Mobile applications are now one of the driving-forces behind smartphone and tablet design, and have experienced a steady growth throughout the years. Apple has been a leader in the application industry for the past few years, topping Google, Amazon and Microsoft when it comes to the number of apps and developers they host in their application store.
One of the biggest reasons why people nowadays buy smartphones and tablets are applications themselves, because you can’t do much with these devices if you don’t have at least a few apps installed. Those of us who are fascinated by mobile technology are gravitating towards flagships that come with immense processing power and try to upgrade in a timely manner so that we can call our devices truly future-proof. These flagships employ next-generation processors, which rely on massive amounts of RAM memory as well as large battery units so that users can enjoy any apps they would like, even if they require a lot of power and take up a lot of space.
The constant development of various apps and games has influenced OEMs to create smartphones and tablets that are optimized for different types of users. The Nvidia Shield Tablet is a good example of this trend, seeing as it was designed with mobile gamers in mind. With the powerful Nvidia Tegra K1 CPU on board and now with Android 5.0 Lollipop available, the Nvidia Shield Tablet aims to offer mobile gamers who check back to the Google Play Store to find new apps daily a device that can handle anything they throw at it.
Apps can also be targeted at large displays, focusing on graphics and beautiful visual elements so that users can marvel at how far technology has come in just the past few years. The LG G3 and Galaxy Note 4 demonstrate the trend towards QHD resolution and high-end display technology with their 2560*1440 resolution and 4K video playback capabilities. The iPhone 6 Plus was launched with similar needs in mind, Apple trying to cater to fans that were asking for larger displays with higher resolution. Alas, there are only a few apps that can truly take advantage of such high resolution, but the market is expanding and developers are continuously working on making apps compatible and optimized for these high-end devices and displays.
Apps are also migrating towards larger screens, including TVs, so developers need to optimize their apps for big-screen viewing. There are countless apps out there which take advantage of next-gen technology and try to give users a sense of immersive experiences while helping them perform daily activities and keep in touch with the online world (PhotoMath is a good example).
Developers don’t compete with each other as much as the platforms they are developing for are. The endless row between iOS and Android is ongoing, and there are no sings of it ever coming to a halt. Nonetheless, there are “marginal” platforms out there which tend to stay out of the conflict, such as Amazon, Firefox and Windows. These have their own apps and dedicated app stores, but they don’t have as many apps or developers to boast with. Google and Apple have been forerunners in the application industry, but times are changing.
The most recent analysis regarding apps, developers and consumers reveals that the steady growth of applications and stores, as well as the number of developers creating for a platform has shifted. Even though Apple’s iOS app store has been mostly the winner when it comes to the number of applications and developers it hosts, the trend has shifted towards Google and Android, subsequently to the Play Store.
Android has become a very powerful platform and the most popular one at the moment, fans demonstrating that the freedom and customization Google decided to offer through its OS is much appreciated. iOS has been criticized over the years because of its restrictive practices and limited customization it offers on both iPhones and iPads. In spite of that, there are millions of iOS and Apple fans out there who have become accustomed to the ecosystem and have learned to appreciate its quirks.
Both Android and iOS have their ups and downs when it comes to the user interface as well as the performance they offer, and the choice between them ultimately comes down to user preference. If you’ve grown up with Android, the shift to iOS would be cumbersome and time-consuming, but possible and enjoyable. At the same time, the shift from iOS to Android will have the same effects on the user. Still, it seems that even though users are in closely equal numbers on both mobile operating systems, there has been an increase in the number of apps and developers working on the Google Play Store.
Android Wear might have been a contributor to this growth, since developers started to create apps for wearable devices running Google’s platform. Apple is yet to launch the Apple Watch, and rumor has it will come with its own version of iOS, designed specifically for the new smart watch. Until that launch unfolds, Android Wear seems to be a pull-factor and a growing app category in the Play Store.
Today, the Google Play Store is home to more than 1,4 million apps, while the iOS app store is home to only about 1,2 million apps. For reference, you should also know that the Amazon app store which caters to both platforms is home to around 300 thousand apps. These measurements were made at the end of 2014, so the number of apps on each store might have increased since we’ve hit the new year. Still, these numbers are a definite proof of how these app stores grew compared to previous years.
In 2013, the Google Play Store had around 700 thousand apps which users could choose from, while Apple’s store had more than 760 thousand. The Amazon app store started booming too, offering its users around 150 thousand apps. A year before, in 2012, The Play Store came in at the end of the year with roughly 300 thousand apps, the iOS store with 400 thousand and the Amazon app store had just started with a few thousand apps. As you can see, all three stores have grown significantly in two years, almost doubling their initial app count.
Developers are the people behind all these apps, so you can imagine that there are thousands of people working to make your mobile experience better, faster and more fun. Google has been the leader in this department for three years now, surpassing Apple. There are and were more developers working on apps for Google’s mobile operating system than there were working for Apple’s app store. Current research points out that Google benefits from the work of more than 400 thousand developers, while Apple has about 300 thousand developers to work with.
Since Android has become one of the best platforms for mobile gaming, developers flocked to create various games and the “games” category in the Play Store has seen a huge rise in apps and their sheer number. This means that now, you have tons of games to choose from, some good, some bad, other expensive, while most of them are free. On iOS, developers tended to create apps for business-oriented people, which clearly defines what kind of customer preferences each mobile OS may represent in a broad understanding of audience behavior.
If we are to look at how categories within each online app store grew in the past year, we would end up with conclusions that might not reflect reality. Since Games was the fastest growing category that has seen a boom in apps and games in the Play Store, we could assume that Android users are younger people oriented towards fun and games, rather than career and business. That wouldn’t be a valid remark, though, because Android offers just as many business solutions and apps and people’s downloads don’t necessarily reflect their lifestyles.
Even though these were the fastest growing categories in iOS and Android app stores, that doesn’t reflect on users as much as it does on developers. Game developers tended to go to Android to publish their games, while business-oriented developers thought they would have a better chance on iOS. The fact that developers chose one operating system or the other proves their own preferences more than it proves the way in which users interact with the stores and with the apps they download from the stores.
In conclusion, 2014 is the first year in which Google managed to surpass Apple in the sheer number of apps it hosts, and also managed to keep the record when it comes to the number of developers creating games and apps for its platform. Apple still isn’t too far behind, but these statistics prove that developers appreciate the openness, customizability and easy to use platform Google offers them more than the rigorous platform Apple uses for receiving apps. The process of publishing an app or a game within these stores is easier if one chooses the Google Play Store, which may be the cause of the “flocking” developers to Android. Nonetheless, some say that by enacting rigorous policies and in-depth control, Apple manages to offer its users more innovative and perfected apps and games. You be the judge of that.