Ask LH: Why Don’t We See More Android Apps?

Dear Lifehacker, Why is it that so many large companies are tripping over themselves to make iPhone apps, but leave Android users out in the cold? For example, ANZ has a fantastic app for iPhones, but the Android app is merely a wrapper for their website. Channel 7 also has an app for iPhone and iPad, but not Android.

Despite the popularity of the iPhone, considering that the platform is unique to Apple, surely there are more people overall with Android phones? Do these large companies realise that despite trying to be ‘cool’ and creating apps, they are still neglecting half their possible audience? And is there anything we can do about it?

Don’t Void The Droid

Dear DVTD,

The short answer to your question: we’re slowly seeing a shift towards more Android apps, but it’s not going to happen in a massive hurry. And it’s not an unreasonable attitude, especially from Australian companies. While it’s widely expected that Android will become the biggest-selling smartphone platform in Australia within a year or so (something that has already happened in the US), that hasn’t happened yet.

Debates about the merits of the platforms aside, iPhone has dominated Australia for a while for a couple of clear reasons. Because the iPhone has always been available in Australia with a choice of carriers, its market share has been higher than in other parts of the world. And because many Android phones hit Australia months later than elsewhere in the world, adoption of the Google-based platform has also been slower.

According to recent IDC figures, the iPhone accounts for 40% of the local smartphone market, while Android has 30%. It seems likely that Android will catch up with iPhone this year, suggesting that companies should put more effort into developing for Android as well.

There’s some evidence for that: demand for freelance Android developers is steadily rising, for example. And we are seeing more apps from major corporations. Commonwealth Bank, for instance, recently updated both its iPhone and Android apps. Domino’s is offering apps for multiple platforms, as well as a mobile-specific site that can work on any browser.

That last development does suggest one reason why there might not be the same flood of apps for Android as we’ve seen for the iPhone: some companies have worked out that building a site which anyone on a smartphone can access is frequently a better idea than spending a lot of money on an app that doesn’t offer additional functionality. If an app makes specific use of the phone’s features, it might be a good investment, but a very large number of apps really don’t do anything a browser couldn’t. Not every business that has invested in an iOS app will necessarily want to repeat the experience.

Assuming they do, what can you do to accelerate the process? It certainly doesn’t hurt to drop a friendly note to companies whose sites you use regularly, pointing out that you’d love to see an Android version of existing apps. Perhaps even more useful is to use your Android device to visit those sites. Businesses can keep track of which platforms are used to access their resources, and a steady stream of Android visitors might be persuasive.


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