In the battle of the app markets, Android has the winning numbers, says Papaya's Justin Mauldin
The long game just got fast
By the middle of 2012, the mobile industry will be making a big fuss over how the Android Market has reached the same number of apps as Apple's app store.
By then each store will be hosting over 400,000 apps: a truly astonishingly number.
Yet, while Apples ability to leverage its iTunes store to create an app platform gave it a huge advantage, one of the key differences with Android is that it's the consumer - not the platform owner - that's the gatekeeper to the store.
Caveat vendorWhile this means that while the Android Market may be more uneven in terms of the quality and innovation of some of its apps, it represents a more market-driven approach, where good apps more readily rise to the top.
This is significant, as this effect is magnified as more Android devices are sold and ever more consumers look for apps for their handsets.
While there is still much debate over whether Apple and Android has the better approach to launching and selling apps, what is not in dispute is the continuing growth of the Android install base and its position as the biggest mobile OS globally.
The growth of Android handsets has meant more publishers are deploying a cross platform strategy or even an Android-first strategy for their games' initial launch.
Android and iOS, although having many many differences, are fiercely competitive and I believe the consumer choice is no longer as black and white as it used to be.
By the numbers
This chart shows just how rapidly smartphone sales have grown, with 40 percent of US consumers now owning a smartphone. At the current rate of growth, this is expected to pass 50 percent in 12 months time.
Whats clear from the data is that Android has the fastest growing share of this new market, with Apple a very strong second.
What's also clear is that not every platform is seeing organic growth from this shift to smartphones.
Windows Mobile is looking at less than 3 percent of total market share by the end of 2012 before the new handsets from Nokia will hopefully address this slide, but it will be an uphill battle to be competitive.
RIM's chances of survival may rest on a shift back to the enterprise market and its base of very loyal niche users: it will be interesting to see whether the recent network problems it has had increases the decline in its market share.
You pat your back, I'll pat mine So, what should you be doing if you're an Android or iOS game developer?
You can take a second to pat yourself on the back for developing for the right OS, but in reality, success - regardless of what your app does, is called, looks like, or creates - boils down to one thing. Marketing.
Getting your apps and games seen by consumers is the biggest challenge facing any developer.
The largest publishers have the budgets to use advertising and incentivised downloads to drive app downloads and store ranking, then rely on quality and brand to keep them there.
Thats great. but its not an approach the majority of developers and publishers can afford to take.
Play together, stay together
App marketing isnt just about direct advertising. One of the key features of social gaming ecosystems is that the interaction between gamers is a significant driver of new app downloads.
The 30 million-plus users on Papaya's social network create a viral sales and marketing channel that our developers are using to boost revenues, and in the last infographic we released we showed how the 'whales' actually seek out socialisation within games.
These players will post, email, and comment up to six times more than the average premium user. This not only drives virality between gamers, but also leads to a much higher in-game spend than non-social gamers.
Plus, the level of interaction you get with social games means that traffic to a game is organic and stickier.
The future is droid
For all these reasons, the marketing reach of social games on Android is increasing fast, very fast.
For a developer looking to launch a new app, a social mobile ecosystem like Papaya's is the simplest way to reach these new consumers and get access to new app markets.
While iOS still provides very good levels of monetisation - assuming people can find your app - the user base of Android will continue to accelerate much quicker as we move to that tipping point where smartphones pass 50 percent of mobile devices, with Android cementing its position as the key mobile platform worldwide.
Learn more about Papaya's Social SDK here.