[Opinion] Android is better, and American startups need to realize that



One of the issues with writing opinion posts on a site like Phandroid is that nobody outside the community takes you too seriously. “You’re just a fanboy” is the usual reception I would receive, without paying attention to the argument I had made.

When Twitter’s experience designer Paul Stamatiou wrote his now famous Android is better blog post, I was delighted for two reasons. One, of course, is how much attention it got, which can only be good for the platform on the whole. Secondly, it felt like a personal victory to find someone like him using the same arguments I often use. Additionally, coming from a well-respected experience designer, it felt like an endorsement for what I wrote about a month ago in this post:

This culture, coupled with the openness of the Android platform, is why today I often recommend product designers and managers that I meet to switch to Android. Thanks to the work of apps covered in Uniquely Android, many of whom have seen their features being copied to the manufacturer ROMs, I believe that the User Experience we now get is far beyond anything possible anywhere else. Heck, even most iPhone fans seem to agree.

As an indie-developer, I often find myself thinking of experiences that I would never have even considered a year or so ago. Apps shouldn’t “just function”, as I thought before, but go deeper and really amaze the user. 

But, as things are on the internet, every viral blog post spawns numerous others that try to poke some sort of holes in the first. While I typically try to ignore them, TechCrunch’s Startups Apparently do not care that Android is better was one that I couldn’t. To her credit, Sarah Perez did get most of her facts spot on (the only one that really caught my eye was the statement that Android has 800,000 apps, while in truth it had crossed 1 million over a month ago). Also, it should be noted that she wants to see more companies going Android-first, having often tried to quit the iPhone for a Nexus, only to be pulled back due to a lack of apps.

First, going right to the end of Sarah’s post and inspecting her list of iOS-only apps, I noticed that there were a lot more “apps” and few “startups” over there, and the distinction between the two is very important. That “few” is still a few too many in my eyes, but it’s important to accurately portray the picture, especially since a lot of those apps have Android equivalents in terms of capabilities, if not popularity.

What was the serious flaw with the post, though, was that Sarah’s definition of startups seemed to be limited to a bubble that only consists of America, which is common amongst those in Silicon Valley. Globally, however, the trend to me seems to be changing drastically. I am an Entrepreneur in Residence with India’s TLabs startup accelerator (run by Times of India, the country’s largest media network), and the entire batch are focused almost exclusively on Android. It’s quite obvious why they would: Android has 80% of the global smartphone sales.

And, I can’t emphasize this enough, ignore these global startups at your own risk. Innovation doesn’t exist in the US of A alone. more often we’re seeing great products from outside. And these companies are often healthier than their American counterparts, because they rarely get to implement a “we’ll generate revenue later” attitude like you get to in the US. The stickers that Path wants to make money from? That’s copied from the Japanese messaging app Line who made $17 million in the first quarter alone from them.

Sarah highlighted the benefits of going Android-first quite well, too. Besides the fact that more and more people are using Android, we have Google Play’s accelerating growth in terms of developer payouts and a greater chance to reach the top of the charts. Any.Do, for example, greatly used this lower competition to build a brand.

To those, I would add what is, in my opinion, the greatest advantage of all: alpha/beta testing from Google Play as well as being able to publish without needing an approval first. The first got HUGE cheers from the audience at Google I/O in May, while the second allows for very quick iteration. These companies need to build, measure and fix at a rate that Apple’s App Store restrictions simply does not allow.

So, if you’re an American startup, I can’t advise you enough to give Android a serious look. There isn’t one formula, as some might have you believe. Your choice depends on a several factors, such as the talent you have, the users you are targeting, the technology requirements for the platform, etc. If someone tells you that iOS is better, without giving any reasons, try to find out why. But, as a general rule, I would say that Android probably is.

Raveesh Bhalla

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  1. Most people go with iOS though because there’s more MONEY in that market than Android. In terms of people paying for apps.

    1. What do you mean? You would think that there would be more money to be made with Android rather than iOS, since there are far more devices running Android globally than devices running iOS.

      Also, it’s not about paying for apps. Lets say a company on Kickstarter has this great technology-driven product and requests donations/funds. Most companies that I’ve come across only support iOS initially, and made their app free (to go with their product). Examples include an LED bulb that can change the color and the color temperature through Bluetooth with their app. This has always baffled me, since there are more Android users than iOS.

      If it’s only limited to app purchases, then yes. You’re right, since I remember a statistic about iOS users willing to pay for apps more than Android users. But it extends far beyond that.

