Have you got a favourite mobile platform?


Geoff Phillips from our Mobile team shares his thoughts on the mobile operating platform market  for anyone considering developing for mobile.

The big 4

 Over the next 6-12 months, the mobile operating platform market is set to get seriously interesting as platform revitalisation and improved mobile devices drive overall market growth and fierce competition at all levels.

But from a business perspective, the number of mobile platforms in the market and the factors that drive us to select our platform preference(s) presents an all too common question:

Which platform(s) to develop for?

There are lots of things to consider when it comes to selecting your mobile development platform of choice – here are a few thoughts based on our experiences here at Sage…What are your customers using?

The most obvious thing to do is find out what devices your customers are using.

At Sage, we know that our customers have historically been using iOS and BlackBerry devices more than any other so our first priority was to develop for both Apple and Blackberry when we began development of Sage Mobile for Sage 50 Accounts and Sage 200. However, this has changed quite significantly over the past 12 months:

Platform reach

The global volume of Android devices being shipped is clearly much higher than iOS at present but that doesn’t provide the full picture!

Historical installed base is a big factor to consider. There are still more users of Apple devices globally than there are of Android (est. 365m vs. 300m) and perhaps even more significantly there are currently c.90% of Apple users on the latest version of iOS 5 and only 7% of Android users on version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

What are others doing?

If in doubt, look at what platforms other apps are developed for – in particular others in your market or industry.

It’s fair to say most of the major apps and brands are now available on iOS and Android… but it’s still the case that the majority of developers favour iOS first, particularly where there is limited budget. Business Insider cite revenue opportunity, early adoption rates and time to develop as the primary reasons that iOS remains the platform of choice for most developers.

Indeed, an extreme example is Google who decided they would prioritise iOS over Android for development of Google+ (albeit that the Android version followed very soon afterwards). This was perhaps a tactical ploy from Google given the press it attracted but it does suggest that they knew they could get more users accessing the best experience through Apple given their high level of customers on iOS 5.

What are your user profiles?

If your target audiences have a particular profile then certain platforms might suit your needs better than others regardless of market share or installed base.This is an infographic from the US version of Huffington Post that highlights some very real (if humorous) profiles of American Android and iOS users.

Android users are purported to be 31% more likely to be late adopters and 57% more likely to prefer an ‘ugly’ device that’s fully featured – whereas 50% of iOS users are likely to be early adopters and 122% more likely to prefer a sleek device!

Security and reliability

It has been well documented that particular platforms are more susceptible to security breaches than others so this should form part of your thinking, although much depends on how your application or service is developed and indeed how sensitive the data you are collecting is in the hands of others. You can read more about the security elements of Sage applications here but it is certainly something to consider when choosing your development platform.

But will the platform landscape change?!

It’s highly likely Android and iOS will still be leading the way in the next year – at least from a market share perspective anyway.

RIM’s future remains unclear but from a B2B perspective, their renewed focus on business will certainly be something to watch if the new BB7 and BB10 devices have enough to appeal to their extremely loyal existing business base.

Windows Phone (and the new Metro interface) remain the major unknowns. It’s certainly hard to believe that 2 huge brands such as Microsoft and Nokia won’t succeed in this market and some analysts are already predicting close to 20% platform share by 2015 for Windows Phone. Windows 8 will be a big driver when it’s launched later on this year and it will be worth watching to see if the new propositions influence adoption.

Is there another choice?

I’m not a developer so I’m not even going to begin to go into detail on this subject… but I’ll leave with you with a final thought…

HTML5 is the fifth revision of the HTML standard which in plainer language means developers can now deliver similar if not equal functionality as can be achieved through a native app and can run in either a mobile browser or as an application. HTML5 is still in development and but there are lots of debates as to whether it could ultimately replace native app development. Perhaps you could all debate that here!