I was teaching a great class of new Android developers last week. As is typical in this class, a number of my students were debating the merits and shortcomings of the Android and iOS platforms for smartphones and tablets. Which is easier to develop applications for? Which has better features? Which has better security and privacy controls? My students are not alone in this debate. Both Android and iOS have released new versions recently (version 5/Lollipop and iOS 8 respectively) and so I see the blogospheres and Internet (Forbes for instance) reignite this discussion.
As a participant in mobile application development, what do I tell my students? What’s my take on the mobile platform “war”? I say the debate is really immaterial. Android and iOS smartphones are the predominate platforms of the most ubiquitous communication and information exchange devices known to mankind – and neither are going away in the foreseeable future. Therefore, companies and individuals that want to reach the world need to write applications to both platforms.
My case is advanced by International Data Corporation (IDC) this week. They reported that over 96% of the world’s smartphones are or will be running Android or iOS by the end of 2014. The next leading mobile platform (Windows) holds less than 3% of market share.
The picture heavily favors Android worldwide, but when you look at the US marketplace, Apple’s iOS platform more closely rivals Android. In July, comScore reported that iOS’s share of US smartphones was almost 42% to Android’s 52%. Again, the nearest competitor is Windows with 3%.
IDC regularly forecasts on information technology market share. Should you think that things in the mobile space are going to change, consider that their prediction for 2018 says that other operating systems might eat into the iOS/Android market share a tiny bit – lowering the Android/iOS dominance to almost 93% by 2018 – but not that significantly without some type of disruptive change.
Which mobile platform is best? People are voting with their money and the picture is pretty clear. If you want to reach the mobile world then you need to know Android AND iOS for the next few years.