Why there aren't more Android tablet apps, by the numbers

Why there aren't more Android tablet apps, by the numbers

Summary: The lack of quality apps for Android tablets is simply a numbers game, and it's not changing any time soon.


The Android Market, now known as Google Play, is full of apps. The problem many tablet owners discover is that not very many of those apps are optimized for the bigger devices. While many apps written for the smartphone screen work fine on the tablet, they aren't written to take advantage of the larger display on tablets.

Many app developers lack the resources to write apps for two platforms, and a lot of them are choosing to develop for the iPad. App developers have many reasons for building apps for the iPad instead of Android tablets, and it is simply a numbers game.

See also: Great Debate: Will Android tablets always play second fiddle to the iPad?

Too many Android variants

One important number factoring in the choice of platform for developers recently came to light when a game developer announced he was pulling out of Android development. There are too many versions of Android to support, even on tablets, and too many hardware variants to easily make code work properly.

There are tablets running Snapdragon processors, and others using Nvidia Tegra processors. Code has to work on all of them, making both the development and support costs much higher than for the single iPad. That game developer stated they spend 20 percent of their time supporting Android, and it's only generating 5 percent of their revenue. The numbers don't add up for Android app developers.

One set of hardware and one OS to support is much easier than working in the vast Android wilderness. I believe we'll see a mass defection from Android soon, as developers continue to jump ship to the iPad.

iPad sales are leaving Android in the dust

The iPad is doing well in the market, far better than Android. Apple sold three million iPads in just three days after launch. That's also how many iPads are sold every quarter. Contrast that figure with the 12 million total Android tablets sold (ever) and you understand why mobile app developers would be crazy to develop for anything other than the iPad.

Those three million iPads sold in days and that wasn't even a global launch of the new tablet from Apple. The iPad will be going on sale in 24 more countries soon, which will no doubt result in millions of additional sales. The iPad is blowing Android tablets out of the water, and it's going to continue.

As a user of both the iPad and Android tablets, I can attest to how much better the app selection is for the iPad. There is literally an app (or several) for just about everything, and generally of far better quality than on the Android tablet. It is a situation that is likely to get even worse for Android, and there is nothing changing to improve that.

Related: Apple’s next-gen iPad: New battlefields emerge | Microsoft’s business pitch for Windows 8 depends on tablets | Apple’s New iPad In The Enterprise: Laptop Replacement Gets Closer | The new iPad’s great but what’s wrong with a good, inexpensive Android tablet? | CNET: New iPad hands on | CNET: All CNET iPad coverage (roundup) | iPad HD will surpass laptops on key features

Topics: Laptops, Android, Apps, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Tablets

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  • Android tabs may be the next 'Chrome book'

    If Win 8 is a hit, then android will become a distant third and most developers are likely to desert the platform due to fragmentation. Google can do a fresh start with 'google tablets' and its next generation OS, otherwise android tabs will end like Chrome books...
    • Good Luck!

      Win 8 has got quite a steep hill to climb. Consider: the principal reason Android tablets aren't all doing duty as boat anchors is that the Android phone market is huge, and apps that work on Android phones tend to work just fine on Android tablets, too. So there are still plenty of apps out there that'll work on your Android tablet. And with a zillion Android hansets out in the wild, developers aren't going to abandon Android altogether, no matter what Mr. Kendrik says. Even if one of a handful of companies drop development for Android there will be hundreds more who stay.

      But windows Phone 7 holdsa a miniscule portion of the phone market, and Windows for ARM won't support legacy desktop apps. So the first Windows 8 fro ARM tablets are going to hit the shelves with very slim-pickins as far as an app ecosystem goes.

      All I've got to say is: Office for ARM better be a danged good piece of software is Micrososft wants to stand a chance in that market.

      And I say this as one who is eagerly awaiting the new Win 8 ARM tablets. I'm currently salivating over the new iPad and the Asus Transformer Prime, but I'd love for there to be an offering from Redmond in the mix before I buy my next tablet (which is likely given how far I still have left to pay off my credit cards, LOL!)
      • While I hate the Win 8 Preview...

        on my desktop, I think it will make an excellent tablet OS.

        I don't doubt that it will be successful (at least on tablets).
      • Win 8 may run Android Apps

        If Blue Stacks really works like they are demonstrating, that will give Win 8 another advantage in that it will also be able to run the existing suite of Android Apps. Couple that with the ability to run existing Windows desktop applications and all the new Metro apps, and that is a pretty powerful platform.
      • Bluestacks...

        @gomigomijunk: I doubt Bluestacks will work on Win8 ARM tablets. And if ot even *can* work, I doubt it will ge ported.
      • I couldntare less about an ARM tablet, I'm anxious to get an Intel tablet

        Order of magnitude better performance with the same battery life. Yeah gimme that.
        Johnny Vegas
      • MS

        I can see one key difference between Google and Microsoft.

        When Microsoft entered the console market, they were willing to sink millions into paying developers to write games. They bought Bungie to get them to develop Halo for XBox rather than Mac.

