Android Apps

Apps remain important, and there is an opportunity for everyone in the Android app world. (See also: 200 best Android apps for everything.)

Like many rich-content publishers - heck, like many businesses - Tech Advisor and our publisher IDG rushed to launch apps when the iPhone kicked off the mobile revolution. Recreating websites was initially popular with both audience and, yes, advertisers. This made sense when the mobile web experience wasn't great, and building a consistent mobile audience was difficult. Readers liked to an app to which they could turn every time they picked up their smartphone, and sponsors liked ownership of that audience.

That initial 'got to have an app' excitement is long gone. There is simply no point in a smartphone app where the web experience is adequate. And the way people, in particular millenials, source information has changed massively. These days we surf the web and social media to discover tidbits of info and interest wherever they lie on the web. Only rarely do we head for a bookmarked site, making the website-replacement app an out of date oddity.

I am prepared to pay for an app that tells me how late is my train, and on what platform it will arrive. But I'll use the web to find things to read on the train.

Which is not to say that apps are not important. They are. It's just that to be relevant an app has to offer something more than a recreation of the web experience.  

Again this is reflected in my professional experience. We've actually killed off the website-replacement apps for PC Advisor, Macworld and the rest. But we've never had more readers for our bespoke digital magazines, delivered via apps. iPad & iPhone User, Android Advisor. People are prepared to pay for these titles, because they offer something more than a web-browsing experience. They are a curated experience.

A designed and calibrated product, intended to entertain and inform in a format that suits the device on which they are consumer, rather than an efficient means of satisfying a requirement to know. Just as we no longer recreate websites as apps, we don't recreate our print magazines as websites or apps. Each is different, and the product needs to be so.

The Android opportunity

This is important because there is a big app opportunity opening up, as digital natives grow up and start to spend more. And that opportunity is principally in the Android world.

Getting together Android and iOS user numbers is always tricky. Putting together as many stats as I can (including IDC, Kantar Worldpanel and Strategy Analytics) I'd guess that the current numbers for GB mobile market share are, basically, Android with 58%, iOS 31% and Windows Phone 10%. (That leaves a single percent for mistakes and oddities.) The details don't really matter - suffice to say that Android is the biggest. And this is more so globally.

And yet. Again piecing together data from disparate sources (in this case Google- and Apple's own figures), in the 12 months to June 2014 around $5bn was spent in the Google Play store. During the same period around $10bn was spent in the iOS store. Android has more than twice as many users, globally. But more than twice as much is spent on iOS devices.

Traditionally this has been because iPhone- and iPad users have more cash to spend. But this is changing as people who grew up using cheaper Android phones get older and wealthier, as Android users come on stream in the developing world, and as Android phones match and beat the iPhone in terms of quality, value and functionality.

It also used to be said that iOS had a better UI, which made it easier to spend. But that is clearly no longer true.

App developers go for the lowest hanging fruit. As do we all. In the past that has always been the iPhone, which made some of these issues self perpetuating. But as time goes by the opportunity for everyone is changing from the iPhone- to the Android world. (See also: Best Android apps for new smartphones and tablets.)

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