“Android Dominance” Is An Oxymoron

John Kirk / August 8th, 2013

Alarm Bells Should Be Ringing At Apple: It’s Getting Absolutely Creamed By Android, Which Now Controls ~80% Of The Smartphone Market ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

No, it’s not.

Definition of an oxymoron:

A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction

Fact #1: No version of Android dominates mobile OS market share.

“Android Dominance” is an oxymoron. No single “slice” of the Android “pie” is equal to the 93% of iOS users who have upgraded to iOS 6. iOS 6 is the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

iOS_Android_fragmentation-640x281
Source

Fact #2: Historically, iOS customers have been quick to update to the latest OS version.1

Fact #3: Apple’s iOS users have even more reasons to rapidly upgrade to iOS 7.

iOS_7_UpdatesiOS_7_Only

A recent developer survey revealed that 95% of developers are updating their apps for iOS 7.

More importantly, 48% of those developers intend to make their updated apps work only on iOS 7.

With so many new and updated apps working only on iOS 7, iOS users are going be strongly motivated to upgrade to iOS 7 as soon as possible.

Fact #4: OS Versions matter.

Apple, arguably, has higher-quality apps because developers still focus on iOS first. The reason they focus on the App Store is that it generates more revenue than Google’s Android store, and users are more engaged. However, there’s no reason to believe this will continue. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

People who look only at overall OS numbers without taking OS versions into account are missing the “trees” for the “forrest”

Yes, there is.

Pundits, like Jay, can’t seem to understand why Android leads in market share but iOS leads in usage, engagement, developers, income and everything else that makes a platform strong.234567891011121314151617

Let me help you out. There is no paradox. The latest version of Android does NOT lead the latest version of iOS in market share. People who look only at overall OS numbers without taking OS versions into account are reversing the traditional proverb – but still making the same proverbial mistake – by missing the “trees” for the “forrest.”

Fact #5: Android hardware and software is split into many, many pieces.

  • 11,868 Distinct Android devices seen this year
  • 3,997 Distinct Android devices seen last year 
  • 8 Android versions still in use
  • 37.9% Android users on Jelly Bean

“And by the way, this is the most ideal state of Android. It only includes a version of android which talk to the Google play store so it doesn’t include things like Kindles and Nooks.” ~ Tim Cook, WWDC (113:30)

android-fragmentation-3

Android, for all its popularity, remains a messy, fragmented, less-than-ideal experience for a normal consumer. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

Ah! And finally we get to the crux of the matter.

Fact #6: It is iOS 6 – not any single version of Android – that is the most dominant and monolithic mobile OS in the world.

“iOS 6 Dominance” is not an oxymoron – it’s a fact. And it is iOS 7 that promises to extend the dominance of Apple’s mobile platform into the foreseeable future.

It’s impossible to look at the landscape today and believe that developers will still be iPhone-focused in five years unless Apple does something drastic to change its competitive position. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

I sorta hafta to disagree. And reality hasta disagree too. It’s not only “possible” to believe that developers will still be iOS-focused (notice how Jay conveniently ignored iPod Touches and iPads in his OS comparison?), it’s probable too.

You don’t agree? You’re an oxymoron who says that only total OS numbers, not OS versions, really matter? Sorry, I can’t hear you. The facts are shouting you down.

  1. iOS 6 Adoption At Just Over One Week: 60% For iPhone And 41% For iPad | TechCrunch []
  2. Why The iPhone's Usage Advantage Over Android Remains So Important. The latest evidence confirms it: iPhone users are far more engaged with their devices than are Android users. []
  3. Why Google’s Android is Losing the Battle to Apple’s iOS []
  4. Apple iPhone users use their devices 55% more than Android users []
  5. "Both in apps and overall smartphone usage, iPhone owners rank higher than owners of Android handsets. After surveying both U.S. and European smartphone owners, researchers not only found owners of the Apple device more frequently use apps, but conduct more tasks suitable to smartphones, such as browsing the Internet. This despite Android’s advantage both in number of handsets out there and in sales. The dichotomy just reinforces our Android in a Drawer theory, which says many owners of the Google-powered devices see their handsets as just a spiffier version of dumb feature phones, ignoring most of what makes smartphones smart." []
  6. Apple’s iOS continues to dominate with nearly 60% Web usage share vs. Android’s 26% []
  7. Apple Continues To Dominate Mobile Video Viewing, With 60% Occurring On iOS Vs. 32% On Android []
  8. "Sandvine says that the iPad accounts for more home traffic than any other device, at more than 10 percent; and it says that if you added up all of Apple’s devices (iPads, iPhones, Macs, etc.), the company ends up with more than 45 percent of home broadband usage." []
  9. Why FRONTLINE Isn’t Doing Android — Yet []
  10. BBC – we have an Android development team that is almost 3 times the size of the iOS team []
  11. Why there aren’t more Android tablet apps, by the numbers []
  12. Android’s consumer strength hasn’t translated to enterprise, where Apple still dominates []
  13. Apple rules the skies with 84% in-flight share vs. Android’s 16% []
  14. Apple’s iPhone may have kept 400K customers from leaving T-Mobile []
  15. screen-shot-2013-07-23-at-10-21-49-amSource []
  16. Google shares were down as much as 5% in after-hour trading following a report of second-quarter net income of $3.23 billion compared with $2.79 billion a year ago. The overall revenue figure came in at $14.1 billion. The main reason for Google’s perceived weakness: less-than-spectacular mobile ad sales. []
  17. app-revenue-q12013 Source []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Anders CT

