android ecosystem. But the ease of getting a bugfix to your users matters, and iOS fails on this.

You can develop an app without paying the fee, the only catch is that you need to pay the 99 dollars to test on actual hardware, instead of the iOS Simulator, which is somewhat silly but par for the course when it comes to Apple.

So preventing people from updating their app for a week even if they find bugs helps quality? Should we start making website changes only once a week to improve quality - I expect Heroku will implement a 5-day delay in deploys?

While the 5-10 day approval process to get the App Store is inconvenient for developers, it gets a disproportionate amount of attention. The limiting factor in software development is and will remain to be engineering resources. Building on the Apple ecosystem still takes considerably less time and effort to complete an app than Android, due to consistent and up-to-date hardware & software, common design patterns, a robust developer ecosystem, and generally a more sophisticated development platform.

As a mobile developer who has worked on both platforms, I agree wholeheartedly with this. Xcode and Interface Builder is much easier to use than Eclipse (I found myself constantly editing the raw XML interface files). And I find the UIKit API much simpler to use (for most cases) than Android's Activity-based SDK.

IntelliJ or the upcoming Android Studio (based on IntelliJ), which will eventually replace Eclipse as the recommended IDE, makes Android development much more pleasant. Give it a try.

If you're alright ignoring the far more profitable iOS market, then sure, Android is better. But if you're trying to operate a startup that actually needs to make money, it is not a smart business decision to ignore it. Complain as much as you want, but iOS still provides a better opportunity than Android in the very large majority of cases and because of that, I'm ok dealing with the headaches that come with it.

I don't agree with this.

Basically the author thinks that you can test the market if a particular idea / app is worth making by releasing on Android first. The problem is that the android users will most likely hate the UI and the bugs as it will probably be thrown together.

When releasing an app on iOS, you don't have to include ALL features, you can release an app that is well designed and functions well with limited functionality. Then add features as you need to.

That's what we did when we released our app. We released for iOS first and then for android, but we gradually added features as needed or wanted.

> The problem is that the android users will most likely hate the UI and the bugs as it will probably be thrown together.

This is where your argument breaks down. It assumes that because you are on Android, you app is shoddy. That need not be the case. Android gets a bad rap for being "hard to develop for", but that's only the case if you try and hit the entire 2., 3. and 4.* userbase.

If you limit yourself to 4.*, the dev work is very comparable. It's just a lot of people are utterly convinced they need to put in 2-3x the work to pick up that 40% of the market.

> you don't have to include ALL features

You sure do have to include a lot of features though. You've no chance if your app is a simple one because you'll get hit with one of these:

2.12: Apps that are not very useful, are simply web sites bundled as apps, or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected

I believe you are referring to the app store guidelines. The article mentions the android market place.

Of course I'm referring to the App Store as that's what your comment was about. If you want to publish on the App Store you need to make sure your app can't be thought of as 'limited' as then the reviewer could reject it, citing rule 2.12 - whereas on Android you can release almost whatever you want.

Ah, I understand now. I was referring to minor features that will take a long time to implement. I understand that you can't release just a splash screen.

In every product, there core features, then there are minor / convenience features. Let's say you have a "search" feature. That is a core part of the app / product / service. Some features that you can probably put off are: "advanced search", "refinement search", or even "sorting results". All of these are convenient, but you may want to have the app in store without these features.

I'm not following your arguments at all. Android apps must inherently be buggy and "thrown together"? Android apps must "include ALL features" before release?

From what I understood from the article:

- You can iterate quickly on android. If you notice that people don't care for your app, you can stop at the splash screen I assume. Or stop when you've added enough features that and yet no one is downloading.

- When you release on android, it's almost instant. This means that you don't test it as well as you should because you know you can always patch it tomorrow.

Design is an easy win on Android, but it's the suck for any kind of audio processing because of the horrendous lag. Like MS before them, Google completely ignored the needs/requests of musicians for years on end, and as a result all the good apps are for iPad. The only two Android audio apps I can think of that are worth looking at are Caustic and FruityLoops, and neither is particularly performance-friendly. I was using a remote control MIDI app for a while called Humatic but the developer said device fragmentation was such a miserable experience that he never wants to develop on Android again.

I've been using Android since Google put out the Nexus One, and I still prefer it for a phone. But for a tablet I have to unwillingly go with an iPad next time, because that's where the good stuff is.

