The app user engagement landscape in 2015 looks different, depending on whether you develop for iOS, Android, or another platform.
As app developers know, iOS has gotten all the attention in recent years. Users are more engaged, more willing to pay for apps, and the stricter app store policies keep out the competition.
Android phones are typically cheaper than Apple phones, so there are more low-budget users. In general, Android users have been less willing to make in-app purchases, pay for apps, and so forth.
Therefore, it’s natural for developers to gravitate towards iOS.
However, there have been some shifts that have affected the app user engagement landscape in 2015. In this article, we’ll look at that data to see how it affects app developers and the app industry.
Android Is Just Too Fragmented…Or Is It?
There is a commonly held belief that Android is a highly fragmented OS, with many versions that make it more difficult for Android apps to penetrate the market. On the other hand, iOS is completely closed and Apple has complete control over the hardware and software.
However, 90% of Android users are using 4.0.3 or higher, according to OpenSignal. It’s most definitely true that Apple iOS enjoys a much less fragmented state of existence, but the issue for developers should be one of targeting and backwards compatibility.
Other fragmentation issues that concern developers are device and brand fragmentation. OpenSignal’s same data reveals that Android’s brand and device fragmentation can’t even be compared to Apple’s: there are around 24,000 distinct Android devices, 28% more than last year.
The question for app developers is whether or not this fragmentation affects user engagement and monetization.
Some feel that Android fragmentation may actually be a good thing.
While this fragmentation may give developers headaches, it also gives Android a much larger market share. Android’s market share has hovered around 80% for the past few years globally. In countries like India, that number is higher, while in the EU and the United States, it is lower.
This level of fragmentation can certainly eat away at both market penetration and engagement, especially when it affects app performance, compatibility, and the user experience.
However, app developers should take global numbers with a grain of salt. If a developer is targeting a specific niche, geographically or topically, then those numbers may vary from OS to OS. According to some data, high-end Android phone users are actually 40% more engaged than iOS users.
While it’s widely acknowledged that iOS users are more engaged, it’s also worth noting that Android has more users. When building for Android, developers should focus on their target audience first and foremost.
If your target demographic is less engaged but four times as large, where should you focus your efforts? An app targeted at mass consumers in India, for instance, should probably start development with Android, which owns around 90% of the market share there.
Other Discrepancies Affecting Android Engagement
The overall user demographics and engagement levels are certainly big considerations for any developer.
There are other details, however, that affect engagement. A recent report revealed that the way each OS handles push notifications has a significant impact on user engagement.
The difference between the two is this: Android notifications remain visible until they are dismissed by the user, while iOS notifications fade away into the Notification Center when the phone is unlocked. This little UI discrepancy affects engagement patterns by around 12% for medium-performing apps.
iOS Still Rules User Engagement
It pays to dig deep into your target audience and your target market before unilaterally jumping on board the iOS ship. While it’s clear that fragmentation does rule the Android landscape, it’s also clear that there are some engagement peaks in that valley. Namely, using push notifications and targeting the right demographic can earn you significant bonuses.
This time last year, iOS app launches doubled Android’s and they were used for twice as long. For years, Apple has been touting that its users are more affluent, more engaged, and more valuable than Android users.
Apple does have a smaller market share in general, but the fact that its users are more affluent and engaged means Apple developers make more money. Also, in some markets Android has been losing ground to Apple.
Google has apparently learned its lesson, and will be changing its policies to improve the user experience. Language in Google’s new policies echo similar verbiage that already exists in Apple’s app guidelines, including the removal of apps that have “irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in apps descriptions, titles, or metadata.”
In this, Google appears to be following the example that iOS has set. While those changes may improve the user experience and user engagement in the long term, for now Apple still takes the cake when it comes to both.
On the one hand, Android’s fragmentation may not be all it’s cracked up to be. With the right targeting and the right engagement strategy, an app can be made profitable. But, on the other hand, iOS still controls the more affluent and engaged user base. In time, Android may make strides to catch up, but in terms of app user engagement in 2015, Apple still rules.