    I think you are somewhat comparing apples to oranges. No one is saying that Android dominates existing smartphone share. What your source is pointing out is, that 80% of NEW shipped smartphones runs Android. And those would all be up-to-date versions of Android one would presume.

    If you look at the current installbase, then things are indeed looking sweet for Apple. If you focus more on where the market is trending, then android is probably in a better position.

    And then there is the desktop. While Microsoft continues to clown around, this segment is ripe for overtaking by android. I wrote

    • Jean-Daniel

      “that 80% of NEW shipped smartphones runs Android. And those would all be up-to-date versions of Android one would presume.”

      Look like you don’t know at all how the Android market works. A vast majority of this 80% are features phones running on Android 2.3 and less.
      The other great part is high end phone that run custom android version from big manufacturer and that lack behinds the last android release by at least 6 month, and most of them would simply never be updated at all.

      • memory

        “A vast majority of this 80% are features phones running on Android 2.3 and less.” Jean-Daniel
        LOL. Android 2.3 is a feature phone now?
        iPhone owner by any chance?

    • FalKirk

      “I think you are somewhat comparing apples to oranges. No one is saying that Android dominates existing smartphone share..” – Anders CT

      Actually, they are, and they’re saying it A LOT.

      It is really the press and Google that are comparing apples to oranges. Android is not a single entity, yet it is reported as being one by the press with the underlying assumption that market-share equals platform dominance. There’s Nook Android and Amazon Android and numerous Chinese Android variants and Google’s Android which is, itself, split between 8 separate versions.

      Further, Google gooses their numbers by reporting all Android activations but only counting contacts to their store when reporting version percentages.

      People think that Apple’s iOS platform domination is an aberration that must, inevitably, be swept away by the avalanche of Android devices. But once one understands that Android is not really a single OS and that almost all iOS users are using the same version of iOS, one can see that there is no inconsistency between theory and reality. iOS is dominant because iOS 6 is the single largest mobile iOS on the planet. (There are other reasons too, but let’s just go with that, for now.)

      • NavalGilles

        But Google’s android is a single entity is called Google play services and its matters much more than what android version your running. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Anders CT

        1) Even if Android was as hyperfragmented as you suggest, that has little bearing on the IDC reports conclusion: That 80% of NEW smartphones is android-phones. That the vast majority of consumers prefer to spend their money on android-phones rather than iPhones has to raise some eyebrows at Apple.

        2) OS-versions matter when they break compatibility. When upgrading breaks legacy apps, or when new apps don’t work with a large part of the install-base. Android has some of that between api 8 and api 14. But it is very easy to write an app that targets 95% of android devices. Functionally android is only fragmented into two parts: Gingerbread and ICS/Jelly Bean. It certainly matters, but it is not a big deal. And yes, android is a single platform, just as Windows XP, VIsta, Win 7+8 is a single platform.

        3) Having developed a lot for both iOS, Android and Symbian i can totally attest that most developers prefer iOS. Not because of OS-fragmentation, which is largely a non-issue. No they do so because the appstore generally yields higher revenue (thats my experience at least), and because Apple makes much better development tools, and because Apple handles customer support for its app store. Google doesn’t.

        4) And I agree that Apples vertically integrated and elegant products are great for users. But so is Androids multitude of choice, rapid development and flexibillity. It offers some different advantages.

        • FalKirk

          “80% of NEW smartphones is android-phones” – Anders CT

          But not all of those phones are running the latest version of Android. Even the yet-to-be-released Motorola X isn’t going to run the latest version of Android.

          • Anders CT

            The Motorola X will probably ship with 4.2.2, which is almost identical to 4.3. I just bought a HP laptop with android 4.2.2, and it is pretty nice. I’m typing on it now. And Moto-X will have some unique features to set it apart. That could never happen in iOS land. That kind of on-the fly innovation is something you sacrifice when you must offer a consistent and elegant user experience across all your devices. And no one does the latter better than Apple. It is a trade-off.

            And I think it is pretty telling that Motorola does not have access to Googles development branch. Apparently Google does not want to alienate its other OEMs. Microsoft should take notice, because it is also telling that HP sells android laptops these days.

