Some issues that face app developers choosing between iOS and Android platforms are obvious (far more hardware variation on Android; capricious store policies on iOS). Others are less apparent but just as significant. Two factors you might not have considered: pirate copies and seasonal sales variations.
A recurring theme at the One More Thing iOS app development conference in Melbourne over the weekend was the difference between selling iOS apps and Android apps. While there was an obvious slant towards iOS projects given the conference theme, many of the developers who spoke at the event also offer Android versions.
Success in that area varies widely. For Quoord Systems, which develops forum reading application Tapatalk, Android has become a significant platform (though still smaller than iOS overall). A major reason for that has been Quoord's willingness to work with major Android forums and ensure that their sites were compatible with the app. That's a no-brainer, but it seems Android users also have a different view when it comes to acquiring pirated copies of apps.
Quoord's Winter Wong (pictured above) takes a fairly relaxed view of trying to stop app-piracy. "The first time we found our apps cracked and on Megaupload I was super-happy because it least someone had noticed them," he said. "A lot of people put a lot of effort into trying to block piracy. It isn't really worth any effort to protect your apps because people are going to crack us anyway."
What Quoord has found useful is the DMCA Guardian service, which charges around $50 a month and helps automate the sending of takedown notices to sites which host pirated copies of apps (or other content). Wong said that while adopting that approach hadn't had a noticeable effect in the Apple universe (where installing pirated apps requires a jailbroken device), it had made a clear difference for Android.
"For Apple we didn't see any significant increase in sales when we used their service, but for Android our sales jumped 20 per cent after we used their service," he said. "Clearly lots of people used cracked apps on Android."
Sales aside, Wong notes that developing for multiple platforms requires significant resources. "You really need to think about the commitment you make to it. Programming may only be one or two months, but the effort to maintain it is a huge effort."
Despite that, Wong says going dual-platform has been worth it for Quoord: "A lot of people say you can't make any money on Android, but I still believe people want quality apps, and the market is big enough for individual developers to look into that."
Lee Armstrong from Pinkfroot, which develops the Plane Finder and Ship Finder family of apps, is a little less convinced. While the company's user base had been vocal in asking for an Android version, sales have only been a fraction of the iOS version.
They also don't exhibit seasonal variation. The chart below shows Pinkfroot's app sales for December 2011:
The blue line shows iOS sales. There's a clear peak each weekend, and a massive spike at Christmas, when new devices and gift cards get unwrapped. But there's no such obvious pattern for Android, where sales don't exhibit the same seasonal variation.
That said, it could be much worse. If you look really closely, you can see the flat orange line on the bottom of the screen, which represents Windows Phone 7 app sales for Pinkfroot.