All this talk about process, but not a word about the quality of the SDK itself. Android is quite frankly still very far behind when it comes to really basic things. Here's just one example: iOS has had easy support for custom fonts in native UI elements since the early days, meanwhile here is the situation on Android:


(Yes, the thread was started in 2010, but scroll to the bottom to see more recent comments -- things have scarcely gotten any better.)

Anyone who has actually deployed a non-trivial app on both Android and iOS knows quite well which one is the "better" development environment.

This is anecdotal (but frankly so is yours)...

We have mainly been doing iOS apps but we are hearing demand from customers about having an option in Android so one of our developers (who is definitely much more of an Apple fan) has been experimenting with the Android SDK and he has been very impressed with the Android SDK. He has found many things to be far easier in the Android SDK than with iOS. His main complaint is with the emulator which is extremely frustrating to use but since it's dead easy to use your device that's not as big of a deal.

At least I gave an example. "Many things" are not just easier, but "far" easier? Like what? I've got plenty more examples, but I'd really like to hear about these "many" things which are "far" easier than in iOS.

Excellent write-up. As a mobile developer, this was my experience publishing Android apps to Play store as well.

Also, my theory is that once there are enough quality apps on Android, we will start to see the center of popularity shift to Android from iOS.

"Knock, knock." "Who’s there?" "Very long pause…." "Java."

"2 weeks later..." "[NSString stringWithFormat: @"%@ who?", result];"

8 months later: "ArithmeticException - joke doesn't add up"

10 months later "random crashes due to pointer misuse".

I'm a 3rd party iOS developer:

If you want to make money by directly selling something, or need people who constantly use your app => iOS still seems to have higher engagement and higher revenue.

If you want to make money by having a thing you're giving away to tons of people who need to only use your app briefly, android MIGHT be the case for tomorrow and for certain communities, today.

That said, "Android" isn't a monolith. I think Google did a tremendously good thing by incorporating so many new services into the Play Store rather than into the almost-never-updated core OS, and you should be looking at targeting THAT, not years old versions of Android, to get an updated, easy to maintain android target you do aside an iOS target. People will complain, but will also get new phones that have the Google play store with modern services.

With both versions, it's always really important to measure cost per user on a version by version, platform by platform basis.

Interestingly the opposite is true in our case. We are a small startup that has apps available both in Apple and Android. But because it is hard to develop and deploy a successful app in iOS than in android, it keeps competition at bay. In Android, lot of half baked apps pollute the store (and the fake ratings and review destroy any sort of app discovery) that it is simply not worth it.

While we have had our share of frusturation with the apple app store process (weird rejections that had to be explained etc), I don't see Android as an alternative to iOS appstore for startups. Once the iOS app is up running, we develop the android (and since we believe android users are used to seeing incomplete apps), we take our time adding functions to the app as well! (Yes I know, it is a cynical view, but we simply match expectation)

The IOS Development process is outdated and kind of crappy, but there are simple tacitly accepted solutions that fix virtually all of the issues. Specifically:

- Hockey App For Pre Public Distribution - Auto Updates, One Click Link Install (no need to join a google group) - Enterprise account - no device ids, send the link to anyone

The dev cycle on mobile is slower, and more waterfall, but there is no excuse to not be iterating on anything more than 3-5 day cycles on either android or IOS.

There are plenty of apps (including games) on the Play store with 100,000+ purchases (not just free installs), and I know of at least a few that cost $3+ with 500,000 to 1,000,000 purchases, and Minecraft has 1-5 million puchases at ($6,99? - forgot).

This means that the possibility to make 6-7 figures on Android apps is there, if your app is compelling enough. The problem isn't getting users to pay, but making an app compelling enough that users want to pay for it.

Yes.. developers might prefer android over iOS.. but end of the day iOS apps get you business..IMO...tell me which android apps sell better than their counterpart iOS apps?

Pocket Casts actually wrote a great blog post about this: http://blog.shiftyjelly.com/2013/02/20/why-android-first/

Because some niches are really poorly covered on Android, apps that fill those may have greater success than they would on iOS.

Is niche-filling in the shadow of a large corporation (Google) really a sustainable way to run a business?

Software-savvy giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon pretty much don't care about stomping on your little niche (esp. if it's due to a deficiency in the platform/system) if it helps them one-up their competitor.

Things that annoy me about buying android apps since I switched to a nexus 4 this week:

No way to in-app upgrade to remove ads. what?? (you have to buy a separate app).