      1. You guys are just going by number of users than a consistent platform. Apple only releases a few different phones. App comatiblity is a huge thing if you are starting off. Right now I can guarantee my app will work on almost every iPhone 4 now-current. Can’t say the same with the Samsung Vibrant. Android has severe compatiblity issues. I have a Nexus 7 and a lot of crap (Modern Combat 4) WON’T PLAY.
        Android honestly isn’t the best platform to launch on.

      2. There are incredibly high numbers of piracy in India and China for paid apps. And the iphone is more popular in markets like the US and Canada where free apps that support new technology would be adopted more quickly to turn a profit.

    2. Yes, because many ios users are rich, dumb cash cows. Simple as that.

  2. Generally iOS is much better choice especially if you are talking about US startups targeting US market and I’m saying that as a Android user and developer (currently: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bytestorm.artflow ) with more than 4yr of experience.

    There are two main factors: development cost and monetization potential. Development cost is higher on Android due to device diversification and this is really significant cost if you are operating on low level (that is BT, GPU, audio etc) – my app release slipped by two months due to time needed to workaround bugs on different devices. Notable exception are games developed with crossplatfom engines (that’s why big titles are launched simultaneously or with only slight delay accounting for additional QC).

    Second factor is monetization – while it’s true that global market share for Android is around 80% in US it’s just 50% and iOS is 40% and for lucrative high end market iOS is clear leader in every single project I was involved 50%+ of revenue was generated from US (there are of course notable exceptions targeting local market, especially in Asia) if we are talking about US startups targeting US market there’s really no choice – iOS is only way to go.
    You are mentioning 1M application – and this is in fact very bad – since Play is flooded with crap (case in point: http://www.appbrain.com/stats/number-of-android-apps) this effect in tremondus problems with discoverabilty hurting monetization potential even more.

    Now there are of course exception: games (mentioned earlier), Android specific applications (keyboards, widgets etc) or application target on specific niche (this was a case in my app: ArtFlow), but apart of that Android is worst and will be at least for some time so don’t expect that trend of “being second target” change anytime soon.

  3. Google needs to do three things:

    1) Make an strategy for bringing the best iOS developers to Android. Those who refuse to create the Android version of their apps. For example: The creators of Tweetbot and Infinity Blade.

    2) Make an strategy for making the developers optimize their apps for Android tablets.

    3) Invent something like a universal optimization for making a lot of Android devices (including those which have custom UI’s like Sense and Optimus UI) work with strong GPU Acceleration (both 2D and 3D) and even multicore optimization(that includes both CPU and GPU cores). So that means all the Android smartphones even those which have custom UI’s will be as smoothly as an iOS device or better (and that includes the Games and their graphics).

    1. Point 3) is not possible and for point 1) and 2) there is really no incentive for Google so this won’t happen.

      1. Everything is possible in this life. The only thing that is not possible in this life is to be immortal, and maybe that could become possible, too…

        1. It’s not possible to add 2 and 2 and get 5 and similarly it’s not possible to “invent universal optimization”

          1. Tell that to Thomas Alva Edison.

          2. Obviously the things Edison did were possible. I think his point literally is that it is not possible no matter how hard someone trys. That would be why he used the example of 2+2 never equaling 5.

          3. In math there are things that are not possible, but in life things are different and possible.

          4. And computer code would be what genius?

          5. Computer code is like Plasticine, you can transform it in whatever you want.

          6. No computer code is like math, “exactly” like math. Would I love to see a way for what you were talking about sure but the bottom line is that isn’t going to happen. How often does one size fit all really work out. It will still take some effort on a developers part to make their app work well across multiple devices.

          7. Yeah, that’s the fourth thing I forgot, compatibility. How about Universal Compatibility?

          8. And how about a ponny?

          9. How about Google closing Android or selling it to canonical?

          10. Just digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole.

          11. Well, time will tell… If that’s the case I will give up on iOS devices soon. But I have the hope that at least Google will learn from its mistakes, and I hope Google is listening to their critics.

          12. Nope, because I’m just inside a debate.

          13. It’s not a debate if you are uninformed about facts. iOS and android are both run on code. Code IS math. Make no mistakes about that.

          14. OK, then I have a question. Which of these three types of people is open minded? The people that use iOS devices only, the people that use Android devices only or the people that use both iOS and Android devices (I’m talking about smartphones and tablets).

          15. So now you want to generalize all users based on their OS preference which may or may not have been by choice? With that logic, then people who don’t use smart phones have no minds. Right?

