Strong opinions, weakly held

The mobile market

Tim Bray, on the market for mobile devices:

This is the big league; bigger today than the computer industry ever was, and growing fast. This is as fierce a concentration of R&D heat and manufacturing virtuosity and distribution wizardry and marketing mojo as humanity has ever seen.

Makes me think I need to really dive into mobile development sometime in the very near future. The thing is, I face a bit of a conundrum. I am a huge iOS fan — I’ve seen Android devices, and there’s no way I’d choose to carry one in my pocket over an iPhone. But if I were going to start writing a mobile application tomorrow, it would be an Android application, not an iPhone application.


  1. Rafe, why would you chose to develop for Android rather than iPhone?

  2. One is practical, for someone who already programs in Java, it’s easier to get started on Android than it is on iOS. The other is philosophical. I’m just not a fan of Apple’s app store review process.

  3. It’s not an unreasonable amount of work to get up to speed on both iPhone and Android development. Both have their frustrations — app store nervousness and memory management on iPhone, hardware bugs and platform version incompatibilities/changes on Android — but both are also very approachable. I also believe that the app store approval process thing is somewhat overblown. Most of the rules contribute to better code. When they don’t it’s frustrating, but I’m not sure they’re enough of a reason to ignore iPhone development. In addition, the Android Market is really frustrating to publish on. It’s ugly, there’s no way to show people your apps other than on their phone, and promotion ability is limited. It’s a really unsatisfying experience. The only thing it does particularly well is to let you publish/sell without much oversight or gatekeeping. That’s big, but I don’t think it’s the only thing that matters.

    At any rate, I’d strongly encourage trying some dev work on both platforms, and even to try publishing on both platforms. They’re both interesting and challenging in different ways and it might change some of your opinions.

  4. As someone with an app with >250,000 downloads on the Android Market, that’s gone through over a dozen releases, I have to say that the publish-anytime-you-feel-like-it feature is absolutely huge for me. The fact that the Market doesn’t lend itself to marketing apps very well is accounted for by the fact that I and my organization can actually plan our own marketing around our own release schedule.

    I should give a disclaimer, that one of the reasons I have so many downloads is because Google featured my app (Congress) for a couple months, which raised the downloads from about 100/day to 5,000/day. But Google does a good job of scanning the Market for quality and promoting it to the extent that it can. And when the web-based Market does eventually get released, everything’s going to get a lot smoother.

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