June 08, 2018

Opinion Piece: Android vs iOS: Facts vs Myths

If you’re a smartphone user, your device is likely to be using either iOS or Google’s Android operating system. In fact, 99.6% of smartphones using one or the other. And if you follow tech or games industry news, you’ve probably noticed the constant rivalry between the two systems.

Of the two, Apple’s iOS probably has the higher profile. This is partly thanks to an immense international ad spend (reaching $1.8 billion in 2016, the last year it was announced to the public), giving iOS prestige and intrigue.

However, Android is not to be underestimated. It’s range of devices are diverse in demographic, capability and price. There is no doubt that Android is growing in popularity, with its devices recently surpassing Apple’s iPhones in sales.

The App Store is undeniably well known, but the rollout of new apps has slowed to a reported 755,000 last year - that’s a drop of 29% from the previous year. There’s no shortage of new apps and games, but this does mark the first decline in new content since the App Store’s launch.  

Google Play has some catching up to do, but its developers have shipped 1.5 million new apps, an increase of 17% year-on-year. That makes it the sharpest rise since 2014.

With a rivalry this well known (especially among tech fans), it’s perhaps inevitable that assumptions, myths and misunderstandings would emerge. While being uninformed might lead to a bad purchase for a consumer, it’s calamitous for app and games developers. In fact, these misunderstandings have led to major business decisions being made that are based on bad data and falsehoods.

No company has unlimited resources, no matter how big it might be. So when it comes to operating systems, it’s vital to focus on real data and hard facts, as opposed to industry rumours and misconceptions. Only then, can a company know the answers to important questions such as: Which platforms generate more money per player? And where should labour and finance be directed?

At KamaGames, we have an audience split between iOS and Android. Our monthly active user base (MAU) exceeds 3.2 millions players which are based around the world, with key markets for us being the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. From a research and analysis point of view, this has been hugely helpful.  

We’ve learned a lot from feedback and from analysing player acquisition and behaviour and of all the myths we’ve heard, perhaps the greatest is that Android development is not a good investment.  In fact, we have found that targeting high-end Android devices is as valuable as top iOS devices. Here’s why:

Myth: iOS generates more pay-per-player

Fact: Revenue per player is almost the same across both operating systems

The belief that iOS has higher ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) is widespread, but sources of that belief are vague and questionable. Indeed, that perception seems to be borne of anecdotal evidence, misunderstandings and the misreading of numbers.

Perhaps the fact that the iPhone is a high-end product has swayed opinion on ARPPU. Also, there are cheap Android devices available (some costing less than $100 retail), however, Android devices also include some of the most costly, cutting edge smartphones on the market too, so it’s no wonder there’s confusion about Android users and their spending habits.

Even hard statistics can sometimes be misleading. Yes, iOS does have a higher percentage of paying users (2.52 times higher than Android), however, more importantly, when it comes to high-end devices, revenue per player is almost identical across iOS and Android handsets.

Looking at our own research and analysis, we find that the higher the version of iOS the player has, the more likely they are to be paying players. These statistics are harder to find for Android, due to the diversity of manufacturers and devices.

On close inspection, our data shows no difference in the performance indicators of high end Android smartphones (Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, Galaxy Note8, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9+) and the top iOS devices (iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X). Consumer spend and purchasing behaviour are incredibly similar across both operating systems when you’re looking at the top tier devices.

We have also found that marketing can be much more cost effective for developers working on high-end Android devices than it is for iOS ones...

Myth: User acquisition is less worthwhile for Android

Fact: In many cases, targeted marketing costs less on Android

Android ownership is on the rise worldwide, so there are clear opportunities for app developers, especially when you look at market size and ARPPU. However, many mobile developers still show a bias towards iOS, possibly due to Apple’s higher profile and market dominance (which is now diminishing).

This bias is reflected in how some developers view user acquisition. In our research and our experience, we have found that cost-per-user for Android is lower than for iOS and offers a strong return on investment (ROI). This lower cost is consistent across various markets, including regions like Russia and Eastern Europe, and less expensive ones to market to, such as India, Malaysia or Thailand. We can specifically target our message only to users of high-end devices.

The rivalry and debate between Android and iOS doesn’t seem to be diminishing. At KamaGames, we’re more than happy to appeal to both markets: We have over 530,000 daily players, and that audience is across both operating systems.

The Lesson

With so much interest in the relative merits of iOS vs Android, there’s no shortage of opinion and speculation. This has led, we think, to some instances of misreading patterns and of misinformation. We’ve found that learned experience and good access to data is a better indicator of markets and consumer behaviour.

We like learning from others in our industry, and we’re happy to share our learned experience. We’ve learned that Android is underrated as an investment for developers and hope that maybe one day, perception will catch up with reality.

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