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The Android Army: Sound and Fury, Signifying Not So Much…

A little over a week ago, we threw down the gauntlet – launching our new app ‘US Public Lands’ for Android just days after the iOS version went on sale.

We challenged Android fans to prove that there is a viable market out there, asking:

So….  Droids…. stand up and be counted, and show us that the ecosystem can be supportive of independent niche market developers too. … Can the Android version of ‘US Public Lands’ keep pace, if not outsell, the iOS version?

After all the boastful talk about how “Android is dominant now”, how did the Droids do when it came time to stand up and be counted?

The release of ‘US Public Lands‘ for Android came just 5 days behind the iOS launch, making for a fairly direct comparison. The Android release got its own dedicated blog post, and we followed up about the Android release in all of the same places we made the first iOS announcement. We even updated the original iOS announcement with links to the Google Play store.

We feel we gave the Android version as identical of an opportunity as possible. And had we known our development partner, Hired Gun Software, was that close to finishing – we might have even held the iOS release a few days to even further level the playing field.

So, let’s compare the first week’s sales:

us public lands android vs ios

 

Over the course of the launch week for each version, iOS outsold Android nearly 3-to-1. Even comparing the ongoing iOS sales with the launch Android sales, Android was only barely able to keep pace.

Looking at the ongoing sales reports, Android sales have continued to slow down and fall even further behind:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 10.39.47 AM

Talking with other developers, the 3-to-1 ratio we are seeing actually seems to be considered pretty good. Adam, the creator of the absolutely essential AllStays Camp & RV app, commented on our Android announcement post – saying that for him iOS is outselling Android nearly 10-to-1, and:

“On top of that, 75% of my customer service inquires are about Android because of fragmentation and carrier billing issues I have nothing to do with. I honestly ask myself each week why I am still doing Android.”

Our other cross-platform app ‘State Lines‘ was launched on iOS three years before we brought it out for Android. We expected to see some pent up demand for the Android version of an app that many have told us is an essential tool in their RVing arsenal.

But comparing four different time periods inevitably left the Droids lagging way behind. It’s worth noting that between 2010 and 2013, Android supposedly became the dominant device in the mobile marketplace, and our own social media reach was 3.5 times higher when we launched the Android version in 2013.

Both factors that theoretically should have resulted in a higher launch sales numbers, not lower.

And yet, here is how the sales stacked up:

state lines android vs ios

iOS is already a tough market and a pretty big gamble for a developer to invest their time, money & energy into – especially independent niche developers. The Android market on the other hand makes the Apple Appstore feel downright bountiful in comparison.

While the numbers are disappointing, we do still plan to do the work to port ‘Coverage?‘ to Android. But these numbers definitely will influence how much of a priority it is for both us and Hired Guns Software.

These are yet more examples of why so many developers are reluctant to invest in Android – the support burden is usually substantially higher, and the sales are inevitably substantially lower. Other than making it easier to get featured and linked to by major media (they prefer cross-platform apps), the main incentive of doing Android sometimes seems to be to stop the endless stream of “What about Android?” comments and emails.

This is why so many apps come out on iOS first, and even on iOS only.

Haven’t gotten your copy of US Public Lands yet? There’s still time to have your purchase counted, as we’ll be taking a close look at the first month sales figures too:
Download_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40

Get it on Google Play

So where are the Android Users?!?

This begs us to ask the question – if there are so many Android devices out there, why don’t the app sales at least keep pace with iOS?

It’s easy to speculate that perhaps:

  • We simply have more Apple fans who follow us which might skew sales of our apps – but when looking at our stats our blog is viewed on Apple devices only about 30% of the time.
  • RVers, the target audience of our apps, might tend towards iOS devices over Android – but based on discussions in RVing forums and groups, we don’t feel this is true.
  • Android users simply don’t buy apps at the same pace as iOS users.

In my former life as the ‘Chief Spy’ (aka ‘Director of Competitive Analysis’) for Palm and PalmSource, it was my job to intimately know absolutely everything about every mobile operating system and device out there.

In other words – I got to play with all the toys.

World_Wide_Smartphone_Sales_ShareThis was a world before the iPhone and Android – when smartphones were still relatively crude and clunky things, and most people thought that the RIM Blackberry or the Palm Treo was the smartphone to beat.

But if you listened to the analysts tracking market share however – it was a Symbian world, and the message to developers even as recently as 2009 sounded very familiar to what we are hearing about Android versus iOS today. According to analysts and a few vocal Symbian fans, Symbian was where the smartphone developers should be focused.

After all – Symbian had a commanding lead with over 50% of the smartphone market!

Symbian?!?

“What is a Symbian”, most average users would say. (Not to be confused with the sex toy ‘Sybian‘, btw…)

Those watching the industry closely knew that the marketshare numbers were deceptive bunk – hardly anyone chose a Symbian-powered phone intentionally over any other smartphone platform. Symbian just happened to be the OS inside the low-end “free” and discounted phones being pushed by many local cellular shops.

Most users didn’t know or care that they were buying a smartphone – they just wanted the cheapest option on the shelf.

500px-Symbian_logoWe knew from our market research at PalmSource that the bulk of these users never knew that they were even running Symbian OS, and hardly any of them ever went on to pay any attention at all to apps – creating a wasteland for developers foolish enough to invest time and effort in chasing this supposed “dominant” market.

Things are a bit different now however, as there is a legitimate high-end Android market filled with passionate users who are intentionally making a conscious platform choice and who are willing to invest in quality apps.

