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The success of Android in the mobile market may be one of Google's biggest accomplishments outside of search, and it may be crucial to the company's long-term success generally.

But when it comes to ecosystems, Android still lags well behind Apple, which has built the mother of all ecosystems around iOS.

The question for Google: why is that?

There are a number of possible answers. Android is arguably more 'open' than iOS, and it's the OS for devices from many vendors, meaning Google exerts less control over the end-to-end user experience.

There's also the fact that Google's payment mechanism, Google Checkout, generally sucks, making the app purchasing experience less pleasurable, in turn giving developers no reason to focus their efforts away from iOS and the App Store to Android and the Android Market.

But what if there are a more fundamental issues with Android that Google can't control?

At the Gamelab 2011 conference in Barcelona, one developer chalked it up to Android's demographic: "Android has potential, but it doesn’t just have fragmentation or billing issues, it’s the demographic too." In other words, Android users are cheap.

Previous surveys have revealed significant differences between iPhone owners and their Android counterparts, so the notion that that Android fans might be from Mars and Apple fans might be from Venus isn't entirely new.

But given the penetration Android now has in the mobile market, Apple's continued lead as the ecosystem of choice should be of concern to Google.

As Michael Schade, whose company Fishlabs builds mobile games, told the audience at Gamelab 2011, "Android is missing a trick; a quality, premium section. Google does not understand that software drives hardware sales".

The trick, however, may be something that Google can't create if demographics are a key determinant in whether or not Android users will pay for software.

There's a lesson here for all businesses, of course: demographics matter. Apple doesn't need to own the majority of the mobile market to be the most efficient in extracting profit from it.

At the same time, Google can adopt a strategy that results in impressive gains in market share without necessarily tapping the market in the most effective way.

This, of course, doesn't mean that Apple is beating Google in every analysis (I don't think it's always sensible to compare Apples to Googles in mobile), but the differences between the iOS ecosystem and the Android ecosystem should serve as a powerful reminder that who you target is just as important as who you acquire.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 July, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2379 more posts from this author

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cjacks0n

I think this article misses the point. Its not that Android users are stingy but that the quality of apps isnt as good as it is on the iPhone. If you look at the top paid for games on both platforms, there is no comparison.

The big name game creators have started bringing some of the games from consoles on to the iPhone but havent started producing these for the Android platform yet.

about 5 years ago

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kevin smith

I'm not sure that Android's users are stingy. That's too much of a leap for me. Also i'm not sure that the strength of an ecosystem can be summed up by how much profit it can extract from its users. Google's strategy is working for Google. It doesn't care about selling app's. It cares about people using Google services...and the more Android devices out there, the more people will be drawn into Google's universe.

The quality of the apps on the market are an obvious side-effect of an open environment where there is no formal submission process. Anything goes. For an app developer wanting to sell app's this may well make Android a second class ecosystem when compared to the more profitable iOS. But Androids openness actually opens it up to entirely different markets.

about 5 years ago

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Nut_gobbler

WRONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!

about 5 years ago

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Roberto

This is so inaccurate, i have so much money and i currently own every single app on the android market. I used to own an iphone but then i set it on fire for a laugh.

about 5 years ago

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Trebor

Winner!

about 5 years ago

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Cheesy lover

I work with two Android-loving clowns and can categorically state that they deserve everything they get, ie no decent apps and a cheap-ass phone: losers!

about 5 years ago

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Richard Arran Photography

Interesting. Just proves that any piece of hardware is only as good as the software on it.

about 5 years ago

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Geoff Oogle

I got my iPhone when I stole it from the Android head office. Which camp does that put me in? Neither? Both? Prison?

Am I in PRISON???

about 5 years ago

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Michal

Well it is comparing apples & oranges.
1/ Google does not need to sell software to turn profit. Apple has to sell software for a living.

2/ Perhaps Android users just need a phone and a few apps on it. Mobile web is getting better everyday.

3/ Google will show ads no matter what and will not stop developers with visible 30% fee.

about 5 years ago

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mehdi

I really don't understand why, multi-billion dollar companies like samsung or nokia cannot do a decent iphone clone. I meen how difficult can it be.

If someone just copied all the features of an iphone and allowed flash and made sure that the phone itself felt like a quality piece of kit.

