Thursday, February 9, 2012

Publishing to the Android Market or the Apple AppStore ?

Versione in Italiano pubblicata su

There is a lot of talk about the constant competition of the Android Market vs. the Apple App Store; today we would like to discuss our experience as developers.
We think it may be useful to highlight the problems we faced, and that also means a very broad discussion has to be developed specifically for the various issues.

To market our first App, “Pocket Boy”, we had to make a choice between two pathways: Apple’s App Store or Google’s Android Market.
For several reasons, our choice fell on the Apple’s App Store, due to what could be more appropriate for our specific needs. We did not mean to sponsor a market rather than another one, and now we would like to explain as objectively as possible the questions we set to make these choices.

Our starting point was the idea of making a high quality product, small but functional, aimed at establishing a creative production process, able to give us the opportunity to study this new market and to realize other personal ideas in the future. Therefore we had to gain experience by focusing on our true needs.
Compared to the fragmentation of Android’s market, present on many devices and with considerable variations in their specifications, Apple's market mainly develops around two families of devices (iPad and iPhone), which means lower development and testing costs.
Since it would have been difficult for us to ensure the same graphic quality adapting our application to the enormous amount of Android devices, which differ for resolution, density of the screen and performance, we preferred to focus on developing a more uniform and targeted device and concentrating our resources more efficiently.

The development kit Apple offers (iOS, SDK, Xcode integrated development environment, etc.), together with the license for the development on the iPhone OS platform, involve a fee that you do not have on Android; however we felt the price was relatively low for a service of the highest quality.
The developer has a series of ad-hoc tools for his platform, and their progress has greatly improved since 2008, when the first development kit for native app on iPhone OS was provided.
On Android, a development is generally based on plugins that extend the capabilities of existing development environments and open source (Eclipse IDE). Although that approach takes advantage of an existing code base, tried and tested over time, it also brings with it elements that are not essential for the development of the Android app, and that could slow down your software; it can evolve by being subjected to limitations of the component that you are extending and with tools that may be unsuitable for the purpose.
The development of Eclipse is not guided by Google, who has shown no interest in creating a new optimized version of Eclipse (a project fork), or to make a suite of applications for the Android development.

Xcode, the integrated development environment (or IDE), offered by Apple, was born from the ashes of the NeXT’s developments in the 80s – 90s, and it is a multifunction app, designed internally by Apple who is also closely overseeing its developing.
Apple provided a 360 degree attention to make it a comprehensive development tool, and invested a lot of resources to improve or create from scratch new tools for IOS and Mac developers.

Another important element is the quality of documentation and developers’ support offered by both, aspects which are usually left last and considered less important for economic, time, habit, or even ideological reasons.
The documentation provided by both is different not only for their quality, but also for the type of reader they aim at. The iPhone OS market is generally more careful with regard to design aspects such as consistency of user’s experience or organization of the GUI, presentation and usability features as well as functionality.
This issue is also apparent just by looking at the material offered by Apple and Google, even though the latter is moving forward on all of their products with regard to such matters.
By our personal experience, Apple gives, in addition to an excellent documentation and an efficient technical support, a welcome attention toward the developers’ community. In addition to managing the relationship with the developer 1-to-1 (Bug Reporter, Request for Technical Accident), the official forums reserved for licensed developers are well moderated, organized, and much followed by Apple itself and important members of their development team, even active to urge users to report bugs which are then directed towards the right team. Clearly there is a desire to create a strong and vibrant community of developers in an equally powerful and vast ecosystem that ranges from PCs, smartphones, and the tablets.
The Android market gives more freedom of development, Google always stands as a trademark free and we know that many specialists in the field do not like Apple’s controls and restrictions.
But knowing that our product would be subject to strict controls on quality before its publishing, did not bother us, because we saw it as an opportunity to offer more security to the consumer, so encouraging the purchase.
Apple gave us visibility on the market under a brand that for many is synonymous with reliability and quality products, compared to the Android Market.
The issue of security on Android is a delicate matter: on the one hand Google is committed to allowing developers to add apps on the Market and to upload updates to existing apps almost immediately, without a waiting time that on the Apple’s App Store may last up to a week (or longer in rare cases), even though it is possible to request a review of "emergency" with a much shorter time.

Eventually, from a purely economic point of view, we had to consider that the Apple’s users must have a valid form of payment (credit card) to register at the Apple store, and are therefore statistically more willing to purchase than the Android’s users who prefer free apps or freemium.
Even if there are cases of freemium product samples (see Angry Birds), we could not rely on that type of marketing for our product: its advertising was likely to be too invasive, compromising the experience that we had the goal to provide.

However, we do not rule out the future possibility of stepping on Android, because we also have to consider a development in that market, which has more freedom but less protection for the above reasons, even if we do not feel yet to address for now.

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