But the truth hidden beneath the “Android is winning!” marketshare numbers and headlines is that Android has actually dominated in taking over the the former Symbian market.

In other words – now that nearly all new phones are classified as “smartphones”, Android has taken over Symbian’s dominant place in the “I just bought what was cheap” market. Those customers are content with the pre-installed functionality of the phone they have in their pocket, and don’t seek out downloading paid apps to add functionality.

Though I no longer have a hefty market research budget to calculate it scientifically – I’d venture to guess that once you factor the “free/cheap phone” users out of the equation, the actual true Android versus iOS app purchaser marketshare has iOS still clearly strongly dominating with users who are willing to actually pay for apps.

The Android army may be vocal, but when push comes to shove there’s just not as many actual paying customers there.

The next time we get a lengthy email demanding Android support and accusing us of ignoring the “vast majority of the market”, perhaps we’ll let Shakespeare respond for us:

“It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
– Shakespeare, Macbeth

Developer Perspective: Android Advantages and Disadvantages

To be fair, despite the lack of paying customers, there are some ways that the Android world has a better developer experience than Apple.

For one – you do not have to go through a time consuming approval process to release a new app, or to send out updates. Our Android development partner Hired Gun Software was able to easily push out several small bug and compatibility fixes to ‘US Public Lands’ in essentially real-time, responding to user complaints instantly. On iOS, it can take a few days for our apps and updates to be approved – which forces us to do a lot more testing for a rock solid release.

And speaking of replying to user complaints – the Google Play store allows developers to publicly respond to user reviews, making it possible to support disgruntled users in a way that Apple does not at all allow. This is one of our biggest frustrations with the Apple Appstore.

On the other hand – Apple makes it possible for developers to issue promo codes so that they can give away free app copies, a seemingly basic feature that is completely absent in the Google Play store. We gave away a bunch of copies of ‘US Public Lands’ on Facebook recently, but because of this Google restriction had to limit this promo to iOS users only. This makes it difficult to gift out copies when we’re feeling generous, or to even give out review copies to bloggers or the press.

The disadvantages of Android for developers however are numerous…

chartoftheday_2054_Adoption_of_latest_iOS_and_Android_versions_nThe biggest is a thing called fragmentation.

In the Apple universe, there are only a tiny handful of devices for developers to worry about, with even fewer different screen sizes, and all of these devices tend to get easy and free OS updates for years after they are first released.  Even a relatively ancient device like the iPhone 4 (released mid-2010!) is still fully supported by Apple with the latest iOS release, making it easy for developers to stay compatible.

Meanwhile, in the Android world, there is no central authority able to push out OS updates or even basic security fixes to users. And there is very little incentive for device manufacturers to even provide any ongoing updates to most phones once they are sold. Sometimes even “new” phones being sold by stores are stuck running a version of Android that may be even years out of date.

Even now six months after release, Google reports that only 5.3% of Android users are running the latest Android release, version 4.4 KitKat. What a contrast to Apple!

This means that there are literally thousands of different possible Android hardware and software configurations that developers need to theoretically support, dozens of screen sizes, and even former flagship phones from just a year or two ago are now orphaned with no new OS updates being made available.

The chart above matches our experience – as of this week over 85% of the users of our app ‘Coverage?’ are already running iOS 7.1, and only a fraction of a percent of active users are still on versions older than iOS 7.0. This makes it easy for developers like us to support the latest operating system and the newest features.

Magnifying the fragmentation issue on Android is that even though the Amazon Kindle and the B&N Nook are based upon Android, they have taken Android in a completely divergent and often incompatible direction from Google. Because Google has not shared the latest improvements with the Android implementation of Google maps with these unofficial Android branches, this has made it impossible for ‘US Public Lands’ to support these devices.

Clearly not all Androids are created equal.

Even Android fans admit that Android fragmentation is “turning devices into a toxic hell stew of vulnerabilities“.

That stew sure doesn’t sound very tasty to me.

Android Purchaser Tip: The surest way to minimize the impact of Android fragmentation issues is to only ever buy the newest flagship phones from the major manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. Make sure you do NOT buy a phone that does not come with the latest version of Android already pre-installed. Currently this is Android 4.4 KitKat. Many older phones still being sold will likely never receive any future updates – making your “free” phone into a future breeding ground for malware and spyware. Don’t do it – just say no!

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61 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. probably has more to do with the fact that the app called backcountry navigator does all that your app does and much, much more, and it has been out for about a year now. Granted, it is much more expensive, but if everyone that needs this functionality already has that app, it’s no wonder they’re not buying yours.

    • That is an impressive looking but vastly different app than “US Public Lands”, and there are similar high-end backcountry navigation apps out for iOS too. I don’t think its existence really changes things at all.

      The ongoing sales figures of iOS vs Android have actually gotten even worse since this post was first published. Talking with other developers – there just isn’t much of a viable market for paid apps in the Android world.

      – Chris

      • I’m not sure why you’re saying it’s vastly different, perhaps “a superset of public lands” the is a better description. Among its many other features, it has purchasable public lands overlays for each state, and they show the smallest public and private in-holdings.

        I would have gladly bought public lands when we started this trip in august of ’13, but it wasn’t available. Now that I own BCN, there’s no reason for me to switch.

        They’ve sold 100,000+ copies of their app, I wonder how many of those customers you would have captured of you got to market a year earlier? I would have been one for sure, as public lands is much cheaper than BCN.

      • To the best of our understanding, BCN has the option to purchase higher detail BLM maps for just 13 western states. US Public Lands provides higher overview boundary maps for all US public lands types for all states – BLM, NPS, NF, ACOE, etc.

        Related, yes… but also different.

        Even if the presence of BCN is a major contributing factor to the sales, that doesn’t explain the State Lines app similar ratio compared to iOS sales 🙂

      • BCN overlays show BLM, USFS, NPS, BoR, ACoE, private, military, and Indian lands. I’m not sure why they call the overlays “BLM” in the sales cart, because you get all of the above. It’s true that public lands may cover states that BCN doesn’t, but for full timers I would argue they cover all the states that matter. When I find a state I need that they don’t have, I’ll no doubt buy Public Lands. 🙂

        I don’t know how to explain your sales figures, but you see that BCN has sold 100K copies, so people do buy android apps, just not yours for some reason.

        We’ve only been full timing for a year now, but my experience is that the demographic is older and very iPhone heavy compared to the general population. I wonder what percentage of your readership that is actually on the road (and therefore needs this app) even own Android devices.

      • It would be interesting if BCN was also an iOS app, and to compare their sales numbers to Android vs. iOS. Would imagine they too would see a similar ratio.

        Nowhere have we said no one buys our Android apps, or are we complaining about the rate of sales in general. We’re thrilled with the sales overall, especially considering our limited time & budget for marketing. Our apps are side projects, not our primary business.

        And there are apps more similar to BCN in the App Store too. US Public Lands serves a different function than a full scale topo mapping system for serious backcountry explorers. And yes, obviously those who already have those other apps won’t need ours.

        Our commentary is on the RATIO of iOS to Android only – tossing out figures for an Android only app isn’t a useful comparison.

      • I’m just suggesting that Public Lands may not be a good comparison because it’s a “best in class” app on iOS but only a “also ran” app on Android. Do you have any competitors on the iOS side?

      • Hmm, well, I’m going to have to go with “full time RVers are predominantly older folks who mostly use iPhones” as at least part of the explanation. I’m sorry it hasn’t been as successful as you would like.

      • It has been just around as successful as we expected, based on comparing notes with other developers.

        Adam the creator of All Stays shared (mentioned in this post) that his iOS apps outsells Android versions 10-to-1, and his apps are inarguably best-in-class on both platforms. Based upon nearly every other developer I’ve spoken with, there is nothing at all unexpected or surprising about the sales figures we’ve seen, relative to our iOS sales.

        The Android market is a much smaller and less lucrative market for developers, no matter the number of devices sold.

        Cheers,

        – Chris

  2. Am an android user & am extremely pleased with this app – living in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, specifically) am particularly impressed with the distinctive coloring and the ability to choose the satellite viewing – being able to see the lay of the land, and the logging roads, opens so many boondocking option. Thanks so much for opening this to the android market! Honestly, I would of paid $9.99 (half the cost of the paper atlases) for it; it’s a very valuable tool!

  3. Well, that sucks — all the stuff wrong with ‘droids. As a natural contrarian, I immediately became a ‘droid user with my first smart phone. My wife has an iPhone 5 and an iPad and likes both, so I’ll have to consider switching when I update my phone. Meanwhile, I’d buy both apps were we actually RVing, but we aren’t so I haven’t. Still my solitary purchase of each app wouldn’t change your sales numbers. 🙁

  4. […] using Android and other alternatives. Technomadia just published a particularly interesting breakdown of how their recent app launch did in the iOS and Android marketplaces, if you want a closer look at how buyers really make their app purchasing decisions. The TL;DR? The […]

  5. I come at this from the perspective of 40 years experience in both hardware and software. Having been a CIO, CTO and VP of R&D at various times. If it was a question of either technical superiority or ease of development and support there would be no Windows. Ethernet would have perhaps fallen into disuse as well. You or other may disagree, but as indicated, I will match my 40 years of experience and success against any other prognosticator.
    Apple has always maintained a tight control over their product. Both the hardware and software and in particular the user interface which has been their greatest asset. This has proven to be both a market leading boon while at the same time a definite bane to growth. As indicated this certainly simplifies the developer’s environment.
    Android provides the ability to support a wider range of devices. Along with the ability for quicker OS updates and features introduction. Also keep in mind that Android did not have the historical legacy of OS development and support that Apple was able to bring to IOS. In addition, as you indicated, the entry into the Android application market is at least somewhat simpler, less costly and perhaps initially (at least to the present, though subject to rapid change) less competitive than the IOS marketplace. Finally there is simply the price issue. For the average consumer the entry price for and Android device is cheaper, sometimes substantially, than the IOS devices. Therefore unless on either has a need for or the ability to appreciate the superiority of the IOS devices, why would they pay the additional price.
    The real question is how long will Apple be able to develop superior products which user will just have to have? I hope for a very long time to come.

  6. Nice post Chris. I think it is pretty well rounded.

    A couple of notes…

    Cheap: I completely agree… Android phone for free on a 2 yr plan gets people into the smartphone game that may not even know what an app is. And then there is this: We just replaced Teresa’s 1st gen iPad with a Nexus 7. She basically hunted down the apps she had on the iPad and installed them on Android. I doubt she’s even opened the app store since, but when she does, it’s because she heard about an app from me or someone else. 🙂 [She did the same with her iPad actually.]

    Fragmentation: Yes… big problem. Nexus phones allow you always stay on the latest Google sanctioned OS. But Verizon says no to Nexus phones. Verizon seems to disallow updates that other carriers allow. So I think you can, in part, blame Verizon for this (as well as the manufacturers as you point out). I’m on an iPhone now [I like to make the rounds 😉 ], but I’m heading back to android for my next phone.. and I’m on Verizon… the ability to update will be my primary concern in choosing my next phone. I hope Verizon and the manufacturers make some changes in their update policies.

    Sales: Another thought on why the sales may not be up to par… Google allows pretty much anything in their store, while Apple is a bit more picky. That may result in dilution when folks go to search for an app. I have certainly noticed this when I go to look for apps on my android devices vs iOS devices. Although Google may be king of search, app dilution sure makes it harder to find what you want.

    I could talk about my perceived philosophical differences between the three ecosystems, but that will have to wait… maybe the next time I see you person. BTW, we finally have 4G here… at least with Verizon. 🙂

    Happy travels to you both!

  7. Thanks for the great article. We are “multi platform” user people now I guess, Android phone, a simple notsmart phone, Windows pc’s, and now an iPad Mini Retina sumthin sumthin…., 2 polar different kinds of rv’s, 3 makes of motorcycles, many makes of cars and trucks over the years, paper maps & GPS, (never rely only on GPS…) …

    Kind of like being able to play concert violin and pick a banjo? (I can do neither…) … it kind of disarms the whole “who you are by your occupation and the brands you buy” issue…

    Thanks

  8. This was a very interesting read, since I have yet to enter the smartphone world. I am using my iPad mini (which I researched extensively including your columns, thank you). So I’m wondering if this Android/IOS disparity carries over to the tablet world as well. I’m assuming you have to reconfigure your smartphone apps to work on tablets, and am now curious as to the relative app markets for them.

    Thanks for all the informational posts.

    Dan

    • The situation actually seems to be even more distorted in the tablet market. The latest market share numbers now have Android dominating over 60% of the tablet market sales, but the latest web usage numbers show that iPad dominates with nearly 80% of actual tracked usage.

      The market for Android tablet-centric apps seems to be particularly slow to develop too – most Android tablet apps tend to be just stretched versions of phone apps, with a sub-optimal UI. This is starting to change a bit, but slowly.

      – Chris

  9. Chris – This thread raises a lot of interesting points, but first – –

    I have used Android smartphones for a number of years as I appreciate the large screen and sharp image I get which is great for viewing photos movies and even maps. I bought my wife an apple 5c last year when she needed a new phone, in part because I wanted to personally see what the big deal was with iPhones. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Apple phone works great, is well made and its smaller size is exactly what my wife wanted. But since she has gotten that she just has not felt the need to download any apps for it as she’s happy what it does for her as is..

    For my android phone I have recently downloaded and installed your new app “US public lands” because I want to have a larger screen when viewing any maps, which seems to be confirmed by your statement that many tablet owners have downloaded this app is well. And to another commenters point – since I have installed the app on my Android device there was no need for it to also be installed on my wife’s 5c. I suspect that the comment about dual platform RVers is correct – you really don’t need to have the same app installed on both devices.

    I have followed blogs for years on the Android vs Apple controversy and it’s too bad that this particular thread started to fall down that rabbit hole as well. I always view technology as what it can do for me and don’t get too wrapped up in the company behind it because in my life I have seen a great number of hi flying tech companies come and go. I understand that Apple has a good ecosystem but it’s strange how many now see Apple as a religion when I just simply view it as another technology company. And the trouble is when people see Apple as their religion they become quite emotional about it and highly critical of any competitive or negative comments, as valid as they might be. What gets discouraging is when some start disparaging Android devices, which they have obviously never owned or used, calling them cheap, plasticy or garbage, when as an owner of both Apple and Android products I know that both are well made and can perform well, though it is obvious to me that Apple dropped the ball by not offering larger screen iPhones years ago while Android enjoyed years of sales.

    I know you are very technologically experienced, and I highly value your assessment of various platforms. You obviously know and use Apple products quite extensively, and this means a lot to my future consideration of any new products I may have to buy.

    But I would not get discouraged By fewer Android app sales. Its not that Android owners are cheap -because all smartphones require an ongoing monthly investment. I cannot really explain the difference in Android vs Apple app sales, but maybe it is because there are a greater number of free android apps out there. Just know that I appreciate the work and writings that you and Cherie have done on this site. You have produced a number of great tools and resources for RVers/ travelers, as well as providing a very interesting series of articles about your travels and adventures, which I really enjoy.

    Apple or Android, I don’t care – just keep up the good work You have been doing.

    • Hi Richard –

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

      As a veteran of many platform wars, I’ve actually noticed the emotional / religious fervor stronger from some of the extreme Android fans than from Apple fans lately. We’ve had to moderate and delete many “Apple is evil” comments, but I haven’t seen many comments at all here or anywhere with the reverse sentiment that are nearly as extreme.

      As I mentioned – there is a certain segment of the Android market made up of high-end users buying flagship devices that are extremely well built. But even the staunchest Android fan has to admit that a lot of the lower end often “free” Android offerings actually are “cheap, plasticy garbage”.

      This is why my core recommendation remains – if anyone goes Android, it is in their extreme best interest to make sure that they are getting a current model flagship device from one of the top manufacturers. Anything with a “Galaxy 5” in its name is safe. Anything on sale in the check-out line at a Walgreens is probably not.