          • FalKirk

            “It is a trade-off.” – Anders CT

            It is a trade-off. Android has the most ubiquitous phone. Apple has the best platform. The very things that make Android strong make it’s platform weaker. Let’s enjoy the fact that we have a choice but let’s not pretend that Android is winning the platform wars.

          • NavalGilles

            Winning? Who said anything about winning? Both iOS and android are successful. Android accomplished its goal of blocking off Microsoft and making sure no one would be able to block Google software in the new mobile computing world. And iOS has made apple a ridiculous amount of money. Now does iOS evaporating market share impact its profit margins and developer support. Who knows. Will android’s open source nature fracture it to the point where Google can no longer contain the key to the castle. Maybe.

            What’s certain when it comes of fragmentation and how important or unimportant it is. You should be quite and do some research because you have no idea what you are talking about.

          • FalKirk

            “Who said anything about winning?” – NavalGillies

            Jay Yarrow and dozens (if not hundreds) of others after IDC released their mobile phone sales numbers yesterday.

            “Now does iOS evaporating market share impact its profit margins and developer support”

            iOS’s market share is not evaporating. iOS is growing by the millions each quarter.

            “You should be quite and do some research because you have no idea what you are talking about.” – NavalGilles

            You keep saying that, but that doesn’t make it true. I’ve provided facts and sources. You’ve negated none of them. It is you who needs to put up or shut up.

          • memory

            “iOS’s market share is not evaporating. iOS is growing by the millions each quarter.” – Falkirk
            The fact that you don’t even know the difference between market share and absolute number of devices pretty much sums up your knowledge in this area.

    • DarwinPhish

      “80% of NEW shipped smartphones runs Android. And those would all be up-to-date versions of Android one would presume.”

      That is a false assumption. There are lots of recent phones with ICS and early Jelly Bean versions. In some markets (China, India, Nigeria, et al), you can still get phones running Gingerbread.

  • snake4812

    Just a suggestion….. the whole crux of your argument depends on Fact #4 OS Versions matter. That section talks about how iOS leads in usage, develolpment ,etc. but you do not anywhere explain HOW version fragmentation is the main factor that causes this difference between Android and iOS, here or anywhere in the article. I see you cite about 15 articles in this section but a lot of people including myself don’t go through the trouble of reading all of those.

    This article would really go a lot further if you spent a paragraph explaining HOW the multitude of Android versions and devices actually impact Android usage, engagement, development and so on.

    • FalKirk

      Good suggestion, Sanke4813. I wish I had talked with you BEFORE I published the article. 🙂

      Basically, I’m saying that iOS’s single, monolithic iOS “pie” is a far superior environment for both developers and users than is Android’s larger, but divided-into-8-pieces “pie”. And the facts – as listed in the supporting quotes and links – say so too.

      You don’t have to go to the supporting links to realize how overwhelming iOS’s advantages is. Just read the headlines and the quotes that I’ve listed in the footnotes. They speak for themselves.

      • snake4812

        No problem, otherwise very good read

      • Kenny

        You ought to include Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean together, because the difference between the two in terms of features is similar to that of iOS 6 in the iPhone 4 and previous releases.

        How come Apple IOS6 be dominant when the number of Smartphone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly bean is greater than the whole apple itself.

        Besides

        It’s Funny that you guys keep on talking about Android Fragmentation as a way to defend Apple.

        but when it come to things that really matter for android to be successfully,the majority of the average user who count don’t care and those like you and all the Geeks who do care don’t count hence it’s pointless.

        • FalKirk

          “It’s Funny that you guys keep on talking about Android Fragmentation as a way to defend Apple” – Kenny

          It’s not at all funny to Android users who are denied the latest features, stability and malware protection and the Android developers who have break their backs trying to make their programs run on multiple OS versions.

          • NavalGilles

            I would love to know what key features say ICS users are missing due to the lack of an android update.

            New location api. No updated through play services.

            New games api. No updated through play services.

            New messages api, new syncing api.

            Again you have no idea what you are talking about. The fact that you missed such a huge difference on how the two systems bring features to their users makes your analysis useless. Do some more research.

          • FalKirk

            “Do some more research.” – NavalGilles

            Are you seriously contending that Consumers arent’ missing features, or that it’s more difficult for Developers to develop for Android? To mirror your comment, do some research.

          • NavalGilles

            I’m seriously contending you have no idea what you are talking about.

            The main issue with developers have to deal with is hardware fragmentation. Not android the os. You build an application based on 2.2 and it works on 99.99 percent of all android devices. Or you focus on 4.0+ because those customers are more likely to spend more money and use their device at a higher clip.

            You can focus on both 2.2 and 4.0 android is smart enough to notice what features should be allowed on what version number of android.

            Now where it gets more complicated is differing hardware. Screen size is pretty simple. Under 4 inches , over 4 inches and over 5 inches android scales beautifully.