I know its easier said than done!

about 5 years ago

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Robert G

Patricio does have a point - no Google doesn't need to sell software, but it does need to create and maintain a big market for Android. But as everyone has witnessed the quality of the ecosystem is important - and developers don't want to build for a platform that is difficult to monetise. Android is doing well now - but developers still report poor sales, and Apple look like they can take a chunk back from Android with the next phone and networks.

about 5 years ago

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Jason DaPonte

The real problem isn't whether the users are stingy or not but whether they're interested in really using smartphone services or not.
<p>
Android has gained much of its reach by getting installed on every phone it possibly can. This means that many Android users are using Android phones as they've always used their phones - for calls and texting. Users are getting Android phones as standard upgrade phones. As I've often said, "My mom's next phone will have Android on it. She will not buy apps." (great as my mom is!)
<p>
I expect this trend will continue and will continue to dilute the number of Android users that are making high-value purchases. This doesn't mean however that Android isn't good or should be ignored.
<p>
What is important is to recognise that not all Android phone users are a target audience and that you can't expect to reach as high a percentage of them as possible. Whereas with iOS, users have opted-in to a premium smartphone (and paid handsomely for it) so are more likely to desire these types of experiences and expect to spend money on apps, purchases, etc.

about 5 years ago

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Gerry White

I am not tight, and spent quite a bit on iPhone apps for one reason, they worked and I could install them.

On the Android there is so much fragmentation, so many don't "work" but the significant issue is that I don't have space on my phone, despite the move to SD card (most of my apps are on an SD card) I still get out of space as for some reason I can't install any more apps without the "low space" notification (which stops downloading my emails), this is allegedly a 3GS beating handset the top of the then range HTC Desire, as of now I won't be buying another HTC device as the sheer lack of space on it shows how much they skimped in a key area, maybe too much "HTC Sense" and not enough common sense.

Would I go back to iPhone? No - purely because I find that iTunes and syncing on my computer is something I choose not to do in that way.

Android are far better at somethings and I suspect my next phone will be a dual core Android (LG or Samsung) until the Windows7 phones get upto speed.

I am not cheap, but I won't buy apps for a phone that I haven't got space for...

about 5 years ago

Darren Mackintosh

Darren Mackintosh, Web Designer at Argos

I think it's more to do with Android being seen as "Open Source" which in-turn is interpretted as "Free".

This is the stigma of Open Source, everyone seems to assume it's free...

about 5 years ago

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ERS CRM

I have yet to see an Android app I actually want to buy

about 5 years ago

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Mike Dunphy, Director at MD Media Consulting Ltd

Generally agree with the main threads of this article. I still wonder why so many developers develop paid apps for android when you can see how few are being sold. You only have to look at Angry Birds being free on Android. I guess Google are aiming for presence not profit at this point but they could be helping to destroy the concept of paid content in the process.

about 5 years ago

Darren Mackintosh

Darren Mackintosh, Web Designer at Argos

I did actually buy an Android App once. Launcher Pro, as I felt Launcher2 was a bit slow.

Angry Birds is free on Android, but it's stuffed with apps, which can slow it down...

about 5 years ago

Jonathan Kay

Jonathan Kay, Managing Director at 120 Feet

It's not that Android users are necessarily "stingy”, more that they are different. Different demographics, perhaps different objectives when buying a phone or maybe they simply want to spend several hundred pounds on something more useful than lining Apple’s back pocket.

My HTC Desire HD was free and includes more minutes per month, more data, cheaper monthly call plan, no tethering charges, I can use it to create a wi-fi hotspot etc. I reckon over my 18 month contract I’ll save £470! It's also very well built.

That said, I hate it because the battery lasts for circa 6 hours (and much less if I need to use the satnav, Bluetooth etc). So as soon as the iPhone 5 comes out the HTC will find a new home in a skip.

about 5 years ago

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Angelos Taplatzidis

@cjacks0n I agree with the first comment of this thread. I am an Android user, stubbornly resisting Apple 3years now but I am losing confidence and frankly I am a bit jealous of the iPhone apps and general functionality.

I ll wait few months and get on the Apple wagon for iPhone5.

about 5 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Not really surprising that Andriod users choose to *not* describe themselves as "stingy". I expect that eBay shoppers would use much more flattering terms to describe themselves too!

But ultimately the facts speak for themselves and as a commercial app developer I would not dream of wasting time, money and resources on developing software for Andriod. Purely because, when it comes to Android, I am very clear that I am unlikely to find users that are willing to put their hands near to their wallet.

Just reading the comments on this thread re-enforces & confirms my belief!

However each to their own :)

about 5 years ago

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Rick Harrison

I'd say @cjacks0n is pretty on the money - as an android owner who has bought apps, the main problem is a lack decent apps as much as anything, i'm quite happy to pony up for apps I'll use.

