Mobile Developer Survey: Apple Getting More Difficult to Work With

— December 17, 2012

Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 2,837 Appcelerator Titanium developers from November 15-26, 2012, on their perceptions about current debates in mobile, social, and the cloud, as well as their development priorities.

Predictions From Mobile Developers for 2013
Mobile will forever change retail, and it starts now: 92.9% of mobile developers predict it is "likely to very likely" that in 2013, most retail companies will have enabled mobile commerce. Developers also provided predictions on how mobile will change the retail shopper's behavior, including their views on in-store shopping behavior, the mobile wallet concept, and the likelihood that users will make more purchases via their mobile phones than via their credit cards in the coming year.

Developers Remain Bullish on iOS and Android
Interest in developing applications for the popular platforms (Android, iOS, etc.) remains very high, with Android phones posting modest gains and Android tablets posting a modest drop-off (two percentage points from last quarter's survey). iPhone and iPad saw gains of two and four percentage points respectively among developers who are "very interested" in developing for the platforms.

Windows 8 tablets saw slight gains in the percentage of developers "very interested" in building applications for the platform, while BlackBerry phones and tablets saw very slight declines in developer interest (less then a full percentage point). Typically, an increase or decrease of less than three points is attributed to the sample sizing and the variability of the audience. Only when trends appear that span multiple survey periods do those smaller percentage-point gains or losses get more serious consideration.

While developers' interest levels remain relatively unchanged across platforms, 88.4% of mobile developers believe that they will be developing for two or more operating systems over the next year. This is up significantly from 68.9% in last quarter's survey. Digging deeper into these numbers, Appcelerator and IDC found that 49% of developers plan to build mobile apps for two operating systems. Furthermore, 30% of developers plan to build apps for three or more operating systems, up from 23% in the Q3 survey. Now that consumers have an increasing number of viable platforms to choose from, the ability to build a mobile app that is available cross-platform is a must for a successful developer.

Apple Continues to Get More Difficult to Work With
Despite significant improvements to both The App Store search and the OS, developers' comfort level and happiness with Apple seem to be waning. Developers are concerned about Apple's ability to curtail fragmentation and the somewhat opaque policies of App Store submission.

Appcelerator and IDC asked developers "How has Apple's introduction of the iPad Mini changed your view on developing for Apple products?" Only 19% of those surveyed think Apple has done enough to manage that fragmentation and is hence less difficult to develop for. Prior to the past quarter, Apple had been able to avoid many of the fragmentation problems that have plagued Android. However, with six different screen sizes to develop for now (iPhone/iPod touch, iPhone4/4s with Retina, iPhone 5, iPad, iPad with Retina, iPad mini), developers are beginning to feel the pain of fragmentation among iOS devices.

Appcelerator and IDC then asked developers "Has Apple become more or less difficult to deal with (application submission, fragmentation, monetization) over the past 3 years?" More generally, 90% of developers believe that Apple has become more difficult, or about the same, to deal with over the past three years when it comes to application submission, fragmentation, and monetization. This shift will open the door for other ecosystems to offer developers an opportunity. This leveling of the playing field means developers will continue to focus on multi-platform development spanning the popular operating systems so they can reach the widest possible audience rather than locking themselves into a single platform, operating system, or device.

Kindle Failing to Garner Significant Interest
Amazon's often-lauded Kindle tablet continues to struggle for developer interest, with only 21% of developers "very interested" in building applications for the platform. We believe that this device lacks sufficient application critical mass to become a mass-market tablet. Despite massive advertising and Amazon's enormous reach, developers remain unconvinced that the Kindle provides significant revenue or application opportunities for them.

Appcelerator and IDC asked developers to rank the factors influencing their choices of platforms on which to develop. In descending order, the top three reasons developers choose a platform are: a large installed base; low cost of devices; and revenue potential. While the Kindle at $200 certainly wins the cost argument, the size of the installed base (estimated at three to four million devices) and the revenue potential of that installed base fail to entice developers.

In the past two surveys, only 18% and 20% of developers have stated that they are "very interested" in developing for the Kindle, scarcely breaking the device into the top five.

Nexus Rising
Developers showed strong interest in developing mobile apps for the Google Nexus platform, with fully 53.8% of them "very interested." This high percentage is unprecedented, dwarfing established platforms like Windows Mobile 7 and BlackBerry, and getting quite close to interest levels in development for Android tablets more generally.

In a follow-on question, Appcelerator and IDC asked developers' opinion of Google's entry (the Nexus tablets) into the tablet marketplace, expecting to find that Google's conflicting priorities (Android platform penetration vs. Nexus device sales) would negatively impact both developer interest and device adoption. However, developers believe that Google is showing strong leadership and establishing with the Nexus a reference architecture for other Android tablet manufacturers to follow. More than 66% of developers feel positive about Google's entry into the tablet marketplace and believe the company provided leadership for Android tablets in general. This jibes with 53.8% of those developers being interested in developing specifically for the Nexus.