          16. People who don’t want to use smartphones can be either open minded or not. Its their thinking. I’m talking about those who know about these two OS’s.

          17. That’s still fundamentally incorrect to broadly classify people into either category. That’s like asking what race is more prone to committing a crime? Or which race is a worse driver? Or which race is cheap. Even if you could classify people, asking which OS user is more open minded doesn’t tell you anything conclusive.

          18. So that means my question will go directly to the most stupid questions in Yahoo Answers?

          19. If that’s what you want. AndreKP2124, deleting your comment only changes your name to “Guest”.

          20. That’s what I hate. But well… 10,000 people will see my stupidities but not 40,000…

          21. Nah, not stupid. Just keep it to facts and you can have a solid argument. I will say that from the people I’ve met, Android users have traditionally been more tech savvy. I’m sure it can differ from region to region. Although as it’s becoming more and more popular, it’s reaching out to all kinds of users.

        2. “universal optimization” by definition is not optimization. Optimizing for something is highly targeted to get the most out of something. This “universal optimization” is called “making android better” and Google is doing that without saying.

      2. OK so his point 3 is like saying “Cure world hunger by making a lot of food, problem solved”. Possible or not (not…) he tried hiding his lack of understanding by peppering in words like GPU and acceleration.

        But point 1 and 2 are both valid statements and completely possible. I will also point out to you that a large number of the developers that have not made the jump to Android are strictly paid apps. Paid apps are a HUGE incentive to Google as that is pure profit, they host a 32MB file and get to make money from it whenever someone downloads it. Do not forget that Android is also home to the largest user base of mobile device owners. Google advertises and makes money from those people. $$$ is incentive enough for them to try and get some of the big fish over to Android.

        If there was no incentive to get more developers on board the Google would have given up on Android before they made it their flagship product.

        1. I’m Android developer and I’m developing on Android since G1 days (currently: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bytestorm.artflow ) and I’m totally aware that there are multiple different monetization models – what I’m saying is that iOS is better platfom to launch on (with some exception) and will be for at least near future. I laid out reasons for that and discussed some exception in my previous post and I really do not want to reiterate it once again.

          You got you fact wrong – app sales are minuscule revenue for Apple (1B per year so less than 1%) and even smaller for Google – so no, they really do not care about sales per se.
          What I’m saying is that Google will not do anything about quality (which is shitty, once again: http://www.appbrain.com/stats/number-of-android-apps ) and quantity (which still missing a lot high profile entries when compared to iOS) of Play apps because they do not have to – they already achived what they wanted – high adoption rate, commodization and defense of they core (and truly flagship) buisinnes: ads.

      3. Business is not a game where people set goals and meet them. There is always the next thing, and Google has every reason to expand their market to tablets even more than what it has now. The people on their devices at this moment are spending significantly less per user on apps than they are on ios. Say what you want about margins but on the scale of millions of users, pennies start adding up.

        The closest thing you said to any reason I could find (in another post not pertaining to this thread here) is that “Android devices are still plagued with problems”. Oh and you mentioned that radios and specific features need to be accommodated for.

        My only argument for ios in this discussion is that it has a huge userbase installed. Say what you want about fragmentation but I for one have done plenty of texture work for developers working off a $200 nexus 7 and an on contract GSIV. And no issues with fragmentation in any of the 4 games I have assisted on or the 2 productivity apps they have released. We are starting on our first app that requires GPS and Map data but have had good luck so far getting raw data from the GPS on phones from the major OEMS.

        Also ads are not their flagship. That is their main source of income. They are not selling me ads, I am not the consumer in that scenario, it is their android platform that they market and promote and sell. Ads will not need to be pushed, they can place ads wherever they want why would they market it?

    2. You mean, like giving more impetus to custom rom development and making them legit.

      1. I don’t think so. I think it is not good, especially because of AddBlocks and app sideloading(piracy)… I know that happens to iOS… A person that I know got an iOS app that costs 49$ for free in his iPhone and his iPhone is obviously jailbroken. That’s something that developers hate.
        Google can also tell the manufacturers to give app on their Custom UI and keep their phones the most stock as possible. That worked with Windows Phone and that made every manufacturer be optimized and smooth by only being in the same Metro UI.
        If Google do that and it works, then maybe developing for Android might become easier than before and at the same time the other manufacturers might be able to upgrade new Android versions pretty faster and make their devices future-proof(If Google makes the next Android updates with pretty small requirements in hardware, like they are doing with Key Lime Pie. Key Lime Pie will work with phones that have a minimum of 512MB RAM). A good example of that if what they are doing with Motorola. Motorola have its own modifications in the UI, but it keeps being as close as stock.
        Google can also take the strategy from Apple when they shown their iOS 7. Their strategy not only copies some functions from other OS’s but also takes some great tricks that are made from jailbroken iPhones. If Google makes the Stock Android with modifications that only Cyanogemod or other custom roms can do like modifying the toggle widgets in the second notification bar, then BAM!, things can become pretty better.

