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AOL Mobile Goes HTML5, Picks Android Over iPhone for New App

Longtime Internet pioneer, AOL (s aol) today matured its mobile platform with two new applications for Android handsets and an HTML5 version of the AOL Mobile website for smartphones. The new site — still found at — now supports richer content and media on handset browsers supporting HTML5. While it’s not surprising that AOL is looking to support advanced devices such as smartphones, the selection of Android (s goog) over iPhone (s aapl) for the new software title is notable.

I spoke yesterday by phone with David Temkin, the new VP of Mobile for AOL, and asked why the company chose Android over the iPhone. “Momentum is the key reason,” Temkin said, and I have to agree with him. Even with a record quarter of iOS4 devices, Google is on pace to have more Android activations than Apple will have iPhone activations this year. Temkin was quick to point out that several AOL apps are already available for iOS4 devices and that the new AOL portal app should follow in the future.

While the new AOL portal app is Android-only for now, the new AOL Daily Finance app for Google phones joins a version for iPhone and BlackBerry (s rimm) devices. With it, you can manage a stock portfolio or catch the latest news in the financial world. AOL’s new portal app provides access to similar features and data found on the mobile site, but as Temkin told me, “Apps can offer a better package and experience for end users.” I said the same earlier this year: Until HTML5 and other web standards improve, a custom application often trumps a website. I still personally prefer the polish of a well-written, dedicated app, but if you disagree, AOL has you covered with either a site or an app — those of you with an Android device, that is.

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18 Responses to “AOL Mobile Goes HTML5, Picks Android Over iPhone for New App”

  1. I agree with Lava. AOL’s move to go Android first because of “momentum” is silly, but it’s not like AOL has been making good business decisions for the last decade or so.

    The Android momentum thing itself is fishy. Although the handsets are selling for Motorola and HTC, this claim by Google that massive numbers of phones are being “activated” as metric of success wildly beyond iPhone just doesn’t jive.

    I don’t see Android phones in any numbers out “in the wild”. My own apps (and friends apps) don’t do nearly as well in the Android App store as in Apple’s store. Some of that could be chalked up to customer demographics, but if Android is really selling phones that outpace Apple so significantly, as claimed, why are all the other metrics like app sales so significantly behind for Android?

    I’m really waiting for a bit of independent analysis on these “activation” claims, but so far no journalist seems to be interested.

    • Thank you!

      Google has got the press breathless about their daily activation rate so why is no one asking Google for a total activation number?

      We know the 100 millionth iOS device was sold last month. RIM announced 100 million Blackberry sales a few months ago too.

      But why doesn’t Google let us know how many Android devices out there? Why obfuscate with a “daily activation” rate?

      Maybe because it reveals Android isn’t as strong as perception? Misleading, isn’t it?

      • coolrepublica

        I think googlers think everyone is math centric as they are. They assumed that if the give you the daily activation you can do the multiplication. But you now what they say about asuming.

      • Lava,

        You do understand that if Google is lying, they can be sued for Millions of dollars. In short, they are not lying, the 160k activations are very real, they are worldwide, mainly on Verizon and Sprint, some on T-Mobile. I have seen a lot pf them. Since they have taken off very recently, you wouldnt have seen too many, just like iPhone in 2008, it was a rare sight.

        The Android momentum is very real, the media is not nuts, nor is AOL management, you should wake up to reality.

    • Good points from both of you. Bear in mind that the AOL app is free, so the company isn’t trying to make money on the downloads directly. Instead, it’s about eyeballs and ads, given AOL is offering portal content. That can be a different business model from other developers. Since AOL sees Android as having momentum, they’re targeting the largest growing audience, based on what they told me.

      As far as activations go, I think it’s a little easier for Apple to provide actual numbers than Google. iOS4 devices get activated through iTunes, so Apple can accurately track them. Google used to require a Gmail account to activate Android handsets, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer (although I’ll double check that). Not making excuses for Google, but trying to illustrate why the numbers might not be as accurate or accessible as we’d all like.

      • I know what you’re saying, which is why AOL’s logic is even weirder. If they are after eyeballs, then releasing on Android doesn’t make any sense. It’s like saying, “We’re going to release on Windows Mobile first because we care about eyeballs.”

        In any case, I think this just proves AOL doesn’t actually mean what they say. They just want the sensationalism of the story about going against a proven formula by releasing on Android first. Then again, this kind of judgement shows you why AOL is in the place that it is, when it used to mean “Internet” for almost everyone for a long time.

        Anyway, about that daily activation rate. If it doesn’t accurately track the number of Android devices out there, then what use is it? Bad data is worse than no data.

        Occam’s Razor says Google knows exactly how many Android devices out there, but doesn’t want to reveal the total number. Why? I’m willing to bet it will probably show device numbers to be far lower than perception, and thus taking away from the “momentum.”

        But it’s quite amazing that journalist after journalist passes up the opportunity to get a straight answer from Google. Instead, we get repetitions of the “daily activation rate” which, strangely enough, I don’t think Google ever defined what exactly that means.

        If we don’t know what it means, then why are we quoting it so frequently?

  2. This guy is confusing momentum with performance. Whatever momentum Android has hasn’t translated to greater downloads or revenues for any company. I can’t name a single Android developer that had has pulled in revenues like Tapulous (before Disney acquired them) or have download metrics like Pocket God or Words with Friends. 

    There are 50+ million FaceBook app users on iOS devices. What’s the Android comparable numbers? 

    The fact of the matter is, Android doesn’t perform for developers. It will be the same for AOL, a strategy akin to releasing a Linux app first, followed by a Windows version. 

    Somehow I font think AOL will be sharing download numbers to makntain the illusion of momentum.

    Unfortunately all hype and no revenue will be a cold splash of water to the face for a lot of developers a year from now – developers today who think Android hype will pay the bills.

    • From a developer standpoint, there’s merit to your argument. But from a handset-maker perspective, I think HTC and Motorola would totally disagree with you – both are enjoying rising profits due to Android device sales.

      • That’s all well and good, and Android has been good for hardware companies. But this post is about AOL’s apps and my post was questioning the weird logic offered by AOL for releasing it on Android first.

        My point was that “momentum” for Android developers is largely a meaningless phenomenon. Android users download less, they don’t get paid apps when they do, and mobile ad revenues are slim pickings making just pennies CPM.

        “Momentum” so far looks to be a siren song drawing Android developers to a largely barren and profitless future. It will only get worse as carriers stop pushing out major updates for dozens of phones a year from now (seriously, does anyone think Verizon is going to spend the money to update half a dozen 2 year old Droid models to the latest version of Android next year?)

        For all the talk of being open, Android players sure do obfuscate a lot.

        Activation numbers are announced without total activations being ever revealed. PR releases about this or that phone selling out, but no unit numbers ever provided. Why all the hiding?


    • Huxley

      IMO, Aol released the app because they want to have full control over the analytics which they can harvest on Android almost without restriction but it is getting increasingly difficult to do on the iOS side (without Apple’s express blessing)

    • Correct, HTML5 isn’t Google-specific, it’s a general web specification. I think you’re confusing the web part and the app part of this news.

      The new AOL Mobile site, based on HTML5 will work with any mobile device that supports HTML5 in the browser. But AOL’s new portal application is specific to Android for now.