When you want to create an app, the first key question you need to ask yourself is simple: which platform do I want to develop for?
Localytics put these beliefs to the test and found surprising results.
It is common for people to compare and contrast Android smartphones and iPhones, but comparing all Android models to iPhones is a skewed comparison because of the multitude of manufacturers and models for Android.
It’s like comparing a Porsche to all Chevrolet models.
Instead, a fairer comparison would be a subset of high-end Android devices (like the Samsung S5, LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z3; see our methodology for the definition of and complete listing) to newer iPhone models. This comparison yielded some interesting results:
Bucking conventional wisdom, the high-end Android devices demonstrate drastically higher engagement – to the tune of 21.6 app launches per month. This is 44% higher than other Android smartphones (which see 13.7 launches per month), and, most surprisingly 40% higher than the recently released iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (which see 14.3 app launches per month).
Perhaps this news shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even after the release of iOS 8 and the phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus, Android phones have several features that allow a greater degree of customizability that simply aren’t offered in the iPhone. For example, certain Android phones allow the user to open multiple apps at once and use them alongside each other. Other Android phones allow the user to add more storage with a micro USB card. And, of course, Android phones automatically enable push notifications, leading to a higher push opt-in rate (59%) than their iOS counterparts (46%).
For marketers, the users of upper-tier Android devices represent a segment of highly engaged smartphone users who should be a priority for targeted marketing and conversion campaigns.
Another common belief is that Android devices are highly fragmented (meaning there are lots of different variants of the Android platform), making it difficult for mobile developers to create consistent user experiences.
While this has been true historically, the current state of the Android market is much less fragmented than many think. In fact, the Android market right now is the least fragmented it has been since Q1 2012. Currently, 90% of all Android devices are running on one of two Android OS versions: KitKat (59%) or Jelly Bean (31%).
How does this compare to Apple’s iOS? Our study found that iOS 8 makes up 71% of all iOS devices, with iOS 7 still operating on 26% of devices. Compared to Android’s 90% share of the top two OS versions, iOS still has a higher share of their top two OS versions at 97%.
Although iOS has a higher share of devices on its top two OS versions, it’s notable that iOS 8 adoption is much slower than previous versions. In fact, at this time last year, iOS 7 was on 86% of all eligible devices. Much has been made of the slow adoption of iOS 8 - the initial buggy release, five GB of free space, lack of flashy features. iOS still sets the bar of adoption at 71% on one OS, but it’s fair to wonder if the slow adoption of iOS 8 won’t carry on to future releases and result in higher iOS fragmentation.
We wouldn’t be honoring our roots as an analytics company if we didn’t note that this data proves you should always take a data-driven approach to every decision you make. As we’ve shown, common, unproven beliefs may cause you to miss out on valuable business opportunities.
In this case, we recommend app owners to segment their app users by device and see how often they are launching your app. Are users on top-tier Android devices coming back to your app more often? If so, take some time to understand why they are more engaged – do they tend to make it farther down your conversion funnel? Is there a higher response to push notifications? Identify the main causes, encourage more of those actions, and consider adjusting your app experience on the other OS to influence more of the same action.
For deveopers who haven't yet launched their apps, do your research to understand the various features of Android models. If you think your app could benefit from utilizing one of the Android-only features, you may decide to launch on Android first or at the very least create a design that supports the uniqueness of those models’ engagement features.
Understanding the data around engagement and fragmentation is just the tip of the iceberg when deciding which platform to develop for, but it’s an important one.
For this study, we examined over 100 million devices since 2012 globally. For the engagement study, Localytics examined the average app launches for different devices. The subset of high-end Android phones included the Samsung S5, LG G3, Sony Xperia Z3, Nexus 5 and 6, Motorola Moto X, and HTC One (M8). For the fragmentation study, Localytics looked at the different OS versions for over 100 million devices since 2012.
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