  4. I agree with everything android is better in all but one area, and Im an android only guy, and that’s pro-audio, FL studio coming to android was a answer of a prayer, but the sheer lack of the major audio developers developing for android is major problem in my opinion, so many creatives won’t give android a try for that reason alone. Also I love Adobe and I’m down with the creative cloud but they don’t support android on the level that they do iOS either, if Google can get the creative apps at least the big names I think they could sway a lot more development and grow androids use with creative professionals

    1. agreed. there is too much latency to make pro audio work on android. Also, since there is no dominating form factor, manufacturers are hesitant to make accessories.

      1. I definitely concur with hardware asscesories, but if IK multimedia can do it, than its possible, but if all your customers are on ios than why bother seems to be attitide towards android in the creative space, but if several major apps could come aboard like native instruments or Steinberg it can at least get the ball moving

        1. I can see this happening soon more artists taking up android in the past few months. I think it is going to take a big push from an OEM to make some of these companies follow suit. It would have to be a huge advertising stunt and collaboration. For instance if Samsung were to come out and say they have partnered with Monster Audio to bring some pro audio apps to their devices for an exclusive period of time it would be a huge start. Other companies will start working on ports.

          1. I defiitly think google would have to lead the charge in that regards like maybe bring ASIO to android or making android cable of running industry Pro-audio standard protocols, ie lets say VST effects and instruments natively on Android, although i’m not sure if mobile devices are powerful enough to do that, I doubt an Arm chip can handle what normal Intel chips can do in terms of processing power

    2. Except this is not one area – this is everything that operate on near hardware level, be it audio, GPU, borderline optimization, bluetooth, camera or even sensor data processing – and that’s cover a big chunk of application.

      1. I would have to concur, hopefully Google can use the nexus line and Motorola to answer some of these plaguing issues

    3. comeon! chuckles87 in his post declared that its all over and there is a winner. No room for gray area or thought.

  5. In my opinion android’s only flaw is a central music system, hopefully “play music” can manage to take this but its restricted by carriers because of data limits/service and the phones on board memory as opposed to itunes. that is the only reason why i didn’t get rid of my ipod.

    1. Care to elaborate?

      1. ITunes on Iphones is simple, clear easy to use and can be managed by your computer. Each android manufacture has their own music player and it’s too complicated

        1. The gift and the curse of android: choice.

          1. Well said !

        2. Google music? I’ve used it on every single android phone I’ve owned since its release and it works great.

          1. That’s what he’s saying. There’s Play/Google Music, then there’s all the different music players that the varying manufacturers stick on their phones, then there’s all the 3rd party ones from the Play Store. There’s almost too many options, as opposed to the simplicity of iTunes/the music player on iOS (is that also called iTunes?) where there is only one music player. He’s hoping that Play/Google Music will become that “one” solution, and all the manufacturers will stop throwing in their version of their music player.

          2. but it can be the solution. boot your phone up install play music and forget about any other music app on your phone

          3. And then we run into the issue of an app that is rarely (if ever) used, taking up space and maybe the possibility of running in the background, as many carrier/manufacturer bloatware apps do.

          4. Never happen. But he’s free to simply use it and ignore the rest.

          5. Since ICS less and less manufacturers are putting their own music players on phones. With JB I haven’t seen a phone sold in the states that doesn’t have Google music player.

          6. But the point is, manufacturers are still including their own players in addition to Play Music. This creates confusion for the average consumer. Most of my friends that have Androids have NO CLUE that Google offers music, because it isn’t widely advertised. They’re all under the impression that the Play Store is solely for apps and games. I’m not sure why they’ve never looked into the other tabs on the Play Store though. Maybe they think it’s too expensive?

          7. Yeah. Don’t know why either. They will download free apps till their fingers fall off but won’t click on the music tab.

          8. So every phone then has Google Music, whatever music player the manufacturer threw on there, and possibly a favorite music player (other than the previous two) of the user’s. That’s possibly 3 music players (and the possibility exists for there to be more of course) on one device, and some would argue that that’s one too many.