            Now most of the issue comes with building for hardware that have android under 4.0. Android 2.2 is just not up to par and some of the hardware is just deplorable. Which is why many developers are just focusing on 4.0+.

            Google also has this thing called Google play services. What Google is basically doing is removing the features and APIs from android. Meaning updating android is not dependent on upgrading the os.

            This year at Google io. Google basically upgraded android and gave it a ton of features without upgrading the core os.

            Android fragmentation is not just numbers on a chart. Its nuanced and incredibly overblown.

            I just gave more information about how the android upgrade process works then you did in your whole article. Again do some research as you are a complete moron when it comes to this specific issue. I read a lot of your stuff. This by comparison is click bait fluff with no knowledge or understanding of the issue at hand.

          • FalKirk

            “You build an application based on 2.2 and it works on 99.99 percent of all android devices” – NavalGilles

            Exactly. You can’t build an application based on the latest OS because it won’t run on the majority of available Android phones.

            Think about that before you post again.

      • NavalGilles

        What makes what version of android your running so important? Your article states nothing about how Google updates android and android APIs through Google play services. How can you miss that big of a difference between how the iOS and android function differently with regards to “upgrades”? Horrible analysis.

        • snake4812

          Yeah that’s what I was trying to get at. The whole article is talking about how all of the different versions of Android cause these issues, but the causal relationship is never even attempted to be explained

        • FalKirk

          “What makes what version of android your running so important?” – NavalGilles

          I can hardly believe that I have to spell this out. Customers suffer when they have older versions because they lack the features and malware protection of the newest versions. Even Jay Yarrow admitted: “Android, for all its popularity, remains a messy, fragmented, less-than-ideal experience for a normal consumer.”

          Developers suffer terribly because they have to make their programs compatible with antiquated OS versions and can’t take advantage of the newest version’s features.

          • NavalGilles

            Again you have no idea what you are talking about. Android has amazing backward compatibility. Again why did your article not mention the key way Google updates android which is through Google play services? Do you not understand that android apps and APIs for the most part are not tied to the os?

            You are comparing tow different things. Google does not need to upgrade android to upgrade its features.

          • FalKirk

            Google does not need to upgrade android to upgrade its features. – NavalGilles

            Then why bother ever doing OS updates at all? You’re living in a state of denial.

          • NavalGilles

            To add more strings to which they can pull at. For example adding Bluetooth 4.0 to the base of 4.3 means working less work for Google and developers. I’m not saying android is not fragmented because it is. But its nowhere as big of an issue as you are making it to be.

            Developing for android means targeting two api sources. Android 2.3 and android 4.0+.

            This fragmentation horse you’ve been beating is being over represented.

            Most developers are even ignoring anything below 4.0.

            Do yourself a favor watch Google io. See how Google pushes features to it users. Look at the amazing backwards compatibility of android apps. Go question developers on what versions of android the focus on and how it differs from iOS. What you did was quote some third rate publications with graphs showing how “fragmented” android is without stating how it impacts the user experience.

          • FalKirk

            Your arguments are bordering on the delusional. You simply deny that OS versions have any importance. No rational person – and I mean NONE, not even Google – agrees with that.

            Please, come back with a better theory. No one can contend that OS versions don’t matter and be taken seriously.

  • NavalGilles

    Google play services make android versions almost useless. Android just finally received a find my android features that got pushed to android 2.2 and above.

    Google can upgrade its apps and it’s APIs without touching android. The way android operates has changed you seem to have missed that boat.

    • Jean-Daniel

      The Google API represents a very small part of android. Considering that because Google managed to update the Google API on 2.2 means there is no difference between android 2 and new version is missing the whole point about what android is, and how android dev works.

      • NavalGilles

        You missed my point. Did you watch Google io? What Google has basically done is say, if your running android 4.0+ in a vast majority of cases or 2.2+ in some cases you will received most of if not all the improvements of an app developers work if your hardware can handle it. Because say the location api, the gaming api, messaging api, notification api, ect..are all tied into Google play services. You know how Google can change the whole architecture of how its maps are run by pushing an update to the play store. Its stupid to compare android “upgrade” system to the one in iOS.

        • benbajarin

          What you are talking about is fairly new and actually interesting. I’ve been digging into how the new play services framework is going to work. Right now it looks like it is heavily focused on the game developers and game experiences but I believe this extends of course to others as well.

          My issue with much of the fragmentation has been the impact it has on developers. Play services looks to make this much better but from our discussion with many silicon valley software startups this is just one step of many needed to make the ecosystem more profitable for Android developers.

          I’m curious to see how this plays out for Android and in particular if it does anything to help the massive void of tablet specific apps on Android.

          • snake4812

            Thanks for this very interesting post. I am also interested to see how this develops.

