Developers say yes to iOS, but ambivalent about Apple

Survey reveals developers' negative opinion of Apple, but huge interest in building for iOS devices; Android also gets top marks

Software developers maintain a high level of interest in Apple's mobile devices, but they are finding the company itself is not getting any easier to deal with, according to a survey conducted by mobile tools provider Appcelerator.

In the company's quarterly survey, which involved 2,837 Appcelerator Titanium developers last month, Appcelerator found that developer interest around iOS and Google Android is relatively unchanged since the last quarter. All told, 89 percent of developers were very interested in building for Apple's iPhone and 86 percent were very interested in iPad; this compares to 85 percent interest in the iPhone and 88 percent interest in the iPad in the last quarterly survey. For Android, 77 percent of developers were very interested in building for Android smartphones and 64 percent were interested in Android tablets, compared to interest levels of 76 percent for Android smartphones and 66 percent for Android tablets last quarter.

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But 90 percent of respondents said Apple had made life more difficult for developers or has remained the same in the past three years when it comes to issues of app store submission, fragmentation, and monetization, said Lyla McInerney, Appcelerator's vice president of marketing. This fragmentation has resulted from Apple now offering many devices with different screen sizes in its iPad, iPhone, and iPad Mini lines, including Retina display models. Developers have to make modifications to accommodate the different sizes and the higher-resolution images needed on Retina displays, said McInerney.

The iPhone 3G S, 4, and 4S have the same resolution for the UI, but the iPhone 4 and 4S have double-density pixels requiring higher-res graphics. The iPhone 5 has a unique resolution, with the same width but greater depth as previous iPhones. The iPads all have the same resolution for the UI, but the third- and fourth-gen iPads also sport Retina displays, thus needing optimized images. Although the iPad Mini's resolution is the same as the other iPad models, its smaller physical size means many apps' UIs can be too scrunched on its screen and could benefit from resizing. All of that adds effort to iOS app development.

While fragmentation has long been associated with Android, with its multiple operating system variants and vendor customizations, the Apple developer community is now also dealing with it, according to Appcelerator. That could create an opening for a new platform, such as Microsoft's Windows RT or Research in Motion's BlackBerry 10. "There might be an entry for other ecosystems to offer developers an opportunity," McInerney said.

Developers, meanwhile, are pleased with Google Nexus tablets, with 53 percent saying they are very interested in developing for them. The Nexus line is also a step in the right direction toward fixing Android's issues with fragmentation and inconsistent device performance, the Appcelerator survey found.

Microsoft's newly released Windows RT-based Surface tablet, meanwhile, still needs a lot of work to become a successful mobile platform, with just 20 percent of developers impressed with the hardware and believing it will boost Microsoft's mobile ambitions. Forty-five percent of developers are unimpressed with the hardware and do not believe it offers much advantage over tablets already on the market, and only 35 percent are very interested in building for the platform.

Appcelerator found that the Amazon Kindle tablet was having trouble getting traction, with just 21 percent of developers very interested in building applications for it. "It's just not getting the critical mass," McInerney said.

The survey also found that mobile developers believe a mobile-first startup, one centered on the mobile space, could disrupt Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. In addition, developers are dismissive of Facebook's revamped mobile strategy, with 62.4 percent believing it is likely or very likely that a mobile-first social startup could disrupt the social applications market on mobile devices and take share from Facebook. More than 73 percent of respondents believe Facebook is a year or more away from becoming mobile-first.

For 2013, developers predict mobile will forever change retail, with 92.9 percent believing it is likely or very likely that most retail companies will have enabled mobile commerce. Developers also anticipate that in 2013, every smartphone user will own a tablet as well and most people will own a smart-enabled device other than a tablet or smartphone. In other findings in Appcelerator's survey, 57.5 percent of mobile developers predict that near-field communications purchases will be commonplace in 2013.

This article, "Developers say yes to iOS, but ambivalent about Apple," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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