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So What Mobile Platform Should I Start With?

June 6, 2011

You’ve decided your business needs a mobile application. Whether planning to provide service for customers or an enterprise solution to boost employees’ productivity, the first question of development is: Which platform?

We will review the big players on the market – RIM’s BlackBerry OS, Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and attempt to point out factors to consider when making that decision.

Audience

When planning a consumer application, the most obvious consideration is how to reach the biggest number of users. Therefore, your choice must be guided mostly by what type of audience you are expecting to reach.

Google’s Android has been around for about two and a half years now and its versatility has resulted in plentiful professional android application development which in turn made it successful. Unlike iOS or Blackbery OS, it is available on multiple devices, espoused by manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC, which is probably why it’s the current leader and fastest growing smartphone OS by market share. This however means that not every phone will be able to run your app the same way. There is segmentation within the Android space itself, with some models, like the Motorla Droid for example targeting business users in particular.

The iPhone, as well as most other Apple products, has stereotypically been seen as a hipster trademark and a favorite of the cool creative professional. Although there is more than a grain of truth to that, last year AT&T reported that 40% of its iPhone sales were to business customers, which suggests they are taking away share from Research In Motion. The iPhone of course is wildly popular with mobile app developers, holding about a quarter of the US smartphone market as of February, which still makes it a great way to reach a big number of users.

As the perennial enterprise solution leader, the Blackberry OS is a logical choice if your app targets the business/corporate crowd. Companies have given out millions of Berries to their employees but keep in mind that they disable many features such as the camera or bbm messenger in order to keep their bees productive. Be weary of what services your app will utilize and whether your customers will have ready access to it.

Technical Capabilities

Android once again offers the advantage of having access to a myriad of devices, albeit with much variety in performance characteristics. However, you can count on Android phones running Flash (a no-no with BlackBerry and iOS), which can be a big plus. Additionally, since new Android devices come out all the time, android application developers know they can reliably run any power-hungry app and the market will catch up quickly.

The iPhone 4 has the Apple A4 processor which debuted with the iPad 1, and leaves us expecting to see what the iPhone 5 will have in store. The iPhone’s groundbreaking multi-touch interface, two cameras, gyroscope, compass and accelerometer make it a very powerful platform. As with all Apple products, the operating system has been optimized to work with exactly that hardware configuration, so you don’t have to worry about performance.

RIM has been heavily criticized recently about falling behind the curve in developing media-intensive devices and newer interfaces (remember the Storm?). Recently they’ve shown reluctance to get into the hyperphone market and put out a device with a dual-core processor anytime soon. This means that if you want to develop something that really pushes today’s fastest smartphones to the edge, BlackBerry OS is probably not the best choice.

Profitability and Future Prospects

If you are considering making a profit from the sales of your app, you must take a look at the pricing models of the different platform app stores. RIM’s Blackberry App World takes a fixed $200 fee that allows you to develop up to 10 apps, and they take a 30% cut from every sale. Apple charges $99 per year to allow you to develop for the App Store and also takes 30% of every sale. Android has a one-time $25 registration fee, and as well commissions 30% from every app sale.

A recent study confirms that there are some differences in the method of monetizing on mobile application investment. The study states that 20% of all free apps and 80% of all paid apps in the Android Market have been downloaded fewer than 100 times to date worldwide. At the same time some paid iOS applications have generated over 500,000 downloads in March and April just from the US store, with certain game apps being dowloaded about 250,000 times. The above suggests that iPhone applications could be able to bring revenue on their own, while if developing for Android it might be a good idea to consider in-app advertising.

A tricky question, but one to consider if you hope your app will last on the market. Judging by the BlackBerry PlayBook, debuting the BlackBerry OS 7, Research In Motion is moving hard into more media-friendly territory, developing flash and good multitasking support. Apple is likely to continue churning out stylish and powerful smartphones. Some questions remain about flash support and multitasking. Android will probably keep on being the leader, but device segmentation and large amounts of spam apps could pause a challenge.

Conclusion


We’ve only intended to provide an initial overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the three leading smartphone operating systems on the market today. Additional thought can be given to the swiftly becoming popular tablet devices , Apple’s iPad, RIM’s PlayBook etc. Please share your experience on working with mobile application development companies and choosing what platform to start development with?

Author: Maria Williamson

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