    • oldworld

      Could you provide some support sites from reputable analysts from neutral tech sites that support your repeated point that “Google play services make android versions almost useless.” please.

      Insults, by the way, seem to be part of the character of the angry mind closed to learning.

  • Claude Hénault

    John
    What happens when hardware — as it inevitably will quite quickly — becomes capable and inexpensive enough to run on even the cheapest phones with the latest Android OS? This will eat one iOS advantage, un-fragmented OS, leaving only device and screen size as an Android fragmentation issue, something that fractals can deal with.

    Seems to me that all Apple is left with at that point, with regard to phones, is a continuing ecosystem advantage that is not understood or recognized by non-iPhone users. Agreed that second-time smartphone buyers are more likely to go Apple than first-times, but is that enough?

    The usage advantage (web, apps) of iPhones in the mobile world is today a given. What will maintain it in the light of growing capability convergence of both hardware and software?

    Maybe a sequel to address such questions?

    • snake4812

      The main cause of Android fragmentation is NOT hardware capability. It is the handset manufacturers custom firmware that causes the biggest issue. They put their useless bloatware and unneeded frills on the phone and then it takes months and months to manage an update, so once an update is finally pushed it is already outdated, and then they promptly ditch support for that particular phone entirely.

      EDIT: The new Google Play editions of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 are really a great step in the right direction on this, as well as the success of the Nexus brand. Hopefully this will start to become less of an issue for the future. And for us tweakers there will always be Cyanogenmod!

  • benbajarin

    This is a very confusing argument. Firstly, you can name the true innovations or revolutionary products from the computing past on one hand. They are exceptionally RARE and expecting them on any frequent basis is absurd. Do you criticize Ford or GM or Toyota, etc for not having revolutionary features with every annual release? The answer is no, because this is how mature markets operate. EVERY time evolution trumps revolution. It a simple matter of fact.

    Second, exactly what features do Android or Microsoft offer that are revolutionary or even more revolutionary than iOS if we are going to play this game?

    When you sit back and truly observe you realize this market is just like every other. Companies increase features, compete for new and existing consumers and do so within the simple evolutionary tactics that are the norm for mature markets.

    Besides, nearly everything we see is simply self fulfilling prophecy from science fiction anyway. Its about execution.

  • Brett Turner

    There is a fundamental problem here. I’ll accept that Android 2.x and Android 4.x are so different as to be functionally separate operating systems for many purposes.

    But Android 4.0 and 4.1 and 4.2 and 4.3 are not that different. You cite no evidence that software running on one won’t run on others, or even is materially limited. AFAIK, most or all Android 4 apps will run, and run usefully, on each of these versions.

    On top of this, Google is moving as many functions as possible out of the OS entirely, and into the basic apps, as a way to avoid the fragmentation issue.

    So your whole argument is built upon the premise that every new version of Android is like its own new OS. You don’t support that premise with any data, and I don’t think it’s true. If Android 4 is 58-odd percent of Android, as your pie chart shows, it would be most popular OS.

    • FalKirk

      “You cite no evidence that software running on one won’t run on others, or even is materially limited” – Brett Turner

      Yes, I did.

      — Why FRONTLINE Isn’t Doing Android — Yet
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/labs/why-were-not-doing-android-yet/

      — BBC – we have an Android development team that is almost 3 times the size of the iOS team

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/posts/Video-on-Android-Devices-Update

      — Why there aren’t more Android tablet apps, by the numbers

      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/mobile-news/why-there-arent-more-android-tablet-apps-by-the-numbers/7218

      — Android’s consumer strength hasn’t translated to enterprise, where Apple still dominates
      http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/06/05/androids-consumer-strength-hasnt-translated-to-enterprise-where-apple-still-dominates

      • Brett Turner

        1. You don’t explain in the text of the article why Android 4.0 and 4.1 and 4.2 and 4.3 are four different operating systems. None of the articles you cite above expressly explain why Android 4.0 and 4.1 and 4.2 and 4.3 are different operating systems.

        2. The ZDNet piece you cite is over a year hold, and predicts a meltdown in the Android tablet app market which hasn’t happened. If anything, the opposite has happened.

        3. The other sources point out that it it’s harder to write Android Apps because Android has more subversions and supports more hardware, e.g., more screen sizes. I’m not sure why the Android fragmentation issue is so bad that the different subversions of Android 4 are effectively four different operating systems.

        4. You haven’t convinced me. I still think Android 4 is one operating system with four versions, and that Android 4 is more popular than iOS.

        • FalKirk

          “I still think Android 4 is one operating system with four versions, and that Android 4 is more popular than iOS.” – Brett Turner

          Fair enough. How do you explain why developers develop for iOS first and Android second, if at all?

          • Brett Turner

            Both facts are true. Android 4 is the most commonly-used mobile operating system, and iOS is the easiest mobile operating system to develop for. Or, Android 4 is more popular among device purchasers, while iOS is more popular among software developers.

