Android device shipments currently reach close to 50% of the smartphone OS market share. Ron DuPlain, Lead Android & Mobile Web Engineer, says that today when everything is centered around mobility, application development has taken vital transformation (both in terms of development and strategy). Application development companies are focused to help clients realize the potential of rapidly evolving mobile technologies, from developing a mobile strategy to launching mobile products.
‘Android development’ is a complex process, the successful implementation of Android Mobile Application Development projects by and large depends on the development approach itself. With the explosion of smartphone and tablet use around the world, enterprise development teams are being given new marching orders: “Get our applications into the field!”
With the launch of the Apple Developer Kit (SDK), new garage type developers with little experience in mobile content and application development rushed into the market. Most of them initially developed their own applications but soon found out that developing for third parties generates a more secure revenue stream than becoming a publisher themselves. They make the majority of their business revenue with application development.
As of May 2011, users in 131 countries could purchase paid applications from the Android Market. Some carriers offer direct carrier billing for Android Market app purchases. There is no requirement that Android applications be acquired from Android Market. Users may download Android applications from a developer's website or through a third party alternative to Android Market.
According to Markus Pohl, Research2guidance, Android Market is the fastest growing mobile content platform since the beginning of 2011. The Android Market is clearly the most dynamic app market today with the highest growth rates in terms of app numbers, but this does not necessarily mean that the chance for an average developer to generate revenue on that platform has grown as well. On the contrary, the success of an app store is negatively correlated to the success of an average developer.
There’s no doubt Android Market will at some point offer more applications for download and/or purchase than Apple’s App Store, as the latter’s growth has been slowing down of late, while the Android application store’s growth rate has been accelerating.
In a recent report, app store analytics company Distimo forecasted that Android would surpass the App Store in size before the end of July 2011. Provided current growth rates for new app uploads are maintained, research2guidance expects Android Market to reach 425,000 apps next August, effectively overtaking App Store in size. It was recently forecasted the worldwide smartphone application market to reach $15 billion by 2013. The firm says the global smartphone app market has in fact already reached $2.2 billion in the first six months of this year.
Evidently, there’s always the question whether this matters at all. After all, the bulk of applications that are available for both platforms don’t see much traction anyway, so how relevant it is whether there are 100,000 apps or 200,000 apps that are rarely, if ever, downloaded by anyone?
In fact, notes research2guidance, Android Market’s high growth rate does not necessarily mean that the average mobile app developer will have a better shot at generating revenues from the store. In fact, the firm posits, the opposite may be true:
Apart from individual users, the corporate world is moving towards implementing large scale enterprise applications such as CRM, BPM, Social Networking applications etc. on smartphones and tablets. This is done with a view to take advantage of seamless connectivity to their enterprise resources and also to provide the next generation user experience. Such a trend makes it imperative that mobile application development companies need to adopt industry proven software development models such as Agile practices. Agile practices offer not only the SDLC/PDLC guidelines but also define the best tools and techniques that can be used to help rapid application and high quality software development with automated tools. For example, Scrum is the most frequently chosen Agile model that the industry is adopting in android mobile application development.
Besides native application development and testing tools, there are quite a few hybrid application development and testing tools, frameworks and platforms that are available in the market to adopt agile Android development. Hybrid mobile application development platforms provide an integrated development environment where portable applications can be rapidly developed once and deployed on various makes and models of SmartPhones and Tablets. Hence, developers can focus more on the business logic than native platform developments. Hence, these tools enable reduction in development and maintenance costs and achieve higher customer satisfaction.
Besides rapid growth, Android applications are being outsourced consciously by many corporates to ensure cost effective solutions of desirable quality. Most of the offshore service providers are presently keen on building the required competencies and are rapidly focusing on leveraging the current mobility market boom.
Major Players in Android Application Development
There are two types of players in Android application development space:
1. Framework/Platform development companies: The following are some of the players and their frameworks lead this market place:
IBM Rational Team Concert and PhoneGap
Besides the above, Sybase, an SAP company is offering a comprehensive mobile application development framework called SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) having Android support on their roadmap of 2011.
2. Application development companies: Considering the rapid growth of mobility worldwide, many service companies ranging from large to medium scale and even startup companies are offering “Enterprise Mobility” as one of their core service offerings and are constantly focusing on gaining due market share.
With Agile development model that is totally based on iterative and interactive development, one can achieve highest risk mitigation and address constant customer change requests that will result in high customer satisfaction. Agile model also offers cost effective development processes where rework can be avoided and also unwanted modules can be eliminated sooner from the requirements.
The biggest event in this space has been the recent acquisition of Motorola’s Mobile business by Google which has given Google a strategic advantage to retain its competitive position against Apple and Microsoft by bagging 17,000 patents. Apple and Blackberry have their own hardware as well as their own OS and the same was not the case with Google in the past. This recent acquisition enables Google to have their own hardware division in addition to their own popular Open Source Android OS. This enables Google to compete against Apple and Blackberry with a more controlled hardware and OS development.
