Developer sentiment toward iOS and Android remains “relatively unchanged” despite the introduction of new products and the success of devices such as Apple’s iPad Mini, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy SIII and Apple’s iPhone 5, according to a survey from Appcelerator and IDC.
From the third quarter of 2012 to the fourth, developer interest around the most popular platforms shifted by “only two to three percentage points”.
After a long period of stability for Apple developers, it was noted that the company has now introduced a new set of fragmentation issues through the launch of new devices such as the iPad Mini and the iPhone 5. Its portfolio now has six different screen sizes/resolutions across the iPod, iPhone and iPad range.
Also referenced were the vendor’s “somewhat opaque policies of App Store submission”.
The companies noted that an increase or decrease of less than three points is typically attributed to the “sample sizing and variability of the audience” – only when the findings are replicated over multiple periods are these smaller trends noted.
Kindle Fire struggles, as Nexus thrives
Amazon’s high-profile Kindle Fire device struggles to attract developer interest, the survey found, with less than 22 percent of developers “very interested” in building apps for this tablet.
It was suggested that it “lacks sufficient application critical mass to become a mass-market tablet”, and despite Amazon’s reach and advertising, developers are unconvinced that it offers significant revenue opportunities.
In contrast, Google’s Nexus tablets have attracted support from 53.8 percent of developers, with Appcelerator and IDC noting that “developers think that the Nexus is a step in the right direction for Google towards fixing some of Android’s issue of fragmentation and inconsistent device performance”.
The level of support was described as “unprecedented”, in that it dwarfs established platforms such as Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry, and is getting “quite close” to interest in Android tablets in general.
While Google’s conflicting priorities as a platform player and a device vendor/distributor have been widely discussed, developers believe that “Google is showing strong leadership and establishing with the Nexus a reference architecture for other Android tablet manufacturers to follow”.
Windows tablets fail to engage
Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets saw “slight gains” for the percentage of developers “very interested” in building apps.
With regard to Microsoft’s Surface devices, 20 percent of developers are impressed with the hardware and think it will accelerate Microsoft’s mobile strategy, although 35.5 percent believe that the company needs more than just hardware to be successful.
The report said that “perhaps even more telling are the 45 percent of developers who remain unimpressed with the hardware and don’t believe it has much advantage over the tablets already on the market”.
Multi-platform support on the increase
Some 88.4 percent of mobile developers believe they will be developing for two or more operating systems over the next year, up significantly from 68.9 percent in the Q3 study.
While 49 percent of developers plan to build apps for two operating systems, an additional 39 percent plan writing for “three or more”, up from 23 percent in the third quarter.
“Now that consumers have an increasing number of viable platforms to choose from, the ability to build a mobile app that is available cross-platform is a must for a successful developer,” the survey said.
The most important factors when choosing which platforms to support are: size of the installed base, low cost of devices, and revenue potential.
App categories of interest
Developers indicated that they will be developing more apps in categories such as business, finance, education, medical, productivity and mobile money.
However, interest has waned in categories such as social networking and entertainment.
Interest in business apps across the industry, social business and office applications categories also increased. Collaboration apps have seen a fall in popularity.
Looking forward to 2013, the report said that 92.9 percent of developers predict that it is “likely to very likely” that most retail companies will have enabled mobile commerce.
However, it was also noted that NFC is “not a requirement for retail transformation”, with retailers advised not to hold-up initiatives as they wait for the technology to evolve.
Developers also believe that 2013 will be the year for augmented reality to become commonplace.
Some 63.5 percent of developers believe that this technology will “grow exponentially and be commonplace across devices in 2013”.