Heaps of games / apps that dont even provide an option to remove the ads.

I feel like a lot of android developers are going to miss out on people moving from iOS to android now that the OS has matured and has improved a lot of the areas that iOS users were worried about. These are people willing to whip out the card and pay because they're accustomed to it on iOS.

If there is no way for me to remove ads from an app I am more likely to uninstall it then use it with ads.

What makes it good for startups also makes it good for malware, spam apps, information harvesting and other user unfriendly things.

I'm not arguing against this post, it's true in the sense that it is indisputably easier to iterate on Android vs iOS because of the lack of a review system. But as someone with both Android and iOS devices that they enjoy, it's very easy to see which one is a more user-friendly approach.

Having a broken app or two for a week is a small price to pay for trust. I don't trust the Play Store, I check out each individual app before downloading. On iOS because of the more robust review & permissions model, I can trust that while what I download might not be good, it will in all likelihood be safe.

In addition, I feel like evangelizing to developers like this is pointless. Besides the minority of personal developers driven primarily by morals, their preferred platform or preferred tools, developers go where the users are and the money is. If "Android is for startups" then that should be the case, and a blog post isn't going to make it so. The presence of startups iterating on Android initially makes it so, and that is driven by users + money.

VCs all have iPhones. This is the #1 reason to develop for iPhone first.

> VCs all have iPhones.

Fred Wilson would beg to differ (at least until a few weeks ago, and even then, his reasons for switching are not what you might think).

Seriously, no (good) VC is going to decline to invest just because you're Android-first instead of iOS-first, if that's a decision that actually makes sense for your target market.

VCs all have iPhones because the majority of people who are willing to pay for a phone or apps prefer iOS.

it's really that simple.

So how many VCs have you profiled to come to this conclusion?

I think the difference in development comes in when you need to do some hardware testing. With apple you need to design for 3 different display sizes, with 2 resolutions each. You also have to test your product on (at most) 12 different devices, and that's if you really want to cover the field. On the other hand, with Android, if you want to do it right, you need to design for hundreds of different screen sizes, all kinds of different aspect ratios and resolutions, and hundreds of different hardware devices. Or you can forgo all that, and just assume (incorrectly) that majority of the Android users run the latest and greatest Galaxy hardware.

You can shave away a LOT of form factors if you just agree to cut off development before Android 4.0.

This is tough for people to resolve to do, but in the US that's 60% of the market. I'd rather ship a good product to 60% of the people in a reasonable amount of time, rather than spending a ton of time working on tiny slices of the last 40% and limiting what the product can do overall.

You also end up targeting much newer devices and OS versions, which evades a lot of problems with piracy.

For my market, 90% of my app's users are 4.0+. 97% of all sessions are 4.0+.

I still support & test pre-4.0, but I'm starting to consider options for spending less time on Gingerbread support. Progressive enhancement helps (we just don't do a lot of things on Gingerbread at all), but it still clutters up the code. Even a few months ago I couldn't imagine dropping Gingerbread support, but I have seen almost no growth in Gingerbread users over the last 3-6 months.

I am glad to hear stories like this. Thank you very much for sharing that.

> You can shave away a LOT of form factors if you just agree to cut off development before Android 4.0.

At that point, though, the idea that Android is a larger market really starts suffering. That cuts out a third of Android users immediately.

there was an article posted here a few weeks ago that talked about an android development company/group that boiled it down to ~10 major categories of devices that they needed to test with to get maximum device acceptance. So for them, unless a whole category of device comes out, like a smart watch for example, they do not need to have every device to test.

and this encompassed screen sizes and OS versions.

> So for them, unless a whole category of device comes out, like a smart watch for example, they do not need to have every device to test.

Cue the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

You can test on a limited range, but you will hit handset specific bugs - its just a fact of life on Android.

I think a little barrier to entry is a good thing. App Store is saturated as it is.

But the only barrier is the $99 fee for the dev account. Register as an individual and it's "instant access." And that's why the App Store is saturated.

They set up the barriers the moment you want to register a company. Presumably so that you can't pretend to be representing someone else's company.

Right because who wouldn't want more choice? Those that got there first must obviously be better.

> Besides, have you tried Android recently? You might be suprised to discover that Android is better.

