Thoughts on mobile development - Symbian, Blackberry, Android, J2ME and iPhone

Which mobile platforms do developers love?

By Aaron Davidson, in , posted: 15-Feb-2010 16:12

Well Flurry released its periodical Smartphone Industry Pulse a couple of days ago.  Here at SimWorks we love Flurry and I plan to write about it in-depth at some point.  Suffice it to say that Flurry's analytics are in most mobile apps released today, including ours, which puts Flurry in a unique position to identify interesting trends across platforms, geographies etc.

Flurry's report identified two interesting facts:

1.  Android and iPhone users use their phones in very similar ways, using the same sort of apps for around the same length and number of times per month (with the exception of games, which Android users would seem to play about twice as much of, slackers!).  These graphs provided by Flurry illustrate the point:

Average sessions per month by category

Average length of each session

What these graphs show is that Android and iPhone users use roughly the same types of apps roughly the same number of times each month (first graph) and secondly that each time an Android or iPhone user uses an app of a given type they use it for roughly the same length of time (second graph).

2.  Many many more iPhone apps are being developed than Android apps.  In January this year alone over 1600 new iPhone apps were started compared to just under 300 new Android apps.  On the one hand, this stat is not so surprising as there are of course many many times more iPhone users than Android users, so the market opportunity is potentially larger and more attractive on the iPhone side of things.  On the other hand, with well over 100,000 applications already available, it is surprising to see so many new application starts on the iPhone platform.  Just how many good ideas are there out there for mobile applications anyway?  Encouragingly for a mobile application developer such as SimWorks, the answer would appear to be lots and lots.  Flurry also has some pretty graphs to illustrate this point if you're interested.

Actually the January results reported by Flurry are a big shift from December when the trend had been for new Android application starts slowly catching up to new iPhone application starts.  iPhone pulled ahead again significantly in January which Flurry puts down to Apple's iPad announcement reinvigorating developer interest in the platform.  That seems like a pretty unlikely explanation unless you believe that the iPad will introduce some significant new use-cases and so the upsurge is in fact iPad application starts.  The truth will out once the iPad is actually released and Flurry begins to collect device data.

Flurry also included a graphical representation of the relative developer support for the iPhone and Android platforms which some commentators have proceeded to completely misinterpret.  This graph shows out of 100% the relative number of projects started in any given month for iPhone and Android:

Relative android v iphone new application starts

Naturally you could have application starts for both platforms increasing every month but if one is increasing each month as a % of the overall starts then it will appear that developer commitment to the other platform is waning leading to some quite misleading misunderstandings, such as:

"While stats like this can certainly be misleading, it almost appears as if a small pocket of developers are jumping ship with every tempting Android or Apple-related project that comes up."

It is unfortunate that the author highlighted how misleading such statistics can be and then proceeded to completely mislead his readers.

The thing that I took from all of this is that iPhone and Android users aren't that different afterall.  They use their devices similarly, purchase similar sorts of apps which they use with a similar sort of frequency.  You can probably extrapolate then that a popular app on iPhone will probably be popular on Android and vice versa and by extension, although Flurry do not have the data to show it, on Symbian and other platforms.

Other related posts:
Don’t ignore regionality when selecting target mobile OS
Windows Phone 7 looking good. Demo looking better.
Nokia Developer Day, Sydney 2 March 2010

Comment by Bala Sankar, on 23-Feb-2010 19:36

Book: Web On-The-Go is available at The Nile in New Zealand. URL:

This book not only provides ideas for future applications on the mobile platform, but also inspires people to think beyond regular applications, like email, chat and social networking. People, who have read this book, always come up with surprisingly new ideas for industries like, transportation, shipping, health care, public safety, security, etc. A must-read for all policy makers, executives, innovating managers, engineers, and the general public.

I would like to have your comments on this book. Thanks. Bala

Comment by Jon Byous, on 13-Mar-2010 19:40

Thanks for the analysis. Informative.

I don't have any problem agreeing that Android and iPhone app users are more similar than different. And it's a moving target, also.

And hey, I'm a Flurry fan also. But with no app to run, I haven't seen their analytics. If you would like, I'd be glad to interview you for my mobile developer site, especially if you can discuss the advantages of Flurry for mobile developers. (I spent years interviewing developers for, and now I'd like to do it for my blog.)

Be glad you're in the biz. You're in an enviable position as a developer. The big dogs are all fighting over you.

Stay cool,
Jon Byous

Author's note by ald, on 15-Mar-2010 15:36

Hi Jon, I'd be happy to do an interview for your blog.  I'll PM you my email address.

ald's profile

Aaron Davidson
New Zealand

Co-founder and CEO of SimWorks - New Zealands leading developer of mobile applications.

SimWorks Anti-Virus protects over 1.5 million mobile phones around the world everyday.

SimWorks phone backup enables mobile operators to protect their subscribers mobile phone contacts and provide their subscribers with unique and compelling new ARPU boosting services.

If you need a mobile app developed give us a call.

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