Why Building an Android App for Your Business is a Great Idea

February 11, 2015

The ‘holy war’ between Apple and Google in mobile has been going for years now. This war is taking place on many frontiers: mobile device market share, better user experience, billions of dollars in app development revenue, and, of course, advertising fees. So, who’s winning? Putting the arguments of iOS fans and Android loyalists aside, we decided to take a closer look at the raw data and see where the battle lines are drawn in this war.

Android is the king of the market share

The smartphone market has plenty of opportunity and the momentum. According to IDC report, the worldwide smartphone market grew 23,1% year over year in the second quarter of 2014 and established a new single quarter record of 295.3 million shipments. Android market share, by operating systems, has been growing with every year as well. Looking back to 2011, when Android already had taken about 50% of the market, in 2014 this number rose to almost 80%, and, according to experts’ forecasts, the growth will not stop here.

What’s interesting, Android market share is growing all over the world. Based on Kantar consumer data that tracks smartphone sales, in Europe Android remains the dominant mobile OS, with a 73,9% share of smartphones sales across the five major European economies. To break it down country by country:

Germany – Android 81%, iOS 11%;

U.K. – Android 61%, iOS 29%, Windows Phone 10%;

France – Android 71%, iOS 15%, Windows Phone 11%;

Italy – Android 76%, iOS 12%, Windows Phone 10%;

Spain – Android 84%, Windows Phone 8%, iOS 7%.

Asian market, where there are currently over 2.4 billion people that use mobile phones, is another gold mine for businesses. The smartphone sales in the region are growing at breakneck speed and in 2014 surged 61% comparing to 2013. In urban China alone, Android retains its leading position with a market share of 80,4%. Kantar experts believe that the wide variety of products which are offered by local manufacturers will only continues to push Android’s share.

Even in the US, which is traditionally considered to be an Apple-dominated market, Android is leading the way taking over 50% of the market share. Apple remains the second most popular smartphone operating systems with about 38% share.

Google Play is growing in revenue

Although Android has been the killing Apple in the market share, for a long time it has been lagging behind in revenue. However, nowadays the dynamics are changing. Despite the lower per capita spending by Android users, it’s total revenue has been increasing tremendously together with its market share. What’s more, analysts predict that Google Play Store mobile app revenue will catch up to Apple’s App Store already in 2018.

Even though Apple is still leading the way in the amount spent per device (Apple’s iPad generated the highest revenue for tablets at $160 per order), in 2014 Android tablets started catching up and reached $107 per order, according to Montate report. Also, by device, Android showed a colossal increase of 250% in app sales compared to 37% for iPhone. In terms of overall app sales comparing 2014 to 2013, Android again showed the strongest growth rising 206% compared to 67% for iPhone and 58% for iPad.

As you can see, Android users are just begging to tap into the pull of the benefits that they can purchase within mobile applications. With the new payment options added in Google Play (support for payments from eBay Inc.’s PayPal unit, and not just credit cards as in App Store), we can predict that the sales will only be going up.

Another positive trend that might influence the revenue growth on Android is changes in user behaviour. In the last year Android has surpassed iOS in app engagement by increasing to 45%. Nearly half of Android apps are opened 11 or more times, whereas only a third (34%) of iOS apps were. Localytics research shows that Android has a remarkably small 16% of apps opened only once, whereas iOS has 23%. This data indicates that Android apps are doing a better job of engaging power users, which was also identified in the Localytics App Stickiness Index.

Health and Fitness apps are among the top charts in the Android market

Games aside, the most popular app categories among Android users traditionally were and are lifestyle, education, business and travel apps. Health and Fitness category has been reaching the top of the charts recently as well. According to the latest statistics, out of 1.5 million apps in Google Play there are about 43k health and fitness apps. This might seem like a big number, although, when you look at a bigger picture, you’ll see that this category is currently underrepresented as there are not so many high-quality products available for users. Even if take the most popular apps in this field, only 5% of the apps have over 50 thousand downloads. The average ratings (3.89) which is rather low is another prove to that. Over 6800 apps (that’s about 16% of all health and fitness apps in the market) are considered to be low-quality with small number of downloads and very poor usage. Keeping in mind that mobile health app market is projected to produce $26 billion in revenue by the end of 2017, there is a great window on untapped opportunities at this moment.

Localytics report for the past year shows that users are spending more and more time interacting with mhealth applications on their devices. A number of health and fitness application launches has reached almost the level of news and sports apps (12,7 times per month that is almost every other day), which have been traditionally the most frequently launched on mobile devices.

Especially fast growth on Android health and fitness apps show in emerging markets. Let’s take Brazil, for example. Free Android mHealth apps reached significantly higher download goals than apps on Apple devices. Health & Fitness apps that were listed in the top 10 between December 2012 and February 2013 managed to generate 238 thousand downloads on average since they have been on the market.

As you can see, Health & Fitness is one of the most happening category for all mobile platforms. In the US alone, over 50% of smartphone users utilize mhealth apps for exercising, dieting, calorie tracking and other health related matters. Although not even half of these users access websites for similar purposes, as smartphones are always with them on the go and can track all kinds of data. So, if you are thinking of conquering health and fitness industry and don’t have a mobile app yet, you might already be losing to your competitors.

Why Android?

When companies think of developing an Android app, some might get scared off with the market fragmentation. Of course, due to multiple versions running on consumer’s devices and variety of devices that support Android (the majority of devices have different hardware characteristics, screen sizes and resolutions), development for Android might be more challenging. However, the business opportunity of this enormous market outweighs the technical challenges of the app development process, for sure. Also, since Google improved backward compatibility that simplifies writing one app for many Android versions, this obstacle has been almost completely removed. And again, if we look at the numbers, you’ll see that the majority of Android devices are actually split between the two OS versions – KitKat and Jelly Bean, which you can focus your development efforts on.

For a long time Android was considered to be a second-class platform as it was always playing catch up with Apple’s iPhone in features and user experience. Well, nowadays Android is closing the feature gap that used to exist. User experience has improved as well, and today there is definitely a thing or two that Apple can learn from Google (many iPhone users have been dying for the split screen view and advanced interface customization). Generally, Android devices also have  larger screen sizes which makes them more convenient to work and consume content (higher retention and engagement rates on Android are a good prove to this).

Another reason for Android to be performing well recently is the that Apple users might be suffering from app overload. Not only have Apple apps been around for a longer time, numbers show that iPhone users have more apps installed on their devices than Android users. This leads to the situation when users often forget about these apps and never return to them. On Android devices, on another hand, the abandonment rate is much lower. What is more, Android users are still hungry for good quality apps and this opens a window of opportunity for developers. Whereas Apple users are mostly concentrated in North America and Europe (traditionally, English speaking), Android customer base is very diverse and international. That’s why, there is also a good chance for local developers and local service to complete with the international offerings. Localisation might play a key role in some cases.

To sum up, we can see that in the past few years Android consumer base has been growing at a lightning speed. The market welcomes new products, users are becoming more engaged and open to paid quality services. Thus, Android devices are closing the monetization gap with Apple. With the right business model, a decent mobile app and a right angle you could really win big in the Android market.

Statistics and charts sources: