Happy New Year from a chilly Rectangular HQ here in the Kent Downs.
The start of a new year seems as good a time as any to revisit our advice to our clients on mobile platform versions. Back in August we recommended iOS 8 and Android 4.1 as the oldest operating system versions that should typically be supported by new native app projects. Since then both Apple and Google have released major new versions – iOS 10 and Android 7 (Nougat) – and the percentage of devices running older software has declined further.
As always, picking a target version is a trade-off between the size of your potential user base (the more versions you support, the more people can use your app) and being able to take advantage of new features and design improvements that are either only available in the newer versions or require extra development effort to support on older devices.
For iOS the picture is clear. Apple is aggressive in driving the adoption of new versions of its mobile OS to the extent that it makes it difficult for developers to support anything older than the current major version and its immediate predecessor. iOS 10 was released in September and by late November was already installed on 63% of devices that accessed the App Store. Most of the other devices were running iOS 9, with only 8% on earlier versions. With 92% of users on iOS 9 or later and Apple having withdrawn support for iOS 8 development, all new apps should target iOS 9 and above.
The Android situation is different. Google does not have the same control over devices and so cannot drive adoption of new versions in the same way. This is mitigated to some extent by its efforts to support continued development for older Android versions. Whereas Apple went from 0% to 63% adoption of iOS 10 in little over two months, Google has managed to get only 0.4% of users onto Android 7.x in four months. To match the 92% penetration you’d get from iOS 9 (released September 2015) and above, you’d have to support Android versions back to 4.2 (released November 2012).
In August we recommend Android 4.1 as the minimum version to target. Today we’re updating that to 4.2 but in truth it makes little difference and apps developed for 4.2 may still work on 4.1 (an extra 4.5% of users) if there are no technical obstacles. The real progress will come when projects can drop support for all 4.x versions of Android and target only 5.0 and later but with only 60.3% of devices currently running 5.x, 6.x or 7.x that will not happen this year.
If you’re planning on building an app for your business in 2017 and want to discuss your options with no obligations, please get in touch.
Rectangular Software regrets to announce that we are discontinuing Appmonger, our Android app for Android app developers. For the past 6 years Appmonger has provided near real-time app sales updates, statistics, and graphs for app publishers. Over this time we have had to make many updates to keep pace with Google’s ever-changing services (there have been 87 separate versions of Appmonger). The transitions from Android Market to Google Play, from Google Checkout to Google Wallet and then to Google Payments, and the introduction of buyer’s currency support have provided many challenges and required more and more work-arounds.
Since the demise of Google Checkout, Appmonger has relied on an undocumented and unsupported feature in Google Wallet that allowed it to continue extracting order data in the same way that it had before. It was only a matter of time before this seemingly otherwise unused loophole was closed by Google, and it appears that the recent transition to Google Payments has finally done so. While it may be technically possible to rework Appmonger to obtain the order data via some other method, such as web-scraping, this would be a convoluted and fragile process that would be likely to break with each further change to Google’s services.
Appmonger has never been a significant earner for Rectangular Software but it has attracted a small band of loyal followers. I would like to thank everybody who has purchased the app, reported bugs and helped to debug issues and I apologise for any disappointment this decision has caused but, in the absence of an officially supported reporting API for Google Payments, the continued development of Appmonger is unviable.
The current version of Appmonger will continue to display historical order data indefinitely but it is unable to download any new data. If you have purchased the app recently (since 1st May 2016) and feel you have not got your money’s worth, we will be happy to refund the cost of the app (please get in touch with your order details).
Kantar Worldpanel today released its latest smartphone OS market share data – for the 3 months ending July 2016. The picture is broadly similar to two months ago, but Apple’s share of new device sales has increased in most of the featured countries, an effect Kantar attributes to the success of the smaller, less expensive iPhone SE.
As usual Apple is strongest in anglophone countries. 38% of all new smartphone sales in Great Britain are iOS devices, up from 32.8% in the same period last year (and 2% higher than in Kantar’s July figures). In the US Apple now accounts for 31.3% of sales and in Australia it’s 35.2%.
Despite Apple’s strong performance, Android is still way in front in terms of number of devices sold. It has declined slightly in the US over the last year – dropping from 65.6% to 65% – but continues to grow everywhere else. Across the big 5 EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) Android’s share is up to 77% and in China it’s 85%.
With both iOS and Android on the up somebody else has to be losing out and it’s Microsoft. Windows Phone now accounts for less than 5% of device sales everywhere. More than ever the smartphone OS market is a duopoly.
Full figures can be downloaded from the Kantar website.
You’ve decided that you want to build a mobile app. You’ve decided that it needs to be available on both of today’s two major smartphone/tablet operating systems – iOS and Android – but which versions of these platforms should it support?
All of them, surely, so that everybody can use your app? Unfortunately it’s not quite so simple. With every new version of iOS and Android, Apple and Google add new features. Devices that are running an older version of the operating system cannot run apps that depend on these new features. If those features are essential to your app then the choice is straightforward – you can only support devices running the newer software. If the features are not essential you can either not use them or the app can be written in such a way that it adapts to the device it is running on – on devices running older software the app functionality might degrade gracefully – but this will add complexity to the app and therefore increase development costs.
When choosing the range of platform versions to support it is important to understand how your decisions will impact the size of your target user base. Both Apple and Google publish regular figures that show what percentage of devices are running each OS version.
