androidLaunch an iPhone app and you can definitely reach the tastemakers.
Launch an Android app, however, and you’ll ultimately be able to connect
with the masses. At least, that’s what new smartphone marketshare data
from technology research firm Canalys suggests.

Apple still reigns when it comes to hype and buzz around mobile technology, but the Android mobile operating system (OS) has been slowly creeping up on iOS (the operating system for the iPhone/iPad) in terms of popularity. Now, data from Canalys says Android has actually overtaken Apple’s iOS in terms of US marketshare.

Roughly 44% of smartphones shipped in the U.S. in Q3 2010 ran on Android vs. 26% for Apple. Of course, the gap is due to the fact that Android’s open platform gives the OS the ability to run on a variety of handsets as opposed to Apple’s single iPhone. This follows data from comScore and Millenial Media that found advertisers, developers, and users were adopting Android at a higher rate.

But what do all the stats mean for marketers?

Add Android to the mobile app conversation

First, it means content owners thinking about launching a mobile app need to make Android part of the discussion from the start. The iPhone is synonymous with attention-grabbing apps, but an app development strategy that focuses solely on Apple’s platform will ultimately be incomplete, as the growth in the Android market shows no signs of stopping.

Of course, developing a single app can easily cost upwards of $6500, on average, so limited resources may prevent the launch of multiple apps from the onset. But if the plan is to launch first with an Apple app, an Android launch should be on the agenda within a few months. This expands the overall reach of an app, boosting potential revenue from both a paid download standpoint, as well as advertising. 

Diversify your mobile ad strategy

The increased popularity of Android also means that a diversified mobile strategy is key for gaining maximum reach for ad campaigns. If you’re a marketer, are your mobile ad campaigns focused solely on iPhone users? This data suggests that you’ll need to branch out. 

Crafting custom ads that take advantage of the different demographics of smartphone users (Apple vs. Android vs. BlackBerry) can be as simple as swapping out a photo, or tweaking keyword copy. Mobile ad networks make it even easier, as most can target users based on specific devices and demographics, without much effort on the part of the advertiser.

Don’t fear marketplace fragmentation

Finally, many advertisers, content publishers and app developers have voiced concerns about mobile marketplace fragmentation because of Android. One of the main complaints is there are too many versions of the OS to develop apps or campaigns for; another complaint is the haze of phones at varying price points makes it harder to drill down to specific audience targets.

The concerns are valid. Managing resources for building, maintaining and promoting mobile apps can often have direct revenue implications – and not just for the marketing or advertising division of a company. Meanwhile, if it’s difficult to select a target audience, what’s the purpose of running a mobile ad campaign anyway?

Still, allowing those issues to immobilize the launch of an Android app, or even hinder the addition of Android handsets to a mobile marketing plan amounts to a grave marketing offense. As noted above, there are a variety of tech vendors, from cross-platform app development firms, to app analytics platforms and mobile ad networks, that mitigate those problems. The Canalys data show  Android adoption continues to surge, and a lack of a presence on the platform will equate to thousands – if not millions – of dollars in missed opportunities.