      Cheers,

      – Chris

  10. I was not going to comment again but as an avid Android user, I feel compelled. My phone is a computer with 16 GB memory. I use the Chrome browser on my phone so that everything is accessible on both my phone and laptop at the same time. If I have a tab open on one, I can see it on the other at the same time. My phone is my remote control for the TV using Google cast to watch Netflix or anything else on the web, my photos on the TV, my music on the TV, my files on the TV and so on and so on. It has so much more than an iPhone or tablet.
    I don’t need a Kindle or and extra tablet because my screen is large enough to read very comfortably. And then there is the GPS. I do not need an additional device for that either. If I want to use apps, I can. If I want to pay for them, I can. But it is my choice and not because my phone can’t do anything without using an app, like the iPhone or tablet.

    • Hi Dymphe –

      Though there are some things that Android devices can do that iOS devices can’t, and many things that iOS devices can do that Androids can’t — to be fair, every example you gave applies to both platforms. Chrome is available for iOS and syncs tabs automatically. And there is support for Google’s Chromecast in many apps to control a Chromecast equipped TVs.

      And there are way more Apple TV’s out there with AirPlay than there are Chromecasts, and no Android device can remotely control any of them.

      Google makes sure to release iOS native apps with pretty much everything they do, meaning that iOS devices tend to get the best of both worlds. All Google’s good stuff comes to iOS, as well as everything that is Apple-only.

      As for preferring a large screened phone… That is a legitimate reason to go Android right now, though if the rumor mills are to be believed Apple will have large screen iPhones later this year. Hopefully they will keep the smaller ones around too.

      Cheers,

      – Chris

    • Yes, there is a lot of similarity. And interestingly – the more Google has tried to reassert control to avoid fragmentation, the more they have pushed other companies to take Android into completely divergent directions.

      Google is working on a new “Silver” program to try and take some of the control of Android back, particularly from Samsung. But of course Samsung isn’t going to want to play along:
      http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/29/google-android-silver-program/

      And meanwhile – because they are worried about Google, Samsung has been pursuing their own Android-like OS Tizen that they would love to ditch Android for and switch to.

      That would take fragmentation to the next level, and would really leave app developers out in the cold.

      It is a mess.

      – Chris

  11. I think you’re spot on about Android users. My husband is a prime example–check email, take a few pics, maybe play WWF. Not a clue what the OS is & couldn’t care less. Complete total polar opposite from every iOS user I know. They are simpatico with their devices. I worked on the PC/Microsuck side for too long. I am now an iOS devotee and will never go back to the dark side. And BTW, Public Lands rocks!!

  12. Ooops – forgot to include a question.

    What is the expected behaviour of Public Lands when you first travel into a new area and do not have Internet connectivity? Will the background map be very poor resolution — to be improved only when you get connectivity? That *seems* to be the behaviour I have seen so far, but haven’t confirmed it 100% yet.

    Is there a way to cache the high resolution background maps along a planned route, before departing from home and when using a WiFi connection?

    • ‘US Public Lands’ provides three background map options. The ‘Basic’ map provides just state outlines and the names of various public land areas, and this map is bundled inside the app and works fully offline. The satellite and standard maps rely on the underlying system map provided by the OS, and is dependent on how much storage the OS has decided to set aside for map caching.

      On iOS at least, the OS does a pretty good job of caching areas automatically – so if you preview the area ahead while online, the maps will still be there while you are offline.

      I would hope that Google’s caching system on Android was at least as smart.

      – Chris

  13. Great article – as usual! I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Put me down as a cheap Android owner who has purchased Public Lands and State Lines, even though I haven’t used either of them very much yet. I consider them to be (small) payment for the excellent tech information that you provide. When (if?) your coverage app gets Andrified (???), I’ll buy it, too for the same reason. I have a Nexus 7 and my wife has WiFi-only iPad, so we need the Android versions for GPS support.

    Long-term computer geek who just doesn’t “get” the Apple fascination. I find my wife’s iPad to be frustrating compared to the Nexus 7.

    For context, my Canadian Android Samsung is back in Canada — expensive (useless???) in the USA where I currently find myself, so I am hopping from WiFi to WiFi for notebook computer connectivity. I am using a cheap, non-contract, voice-only phone for basic contact as need arises. At this point, I haven’t weaned myself off the DSL account at home to a $$$ dataplan for mobile connectivity. I look forward to using Millenicom (sp?) as per your excellent article when the situation changes from a short-term USA visit in the RV to more longer term.

    Keep up the good work! And don’t give up on Android Coverages 😉

    • The new architecture we built for ‘US Public Lands’ should at last make an Android version of ‘Coverage?’ possible. It will take me a while to change around the map generation tools to work, but hopefully sooner rather than later we’ll be able to have all of our apps cross-platform.

      Cheers,

      – Chris

  14. I’m definitely a fan of the Googlesphere, but I recognize the issue with fragmentation in the Android world. I hate to say it, but if I was a developer I would not be building Android apps. I think your analysis is correct – there are far fewer paying customers in Android. And it will always be that way unless Google takes more control of the manufacturers – which will not happen.

    I’ll never have an Apple phone in the foreseeable future – they simply do not meet my needs – the screens are ridiculously small. But I AM about to buy an iPad Mini Retina. Not because it has something I really need – but because I need to use it in an automation project I’m working on. So I guess there is hope for me becoming an Apple fan 🙂

    • Hi Jack –

      The screens on iPhones do tend to be small (and some like Cherie wish they were even smaller!).

      But the rumor mill is pointing to the iPhone 6 being ultra-slim and with a much larger 4.7″ screen, and maybe even a 5.5″ option. In a few months, your biggest objection may be answered… 😉

      Cheers,

      – Chris

  15. Ah ! Welcome back to the market share wars.

    In 1979, “they” said Radio Shack’s TRS 80 would rule the future because you could buy one in thousands of stores.