            As Android users continue to move up from 2.x to 4.x—the sooner, the better!—the larger user base of Android may development for Android 4 more financially rewarding. But I agree that Android will probably always be harder develop for. That is inherent in the nature of Android as an open OS, used by a wide variety of different phones and tablets.

            I wonder if there might be more Google can do to make development easier. Like Android, Windows supports a larger variety of hardware than its Apple competitor, but developers don’t seem to find that to be as much of a hassle.

          • jfutral

            “I wonder if there might be more Google can do to make development easier. Like Android, Windows supports a larger variety of hardware than its Apple competitor, but developers don’t seem to find that to be as much of a hassle.”

            This has puzzled me the whole time Android keeps growing. I think it boils down to device/platform engagement. IPhone users use their phones in ways Android users do not, as is regularly seen in the engagement numbers that occasionally make the news. As long as Android users do not use their phones in ways developers cannot monetize as much as iOS, then Android will become the me-too platform to develop for. There is enough engagement to add it to the cue, but not enough to prioritize it over iOS.

            I think PC users engage pretty much the same for Mac and Windows platforms, vertical markets not-withstanding. That’s why Windows made more sense as a developer, all things being equal, more was better. And even then Windows made more sense for certain vertical markets because of the greater flexibility in the hardware. But people don’t buy phones to be their main computer. They buy a phone that can be used in some ways as a computer. They still have computers to be computers, though.

            Beyond that I got nothin’.

            Joe

          • jfutral

            Another aspect that Android differs from Windows is Android 2.2 on one handset and carrier won’t necessarily be the same as Android 2.2 on another handset and carrier, or even the same handset on another carrier. Google is doing a better job of reining that in lately. As OEMs, Samsung is changing that, and I think HTC or Motorola changed that, too, but I don’t recall exactly.

            You never saw different visual or functional Windows 95 versions on different hardware OEMs, except in _very_ niche markets. I remember Dell doing some weird things that tied an install disk to their hardware, but the resulting install was still Windows, not a skinned or functionally different Windows. And no one could do with Windows what Amazon did with Android.

            Joe

  • Marc

    Just curious. Is it not true that a person running iOS6 on an IPhone 4 cannot or does not have the same features as another person running iOS6 on an IPhone 5?

    They may be the same iOS in name, but unless the same features are available on both the iPhone 4 AND iPhone 5, how is that NOT fragmentation?

    • FalKirk

      The iPhone 4 runs most, but not all iOS 6 features. So yes, there’s fragmentation, but not all fragmentation is alike. iOS fragmentation is to Android fragmentation as a molehill is to a mountain.

      • NavalGilles

        What’s android fragmentation in your opinion? Give me a specific example. You seem to lack the understanding of how Google introduces new features into android.

      • Marc

        “iOS fragmentation is to Android fragmentation as a molehill is to a mountain.”

        I certainly hear you saying this, but this seems a subjective measure (I suppose that’s why it’s a “pinion”).

        I understand the similarities between iPhone versions, but to assign all of them to one giant monolith under iOS6, would seem to require an assumption that the environment plays to the lowest device supported by iOS6; otherwise you couldn’t lump them all together (and I don’t know how you’d lump iPad-specific apps into this, either).

        By this point, most devices running Gingerbread are pushing 2 years old. That would seem to indicate their users are happy with them, or they would surely be replaced with something else (even an iPhone). And other than some feature differences between the various 4.X versions, I doubt most users could tell the difference. And it’s the “user-level” that should be considered here. Apple is good at that level, imo. But, I just prefer a bigger sandbox to play in than the one Apple provides.

        Android may exist in different forms, over a wide spectrum of devices with different capabilities. You can spend as little or as much as you want (or can). But it’s still Android; much as a Corolla or a Camry are both Toyotas.

        • FalKirk

          “but this seems a subjective measure” – Marc

          Please. There’s nothing subjective about it. Go to this web site and look at the figures. Android is is viciously fragmented. Saying that it isn’t is simply denying reality.

          ANDROID FRAGMENTATION VISUALIZED (JULY 2013)
          http://opensignal.com/reports/fragmentation-2013/fragmentation-2013.pdf

          • Marc

            Where have I denied that fragmentation exists in Android? I see that you acknowledge that fragmentation exists in the Apple universe, but….for reasons unspecified….it doesn’t matter and should be ignored (according to you).

            From a user’s standpoint, he either has an Android, iOS, or something else.

            Fact is, there are more Android devices floating around than iOS–fragmented or not.

            If calling it “viciously fragmented” (your term, since it wasn’t in the link you provided) allows you to believe that Apple is dominant, feel free to do so.

            I don’t care either way, so long as I have the choice.