        It was a similar story with Sony - first party titles, and paying developers to keep certain titles exclusive to Playstation.

        It's pretty obvious they will produce a tablet optimised Office, and I think they're going to compete hard to make their App marketplace work (as in generate money for developers).

        Google, on the other hand, don't seem willing to put money behind developing apps. The problem with that attitude is that there is nothing to compare with Garageband, iMovie, Keynote and Pages.

        And I think it's notable that most of the apps that really showcase the iPad are first party. Most people don't buy computers because of the operating system, but because of the applications.

        That is something Microsoft have always understood. Apple, also - before their comeback they made sure that acquisitions like Logic, Final Cut and Shake became Mac only, and also bundling in iLife with the Mac.

        Google - I just don't know - a party-line that Google Docs has to be seen as a real rival to iWork and Office, so no native office suite? A philosophical hostility to the notion of selling software?? A hostility to native software, full stop??
    • Not a MS fan myself but I do get good use out of my

      Xbox 360:). That said I think it's important to the mobile space and for competition in general to have a solid mobile position for MS. Personally I hope to see a repeat of the PC Price Wars fought between Win 8 devices and Android. I think it would be an interesting event to witness.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • Android tablets aren't going anywhere.

    Android tablets aren't going to fade away for the same reason that the Mac OS didn't fade away even as Windows took the desktop world by storm. The worst case scenario is that what will happen with Android is the same thing that happened to the Mac: there will be a number of developers who develop in-house for both platforms. There will be a handful of developers who develop only for Android. And there will be a handful of developers who focus on writing ports of the most popular iPhone/iPad apps for Android (under license). Yeah there's plenty of fragmentation in the Android universe, but, guess what: there's tons of fragmentation in the Windows gaming market, too, what with several OS's at different patch levels, dozens of different gaming cards, tens of CPUs, and thousands of different hardware configurations from hundreds of vendors. That hasn't stopped developers from releasing PC gaming titles in favor of standardized consoles.
    • .

    • James doesn't get it...

      The Android Strategy is two fold...

      1. require every Android device use some configuration of a 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio.

      2. Unify the code of the phone and the tablet.

      What this does is gets apps written for standards like 720P and 1080P that look equally as sharp on both phones and tablets while the output is compatible with HDTVs.

      Also, Fragmentation is laregly a myth, it takes a few mpre months to get the devices updated as vendors optimize the OS to suit their branding but within 6 Months we will see the majority of devices on ICS.

      Basically, a Win for Android Phones will be a Win for Android Tablets and the reverse is also true.
      • Also

        Also, the frighteningly high resolution of the latest phone handsets means that even apps that aren't optimized for tablets tend to look pretty good on a 7" or even a 10" device.
      • It's already been 4 months and it's at about 2%

        And no oem has any interest in upgrading any handset not still being sold.
        Johnny Vegas
      • Also..

        You forgot

        0. Get Google's spyware on every Android device.
    • Android is going to the waste bin

      All this is funny. People compare the Apple iPad (hardware+software) with Android (software). Weird comparison!

      Most people buy tablets, different form the iPad for the hardware.

      Google's agenda with Android is well known: get their spyware on as many devices as possible. Some, most notably enterprises do not buy into this.
      This all hurts tablet manufacturers, other than Amazon and B&N, because if you don't like Android (because of Google), you won't buy from Samsung - period.

      There is apparently solution to this problem. The solution is for the mainstream Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu to come to tablets.
      Once one of the larger "Adnroid" tablet manufacturers start shipping their tablets with Ubuntu, Android is dead.
      • Google's Android vs Apple'iOs

        Using Android on the smartphone and Linux on the desktop (with Android encapsulated) seems OK. The trend towards a FULL OS seems unstoppable.
        A closed system will die in the long run.
    • Market share anybody?

      I believe that the Ipad had around 95%+ market share 2 years ago. Currently it is at around 63%. (Google it) This drop is definitely caused by Android which is just starting to warm up. I see the Ipad market share falling to around 30% in the next 5 years with Windows 8 and the next "fixed up" version gaining around 10%, mostly in the enterprise market. The balance will be Android tablets. Apple will lose market share, but will still sell more units then currently due to an ever growing "post PC" market.
      No fanboy stuff, just my personal opinion. ;)
      Johan Safari
      • Growth

        Sure, they lost marketshare but when you are pretty much the only player then a bunch of others get in the game even if they do extremely poorly you lose marketshare if they sell any units at all.
  • Not as simple as it seems

    While it is true that there are many more Ipads than Android tablets the shear number of Ipad apps makes it much more difficult to make a stand out app that gets purchased.

    Unless an Ipad app is truly very unique it is competing with tens or hundreds of other similar apps and it can be difficult to be distinguished and get many sales.

    On Android with a smaller number of tablet apps available it is easier to get your product noticed and get market share and get established as a must have app.

    So it could be possible to sell more apps in Android Play than in the App store.
    • Yeah that argument has been an EPIC FAIL in the real world. ipad/iphone

      apps outsell their android counter parts at least 5 to 1.
      Johnny Vegas