While iOS is the undisputed consumer app king, Android sits as the mobile device OS whose growth is accelerating the fastest. However, quite opposite to some of the headline stats out there, Android does not have a larger install base than iOS. It is true that there are more Android based devices than iPhone’s but  if we want a true picture of the current situation we need to not compare a phone (iPhone) and an operating system (Android). Instead we should compare like for like; iOS and Android .  Then we see that there is still a larger install base of iOS devices. If current rates of growth are sustained then Android will, eventually, overtake iOS. But we are not there yet.

As app developers and commissioners should we even care? On the face of it you might expect that developing for the ecosystem with the largest install base was the obvious choice. However, it’s not quite that simple. For reasons that we wont go into here (subject of anther post no doubt) iOS users download far more apps than Android users. So I’m not sure that it matters how many Android devices are sold or what the differential is between the install bases of  iOS and Android. Android users don’t buy apps.

So why bother with Android at all?

The great strength (and also the weakness) of Android is its openness. As developers we can do anything we like with it. There are no hoops jump though, no rules that must be obeyed. You can pick it up, smash it around, and rebuild it to make it do whatever you like on whichever device you choose to do it. This is the power of Android and this is why it’s useful to business.

Consumer, throw away apps are the ones getting the glory at the moment. But for every multi-million pound “Angry Birds” there are hundreds of apps that you have never heard of and will never be downloaded. Like any gold rush, it’s time will pass. Useful, complex solutions for business is where the exiting and sustainable territory is. Android is what gives you the power and flexibility to build such systems.

Recently I’ve seen school registration systems, take-away order management systems, taxi booking systems, cash registers and information kiosks. All built on Android devices that have had much of the standard phone or tablet functionality disabled. While Android marketplaces might not ever see the success enjoyed by the Apple App Store it is custom solutions for business, built on Android, that might yet be the area in which it excels.

Your solutions?

Do you have experience  using or developing an Android based custom solution for business use? Have you build anything on Windows Phone or for iOS? Tell us about your experience.

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