.. not yet for music apps. Even Google folks admit that [1]. This really can't wait any longer. Where is Garage Band for Android please? ... and to those saying "you can't complain only about music, look at the games, todo lists, blah blah", sorry music IS my domain and that's the only thing I care about.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3kfEeMZ65c

>1990 is calling… and it wants its product development cycle back.

In the early 1990s, many developers were using an OS called Unix, with esoteric tools like vi, make, sh, and emacs. They wrote software in ancient languages like C, C++, Python, and Objective-C. Their programs communicated over TCP/IP networks using sockets. If you were lucky enough to be working on a military contract, you would be exchanging documents using XML and HTML papa SGML.

Everyone suffered until the major breakthroughs of Javascript and PHP.

Huh? It was windows basically and iteration was depending on the App author.

In 1990 microsoftland, most people were still using DOS. Borland had Turbo Pascal and Turbo C products on the market for a number of years - vt100 style text menuing systems were still king in MS-DOS.

Windows 3.1 was released in 1992, which was the real starting adoption point for the majority of the market.

By that time, the NeXT computer had already been out for four years, the Mac and X Windows were eight.

I was actually just pointing out that software development, as a discipline hasn't advanced that much since 1990. The number of KLOCs freely available to use within your code has increased dramatically. The documentation (which was on paper pre-WWW) has improved exponentially. The tools, OSes and languages? Pretty much a plateau there since the mid 80s peak.

OK, you win. But you completely missed the point of 1990 in that post (hint: he meant windows)

Have you ever tried TestFlight for iOS testing/dev? I'm not saying the Apple process is perfect (I agree it sucks) but TestFlight makes getting test builds out much easier.

Semi-related rant: My sole experience with Apple Developer stuff was being forced to register as one to get some basic command-line tools on my Mac.

They made me complete a questionnaire about exactly which kinds of Apple products I wanted to develop for, and "none" wasn't an option. That's kind of a weird, Apple-centric worldview. "Errrm, I'm doing web development..."

You don't need to register as a developer to get the command line tools.

Some of the Java development tools (JNI-related stuff), oddly, used to require (free) registration. Don't think they do any more, though.

This is the most tiresome religious war. While it's interesting to compare and contrast development experiences between Android and iOS, this comment thread seems mostly a lot of outrage between partisans of both platforms. Which makes me wonder where devs who use PhoneGap and other bridge frameworks, or HTML5, feel about all of this.

The speed of pushing to the Play Store can't be overrated for startups. If you release an app that has a critical bug this is what happens:

iOS: Fix it, wait days-weeks for approval, push the update

Android: Fix it, wait 30 seconds, update pushed to everyone

If the bug is big enough, this can be the difference between losing all of your initial users and gaining critical mass.

Why don't they build a web app if they want to iterate faster?

The only thing web app can make you achieve faster is to reach end user. Anything else will be so much faster using native SDK it is not even funny (assuming you have equal knowledge of either technology).

Sure, but isn't that the key of Lean Startup, which is what OP was hammering on anyway?

Web apps do perform less optimally, but they are also platform independent and can be done quickly. Why not start there, make sure you are hitting the right user needs, then invest in app development?

Because they suck ass.

Android is for judicious, poor foreigners and not the hip kids that would pay 4x for a carwash ordered by phone. I recal the pruce gauging by travel companies who increase airfair by 10% when an Apple brpwser was detected.

Does this article need to exist? Who is this preaching to?

Check back in 1-2 years and see how much publishing to Play is any easier than Apple's App store. Google is adopting the Apple playbook more and more every day to ensure quality, security and consistency in the android ecosystem. The only difference is that Apple has had a head start by a few years and they have gone through the growing pains and issues that Google's play is starting to encounter.

Three words: high fidelity prototypes. You can use them irregardless of the process to distribute your application. You should already have customer feedback on your app before you even commit engineering resources to write production quality code, and there's no excuse not to be prototyping and getting customer feedback far before you release it to the app store for the masses.

i don't have much to say, but i develop camera apps and i also started with Android and then moved to iOS. The transition was swift because of iOS's screen sizes/resolutions were well defined and straight forward, no fragmentation manager was required to handle different screens.

Although i was using a single device for Android, i couldn't help but write a generic manager to handle different screens rather than hardcode my prototype to a single device. On the other hand, iOS screen and camera previews are hardcoded by design, and that saved me a lot of time.

Android being open source helped quite a bit, since i could borrow all that code from the stock camera app, but it was tedious to say the least. When i transitioned to iOS i was surprised how fast i got my basic camera app to work (few hours perhaps).