    • Herding_sheep

      Marc, the most important thing regarding platform fragmentation is the API set for developers to target.

      iPhone 4 running iOS 6 may not have all end user features, it does however run the iOS 6 API stack. That right there is where “fragmentation” matters. Not end user features. The APIs and frameworks are the real heart and soul of an operating system.

      • Marc

        That’s fine, but if we’re talking “dominance”, shouldn’t the users provide the metric?

        Betamax was superior to VHS, but it was the users who made it the dominate format.

        No single Android dominates because of the spectrum it serves (low-mid-high end). But it’s all Android.

        In the end, I don’t know why it’s important to the Apple fans to begrudge Android’s fragmentation. Apple users benefit from the competition, and vice versa.

        • Herding_sheep

          You have completely missed the point. Once again, the APIs is what is important as a development platform. iOS 6 users outnumber the most popular Android version. That’s the entire basis of Johns argument. What that means is, iOS 6 has a larger pool of users. When a developer writes an application, it’s not like he just says “well this is an Android app and that’s all.” He has to carefully choose what APIs are available to what customers. He can’t just pick and choose from the entire API set available, because it may only reach 23% of the user base. Therefore his app can’t take advantage of the latest and greatest technology available to him, unless he wants to miss out on the 77% of people who aren’t running those APIs.

          That’s what it means as a SOFTWARE PLATFORM. That’s what Android is, a platform. When your platform isn’t cohesive and streamlined, it makes development hell, and more time gets wasted catering to the fragmentation mess than simply being creative and writing code using the most modern toolset available to you today like on iOS. You can do that on iOS and be confident you will reach 95% of users, users who are more than willing to buy your application if it is great.

          You’re completely taking this argument the wrong way.

          • Marc

            I can accept what you’ve said, except the author’s point seemed (to me) to be one of market share; and you’re right that I totally miss the connection of…..

            cohesive/streamlined/homogeneous = dominant

            It’s true that no single version of Android is dominant over the market, given the wide range of devices and versions of Android installed on them.

            I can also accept that Android as a SOFTWARE PLATFORM isn’t as homogeneous as iOS.

            But when you consider that market share is a user-based metric, then it sure seems to me that homogeneous flies out the window.

            You can argue that Apple dominates the developers’ time because of it’s the easiest to code. I’m not a developer, so I couldn’t say either way. And that’s not the argument made in the article.

            But when you’re talking market share (ad nauseum), trying to parse Android into little fragments just to make the statistics support the premise, it’s obfuscation.

  • emblematic

    Every company crows about the metrics they are dominant in, and says the other metrics dont matter. Really nothing to see here.

  • Strategic1

    I get your point – that fragementation across platforms means that apps are less attractive for developers because they need to program/adapt software for each version, and I agree that it is early to write Apple off as Business Insdier does – but I sense some “Math for Lawyers” in this post and it is equally shortsighted to assert that it is “probable” that developers will be “iOS focused”.

    Ok, iOS6 has 93% of the Apple iOS market – or 93% of 20% of (new) smartphones: 18.6% of the total market. Does that make it “dominant”? Android versions often garner 50-60% of new installations, which, if they have 80% of new handsets, means 40% of the overall market – surely this is greater than 18.6%?

    Developers focus on the App store in part because Apple users are generally wealthier and will have higher spend than Android users. This is unlikely to change going forward. And yet, revenue per user can be significantly lower if you have alot more users, and Androids share of the overall smartphone market is increasing. With that, operating system update creep is likely to decline.

    Apple maintains an important advantage in part due to historical leadership – Apple’s share of smartphones in use is much higher than its share of new phones, because it was the dominant platform for a long time. But there is a risk that the inflection point is near and could be reached soon.

    This pattern feels, however, creepliy familiar to the situation around the Apple II / IBM XT PC wars. Apple produced a machine that was significantly more tactile and attractive and started with a huge lead, but the market went with the lower cost solution, in part because computing power was a (rapidly) depreciating asset. When Apple lost the PC market leadership, most of its high end users migrated to x86 architechture. Not unlike IBM’s mainframe business, Google has the gusher of search revenue streams to keep subsidizing usage of its phones, and so its strategy is scale. Apple is dependent on its consumer devices as its primary sources of revenue.

    In the application side, things look equally dangerous. Sure, Apple was schooled in the 1980s and 1990s(when it couldn’t make a decent spreadsheet program) that if you don’t have the best software, your hardware is toast and you will be a niche player. But even in your revenue index reveals the danger to Apple. According to your chart, Apple started out with 4x the revenue in its store as Android did in Google Play. Both increased revenue in 13Q1 by about 25% of Apple’s 12Q4 by 25% of Apples Q4 revenue: that is, in absolute terms both grew by nearly the same amount (it appears Apple might have grown slightly more). Incredible growth for both firms, to be sure. For Apple, however, this was a 25% increase. For Google, revenue grew nearly 100%, such that Google now has improved from 1/4th of Apple’s revenue to 1/3rd.