“The quality of work here in India is surpisingly inspiring, the rates Indian developers charge are very low,” said Akash Dongre, chief operating officer at MoFirst Solutions. His clients pay as little as $15 an hour for a programmer.
MoFirst is tapping India’s next wave in outsourcing, with thousands of programmers that charge a fraction of Silicon Valley prices to capitalize on demand for programs for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and devices running Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android software. Developers-for-hire for mobile applications may generate $5.6 billion in revenue by 2015, a 14-fold jump from this year, Forrester Research Inc. estimates.
“India is a logical place to do it for the same reason the software and services model has worked here: lower cost,” said Anshul Gupta, an analyst at research firm Gartner Inc. in Mumbai.
Market Application Restrictions
The Android Market application is not open source. Only Android devices that comply with Google's compatibility requirements may install and access Google's closed-source Android Market app, subject to entering into a licensing agreement with Google.
The Android Market filters the list of applications to those compatible with the user's device, and developers may restrict their applications to particular carriers or countries for business reasons. Carriers can also ban certain applications, for example tethering apps.
Android’s Race in the Smart Devices Market
Apple became the top-selling device manufacturer with its record-breaking 20.3 million device shipments during the second quarter of 2011, whereas Android owns 48% of market as a largest mobile operating system provider.
For most starting developers one of the key criteria in selection of a platform is the potential reach of an application, i.e. how many people own devices running the platform and how many users will actually be reached through a chosen app store?
Previously Apple was the unquestionable leader, with the largest app store user base. If we count only smartphone users Android is already far beyond, however Apple App Store user base is fueled by millions of iPod Touch users and a successful iPad spread. To date Apple has shipped over 240 million smart devices (iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads) leaving Android behind with 170 million cumulative device shipments. Given the device replacement cycles and other relevant factors, actual potential user bases today are lower but Apple still wins over Android.
As we see the smartphone app market, monopoly is continuously transforming into a duopoly. Both platforms together comprise nearly two thirds of all potential smartphone application users, leaving all other platforms as niche players. We think it won‘t take long for Android to catch up with Apple in terms of potential application store users. Another successful quarter for Android, and absolute reach will no longer be a deciding factor for developers, which platform to choose for an app. They will have to consider more qualitative user base differences and potentials, or develop for both platforms.
The types of companies providing application development services have changed over the last ten years. In the pre-app store world mobile application and content developers were classical developers with backgrounds in Java, Symbian, BREW, Palm OS, Windows PocketPC
and other mobile development platforms. It was a niche market with small customer numbers. In last two years, the market for mobile application development has experienced a tremendous change in the service provider landscape.
Future Outlook For Android Application Development
Kalpana Verma, Senior Project Manager, Rapidsoft Technologies opines- "Android application developers will have a lot to do as they have to develop unique and migration-friendly apps for users which will enhance sales and purchase on mobile platform. Android application developers will have to consider various marketing conditions like heavy traffic, large inventory base for particular items, enabling purchases with high inventory set-up and more."
Google’s next target would be to gain market share in tablet space. As per analysts, Apple’s current 75% market share will fall to 39% by 2015 and Android will gain by 38% by producing more affordable Android based tablets and eventually these tablets may replace PCs. This will be a big opportunity for application development companies to focus on tapping this business.
Android already supports advanced features like Location based services and Cloud based service integration for IT management. As per analysts, going forward, Android phones will also be used as credit cards for any financial transactions which will enable e-commerce companies to come up with much more user friendly services.
SmartPhone and Tablet applications needed in Healthcare and Life Sciences is increasing day by day to treat life threatening diseases and develop lifesaving drugs. Many physicians and lab technicians prefer Android-based SmartPhones or Tablets because of its powerful video and 3D imaging capabilities. Hence, there will be significant growth expected for Android based applications in Healthcare and Life Sciences domains.
Overall, the future is “Mobile Age” and as per Gartner’s report Cloud and Mobility are leading the list of top 10 technologies of 2011. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Blackberry continue to battle for market share. Considering individual users interest, corporates need to adopt a mobile strategy to support their mobile applications running on heterogeneous handsets and tablets. One of the best ways to implement such mobile strategies is to adopt Hybrid Mobile Application Development.
Outsourcing Android Application Development
DV Satish, Head – Enterprise Mobility CoE, Mindteck says, “Besides rapid growth, Android applications are being outsourced consciously by many corporates to ensure cost effective solutions of desirable quality. Most of the offshore service providers are presently keen on building the required competencies and are rapidly focusing on leveraging the current mobility market boom.”
Mobile Application Development and Outsourcing is evolving rapidly because of the popularity and density of iPhones/Android phones among the users. Many mobile application development companies in India, have developed more than 150 mobile apps for customers in the UK, Europe and US. The software development company involved in the business of mobile Application Development provides a variety of services that help enhance the functions and performance of the iPhones/Android phones. These include- data integration, Internet-based applications, providing solutions to get private hosting platforms for the iPhones/Android phones, customizing usability features, interfacing with existing enterprise applications, implementing various value-added services, and enabling interaction with other mobile devices and platforms.