Why apps launch iOS only, even in 2015.

Big news – Twitter just launched Periscope, their video live-streaming app, a few weeks after Meerkat, a competitor doing the same thing, made massive waves (although Twitter acquired Periscope in January for $100m apparently, so no surprise that Twitter will kill Meerkat). This also comes on the back of Instagram launching “Layout from Instagram”, which is wholly less innovative but equally an important service for Instagram – slightly odd that it’s not integrated into their app, but I’m sure there is logic there somewhere.

But both of these brand-new, launched-in-2015 apps are iOS only.

Android users are frustrated – Instagram even called it out, presumably knowing that it would be a frequent question:

Layout from Instagram will be available for Android in the coming months.

Periscope hasn’t announced a date or planned time (even vague). A few people have noted that they seem to have hired their first Android developer in mid-March:

So why does it matter?

Well, Android holds the dominant marketshare in almost every market worldwide. Nielsen’s US data found 51.7% of smartphones were Android, and 43.4% iOS. No prizes for guessing why startups don’t launch Windows Phone apps from day 1 though 😉


Other markets have an even further skew, with Brazil apparently at 92% Android saturation, and China having 40% of all Android phones in the world (!) and an 80% phone market share (some iOS, others dumbphone maybe?).

So why don’t startups start with Android apps? I’m making a guess here, but I think that it comes down to the technology adoption lifecycle (below).


Who are the innovators and early adopters? What platform do they use?

I’m guessing the logic here is that most of the early adopters are iOS users, and it’s better to grab them and make them become advocates of the app/service early than to try and pander to the majority, many of whom will rightfully ask “so what does this actually do? what is it for?”. It’s the role of those early users to iron out the kinks, work out the actual use case(s), and start the online chatter.

Update: @taybenlor on Twitter also points out that the cost is apparently higher to produce apps on Android, and suggests having a look at this article. While I agree cost may be a barrier, the first point about market share no longer holds true (post was from 2013). Added complexity!

This is an issue we went through with Schedugram‘s in-the-pipeline mobile app. We’re actually going for a hybrid approach, developing on a single platform, and we can get away with it (hopefully) because our service is very data-driven (tables and tables) and ultimately the user interface of a B2B app is less important (still important, but less so) than for a consumer app. When I surveyed our customers about what platform they would like to see a Schedugram app on, we had a pretty much even split – so from what I have seen, social media managers are representative of the underlying population – a bit of a surprise to me as most that I know are Apple lovers.

So what does this mean for businesses and government?

In reality, it means Android is a platform not to be ignored. They are certainly very vocal about services that are iOS only (see conversation on Twitter already about Periscope and Android), and the data doesn’t lie – they make up a lot of the population.

If you deliver services to people (e.g. government) this means that Android is something you absolutely can’t ignore. You can approach the issue in a number of different ways, like NSW Transport opting to open their underlying data and encourage developers to make apps for either platform, or using cross-platform libraries and approaches (like Telerik, Ionic, Cordova/PhoneGap – topic for another post!). Or, of course, you can build an app on each platform, which is time consuming but may end up being more cost-effective given how easy it is to find people who can write code for each platform.

But let’s not forget that there is one thing that is common between Android and iOS: the web browser. While apps are really useful in situations where you need to use phone functions like the camera, gyroscope or push notifications, mobile HTML5 websites can perform many of the features you would put in an app – and then you have a website as well 😉 .

Not everything needs to be an app, often a website will do fine. Of course, websites mean no (or little) offline access, or access to advanced features – but how often will your end-users be filling out an online form while offline, and need to sync it when online? I would hazard a guess to say not too often at all.

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