    In 1981, “they” said the CPM operating system was the wave of the future because it was the only “real” operating system for micro-computers.

    In 1983, Creative Computing magazine said the Texas Instruments TI 99a was the future of home computing with purported sales outstripping Apple, Atari and Commodore.

    Do you see a trend here ?

    The battery in my decade (plus) old Mac PowerBook G4 laptop is dying so I’m going to replace it it with a bright shiny new laptop & you can be certain it will be an Apple product — no blue screen of death, little security issues, free OS upgrades, etc, etc.

    I will mix Android, iOS and Palm mobile devices simply because no one alone has all the features I personally will use but I strongly recommend iPhones and iPads to all my family and friends who are not techies. And, yes, any Android device over 18 months old is junk because it is not upgradeable and has been abandoned by the manufacturer.

    edward

  16. Excellent analysis, Chris. You’ve confirmed what I’ve suspected for quite a while. Smaller developers and app owners like us have limited resources, and while we want to support all our customers, it’s often financially impractical. The theory that Apple owners spend more on apps (on average) isn’t really a stretch, either. We’ll probably spend the next year waiting for a return on investment for our niche-topic iOS app, and I hate to think about how long it would take if we attempted to port to Android too.

  17. I have found that most RV owners I have communicated with in one way or another use IPhone. Even though they are not as good for navigation, and they don’t have GPS. Its an “age thing”. Most are over 50 and the iPhone is easier to use and more intuitive. We own an Android phone, a Nexus 7 tablet, and an IPad. I bought the IPad app because I wanted my wife to be able to use it. The majority of your RV users aren’t that tech savy. They refuse to give up their laptops because they feel comfortable with them. They have found the IPad or IPhone easy to use.

    • Hi Dave —

      I’m a bit confused by your statement that the iPhone is “not as good for navigation, and they don’t have GPS.”

      Every iPhone (going back to the original in 2007) has a fully functioning GPS inside of it, and this GPS functionality works even if you do not have a data plan, or when there is no cellular signal. There are literally hundred of awesome navigation apps available too, and in my experience having an iPhone or iPad around makes traditional standalone GPS devices feel absolutely antiquated.

      Have you had a different experience?

      Cheers,

      – Chris

      • Chris –

        AFAIK, all smartphones ( and many not so smart ones ) have at least GPS built into the 3G/4G module. I believe it was originally part of the spec for emergency 911 call purposes. However, not all tablets have GPS, particularly Wi-Fi only iPads and el-cheapo Androids.

        Apple GPS is built into the 3G/4G radio module, so if someone purchases a Wi-Fi only iPad, they will not have any location system other then the Wi-Fi hotspot location database, which isn’t terribly useful on the road, though it can give you some basic location data in urban areas.

        Android tablets ( at least those over $100 ) seem to frequently build location sensors onto the main board, so even some of the lower mid-range ones often come with at least GPS, even if you buy only the Wi-Fi version. Amazon Fire tablets seem to be an exception to this. Like Apple tablets they only come with GPS if you order the 4G version. There are probably others, I only looked at select tablets of a few major manufacturers.

        As for Windows tablets, 4G capable ones had GPS and most Wi-Fi models did as well, though even within a manufacturer’s lineup it could change from model to model. Often, in the tech specs there was no sensor information given, so it was impossible to tell what was inside. It was very confusing.

        Is this the point that I badger you guys for Windows versions of your apps? 😉

        So if someone is buying a tablet for use as a navigational tool, they would be well advised to make sure that it has GPS capability, regardless of the brand. This may require they purchase the 4G capable version of their desired device to get the GPS functionality. They don’t need to activate the cellular data service for the GPS to operate, it just has to be there. People shopping the really low end ( under $100 ) of the Android tablet market are probably just screwed for location services, since they don’t usually have them built in and cellular data version aren’t available.

        People buying in the used market might want to take a chance on tablets with failed cellphone data modules to get a GPS capable tablet cheap. My work-provided iPad 2 won’t get online via 3G any more ( one too many drops on its head by the previous user ), but the GPS still works fine. Both the iTunes and Play stores have free apps that will check that the GPS is working ( turn off Wi-Fi when testing ), which should be confirmed before buying a used tablet for navigation.

        Curiously, when doing some researching for this I found that a lot of the high-end tablets and phones, among them the current Nexus 7 ( I have one ), what looks like the entire current Apple lineup of mobile devices as well as some of the Samsung tablets also have GLONASS compatibility. GLONASS is the Russian GPS competitor and recently got pretty good global coverage, including what they claim is 95-100% coverage in the USA and Canada. So in places where your device may not be able to see enough GPS satellites to get a location fix, it may be able to fall back on GLONASS.

        I totally agree that having a quality phone or tablet gives one amazing choice of navigation software.

        Safe and Interesting travels

        -Eric

      • Great comment Eric, and indeed several modern devices support Russia’s GLONASS. Soon you’ll see devices also offering support for China’s Beidou and Europe’s Galileo, meaning that there will be four different navigation satellite constellations!

        As for a Windows phone version of our apps… We ported ‘State Lines’ years ago, and so far the sales have been so low that we haven’t even reached the threshold for Microsoft to write us a tiny check.

        Microsoft has a long way to go to even begin to be relevant to developers. Right now they are such a distant third place it is hard to even pay attention to them, but I do wish them luck. There is some very neat stuff in the latest Windows Phone OS release.

        Cheers,

        – Chris

  18. Interesting information. I for one have and Android and really enjoy using all your apps. Looking forward to more in the future.

