The smartphone market is leading to a big battle. On one side, a million starry-eyed Apple fanbois and the behemoth that is the iPhone. On the other side, the freedom and flexibility of Google’s open-source Android smartphones*. It’s a battle that is to Google’s advantage to put off as long as possible, for the simple reason that it’s probably going to lose.
Okay, let me pull back and explain myself here. Anyone who’s regularly read my blog – and yes, there is at least one – knows I’m not exactly a fan of Apple. They’ve locked off their devices, forced consumers to use their software, and ruthlessly dictated the approval process on their app store. And to add injury to insult, the iPhone is a terrible phone, iTunes is a terrible application, and Apple only pay developers their due when they feel like it. Yes, I’m certainly no fan of Apple. But as a developer, the one thing both Apple and Android have in common is this: you get what you pay for.
To get an app onto the Apple app store costs developers approximately $99 US (it ends up being more for us Aussies because apparently Apple decides its own conversion rates). If starting from square one like myself it also costs the price of a brand new Mac. And for that price we get comprehensive SDK documentation, an excellent emulator, the XCode development environment, and a bevy of performance-testing tools.
To get an Android app into Google’s rather quiet app store costs nothing. And for that price we get a very similar deal to Apple’s offering just…cheaper: online documentation that’s not particularly intuitive to navigate, an emulator that takes forever to start up and kicks the bucket 5 minutes later needing a complete restart, the very un-intuitive Eclipse IDE, and a complicated in-code tracing system that links in to the debugger.
All in all, as a developer it’s just not fun to make stuff for Android. If I end up cursing my tools every 5 minutes, I don’t want to keep making applications for that platform. And when I add to that the frustration of having to support dozens of different screen sizes, button setups and phone hardware capabilities….well, it’s not worth my time.
Sorry Google, even though Apple is happily taking aim at it’s own foot with the iPad – Android still isn’t ready to take the reins of the smart-phone (sorry, superphone) market. Right now, this battle is more likely to play out something like the Sauron and the hordes of Mordor versus Frodo and some helpful gophers.
* Windows Mobile 7 is throwing rocks at both parties somewhere in the middle, but charging through the nose on a per-rock basis.