    Perhaps a big “if” but if Google can continue to grow revenue at a faster rate than Apple, it will surpass it at some point in the future. Surely, this is a legitimate threat.

    Maybe Apple will produce a mass market iPhone. I don’t know, but what I do know is that Apple’s success depends to a surprising extent on the ability to innovate and generate new product categories. They have been remarkably bad at holding on to categories they created/popularized: the PC, the GUI, the word processor, etc. They did managed to hold onto the MP3 player, except that this entire category has evaporated. They now appear to be losing the phone and who knows about the tablet?

    • DarwinPhish

      “When Apple lost the PC market leadership”
      You can not lose that which you never had.

      • Strategic1

        Darwin,
        Thanks for reading to the end and for commenting.

        Apple had PC leadership in the late 1970s and the early 1980s (The Apple I and Apple II/IIe era. As kids, we loved their games). They had competition – I remember my Commodore64 fondly – but in the US, Apple had a huge lead in personal computing. Then, systems players decided there was a market and within just a few years, Apple had lost the initiative.
        Apple’s solution to this problem has always been innovation, which does command a premium, but also means that you exclude yourself from the bottom of the market. Since this is where most mobile consumers reside, it is likely that developers from places like India and South Asia will create apps for the local market, and these will be Android focused, since Androids share in emerging markets is higher than in North America. Some of these apps will be quite useful (moreso than say the various forms of social media “adult friend finder” apps that predominate the California tech scene) and will migrate to developed markets.
        For all of its hippie credentials, Apple has never been interested in developing for the low end of the market. This has been a problem for Apple, as it has led to marginalisation. With the increasing integration of developing countries into the global IT marketplace, I have to imagine that this will limit Apple’s market share even more than earlier versions of this song.

        • jfutral

          Even back in the Apple I and II days Apple never actually “dominated”. I think one year the Apple II topped 15%, but that was the largest market share that Apple ever had in PCs. In truth, Apple has never done as well in any market like it has the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Comparing those markets to the PC market I think is like trying to compare the motor boat market to the yacht market, or motorcycle market to auto market. Or as Jobs once pointed out, auto market to truck market. Sort of similar, but still completely different.

          The Mac ecosystem has never had the advantage over the Windows ecosystem the way the iOS ecosystem has the advantage over Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone ecosystems. And as long as iOS users actually use their devices over the way other other OS users use their devices, that is not likely to change. I’m not sure _why_ iOS users user their devices differently, but they do. As soon as one of the other OS makers figure that out, that’s when things will change. Or when the _real_ next big things comes along to make current mobile devices irrelevant. And I don’t mean just a bigger screen.

          Joe

        • DarwinPhish

          Try doing some research rather than relying on personal memories. Apple never, ever had “PC market leadership”. In the very early dyas, both the Atari 4/800 and the TRS-80’s out sold the Apple ][. Then came the Commodore 64 which out sold it easily. Even with the Mac, Apple never had more than 1/5th of the market. On its own, the Mac never reached 15%.

  • Apple’s doing it right. That’s what all this underlines. The Android fragmentation problem is a real and growing one for developers. And malware in the appstore is a real and growing one for users.

    Markets vote with their dollars. Look at the aftermarket value of iphones. It is telling:

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/08/07/apple-android-resale-value/

  • Scott Sterling

    I’ve enjoyed the debate, particularly Falkirk and NavalGilles. But I think there are two questions that are more interesting and meaningful.

    I’d summarize what’s already been discussed here like this: first, undoubtedly Android as an OS does dominate. Second, fragmentation does harm both developers and consumers, though Android is trying to improve it.

    Here are my two questions that I feel are much more worthy of debate:
    1. Is it OK that Google gives away Android in order to get your data and then sell to advertisers. (It’s not OK with me. I do not wish to be a product for sale.) This is in contrast to Apple, where the customer is me and the product for sale is iOS and the Apple device.
    2. What’s definition of a “smartphone”? Android dominates, yes, but what specifically are they dominating? Surely phones costing $150-$300 with Android on them are not providing comparable performance and user experience to phones costing $450-$850, right? John, Naval, perhaps the current definition of smartphones is way too broad. Let’s discuss the ramifications of the fact that Android dominates “entry-level smartphones” $150-$299, Android dominates “regular smartphones” $300 to $449, and Apple dominates “top-end smartphones” $450-$850.

  • David Kennan

    Great points about iOS strengths. A perspective missing in the article is consumer price-point. Beyond the people who already have iOS, many more cannot afford Apple products today. So while “iOS leads in usage, engagement, developers, income and everything else that makes a platform strong”, it’s inevitable that more customers will buy systems they can afford. Developers have an unprecedented opportunity to build audience with Android and/or cross-platform apps. We’re here to help at http://www.usersource.io

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