Every quarter the large analyst firms release their smartphone distribution numbers and predictions for the coming months and, quite often, they annualize those numbers and predict what is going to happen. I always get a laugh out of the “2015” predictions – things that will happen in 4 years based on what happened during the past quarter. These are the same organizations that didn’t see the impact of apps and dismissed the impact of the iPad (2010 was the “year of the netbook”, remember?).
I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs and mobile business leaders through UNTETHER.tv and have sat with dozens of clients as they go through the very important ideation process of bringing their business into mobile. Sometimes what I hear is alarming and lands squarely on the shoulders of these reports pushed out by the analysts.
If you look at their numbers and made decisions based on them, here are some of the conclusions you would come to.
1. Android first
Based on the growth alone it would seem logical today to jump onto Android right away. They are the dominant smartphone OS and are pegged to grow exponentially in the coming years.
2. IPhone second
Looking at the numbers the next logical platform to build for would be the iPhone. While Android dominates in terms of smartphone OS installs, iPhone has the most comprehensive and successful ecosystem around iOS which includes the iPad as well as the iPod Touch line of devices as well.
3. Forget BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7
The conclusion here is that BlackBerry is in a steep decline to obscurity and WP7 is too late to the game.
How do you make a decision?
Some businesses that I’ve talked to have jumped into the Android or iPhone market to great apathy, others to great success so what was the difference between them?
The simple answer to this simple question is a simple understanding of where your customers are or will be. If your goal is to bring your product or service to mobile for an existing client base, build to what they are currently using not to what they will be using tomorrow. Satisfy your existing customers first even if that means building for BlackBerry.
If your goal is to innovate – to build a brand new product or service – build on the platform that your target customer is using and get it right for them. Cross-platform development can be difficult and unnecessary on launch.
Food for thought
Should the analyst reports be dismissed? Not entirely. While I don’t think they are capturing the appropriate mood of the industry (they are focused on the smartphone market and don’t take into consideration the other mobile devices including cars, set top boxes, tablets, MP3 players, etc.) they can be a good reference point to sell ideas into companies and identify shifts in the industry.
However: Just because you can build for all platforms doesn’t mean you should and just because the analysts report that one platform is the dominant platform today doesn’t mean it should be your first choice.
Whatever your product strategy for mobile is, it needs to land squarely at the intersection of reach and frequency. Once you’ve defined where that is, the platform choice will be clear.