Below is a compelling story (perhaps a cautionary tale?) about the power of Apple's ecosystem, and conversely about the weakness of Googles.
In late 2012, we decided to launch Emu on Android first. It went against the conventional wisdom at the time, but we saw a real advantage. Sixteen months later, we’re back on iOS: Emu for iPhone launched on April 2. Here’s why Android didn’t work out for us and why you should think carefully before going Android-first.
To build a messaging app on iPhone, you have to create your own communication channel — essentially an IM service. But on Android, you can simply replace the built-in Messages app, while still using the underlying SMS/MMS medium. You save yourself the effort of building a communication service. And, your users needn’t invite their friends: they’ll receive messages in the same place they always have. That lowers the barrier to trying your app, easing adoption. (This difference isn’t based on any technical limitation; it’s purely a choice by Apple and Google, one that either company could reverse in the future.)
But what of the conventional wisdom that Android users won’t download apps? We looked at the data and didn’t see it. Android users were less likely to pay for apps, to download games, and to pay for in-app content. But they were certainly downloading. Android had more users globally, and was on track to surpass the iOS installed base in the U.S. (It has since done so.) Android’s UX was improving, and a few high-profile influencers were switching to it from iPhone.
We heard other hopeful rumors: Android apps were easier to build. Adoption of recent Android versions was high enough that we could limit our backward compatibility, avoid serious fragmentation, and still have a large potential user base. And, while many Android apps were still clunky compared to their iPhone counterparts, companies like Flipboard and Press were starting to show that you could build a polished, delightful experience on Android.
So we jumped in. We discarded the iPhone prototype we had been working on for a few weeks, polished our rusty Java skills and had an Android alpha out by February 2013. We posted a public beta in July. And in October, we launched with terrific press coverage, including from a few folks who sang our praises specifically because we went Android-first. Android users are sick of watching new apps launch on iPhone, with Android as an often-underwhelming afterthought.
We launched Emu for iPhone on April 2, and we’ve pulled Emu for Android out of the Play Store. We hope we’ll return to Android someday, but our team is too small to innovate and iterate on multiple platforms simultaneously. We’ve concluded iPhone is a better place to be.
Much, much more in the link, including a great breakdown with easy-to-read bullet points everywhere. It's not so much a surprising situation as it is reinforcing story of things we likely all know deep down but may not want to admit.
Go forth and be enlightened all over again.
from Steve Cheney's “Why Android First is a Myth" --
All of my conversations over the past year…confirm a simple hard reality: building and releasing on Android costs 2-3x more than iOS. This is due to a multitude of reasons: less sophisticated tools, generally more cumbersome APIs, fewer exposed advanced features, enormous QA issues brought on by fragmentation, etc. The rough rule of thumb is for every iOS engineer you actually need two Android engineers—or twice the development time.
This isn’t an issue of platform preference or capabilities; it’s a question of how we make the most of limited time, energy, and capital – especially in an early-stage startup, where significant iteration is inevitable.