It is often said that iOS-based devices have 20% or so market share, yet they generate 80% of the total app revenue. On the surface there is a somewhat Paretoesque principle at play with smartphones.
I looked into it and these numbers turn out to be misleading.
iOS apps generate 80% more revenue than Android apps. That is quite different from saying that iOS has 80% market share. Specifically, in Q2 2014, Google Play saw $60M in total revenue, while the iOS AppStore clocked in at $100M. (Source requires registration.)
If we exclude the small impact of alternative Android stores, we are looking at 37.5% and 62.5%, respectively, of their combined market share. No one can deny that it’s still a substantial difference, but it’s definitely more subtle than the often touted 80–20 revenue split. (If we look at downloads, the roles are pretty much reversed with Android devices having 60% of their combined market share of downloads, and iOS devices 40%).
Those numbers are for app revenue. Now let’s look at devices. According to the latest IDC statistics, iOS global device market share is actually quite a bit lower than 20%.
The keyword here however is “global”. Anecdotally, it would be extremely hard to imagine that iPhones have less than a 12% market share in North America, or even the 20% figure I have seen floating around for quite some time now.
The actual OS usage numbers for the North American market show an estimated 51%–42% split in favor of Android, a much less monopolistic picture.
From a developer perspective, these less sensationalistic numbers have a few implications:
- If you are targeting a North American audience, developing for Android does not give you a big advantage in terms of a reachable user base;
- iOS still has the edge in terms of revenue, but the frequently heard, “Don’t bother developing for Android”, is absolute nonsense. You can target Android alone and still do extremely well;
- If you are targeting emerging markets like India, China, Thailand, and Asia in general, Android is a sure bet;
- It is entirely possible that iOS users have higher incomes on average, but whatever the cause, the numbers seem to indicate that they have a greater willingness to pay for applications;
- If you are targeting both iOS and Android mobile OSes with your application, taking the strength of both app stores into account, it would make sense to charge for the iOS app while making the Android app available as a free download that relies on ads for its revenue. This of course has the risk of alienating some users who happen to dabble with both operating systems, however they are likely to be a minority so this shouldn’t hold you back, if it’s the road you’d like to embark down.
Personally, I welcome a world where the two major mobile operating systems go head-to-head and converge towards a roughly equivalent market share (at least in North America and Europe). And on that note, having the far off third contender (Microsoft) be less distant certainly wouldn’t hurt matters either.