There are other reasons why i find iOS to be superior for prototyping (i have only touched on the camera preview issue). One other example is the relative documentation. iOS documentation gets you going much faster when working with the camera at least.

Just my 2 cents.

> release cycle of the App Store encourages the perfectionist in all of us to make it “done”

Isn't that exactly the reason for Apple's policies?

As Paul Graham said... http://paulgraham.com/apple.html

The artificial limitations around iOS are contrary to what developers should believe in -- the freedom to write and distribute software on a platform without approval from some central authority.

Despite the fact that iOS has much better design and comes with much better developer tools, Android is nowadays the better choice.

Since this is still floating around /best, I highly recommend http://hockeyapp.net/ SoundFocus is using it for their betas and it "just works" for distribution and updating. Feels like the app store too.

Having to make sure that everything is perfect before you ship

As a user, that sounds pretty good to me...

Sorry, but this is not a good article.

Instead of telling me what to do based on a small dataset of evidence, I'd much rather read what you have done. What worked for you. I don't think the author knows what he is talking about.

So every startup group should buy 300+ Android devices to test their application?

Wrong. Completely wrong. Stop trying this stupid wording fraud.

What the hell the Android means? The users? Or the cartel? Android users are never starving for beautiful apps. The Android cartel does. Android users always starving for free stuffs, not beautiful. What kind of idiot choose Android for beautiful apps instead of iOS which is already-existing and also proven? Android has no beautiful apps because the users don't want it.

Market share? Market share itself doesn't make money. Especially blind market is purely useless. This article is just a mutated clone of crappy meme: "Say market share, and never say how the market share will make money.". Even Google and telecoms are making more money on iOS.

Android is pretty attractive toy for a developer. But for business? No kidding.

I'd say Sailfish is for startups.

Android sucks

Another post on the top of Hacker News making the mistake of thinking paying customers give a crap about how easy it is to [write|deploy|test|debug] your app. Even with all the pain associated with the App Store people still write more apps for it than ever. Why? Cause people pay for apps there. They don't on the Play Store.

This is another post that seems to have missed the point of the linked article. The last graph I saw estimated total revenue from iOS apps was about 2x that of total Play Store revenue (though to be fair, this undercounts Android a little as you can monetize apps via Amazon et. al. too). And of course Android is growing much faster.

The contention in the linked article is that by pushing your "startup" app (which they imply to be a high quality app in a novel category) into the Android ecosystem first you can take advantage of the generally poorer app quality to get a "bigger piece of the pie". (This is the same argument that was made for years about Mac game development, btw.)

I'm not quite sure I buy all of that, but arguing against is has to be a lot more subtle than asserting that Android users "don't pay for apps".

The last graph I saw estimated total revenue from iOS apps was about 2x that of total Play Store revenue

If Google had sent that much to developers they'd be saying something. 90% of the data points we see are of the form:

My app made X on Android and 5-10X on iOS

I had to dig up a cite. This isn't the article that I remember looking at, but it's probably reporting the same number (specifically that iOS revenue is 2.3x that of Android): http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/31/android-in-app-downloads/

The reason those "data points" are skewed is psychology. No one is inspired to write a vitriolic blog post whining that their Android app only makes 73% as much as the iOS version. Nor is the iOS-centric HN echo chamber well equipped to give you a random sample of these things. And, frankly, lots of those bigger numbers are simply old. Android's market share is growing rapidly. Three years ago, I think 10x was probably correct.

One can tell that Apple have sent invites for a town hall event, the negative stories are ramping up.

> Nor is the iOS-centric HN echo chamber...

Read the comments here. The significant majority are pro-Android. The whole 'plucky little Android' schtick is extremely tiresome and frankly devalues your point. The "psychology" that you cite is basically confirmation bias, so beautifully illustrated by your comment.

Whilst Android is making gains is some markets, so Apple is in others. Apple is up before a hardware update in the UK, France and US, taking share away from Android.

2.3x is still very significant. Would you rather make 3k a month, or 6.9k a month? One of those is 36k a year. The other is 82.8k a year. I know which one I'd prefer.

Yet again, though, this is confusing revenue across the platform with revenue per app/developer/development-hour/etc... The contention in the linked article is that you can get a "bigger slice of the smaller pie" by being an early mover on Android. That may not be true, but you can't argue against it by shouting about the size of the pie as a whole.

