HTML5 trumping iOS among app developers in emerging mobile markets

Mobile app developers in many regions outside the US and Europe are choosing to develop apps in HTML5 rather than iOS but it's iOS that's earning devs the biggest bucks.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

While Android and iOS are the platforms that will guarantee mobile developers an audience in the US and Europe, developers in much of the rest of the world favour HTML5 over iOS.

Among mobile app makers in South Asia, South America and the Middle East and Africa, HTML5 is the most popular platform after Android to develop for, according to a survey of more than 6,000 developers by the analyst house VisionMobile. Apple's iOS platform, used on the iPhone and iPad, is the third most popular OS among these mobile developers.

VisionMobile categorises HTML5 developers as those using web technologies such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to build browser and hybrid apps. Hybrid apps are those rendered inside a web view with a native software wrapper to allow them to control more of the phone's hardware and be sold through app stores.

The relatively low popularity of iOS among developers in emerging mobile markets tallies with the modest sales of Apple iOS devices in some of these regions.

IDC figures from last year show iOS devices account for less than 10 percent market share in Africa, compared to 70 percent plus share for Android. The analyst house forecasts that iOS will still be below 20 percent market share in 2017, while Android handsets will account for close to 80 percent of the market.

The popularity of HTML5 apps in countries where smartphone penetration is low also supports Mozilla's decision to launch its web-app focused Firefox OS handsets in countries where smartphone ownership is relatively rare, such as Latin America. Firefox OS is an open source operating system designed to run apps built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Image: VisionMobile

Globally, Android is the number one choice for developers building mobile apps, favoured by 71 percent of programmers, with Apple's iOS the next most popular platform, chosen by 55 percent of developers.

iOS is the preferred platform for developers in North America and Europe while Android wins in every other region. The difference is especially pronounced in Asia, where 46 percent of mobile developers prioritise Android, compared to 28 percent for iOS.

Worldwide, 37 percent of mobile developers are building HTML5 apps for the browser and an additional 15 percent are making hybrid HTML5 apps.

In fourth place was Windows Phone, favoured by 26 percent of developers and up from 21 percent last year, followed by Windows 8, which was the choice of 21 percent of developers and BlackBerry chosen by 14 percent.

On average, developers make apps for 2.5 platforms at the same time, which is down from 2.9 in VisionMobile's survey in the third quarter of 2013.

HTML5 is a popular companion platform, across all primary platforms. Among those developing primarily on iOS or Android, about 19 percent use HTML5 to display limited web content in their apps, for example documentation or elements that may require frequent updating.


The majority of developers, 60 percent, fall below what the report calls the "app poverty line", where developers earn less than $500 per app per month.

However, iOS apps generally earned more for developers than apps written for other platforms.

"iOS has a larger 'middle class' than Android. Among developers that generate $500 — $10K per app per month, 37 percent prioritise iOS vs 25 percent Android," the report said.

The popularity of selling apps has fallen since VisionMobile's survey last year, dropping to 24 percent of developers, while more app-makers are now earning money from in-app purchases, rising to 22 percent.

In-app advertising is also on the increase, utilised by 26 percent of developers.

"In-app advertising is the low-hanging fruit and as such remains one of most popular revenue models, at 26 percent of app developers, particularly strong on platforms where demand for direct purchases is weak, such as Windows Phone and Android," the report said.

In-app purchases also proved lucrative relative to other monetisation strategies, with a median revenue of $425, compared to $150 for both pay per download and in-app advertising.

Contract development is now the most popular direct revenue model, with 26 percent of mobile app developers currently developing apps on commission.

Image: VisionMobile

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