iOS’s lead over Android in app monetization is shrinking

Mobilize 2012 Raj Aggarwal Localytics Jeff Haynie Appcelerator Josh Williams Kontagent

Conventional wisdom has held for a while that Apple’s iOS platform was by far the best way to monetize apps. Sure, Android’s platform was big but the users who tended to pay for apps were most likely using an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. That’s changing thanks to the greater diversity of app monetization strategies — in-app purchases, driving traffic through social channels, and advertising — a panel of app experts said during a session at GigaOM Mobilize conference today.

For a long time it was reported that iOS monetization was five times better than what you could make on Android, said Raj Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder of Localytics. But because there are so many more ways of examining the data that tells a developer who is interested in their app, and different methods of making money from users, things are changing. “iOS’s lead, in terms of the minds of developers, is only slight right now,” according to Aggarwal. Android is a much closer second than previously thought.

Josh Williams, president and chief science officer at Kontagent, agreed with that assessment. When comparing app downloads between iOS and Android across the same geographic area and by device (smartphone versus tablet), “iOS actually monetizes only 40 to 50 percent better than Android, from the data we’ve seen. It’s actually pretty viable,” said Williams.

And in some cases, Android can even be more profitable, if developers and their marketers are really focused on their objectives, he said.

“While Android monetizes a little less well on a per user basis than iOS, the acquisition costs on Android today are much lower on a per user basis. So sometimes profitability on Android is higher,” said Williams. “Smart businesses that are operating scientifically look at that and allocate their spend for development and marketing across platforms on a profit per user and profit per install basis.”

Other platforms, like Windows Phone and Blackberry, aren’t really in the conversation for most mainstream app makers, though. Unless, Williams said, a business is “trying to do a real brand-building play and be a mass, mass market play,” like Rovio has done with its megahit Angry Birds franchise. For most app makers, it’s still all about Apple and Google’s mobile platforms.

There is, however, one area where iOS still holds a really big lead in the minds of developers, however.

“More than 70 percent are focused on iOS for the enterprise,” said Jeff Haynie, CEO of Appcelerator. “BYOD is a big trend … and I’ve heard quite a number of concerns about customers being burned from a security standpoint on Android,” said Haynie.

So, in at least one sense, iOS still has a big lead in the minds of developers.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.

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