Today’s world is full of mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, wearables, and so much are to come! Everyone now has the ability to be connected all the time from everywhere: the old human dream of ubiquity now fulfilled. This new way of life has become so natural in such a short duration as a few years that there’s no turning back: the future will be mobile or will not be. Who has never read newspaper in public transportations, checked email while queuing, verified prices of this great article in front of you in a shop, …?

For businesses, there’s never been such an opportunity in history to create and maintain a close relationship with users and customers and reach them wherever they are, enabling companies to better target adds, never miss sales opportunities, be faster than competitors, ...

So no choice, whoever you are, you have to go mobile. Two vendors dominate the market, Google with Android, and Apple with iOS. Today, we’ll discuss the Android option.


A bit of history

Android is an open-source Operating System (OS) based on Linux and distributed under Apache license: its sources can be downloaded, modified and re-distributed (this is why some vendors modify Google’s distribution to add their own layout and functionalities; but you are also free to make your own version too!).

Android got its name from the startup that created it and that was acquired by Google in 2005. Even if the Android OS was not released immediately and the acquisition may not have been at the center of Google’s strategy, many analyst say that this was the best deal Google has ever made: in some two years’ time, Google started to make money with Android, and this success has never failed since then.

 

More about Android

The first release of Android dates back to September 2008 along with the first Android mobile phone (even if several beta versions for developers have been released previously starting at the end of 2007). Since then, 19 major versions have been released, the current pace being approximately one major release per year.

All Android versions are named after desserts for instance: Cupcake, GingerBread, Jelly Bean), all ordered according to the alphabet. The latest one is KitKat (Android 4.4, API level 19, September 2013), coming after Jelly Bean; the rumor said it could be called ‘Key lime pie’, but the lawn statue at the Googleplex (Google's headquarters) in Mountain View suggested a different outcome.

 

More information on version contents can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_version_history

Android embeds most of Linux features for hardware management (telecommunication networks management, memory, process, file system, …). However, it is tailored to mobile devices where resources are scarce (CPU, memory, ...), hence it has been optimized and some high level features (like the X Window HMI) part of Linux are not part of Android; also, some features specific to the mobile world have been added (SMS, camera, …).

At the end, Android is organized in 5 distinct layers :

  • Linux kernel
  • librairies such as WebKit, OpenGL, SQLite
  • Dalvik Virtual Machine (using the Java technology)
  • a software development kit
  • standard apps

 

A fragmented market…

Today, API level is 19, which means that 19 major versions of Android have been released by Google. When a vendor commercializes a device, the latest Android version is generally set on the device (eventually customized by the vendor); it is then up to the user to upgrade his device when a new Android version is released and supported by the vendor… which is not always the case! For instance, Samsung issued its Galaxy SIII mini with Android 4.1.2 plus a customized layer, but, in spite of existing news Android versions, never decided to support newer versions on this phone. So, today, all Samsung Galaxy SIII are still running with Android 4.1.2, even if other devices are released with other Android versions (for instance, the Nexus 7 tablet manufactured by Asus runs on Android 4.4.3).

That means that the spectrum of Android versions that run on all mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, …) all over the world is very large, and theoretically all apps that need to work on all devices should support all 19 major Android versions! Keep calm, the reality is pretty different, but anyway app developers always have to keep in mind they have to design their apps for many different versions.

The good news is that Android 4.x.y accounts for more than 84% of the market (and Android 4.1.x + is 72%): version 4 is more than 2 years old now, and most vendors have released upgrades to Android 4. Also, the renewal frequency of smartphones tends to be shorter and shorter, and is anyway less than 2 years, making the migration to Android 4 larger and larger.
More information about adoption can be found on http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html


… With so many users!

The smartphone market is a rather simple one: Google vs Apple. Those figures may vary a bit over time, but roughly Google’s Android reigns over 80% of the market when Apple’s iOS has 15%. That represents some 1 billion devices over the world!
(ok, some other vendors exist like Microsoft or Blackberry and fight for recognition, but in this very competitive market it’s pretty hard for them to become significant).

This is the reason why it is so important to be present on Android when it comes to be visible for you and your brand, moreover if you are targeting countries where Android is the most dominant platform (for instance those in South America, Russia, Japan, South Korea).

For those who want to get more details, additional information can be found there:
Apple & Google competition: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/apple-v-google-the-goliath-deathmatch-by-the-numbers-in-2014/
Figures about Apple and Google (2013): http://blog.appannie.com/app-annie-index-market-q1-2013/
And some updates (May 2014): http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/06/android-still-growing-market-share-by-winning-first-time-smartphone-users/

 

At the end of the day, why develop on Android?

So you have, and want, to go mobile. As we decided to do at AnRCloud! So what were the reasons that triggered the move to Android?

Well, we needed to prototype our idea with the following constraints: we wanted

  • to be quick,
  • to have a cost-efficient solution,
  • in an environment in which we would have skills and experience.

 

Whereas we knew much less about the iOS world and did not have the required hardware, it was pretty easy to use our existing desktops and laptops, install free softwares (Eclipse, …) to use our Java skills and make our ideas live in a matter of days. Moreover, there is plenty of documentation for Android developers (forums, Google’s documentation, …) and the community is very large and active. And should you need to hire additional developers, it’s far more easy to find good ones in the Android world than in the iOS world.

In addition to that, some other factors confirmed that decision: Google Play and its visibility, the width of Android ecosystem, privacy management in an app and the ability to replace native apps by custom ones.

Of course, Android has its limitations and other platforms have their own strengths too (and we’ve never said you shouldn’t use them). But we think Android is an ideal platform for a start-up company to prototype and test its concepts, from the very first line of code to managing the user experience (using Google Analytics, publishing the app on Google Play and testing it, getting feedbacks from users, …).


Thank you for reading, and we hope those insights are valuable to you. So now is your turn to try it!