The correct answer is to target both as 3.3 is significantly better than 2.3.

And 2.3 was 2.6 in January so for a really bad back of the envelope calculation we can guess 2.3 will be 1.0 sometime before 2017.

That could be true, but not necessarily. There is an opportunity cost to take into account. Is it better to port to the other platform, or just work on another app for the same platform?

I think there are lots of advantages and good reasons to target both, but as long as the majority of the revenue comes from iOS, it makes sense to target iOS first.

Also, lots can happen between now and 2017. 4 years ago nokia and blackberry were still competing. iOS or Android could in theory be small players in 4 years. (Note that I don't think that will be the case, but it's possible.)

My app made X on Android and 5-10X on iOS

Of the data points that in your circle you see, you mean? I've seen anecdotes recently of publishers making much more on the Android market. That's the thing about anecdotes.

The most recent stats are that they are closing very fast.

Where have you seen these anecdotes?

On here. There have been various front-pagers on here by people demonstrating better Android sales than iOS.

But it is incredibly variable. How are they marketed? Do they pander to the demographics? Do they take advantage of the platforms? Are they crowded segments on each platform? How does it compare to the incumbents in those segments? Etc. It is impossible to separate all of those, which is why such comparisons are usually bunk.

You missed the point as well. Author is a proponent of the lean startup approach to product development: customer development -> validation -> pivot -> mvp -> product market fit -> etc. It's not about customer caring how you're building your app, it's about building a product truly worth their while, while saving time and money. Author posits that as it stands, the iOS ecosystem hinders on that approach, while Android's encourages it or at least does not discourage it. Author notes that oddly enough, many startups still choose to go iOS first even as it makes less and less sense.

On a personal level, I'm currently witnessing the phenomenon. We're at the moment creating a mobile app for an organization. When development of the Android version ended, people at the organization chose to shun it and decided to rather wait to test the iOS version, thinking that delivery was just around the corner. It's been 3 months now.

The quantity in dollars is completely and utterly irrelevant to the validated learning lean startups need. The OP's point is that Android allows you to start learning sooner and faster and to produce a better app which will make you more money.

iOS might make you more money right now if you're lucky enough to chance on an app which matches what users already want, but even that ship may soon be sailing.

Suppose iOS apps pay two times as much on average right now. Tell me: what is two times one-tenth of what you should be earning? You're hobbling yourself by MUCH MORE building an app that inadequately addresses your user's needs.

This is all predicated on the idea that you being able to release apks easily gets users who care enough too give you valuable feedback that you can use to learn and improve your app faster.

There are more apps on the play store than the iOS store, and apks have always been easy to work with and had this same advantage.

If this advantage has always been present, why aren't the apps already better than iOS apps?

You've been able to share apks "forever" (since before the G1, I believe), but Google's official beta-testing framework (Play Store integration [don't even need unknown sources], rolling/controlled updates, beta test volunteers, etc. plus the pattern of tying that to a G+ community) is brand-new since I/O this year.

And it seems to be a compelling package - pretty much every app beta I care about has switched to it (even those that already had an existing off-Play-Store setup).

Just because you have potential does not guarantee you use it.

Many businesses started on iOS first, producing an Android version as an afterthought by contractors. Others produced a minimum viable product which made them money, so they felt no need to iterate. This means upstart competitors can easily take away the market share of established products. It's a good thing for startups.

So you're saying that there is an opportunity in the Android market because the apps are generally significantly worse than those in the iOS store?

I'm saying there's more opportunity because the expensive applications built by large developer teams are still being built for iOS first. Android is still an afterthought in some app categories.

Most successful startups began with a niche. Look at AirBNB's cheap conference attendees or Microsoft's Altair owners.

> They don't on the Play Store.

What is it that causes people to indulge in such hyperbole on this point? It's such an utterly ridiculous statement (obviously, people do buy things on the Play Store, there are plenty of paid apps with tens of thousands of purchases), yet it gets trotted out time and time again as an absolute as if it is an obvious accepted fact. How about a tiny bit of moderation:

"People pay for things less often on the Play Store"

You will sound a lot less like a troll.

Another comment on the top of a Hacker News post making the mistake of thinking that all good revenue sources are good revenue sources for startups.

Customers don't give a crap about how easy it is to [write|deploy|test|debug], but if you add a lot of friction to the iterative process, you take away a lot of the advantage a small startup might have over an established business operating in the same space.

