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Which Android Version Should Developers Target?

Monetization of the Android app market is generally following an upward trend: each successive release of the platform tends to be more profitable for developers than the last. But that doesn't mean that those developers should only target the latest version of the platform.

That's the finding of an analysis done by mobile advertising company Tapjoy. The study, called "Android Fragmentation: How to Pick the Right OS", includes a chart that shows Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for each iteration of Android, from 1.0 "Astro" to the latest, 4.1 "Jelly Bean". Jelly Bean has by far the highest ARPU, at $1.63. Table 1 has the full list.

(Note that the only OS version that saw a dip in ARPU from the previous version is Honeycomb; that's due to the fact that Honeycomb was built specifically for Android tablets, which have seen slow adoption.)

That doesn't mean, though, that developers should automatically target Jelly Bean. An even more important factor, Tapjoy argues, is market share. Jelly Bean has seen relatively slow growth, and is on just 1.8 percent of Android devices. That may make it a bad choice for most developers.

Gingerbread has a huge lead in the market, with 55.8 percent adoption. Ice Cream Sandwich is second at 23.7 percent, and Froyo third at 12.9 percent. Those figures lead Tapjoy to its recommendation:

"The best bet right now might be to build your app for either Gingerbread (v2.3) or Froyo (v2.2). Not only will you cover a majority of the Android market, but your monetization rates should at least be well above any apps running on Eclair (v2.1) or earlier versions."

On the other hand, development shops with the resources to build apps for more than one Android version might be wise to include Jelly Bean in its offerings, since the ARPU jump from any previous iteration is significant.

Table 1. Average Revenue Per User

Codename

ARPU

1.0 Astro

$ 0.20

1.5 Cupcake

0.43

1.6 Donut

0.44

2.0 Eclair

0.54

2.1 Eclair

0.86

2.2 Froyo

1.12

2.3 Gingerbread

1.20

3.x Honeycomb

0.97

4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

1.19

4.1 Jelly Bean

1.63

Source: Tapjoy

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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