@Mike Dunphy's assertion about Angry Birds being free on android pointing to the fact that Android users won't pay is a little misleading - you can either have the game free while showing adverts, or pay for an ad-free version - i'd assume the developer saw android as a suitable way of testing the water to see how well an ad-supported app would work (and what percentage would pay a premium to remove them) - would be silly to try this on their already established market on the iphone, so trying it on the new market of android makes a lot of sense. Will be interesting to see if the ad-supported method comes back to the iphone (tho that depends on how much apple want a cut of their takings)

As someone else pointed out, the demographics are different between android and iphone - android is swiftly taking over Nokia's position as the phone for the "everyman" - regardless of apps, it has and will continue to have a greater installed base than iphone. A significant number of those users probably wont buy an app, but i reckon at some point the proportion of will-buy-an-app owners will eventually match if not exceed iphones. I'd also argue that most people would buy an app should the right app come along.... which leads me to another point...

The android store is crap - It's hard to find new interesting apps in the first place - the only ones featured on the homepage tend to be ones that have been downloaded a lot already, so if you're going to release an android app and want it to do well, you need to think about marketing it well too (but then i'd argue that the app market on iphone is now so huge you've got to do the same there too to shift good numbers?) I'm struggling to think of many android apps that have had a proper go at marketing bar free apps for using services of established businesses (supermarkets, banking etc)

about 5 years ago

Alain Attias

Alain Attias, SEO/SEM Officer at Brother International Europe Ltd.

As an Android phone user, I do love my HTC Desire but am losing faith due to so many different apps being available for the iPhone and not for Android. This includes banking, shopping and other apps which is frustrating. I like the idea of having an SD card for storage as well as flash for the camera but the iPhone is getting more appealing when my contract runs out next year, although I hate to say it...

about 5 years ago

Alain Attias

Alain Attias, SEO/SEM Officer at Brother International Europe Ltd.

As an Android phone user, I do love my HTC Desire but am losing faith due to so many different apps being available for the iPhone and not for Android. This includes banking, shopping and other apps which is frustrating. I like the idea of having an SD card for storage as well as flash for the camera but the iPhone is getting more appealing when my contract runs out next year, although I hate to say it...

about 5 years ago

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Mike Dunphy, Director at MD Media Consulting Ltd

Hi Rick,
Yes i agree with most of your points too. This thread of comments is bringing out many of the issues with Android.
However, I did not know there was a paid for version of Angry Birds on the Android Marketplace, nor have i been able to find it now when looking for it. Maybe this is linked to your point about the marketplace.

Generally, the 'stingy' phrase has not helped this article because it does not really reflect the content. The key thing here is the difference in the propensity to pay of the demographic who have the handsets, as pointed out by many.

about 5 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

@Mike "the difference in the propensity to pay of the demographic"... it might just be my misunderstanding, but to me that just sounds like a PC way of saying they are to stingy to pay ;-)

about 5 years ago

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Mike Dunphy, Director at MD Media Consulting Ltd

or too poor

about 5 years ago

Darren Mackintosh

Darren Mackintosh, Web Designer at Argos

A quick point in a comment regarding Nokia, they are primarily Window Phone now ;)

But I think that may go the way of iOS, just because of the clout Microsoft have...

about 5 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

@Mike Potentially true. Although if we are talking about poverty at a level where an item typically priced at less than a large Starbucks is an issue, I might be inclined to think that owning a Smartphone in the first place was a huge overspend and quite a luxury item...

TBH on balance I don't really buy the too poor argument.

about 5 years ago

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Hilikus

Every Android device sold, is another convert to Google as a whole, they're gaining a lot more than just mobile customers, they're adding users who will go on to use their other services (gmail, analytics, adwords, weboptimizer, Google+, etc..)

I pay for the more functional Android apps that I use on a regular basis, and by having such an 'open' attitude to the marketplace, it means developers write apps that add desired functionality and even fix annoying bugs.

I laughed when someone showed me the new features in the iPhone update - my Androids been able to do that for over a year, because someone built an app for it (check out tasker!) ;)

about 5 years ago

Darren Mackintosh

Darren Mackintosh, Web Designer at Argos

The Android marketplace is a travesty, but allowing users to fix bugs and provide better functionality is something that make Android unique, apple would never allow it's devs to do that...

I also like that anyone can take Android and make there own OS. My HTC Hero is running a custom Android 2.3.4 install as we speak, and it runs it well...