Apple is in full control of the iOS ecosystem. It manufacturers all of the devices that run iOS and chooses which devices will receive updates. It is aggressive in encouraging both users and developers to move to the latest version of the platform to the extent that developing for anything older than the two most recent major versions can be difficult due to lack of support in the latest tools. The upside of this is that when a new iOS version is released you can be confident that within a few months it will be installed on the vast majority of devices, making it rarely necessary to hold off on taking advantage of the newest features. At the time of writing (August 2016), Apple’s figures show that 86% of active iOS devices are running iOS 9 (the latest version), 11% are running iOS 8, and just 3% earlier versions. Therefore, in most cases, we would advise clients to target iOS 8 and 9.
Google’s Android business model creates a somewhat different picture on that platform. The vast majority of Android devices are manufactured by other companies, each with its own policy on if and when devices will be updated with new versions of the operating system. This means that it takes significantly longer for a new Android release to make it to a majority of active Android devices and makes it necessary to support several previous versions in order to reach 90%+ of the user base. Google’s most recent figures show that only 15.2% of active Android users are using devices running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), the latest version. A further 35.5% are on 5.0 or 5.1 (Lollipop) making a narrow majority running one of the two most recent major versions. It is necessary to support Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and later in order to reach over 95% of users. Targeting Android 4.1 and later is Rectangular Software’s current recommendation for Android development. The pace of change in Android deployments is much slower than iOS so it may be a year or two before it is feasible to develop for only 5.0 and later.
Kantar Worldpanel today released its latest smartphone OS market share figures, based on sales in the three months up until the end of May 2016. These show the continued advance of Android, which accounts for the majority of devices sold everywhere and is almost completely dominant in countries such as Spain (92.8%) and Italy (80.9%). Across the 5 largest EU markets (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain), Android accounts for 76.5% of devices sold (up from 70.5% in the same period last year). However, Apple’s iOS market share in those 5 European countries has dropped by only half a percentage point to 18.3%; it is Windows Phone that has been the biggest loser, with over half its share wiped out over the last 12 months (dropping from 9.6% to 4.6%).
If you’re targeting European smartphone users, the message is that Android is the most important place for your app to be. However, if you haven’t translated your app into other languages, your user base is likely to consist mostly of people in English-speaking countries, where the picture differs. Android remains number one in terms of number of users but Apple’s share of the market is much higher in Britain (36% and rising), Australia (32.5%) and the USA (29.3%) than it is in continental Europe or China.
The decline of Windows Phone – now almost entirely absent from the US, China and Japan, and only a peripheral player in Europe – means that, perhaps more than ever, there are only two platforms that remain relevant for new app development.
Last year Rectangular Software delivered football and netball apps on Android and iOS for new sports brand Powerplay. This week we’ve released updated versions that add extra functionality. These new apps incorporate Powerplay’s new Gamefinder feature that helps teams short of players find players looking for a game. Logged in users can now also receive alerts about upcoming fixtures and the new apps also extend the range of payment options to make it easier for captains to pay their match fees.
The latest report from Kantar Worldpanel shows that Android’s dominance of the smartphone OS market waned a little in 2014. Across the big 5 European markets (Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain) Android still runs on two thirds of smartphones sold in the 3 months ending November 2014 but this share has declined 3.2 percentage points from the same period last year while Apple’s iOS is up 6.3. It’s a similar story in the US but the Android/iOS split is now much more even (48.4% to 47.4%). The swing to Apple is most pronounced in Britain where iOS market share is up 12.2 percentage points since last year. The Apple resurgence is bad news for Microsoft as Windows Phone market share has been squeezed in most markets, down to 8.3% across the 5 EU countries and down to 3% in the US.
Rectangular Software has recently been working with Natasha Hurst, creator of the IntoTrim Plan, to develop native iOS and Android apps to support the launch of her new IntoTrim Plan book for people who want to lose weight or maintain their ideal weight once they have reached it.
The free apps provide a food diary to monitor calorie intake meal-by-meal and a weight tracker so that you can plot your progress. If you install one of the apps and register a free IntoTrim account, you’ll also qualify for a discount on the paperback version of the book.
In addition to the native mobile apps, Rectangular Software has also delivered a responsive web app version for IntoTrim that you can use on any computer, tablet or mobile device. We built the web software usingPython and the Django framework. This is an example of how Rectangular Software is not just about mobile apps but can also provide broader solutions to support the mobile apps and to target non-mobile users.
Pitch Invasion, the UK’s leading provider of 5-a-side and 6-a-side football leagues has merged with team sports specialists Top Corner to become Powerplay, the new name in team sports, offering football, netball and other sports leagues. In support of this new era, Rectangular Software has delivered rebranded and updated versions of the existing Pitch Invasion football apps for Android and iOS as well as new netball-specific apps on both platforms. The free apps allow thousands of football and netball players across the country to track their fixtures, results and league tables and to pay their match fees on the move.
In the last few days several Appmonger users have reported that the app fails to authenticate with Google Wallet and therefore cannot download their latest orders. This is due to changes made by Google on the Google Wallet website.
In order to retrieve the data it retrieved previously, the app now needs to send your Google account’s SID cookie to Google Wallet. Version 2.5.6 of the app, released today, will now do this but it requires you to grant Appmonger permission to access this cookie when prompted to do so (you will receive a system notification giving the option to grant or deny access). Theoretically, being able to access this cookie might allow Appmonger to access more than just the Google Wallet part of your Google account. Unfortunately this is the only way that we have been able to restore the previous functionality. In practice, Appmonger will only use this cookie to retrieve data from Google Wallet. We will continue to investigate alternatives so that hopefully in a future version it is not necessary for you to grant this additional level of trust to Appmonger.