Established businesses actually have a lot of efficiencies when it comes to maintaining the status quo and slowly evolving change, and the Apple AppStore model adds enough friction such that status quo and slowly evolving change are much more of the terrain than not.

Keep in mind the innovator's dilemma, and think about how startups exploit it. You want to pick some area where the established businesses aren't competitive, which has narrow margins, larger scale, faster development cycles... and then when you've got a lean and mean product, you go after the established territory.

People also write more apps for the Play Store than ever.

Users do care how easy it is to develop, they care by proxy when they choose the earlier to market, better designed or most inovative one.

Android has just passed 1 million apps (so clearly more apps are added to Android, faster), and has more app downloads than Apple now. It's also just passed 1 billion devices.

Whatever the story of Android has been in the passed, things are rapidly changing, and it's better to be there first, instead of coming in later to an established competition.

It looks to me like the trend on the iOS app store is also downwards to the cheap/free end - i.e. a race to the bottom. My paid niche app ($5) used to get a couple of downloads a week. I made it free for one week, during which I got about 500 downloads. There is interest, but no willingness to pay for it. I think the overall statistic of $5B paid to devs with about 500,000 apps on the app store gives an average of $10k per app. So one app can get you, what, one month's salary? Even that's rosy I think, 'cos the distribution is not uniform but a long tail exponential, which means the me-the-solo-dev is more likely to fall on the tail than near the elite end of the exponential.

Bottom line is that I'm beginning to think that a mobile-only company strategy is likely to be doomed. Anyone thinks otherwise?

> Why? Cause people pay for apps there. They don't on the Play Store.

Is this based on your opinion, or what?

There's some evidence of that here: http://blog.appannie.com/app-annie-index-market-q2-2013/

People on iOS are more willing to buy apps and do more in-app purchases but the gap doesn't seem that wide to bridge, especially as iOS users move to Android.

I think a lot of that comes from the iTunes gift cards that everybody seems to get for Christmas, Birthdays, etc. I purchased my first app with "real" money a month or two ago for android.

Even if it's true, I don't think developers care if the money they got at the end of the month comes from a gift card or a credit card.

Google Play gift cards exist too, I don't know if you can buy music with it though, if not it's logic that iTunes cards sells better.

Nobody knows that Google Play gift cards exist.

I've been using Android since I got rid of the iPhone 3G (circa Nexus One), and this thread is the _first_ time I've heard of it being available.

Google Play gift cards have been available less than a month in most of the world. I'm not sure when they were first made available in the US.

Google Play gift cards in the US go back to August 2012, IIRC.

To clarify the parent comment, I see iTunes gift cards for sale at grocery store checkout lines. Perfect spontaneous purchases. Where do you even buy a Google Play gift card?

I see them at Safeway and Target here in Mt. View all the time. My location might be relevant though :)

In Australia I've seen them in BigW (kinda a Kmart/Walmart equivalent).

There is some research that backs up the claim.


"the mistake of thinking paying customers give a crap about how easy it is to [write|deploy|test|debug] your app"

In general I agree but if those things have a material effect on how good the app is (e.g. "focused" functionality) then I think the customers would "give a crap".

I think this article is more directed at startups that are offering some kind of mobile mostly functionality, they should think about doing development Android first.

Tests about different directions to take, or anything, really, are much simpler with a faster turnaround.

Agreed. Best developer platform != best platform for your startup

Your [potential] users & their value should drive the platform decision.

While I entirely agree with your lead in, your last bit is very "where the puck was" thinking.

Two years ago the Play store yielded 1/10th the revenue of the App Store, by common metrics. One year ago it was 1/4. The most recent stat is 1/2 -- still months old. Do you see where this is going?

The #1 source of revenue for many games and other media on the App Store is via gifted iTunes cards. This is a mechanism that is only now finding its way to Android.

"Two years ago the Play store yielded 1/10th the revenue of the App Store, by common metrics. One year ago it was 1/4. The most recent stat is 1/2 -- still months old. Do you see where this is going?"

Yes, the Play Store revenue may be gaining on iTunes revenue. -- but per-app revenue in The Play Store has not necessarily grown. Revenue growth indicates nothing without the number of apps on each platform. Since the Play Store has more apps than iTunes, we cannot reliably correlate an increasing revenue (and a decreasing revenue differential) with increasing per-app revenue.

