Top Mobile Development Platform: iPhone, Windows, Android, Blackberry?: Page 2

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A number of the mobile development firms that I spoke with for this story currently support only two platforms, and iPhone is almost always one of the two. The other platform could be BlackBerry, Windows Mobile (soon to be Phone 7) or even Android, but the common denominator is iPhone.

While many believe that the Android will eventually catch up to and surpass the iPhone, Sam Gaddis, Chief Marketing Officer for Mutual Mobile, a smartphone app development company, noted that most developers regard the iPhone as a dramatically more mature platform.

“Most of our customers come to us for iPhone and iPad development,” he said. “Android is starting to get attention, but nearly all of the successful consumer-facing Android apps were on the iPhone first.”

Mutual Mobile worked with Greenway Medical Technologies to give physicians a way to access critical patient information from their smartphones. The goal was to create a mobile tool for streamlining hospital care and reducing medical errors.

What platform did they choose?

“Something like 70% of doctors have iPhones,” Gaddis said, “so of course that was the platform we worked with.” This statistic alludes to another of the iPhone’s advantages and that is demographics. According to Nielsen, iPhone users tend to be richer than the average smartphone subscriber. Forty-percent have household incomes of $100K or more – twice the ratio among all smarthphone subscribers (19%).

The iPhone has two big drawbacks. First, there’s the Mac tax. Next, carrier choices are limited. For now, you’re stuck with AT&T, although plenty of rumors have leaked of Verizon’s plans to offer the iPhone in January 2011.

2. Android

Why on earth would I rate Android, which has a scant enterprise presence, ahead of BlackBerry or even Windows Mobile, which are much more entrenched? First, I must confess that I’m an Android subscriber and have been mostly pleased with the platform, even though I’ve been annoyed enough by a few pre-loaded Sprint apps to root the phone just to get rid of them. The ease of rooting the phone, though, I regard as a platform advantage, especially versus the iPhone, although this is arguably a major disadvantage from a security standpoint.

Second, developers seem to regard working with BlackBerry as more of a curse than an opportunity (more on this later). Third, while Windows Mobile does have a strong foothold in the enterprise, it doesn’t inspire nearly the level of loyalty or generate the excitement that both the iPhone and Android do. According to Nielsen, only 47% of Blackberry users want another Blackberry. Not good, but even worse only 34% of Windows Mobile users want another Windows Mobile device (ouch!) versus 80% of iPhone users who plan to remain loyal and 70% of Android users.

“Long-term, the enterprise will trend towards Android. The latest Android releases have made plenty updates that move towards the enterprise,” said Sam Gaddis of Mutual Mobile.

Gaddis pointed out that plenty of organizations have already favored Android over other platforms. “Sometimes it’s political and brand oriented. NASCAR, for instance, can’t do an iPhone app because of their Verizon sponsorships. But much more often, it’s a technology-related choice.”

For instance, the stop-texting apps that prevent you from texting when you’re driving require root access, so Android wins out. Another example is augmented reality. Mutual Mobile is working with a client on an AR app for IT that allows you to scan the barcode of a server in your datacenter to get an overlay of information related to the server’s health and design.

“The decision to base this project on Android was technology-driven. You could do it on the iPhone, but the AR toolset for the Android is much better, and the platform is more open,” Gaddis said.

Another Android advantage is with custom hardware. If you want to use mobile development tools for non-smartphone hardware, such as a kiosk or a custom GPS terminal, Android is regarded as a much more suitable platform than iPhone, BlackBerry or any others.

Google is well aware of this fact and intends to take advantage of it. “I think if we roll forward five years, users won’t be on any one device. They’ll use multiple devices, even multiple mobile ones,” said Rajen Sheth, Group Product Manager for Google Apps.

Sheth argues that the common denominator of computing platforms is the browser, while the engine powering more and more devices will be the cloud. “I have both an iPhone and Android, along with a Mac laptop and PC desktop. These are all completely different platforms, but I can be completely productive by going to the web-based interfaces for Gmail, Calendar and Docs.”

Even though the iPhone App Store is more mature and successful than Android Marketplace, Google believes Android will vault ahead in the near future. A recent report by Ovum backs that belief.

Apple owned the smartphone app market in 2009, dominating with 67 percent of all smartphone app downloads, even though iPhones represented only 14 percent of the overall installed base of smartphones.

Ovum believes the iPhone’s dominance will be short lived. Between 2009 and 2015, Ovum predicts that Android will increase its smartphone base from 5 percent to 18 percent and its mobile application download share from 14 percent to 26 percent, topping the projected 22 percent for Apple’s App Store.

Next Page: Windows Phone

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Tags: Blackberry, iPhone, iphone apps, iPad apps, best smartphones

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