    Take care,

    Tina

  19. I bought the Android app when it was announced. I will admit I almost changed my mind, due to the amount of what I considered browbeating and android negativity (throwing down the gauntlet) in the announcement.
    Any buyers have any opinions pro or con regarding the app? I like the app, but I guess I was expecting more info. I still think for the price you can’t go wrong.
    Does anyone have any information regarding the differences between the Apple and Android versions? I’m kind looking for excuses (I mean reasons) for getting an Ipad.

    • Sorry about the perceived browbeating – but after the deluge of “what about Android?” comments we have gotten over the years (some of them actually nasty!), a little bit of a challenge to the Android users out there felt very merited.

      The iOS and Android versions have a few small user interface differences, but overall they are functionally identical.

      Cheers,

      – Chris

  20. Great write up, and fun to read.
    I’m not very tech savvy, but have owned an iPhone since it was available on Verizon. Got the iPad Air shortly after release last fall. And I can get my way around them quite well. I use a lot of apps to do a lot of things. I’d rather pay for a good app, that works as it should, and has no ads, than download “free” crap apps.
    But here’s the funny part: I know plenty of people who own Android smartphones. Most of them download few to no apps. Few of them actually know how to do much more than a few basics with their smart Android phones.
    Sitting around in a group for some socializing, somebody wonders about something, find the answer by looking it up online as everybody has a smartphone, right? But who grabs their phones first? The iPhone users. The vast majority of the time.
    Who talks the most crap? And the loudest? Android users. It would be profitable to bet on these points, because there’d be few bets lost.
    Strange. I don’t understand it, but I guess I can just laugh at it. Lol!
    I’ll be stocking with my iOS devices, thank you very much. 🙂

  21. This is a really good article.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t come right out and say it – but I will. Android users are CHEAP. Part of the reason why they won’t pay for apps is because there are so many free ones out there, why bother? Apple and iOS in some ways represent ‘the man’ and being controlled by one company’s vision (this is the response I get from most people who use or have switched to Android – myself included.)

    But having experienced both devices (and presently making my way back to iOS – I’ve got a couple of iPad minis and will be getting the next iPhone when it comes out) – I can tell you that there is no real freedom in using Android. What you get with Android is a window manager masquerading as a phone OS. It feels cheap, it acts cheap – which is why it is cheap, and which is why nobody wants to pay for apps to install on it. Even with the big steps backward that iOS has taken under 7.x and Jony Ive, it is still a lot more polished, a lot more professional than Android is currently. I’ve paid for the same apps on iOS that I haven’t paid for on Android.

    What I’m trying to say here is that when you come into a phone OS experience feeling like you’re getting something for your money, you’re more willing to come out of pocket for it.

    (A small editor note, sorry, I know this is free but I gotta call it out: You don’t ‘beg a question’ when you raise a question. You beg a question when you provide a statement whose only support is the statement itself (“he is sick because he is unhealthy.”) Suggest “This begs us to ask the question…” 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments, Malcolm.

      I wouldn’t say that ALL Android users are “cheap”, but it is true that Google has conditioned users to expect things for free. But of course, Google may be giving you free services – but they are packaging up and selling you to the highest bidders in return.

      Thanks for the editorial suggestion – it was a good one, and I tweaked the post.

      Cheers,

      – Chris

  22. I think that your analysis is dead on but I also think that part of the reason is that from what I have seen, IOS users buy the device mainly for all of the apps that you can get. Android users get this neat phone that has all of these features–why would they need to buy any apps ?
    As an experiment, look at anyone’s Iphone and you’ll see it’s usually customed with folders and tons of apps and music and most wished they had more memory. Most Android user’s phones have a few apps and some music and it’s just like it came out of the box.
    I strongly suspect too that there is the power of the Itunes store at work as well. Most IOS users will get Itunes gift cards as gifts and are totally familiar with the Itunes store. Android really doesn’t have the same thing and most Droid users aren’t as familiar with the App store.
    Love your apps and blog !!!

    Jim Power

    • Exactly Jim.

      There is a certain segment of Android power users who do extreme things with their phones, and who are huge app enthusiasts.

      But overall the vast majority of Android users tend to stick with whatever came pre-installed, or perhaps a few “free” featured apps they found browsing the store.

      I actually bet a sizable percentage of Android users wouldn’t even know how to buy an app if they wanted to.

      – Chris

      • Seriously? I’m old. I can download apps using the Google Play store. I can even put my phone on wi-fi so they download faster.

  23. That’s a great analysis, but let me throw a thought at you. You’ve probably already thought of this, but here goes anyway. I vaguely remember reading that iPad is still the dominant force in actual web traffic. I did a tiny bit of research and ran across an April, 2014 analysis of web traffic by Chitika, Inc. (http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/239330/file-689499966-pdf/ChitikaInsights-2014-TabletUpdateQ2(1).pdf?t=1398268964915) They state on page 5: “The proverbial elephant in the room is iPad usage share, which still stands at over 77% of all U.S. and Canadian tablet-based Web traffic . . .” (despite sales declines). Personally, both my wife and I would much rather view maps on a larger screen and we both now have Galaxy Note 3’s replacing my Droid Bionic and her iPhone 4s. I’m guessing that your apps may be heavily used on iPads and other larger-format devices, and since iPads account for 77% of tablet web traffic, I’m also guessing that the ratio of iOS devices to Android devices also holds (roughly) and because there are three times as many iOS devices as there are Androids, that may partially account for the in balance in sales of your apps.
    This is not based on any thorough research, so I classify this as mostly speculation, but it might be interesting to you.
    Thanks for doing what you are doing!
    Tom Hargreaves

    • Great speculation, Tom. You could have had a career in competitive analysis. 😉

      From our records so far – just over a third of the purchasers of ‘US Public Lands’ are running it on iPads, and this is certainly a sizable number.

