21% of the global population will be using mobile apps by the end of the year. Your company may need an app too, but should you build your app for iPad, iPhone or Android?

One and a half billion people will be using mobile apps by the end of the 2013, equivalent to 21% of the global population. 

Of course, mobile-optimised websites are clearly vital to communicate with your audience, with the balance now tipping in favour of responsive website design, but there’s still a strong case to be made for providing one or more apps as well. 

But assuming you’re ready to commit, should you go for an iPad, iPhone or Android app?

For our latest research, we looked at nearly 400 international companies across the primary indices in the UK (FTSE 100), the US (S&P 100), Denmark (OMXC 20), Finland (OMXH 25), France (CAC 40), Germany (DAX 30), Italy (FTSE MIB) and Sweden (OMXS30).

The research looked at 3,105 apps, an average of eight apps per company.

Most popular device or OS across all apps surveyed

Initially, it’s clear that public companies tend to prefer Apple to Android, while iPhone is the most popular device. However, this is not the end of the story: it is vital to consider the different type of audience that each app is aimed at.

For example, of the apps that could be classified as IR or corporate, we found that nearly two-thirds of them were built for the iPad, whereas if the operating system (OS) is compared, Apple’s iOS has a staggering 86% of the market versus Android’s 14%.

Most popular device or OS for IR or corporate apps

But it’s a very different story when we look at consumer-facing, non-corporate apps. iOS still comfortably beats Android (71% to 29%) but the iPhone has now overtaken the iPad. Android still trails – but only just. 

Most popular device or OR for consumer apps 

Of course, many companies have multiple apps in both the corporate and consumer sphere. The German software company SAP leads the field here, with 144 apps, followed by Cisco Systems and Pearson with 131 apps each.

It might be thought that these app champions would bias the findings as they might heavily favour one device or OS over another.

Top 10 Global Companies by Number of Apps

In fact, with the odd exception, it seems that most companies with multiple apps spread themselves relatively evenly across the devices and operating systems.

What is more revealing is when we look at those companies who only have one IR or corporate app on any device or OS, virtually every company chose the iPad.

Most popular device or OS for companies with only one IR or corporate app
Conversely, when we look at companies with only one consumer-facing, non-corporate app on any device or OS, we found that companies opted for Android over iOS. 

Most popular device or OS for companies with only one consumer app
Whichever way we cut the data, it is clear that iOS and, in particular, the iPad is the most popular choice for addressing the corporate and investor community. Android is the most popular choice for a consumer-facing app when a company first builds an app – but thereafter things tend to balance out. 

This makes sense: Android is by far the most used operating system globally and therefore Android is the one to use if you are only going to have one app and you want to appeal to the widest possible audience.

However, if you are addressing a more specialised group, you need to consider what device they most use rather than go for the lowest common denominator.

A few years ago, the business world was addicted to BlackBerry: today it’s the iPad. Research we published earlier this year showed that 40% of all mobile visits to corporate websites come from iPads, compared to just 22% from Android devices.

When this sort of information is considered, it’s inevitable that most corporate and IR apps are built for the iPad. 

So whatever type of app you are thinking of building for your company, don’t look to see what the most popular device is globally, but find out what device your specific audience is most likely to use.