In fact, per-developer revenue represents more useful data than per-app revenue. Since the developer (firm or individual) pays the cost of residing on the platform, he also recoups the revenue. He can decide to reinvest revenue in more apps. Therefore we should not exclude developers with multiple apps from our model. So we use per-developer revenue instead of per-app revenue.

What is the per-developer revenue of The Play Store and iTunes?

Gotta agree.

Developers are motivated by per-DEVELOPER revenue...

not per-APP STORE revenue.

It's just crass selfishness... but there it is.

> It's just crass selfishness... but here it is.

Are you being sarcastic?

The Play store has more apps, so the per-app revenue has not necessarily grown

The overwhelming majority of apps on both platforms are free. Among what I could charitably call "pay-worthy" apps, my personal impression is that there are probably a magnitude more on the iOS platform. Indeed, this submission seems to talk to that, pointing out that there is more of an opening for quality apps on Android.

I've never respected any number of apps metric because they are overwhelmingly chaff.

I salute you, because those metrics are garbage. Also, that's the point that I hearkened to the most as well, the screenshots of those apps hit home all my kind of janky android apps that work great and I love... but could easily be beaten by a bit of concerted effort.

I know there are a lot of arguments AGAINST the play store, but this is quite real and imo quite valid.

I'd also add that Apple had a head start on doing payments in many countries. Google is catching up in this respect as well. If Google were to promote paid apps a bit more, we could see developer revenue parity a year or so.

It is also a bit comical that iTunes Connect is down today.

"Two years ago the Play store yielded 1/10th the revenue of the App Store, by common metrics. One year ago it was 1/4. The most recent stat is 1/2 -- still months old. Do you see where this is going?"

Sure: I see that, if I'm releasing an app this year, I should target iOS first because Android is a distant second.

(And can I say that I continue to hate the "puck" quote and, while it was a mildly clever over-generalization when Jobs used it, nowadays it seems mostly to be used as a kind of pompous way to say nothing useful whatsoever. Which is to say: In a few years everyone's going to be freakin' tired of that quote and so continuing whip it out is very "where the puck was.")

Fascinating commentary about the "puck" quote, which existed decades before Jobs ever uttered it (did he? I know it as a quote that Gretzky's father told #99. Even that is unnecessary attribution, as it is fundamental training that every kid learns about hockey, and the wisdom is as old as the sport). The point of it, your personal hang-ups about it notwithstanding, is obvious: When a market is changing quickly, if you're undertaking a project that is going to take time -- which pretty much all mobile projects do -- you target where the market will be when you hit it, not where it was last year, or even right now.

if I'm releasing an app this year, I should target iOS first because Android is a distant second

Personally I target both "first", because the tools and methods to do so are simple and effective. However if you are somehow making Absolutely Median Software, then sure. Reality tends to be dramatically more nuanced, and such a blanket statement is almost certainly naive nonsense.

>> Personally I target both "first", because the tools and methods to do so are simple and effective.

I thought cross-platform development creates less quality apps.

Could you please share what tools and methods are you talking about?

"Reality tends to be dramatically more nuanced, and such a blanket statement is almost certainly naive nonsense."

Indeed, which is why I dislike the "puck" bromide, regardless of who popularized it.

Care to elaborate on the iTunes cards thing??

It is not just a 50 USD card (or other similar values) that people buy and gift around? What this has to do with games?

I rarely spend money on the app store, but if I get a card I'll buy many more apps and games than I otherwise would have.

Kids don't have credit cards connected to their iTunes account, and thus receive iTunes gift cards for music, which they turn around and use for apps, IAPs for games, etc.

I don't have any source for that, or even necessarily believe it (I don't disbelieve it either) ... I'm just pointing out what OP meant by that comment.

iTunes cards are a hugely popular gift for children / teenagers / college kids, quickly exchanged for fart apps and in app smurfberries. The nascent Google simile of this is still minuscule in comparison, making gifting in the Android market a much less pleasant affair. I would gather that the KitKat promotion is partly to help spread awareness of Play cards.

As a second effect, people don't think of things like iTunes cards as real money. Give someone $50 on an iTunes cards and, I suspect, it will see much less discretion than a $50 bill.

I see...

I was wondering about it...

Gift cards do not exist on my country, neither on my target markets, thus why I was kinda confused about it!

Can you please clarify with some references where you got that from .. and whether that trend you mention is not because the revenues on iOS are also going down?

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