      But the iOS vs Android story with tablets is actually pretty similar to what it is with phones. If you look at sales market share, the flood of cheap Android tablets has theoretically eclipsed the iPad.

      But if you measure actual usage, the iPad is light years ahead.

      It would seem that most of those cheap Android tablets getting bought for $99 or $199 end up junked and never used. If you’ve ever actually takes a closer look at them, it is easy to see why. *ugh*

      – Chris

  24. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said there were fewer “paying” customers. Not that it’s a scientifically impressive pool, but the majority of the Android users I know rarely go for an app they have to pay for. Same goes for their phones even if they have to sign a contract to get it for “free”.

  25. The tech savvy RVers that use smartphones and tablets, are probably like you and have devices from different carriers to maximize coverage and both Apple and Android. Since you released iOS first, many already have it and see no need for it on their Android phone also.
    Android i.e. Google users have many FREE apps to choose from unlike Apple. Also, Google search in Maps is so good, that you can rely on it to find any campground, state park etc.
    This app is the very first and only app that I have paid for in 3 years of owning a smartphone.

    • Hi Dymphe –

      Interesting point about dual-platform households. I haven’t seen many of these, but I am curious if this might perhaps have had a slight impact.

      I do disagree that Google users have more free apps to choose from than Apple users though – the iOS Appstore has a huge selection of free apps that are supported via advertising, subscription, or in-app-purchase. Arguably at least as many options, if not more, than in the Google Play store.

      I do love Google Maps, and one of my favorite things about iOS is that we get to benefit from both Google Maps and Apple Maps and even several other full-featured mapping and navigation programs. It is in Google’s best interest to keep Google Maps awesome on iOS, but Apple will likely never return the favor.

      – Chris

  26. Good write up but I really think you are comparing oranges to apples. How many different companies manufacture Android devices? How many manufacture iphones? Android is open source and the majority of heavy phone user/developers are focused on open source development and making their phones do things that the manufacturers and service providers did not intend (check xda-developers.com and see how many devs, phones and mods are out there) and regular phone users bought an android because they had no money to buy a 400 -600 $ phone. Im not knocking apple at all but it is a proprietary device. I think there are many Android users that get frustrated with their phones because its not always click and it works. (Hundreds of different hardware models and fragmentation in the software releases and you see where this is going) I think iphones are a premium brand with premium users who have money to spend and android will continue to be a developmental open source product. As long as they keep giving away free androids with the cheapest phone plan it will be hard to sell your product to the android market. I think a more interesting comparison would be how many 4.0 iphone users (free phones now) bought the software vs. 6.0 iphone users. Love the work you all do! Keep it up.

    -Sean

    • We pretty much agree with all you have said, Sean. You basicallty just re-stated Chris’ analysis 🙂 This article was intended to hightlight why Android development is not a focus for us, and will be our rebutal anytime someone asks why an app of ours isn’t available for Android.

    • I think you are echoing my analysis almost exactly… 😉

      The one thing that I think it is important to point out is that a lot of what makes “Android” Android isn’t really actually open source, particularly with the changes Google has been making over the past few years. In many ways, the core of most Android devices is just as locked down, closed source, and proprietary as anything Apple has ever released.

      That is why Amazon is having so much trouble staying compatible with Google’s variant of Android – a lot of the most interesting features are now locked down, such as mapping and in-app purchase.

      – Chris

  27. Good post! I had been curious how the different releases were doing. I’m sad that Android isn’t paying off for you guys much yet, but I’m glad to have the option of buying the apps on my preferred platform. Who knows, if I can’t fix the battery life issues with my Nexus 7, I might end up with an iPad and have to buy them all over again.

    As an Android Fanboy ( Fandroid?) I would add that in addition to buying a flagship device, buying one with “Stock” Android helps a lot with avoiding fragmentation. Google’s Nexus devices and Google Play versions of many of the high end phones don’t have all the added-on stuff that phone manufacturers or carriers put on otherwise nice hardware. Then they’re supported directly by Google for their updates, in a manner somewhat similar to Apple and iDevices. So they get the updates earlier, more frequently and usually aren’t as quickly abandoned as the manufacturer versions of the same phones, which are often forgotten when something new and shiny is released.

    In fact, it seems like most reviews of the flagship Android phones could be summarized into: “Nice phone, except all the crap the manufacturer added to Android nearly ruined it”. Apple, on the other hand, has done a fantastic job of not adding too much junk to their OS and preventing carriers from adding their own garbage.

    Safe and interesting travels-

    Eric

    • Great comment Eric, and indeed looking for an Android labeled “Nexus” is a smart way to go.

      This means that you may be giving up on some flashy features, but you will be getting “pure” Android device as defined by Google with less extra crap piled on top.

      It is still no true guarantee of ongoing support, but the odds are much more in your favor.

      – Chris

  28. Very interesting facts! I have a 3GS running 5.1.1. It doesn’t have enough free memory to load OS 6, without taking my music off, which is half my available memory of 6.0 Gigs. I expect that when IPhone 6 comes out, I’ll upgrade to an IPhone 5. As you can see, I’m a real tech freak! I do plan on purchasing the U.S. Public Lands. Will it work on 5.1.1 with 1.2 GB available?

    Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your blog, and watch reruns of many of your presentations.

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