          9. Perhaps. My wife has a moto and i have an LG and only one that came with the phone (from Verizon) is Google Music Player.

          10. So too complicated and too many choices for these simple people?

          11. I’m not sure who you’re referring to when you say “these people”, but yes. Some people don’t like a myriad of choices and instead only want one or (maybe) two solutions to any one problem. Some people want it extremely straightforward, and I hate to say it, but sometimes, that’s just not the case with Android.
            As lookatmyfunnyusername succinctly put it: “The gift and the curse of android: choice.”

        3. iTunes is the worst part of the Apple experience. By that, I mean the PC-centric app, not the app on the iPod/iPhone/iPad.

        4. Choice is hard — please spoon feed me.

  6. Android is better is fact not opinion

    1. Go say that in The Verge or PhoneArena.

      1. Haha I hate those sites but I think I should

        1. all those sites were once on my favorites… not anymore. I never visit those sites unless it’s somehow linked.

      2. or CNET lol

        1. or BGR…

      3. Maybe not. I’m not going to sign up to a new service just to post a comment

        1. What are the risks of signing up those sites?

    2. Glad your world is fully defined (aka myopic)

    3. Its an opinion not a fact.

  7. So more lag and malware = better?

    1. You are sad, Phakeman.

  8. It’s pretty amazing that raveesh is such an unabashed fan boy that he even considers android apps to be people. I just have to tip my hat.

  9. I can’t agree more. While Android may not have been perfect back in the day (was still a die hard fan since day one regardless) it has surpassed iOS. Here in the states though, we are still battling the stigma that Android and it’s devices are plagued with problems.

    1. Android devices are still plagued with problems – this is a fact not an opinion. It’s not as server from user perspective but as a developer I have to take into account and in effect a lot of startups choose iOS as lunch platform.
      As a user a choose Android despite that. I’m heavily invested in Google services and having less app is not a deal breaker but users should be aware that this state of affairs won’t change anytime soon.

  10. Dev cost for Android is higher than iOS (many device to test) and Android app can’t create buzz as iOS app.

    Day 1 in Apple App Store – This app is great!, It’s look fantastic. give 5 star.
    Day 1 in Google Play – Your app is suck. Always closed in XXX YYY model. give 1 star.

    as Start-up dev cost is important, you can’t spend money and money and big money then wait for hell.

    1. I thought I was the only one that realised there are many many problems with Google Play. People always give 1 stars for stupid reasons “1 star, this app works but I hate it.” Menial stuff. Drives me insane.

  11. Android IS better… for mobile advertising. Great article on this at MMWA over the weekend. Look at how devs are making big $$ on Android with Airpush, MM, and other ad networks that are banking on Android’s superiority. Hell yeah! http://makingmoneywithandroid.com/2013/08/why-android-may-soon-be-the-dominant-platform-for-mobile-advertising/

  12. Comparing android with iphone is like comparing coca-cola with tea. While the former is a specific brand, the latter is a community that comprises of many vendors. Thus there are various comments highlighting the same problem(not running on device XYZ).
    I wouldn’t subscribe to your views of X is better than Y as a lot of people prefer apple as well.

    1. That was a weird comparison. But tea is amazing.

  13. I love android but all this security and email issues with gmail makes me want to get a .me account or a more secure email service and only use my gmail account to purchase apps and run my android phone.

  14. Using Android is great – iOS is torture for me. But… developing for Android is really hard! Fragmentation might not matter to users, but it is a very real and big concern for developers. Especially those who want to do a good job with their apps, and not just put out crap that “mostly works” on “most systems”.

    1. Experience (iOS Android) and that means apps (iOS > Android).

  15. I’m sharing this.

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  18. This article was nonsense full of incorrect and false statements about iOS. You have to wonder about the tie in to Twitter and Samsung too.

  19. As a developer myself, Sadly I say Android is NOT “Better”. I borderline HATE apple, but that’s what everyone develops for. I’m car shopping right now, and you wanna GUESS how many cars have features that work with the iPhone ONLY? Quite a few. You know WHY? Because of that fragmentation! Not just in hardware, then in OS versions, but CRAP Roms that are FORCED on users with certain carriers (I’m looking at YOU Verizon!). Until ALL Android users have the Freedom to use a UNIVERSAL Android OS and get FULL Control of their phones, iPhone will still be the one developed for when it’s interfacing with anything beyond a TOY. It’s THAT simple.

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