Coders Report Specific iOS, Android Development Challenges

The Application Developers Alliance released a report that examines competition in the mobile app ecosystem, including iOS- and Android-specific development challenges.

The Alliance is a non-profit organization that describes itself as an advocate for software developers and the companies invested in their success.

The organization last week published a Competition in the Mobile App Ecosystem Report (free download upon providing registration information), based on a global survey of 673 mobile app developers and publishers that was undertaken to document views on competition, opportunity and the state of the industry.

One section of the 16-page report is devoted to comparing Android and iOS, both of which have come out in new versions recently.

"The two leading platforms, Apple's iOS and Google's Android, take different approaches to serving their customer base, as well as the publishers and developers whose apps they distribute," the report says. "This is proof of concept that there is no one 'correct' way to be an industry leader; and if different approaches can work then alternatives can and will arise."

The report summed up the developer-related characteristics of iOS as:

Top Advantages Top Disadvantages
Market reach Restrictive policies
Technical ease of use Closed ecosystem
Lack of interoperability challenges How to use Apple tools/hardware

The report noted the simplicity of the closed iOS system with respect to developers and resulting high quality of apps, but survey respondents decried other aspects.

"The byproduct of a closed system is strict and sometimes unclear or changing guidelines," the report said. "In fact, 'restrictive policies' is the most commonly cited disadvantage of working with iOS, by 51 percent of developers who use the platform.

"Most dissatisfaction was aimed at the approval/review process, specifically the lack of transparency, shifting or unclear guidelines and he amount of time it takes. These hurdles (particularly the time) routinely threaten to blow up launch schedules and create uncertainty."

Here's the Android summation:

Top Advantages Top Disadvantages
Easy to start/code Fragmentation
Market size Amount of competition
Open source Crashes/bugs

The report noted that the Android OS was introduced as an open source technology and still provides developers with significant freedom and flexibility to take advantage of Android functionality.

However, the oft-cited problem of Android OS fragmentation raised its ugly head here, too.

"The number of devices available, plus the number of different versions of each operating system, results in interoperability challenges," the report said. "In order to make an app work, an Android developer must test he program on many different devices and many different versions of Android. Most developers (64 percent) list fragmentation as the greatest obstacle to working with Android."

About 10 percent of developers reported they had to target 10 or more different OS versions in building their Android apps, which added an average of six to eight weeks to project lifecycles.

The fragmentation issue may be lessening, however, as 53 percent of respondents who work with Android said the fragmentation problem has gotten better in the past several years, with only 15 percent believing it has gotten worse. That finding jives with another report published in June wherein Apteligent made the bold claim that "Android is no longer fragmented."

Other highlights of the Application Developers Alliance report include:

  • The greatest threat to competition is "larger competitors," cited by 40 percent of respondents.
  • 37 percent of global developers reported being concerned with the difficulty of competing with pre-loaded apps, while 63 percent weren't concerned.
  • 54 percent said industry problems are best handled internally, while 11 percent favored government regulation.
  • 76 percent of global respondents view the market as "very competitive," and the No. 1 reason for an app not to succeed was the difficulty of app discovery in a crowded market.
  • 40 percent of publishers use at least one distribution platform other than Google Play or the Apple App Store, and 23 percent don't use either of those.
  • The mobile ecosystem is not seen as a meritocracy, with only 39 percent of respondents believing the best apps become successful and 43 percent disagreeing with that premise.
  • 80 percent of respondents cited a lack of promotion as the No. 1 reason an app might not succeed.

The Application Developers Alliance concluded: "Outside observers may see conflicting forces within the industry: consumers versus publishers versus platforms. We see an interdependent ecosystem responding to its contributing forces.

"Developers are building products consumers want. Platforms deliver these products in a convenient, inexpensive and predictable way. Consumers have choice and these choices guide developers and platform decisions and investments. The market is working."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.