What's more, 35.1% of developers believe that with Nexus, Google is taking a leadership position, and 31.5% believe that other Android tablet manufacturers should look to the Nexus as a reference architecture moving forward. Appcelerator and IDC interpret this as positive developer sentiment towards Google's taking an increasingly direct role in Android development; developers view it as a good move by Google, one that potentially gives the company the ability to curtail much of the fragmentation continually cited as causing the majority of Android issues. Less than 8% of developers view Google's production of the Nexus negatively, or believe that it will negatively affect other Android tablet manufacturers.

Microsoft Fails to Break the Surface
Developers are impressed with the tablet hardware delivered by Microsoft through its Surface offering. However, they believe Microsoft still has significant work to do to make Windows 8 a successful mobile platform. A full 20% of developers are impressed with the hardware and think it will accelerate Microsoft's mobile ambitions. However, 35.5% of developers believe that while the tablet may be a nice piece of hardware, Microsoft needs more to be successful.

To accelerate the success of the Windows platform for mobile devices, the company will need to make investments in developer relations and application enablement.

Perhaps even more telling are the 45% of developers who remain unimpressed with the hardware and don't believe it has much advantage over the tablets already on the market. It is also telling that still only 35% of developers are "very interested" in building applications for the platform, which is relatively consistent with the past two quarters despite the fact that Windows hardware is now actually in developers' hands.

2013 Mobile Predictions
Appcelerator and IDC asked mobile developers to give their predictions for 2013. Developers predict that it is "likely to very likely" that the following will occur in 2013:

  • Retail is on the cusp of transformation. Mobile will forever change the face of retail, and that change starts now. Nearly 93% of mobile developers predict that it is "likely to very likely" that in 2013 most retail companies will have enabled mobile commerce. Shoppers are already driving this transformation, as evidenced by 86.4% of developers predicting that it is "likely to very likely" that in 2013 most shoppers will look up a retailer's site on their device while shopping in the store. Furthermore, 73.1% of developers believe it is "likely to very likely" that the mobile wallet concept will permeate the consumer experience in 2013, and 63.9% of developers predict it is "likely to very likely" that users will make more purchases via their mobile phone than via their credit card in 2013.
  • 57.5% of mobile developers predict that Near-Field Communication purchases will be commonplace, i.e. that all major stores will adopt NFC purchasing, in 2013. NFC, while interesting, is not a requirement for retail transformation and retailers should certainly not hold up their mobile commerce initiatives as they wait for NFC to evolve.
  • More than smartphones: 57.6% of mobile developers predict that it is "likely to very likely" that every smartphone user will also own a tablet in 2013.
  • Augmented reality takes off. According to 63.5% of mobile developers, augmented reality on mobile will grow exponentially and be commonplace across devices in 2013. This further emphasizes the value proposition of building superior native experiences across devices and platforms.
Movers and Shakers: Types of Apps That Are on the Rise vs. Decline in 2013
Appcelerator asks its developers every quarter about the categories of consumer vs. business apps that they plan to develop. Appcelerator and IDC have benchmarked their responses in order to report on the categories with the greatest increase or decrease in developer interest over time.

Between Q4 2010 and Q4 2012, the greatest increase in developer interest for consumer-facing apps occurred in the following categories: business (20.3% increase since Q4'10), finance (8.2% increase since Q4'10), education (8.1% since Q4'10), medical (8% increase since Q4'10), productivity (7.8% increase since Q4'10) and mobile money (6.6% increase since Q4'10). During 2013, expect to see more of these types of mobile apps.

Between Q2 2011 and Q4 2012, the greatest increase in developer interest for business-focused apps occurred in the following categories: industry (6.9% increase since Q2'11), social business (4.8% increase since Q2'11) and office applications (3.9% increase since Q2'11). Finally, collaboration business apps are the only business category that saw a decrease (5.1% decrease since Q2'11).

Tech Giants, Take Heed!
In its last survey report, Appcelerator and IDC emphasized that mobile has the power to reshape entire industries and that these changes can be swift. Given how mobile developers described Facebook as susceptible to disruption in the last survey, Appcelerator and IDC asked developers in this quarter's survey to name any companies/markets that they believe are vulnerable to being disrupted and having market share taken away from them by a mobile-first startup.

The top three companies that developers perceive to be ripe for disruption are a veritable who's-who of the biggest tech darlings: Microsoft (8% of respondents), Google (7% of respondents), and Facebook (7% of respondents). If mobile developers believe that these tech giants (which have, in-house, the best engineers to help them innovate quickly) are vulnerable, then enterprises in mature markets should pay attention.

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