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As the revenue gap to iOS shrinks, why aren't developers supporting Android tablets?

Posted: , posted by Michael H.

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Developer support

Regardless of how you feel about either platform, the numbers are showing the same trend that we saw with smartphones: Apple jumped out to a fast start, but over the long haul Android just keeps coming. The iPhone has dropped precipitously in market share (although Apple is still raking in huge profits from the device), and the iPad is losing ground as well.

Between the Nexus line, the various Samsung Galaxy Tabs, and the Asus line of Android tablets, there is plenty of choice for quality Android hardware. The customers are there for Android, and they are spending more and more money in the Google Play Store, so the question remains: Why are developers so slow to support 10" Android tablets?

The development tools are available to make an Android app that easily scales between phones and tablets via responsive design, but for some reason, developers are still slow to update apps to take advantage of the new hardware on the market. There are really only two reasonable explanations that we can think of for this:

1) There is a delay between consumer adoption and developer support. Honeycomb was the lost time for Android, and can't really count because it was so divorced from everything else. So, if we take Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as the real beginning of 10" Android tablets (as consumers seem to have done), the proper universal Android SDK has only really been on the market for a year, and proper 10" Android tablets didn't arrive until around February of this year.

Android had built up to about 40% of the tablet market as of the end of last year, but that was mostly due to 7" tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Barnes & Noble Nook. Android 10" tablets have really only been seeing relative success in the market for the past 8 or 9 months. That should still be enough time for the major app developers to update apps for larger screens (we're looking at you: Twitter and Dropbox). So, the other possibility is:

2) The numbers aren't changing opinion. As we said, the numbers that show Android closing the revenue gap aren't firm. But, the numbers showing Android closing the market share gap for tablets are definitely real, and the numbers showing Android taking the lead on smartphones are also real. Even though the numbers we have for app revenue aren't solid, more users means more app purchases and more app revenue, so it is hard to think the numbers are that far off.

Of course, even if the numbers are accurate, the prevailing media storyline tends to be that the iPad rules the market, and Android still gets an incorrect reputation for not generating much as far as app revenue. If developers don't bother to look into the facts, that could be enough to sway them.


Ultimately, it seems like the issue should be getting filtered out over the next year. Android tablets are more than likely going to continue to gain market share (even if there is a short-term gain for Apple with the release of the iPad mini), and developers are going to have fewer excuses for not making proper tablet apps.

There are of course more tablet apps for Android than people tend to realize because most Android apps are universal and not split up as often as is found on iOS, but it still isn't enough. Trying to say the 10" app ecosystem for Android is sufficient is like claiming the 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store covers the same selection as the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. There are going to be notable blind spots that need to be addressed.

We expect that the Android tablet app ecosystem will be spurred on with the release of the Nexus 10 (just as Google hopes), and soon enough, this won't be a story anymore. But, for now, it is still an issue, and one that will frustrate many first time Android tablet buyers.

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