I am very google-centric as it is. I have GMail, I use Google Docs and Calendar as Apple used to want to charge for that sort of thing.

I can use Google Music, and am beta testing Google+, that sort of functionality is currently paid-for on Apple, or you'd have to subscribe to a third-party like spotify. from what I gather cloud based music will cost the user $25 a year with Apple. Whilst in BETA it is free with Google, it will be interesting to see what pricing model they come out with if any.

But I downloaded all my apps from the marketplace, even the BETA stuff ;)

about 5 years ago

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Rick Harrison

@Mike Dunphy:
Angry Birds - weird - doesn't look to be there now (been a while since i downloaded it, but i'm positive there was the paid version for 99 cents). Doing a search for it on the Marketplace does show how badly overrun it is with Keyword spam etc making it hard to find stuff :-/

Did a quick spot of googling to try to work out why the paid version might have vanished just leaving the free ad-supported version - i reckon the answer lies here:

http://www.androidcentral.com/rovio-angry-birds-hits-30-million-downloads-android

... maybe it doesn't matter if android users are tight - rovio are possibly making 6 million dollars *a month* on adverts on the google version of angry birds - if the figures are to be believed anyone playing for more than a couple of months will have generated more revenue than if they'd sold the app outright, and the useful thing about free-with-ads is a) you shift more copies (looks like there's significantly more copies on android phones than iphones now - all that ad revenue for copies you wouldnt have sold soon adds up), and b) it doesn't matter if someone pirates your app (which is another thing google could do with getting under control).

about 5 years ago

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felix adewoye

As i Android user i would never call myself "stingy" but i would say i am a smart user.We all know that we the users are pawns in a 3 way battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft.

I would say that if a developer wants my money then he will have to show me the value. The number one rule in buying is "the value for money". The second rule is "market your product" this is where android falls down.

They all have strengths and weaknesses and serve different demograhics.

about 5 years ago

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Craig Sullivan, Customer Experience Manager at Belron International

The main thing for me is that a marketplace driven socially and by customer preference, size of wallet and not ruthlessly controlled, will always produce more innovation (useful and useless) than the Apply way.

The tipping point happens when (as I'm seeing in USA and other places) the Android becomes a large player or even dominant (the USA). As that point is reached, there will be much better apps and the volume, revenue and ratings will factor in keeping good stuff at the top.

As a company, we get far more customer searches, intention and conversion via our mobile optimised website - like 40x bigger. So for us the debate is not about apps, platforms or whether to do 'mobile web app' or not - it's about going where your customers are, d'oh.

Most of the reasons for supposed stinginess is down to demographics - if you look at the telcos, handsets and hardware capabilities, you can see that android is simply hitting a wider audience segment than iPhone does and this affects demographics. Android phones come in a variety of screen sizes, capabilities and most importantly, price. Get used to it!

Saying Android users are stingy is like saying Wow - Waitrose customers spend more than people at Asda!

Remember that experiences vary - you need to know about your existing and target audiences to work out a business case for all app or mobile web app development.

about 5 years ago

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Advoca

The reason for more iphone app purchases is the same reason Macbooks sell. Marketing and stupid people.

Android apps don't sell as much because you've got an audience who know better. Apple is being applauded by the same people its ripping off.

Android users aren't stingy. They're just not stupid.

about 5 years ago

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Craig Sullivan, Customer Experience Manager at Belron International

If you check anyway, most of the phones (Android and iPhone just to begin with) run webkit or other browsers that support advanced stuff.

Your desktop browser is not usually as high spec as that running on your smartphone. If you know what devices are visiting (try www.bango.com) then you can design fast, easy and slick web apps.

With most of these smartphones, you can do most of what apps do including local storage, video, integration with touch, gps and other functions. It's perfectly possible to make a site that works offline with local data.

I'm already seeing more mobile web app sites that are very small in size, very usable, slick and super close to the app version. If you use google web apps like maps on iPhone or Android, you'll find it's almost the same now.

This is the point - it isn't about apps or web anymore - it's becoming a mashup of the two anyway!

about 5 years ago

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play

I found this analysis very enlightening. "In other words, Android users are cheap". This is very true, Apple has always managed to extract premium prices. And another point: There are many (I found at least several thousands with a file search engine) of free Android apps int the net. Very easy to find. This may create a certain competition to commercial Android apps, which need to offer substantial additional value relatively to the apps freely available. This may discourage app devlopers to a certain extend.

about 5 years ago

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