Android’s Stunning Growth Causes Big Banks to Change Apps Strategy

  • editor 

When Apple opened their App Store in July of 2008 to market third-party apps on the iOS platform for their iPhone and iPod touch, they immediately became the dominant apps platform. At the time, Nokia’s Symbian, Research in Motion’s Blackberry, Palm OS, and even a few phones using Windows dominated the smartphone world.

Apple would change everything, and would dominate the apps market.  It seems like a pitiful number now, but when the App Store opened with 500 apps, iPhone users were like kids in a candy store. They achieved more than a billion downloads their first year, and 2011, they would reach a yearly figure of 15 billion, and as of late 2012, their total number of apps sold was estimated at 30 billion. Other manufacturers scurried to adjust to the market; all lost most of their market share.

In mid-2008, the advertisements started showing up: a robotic voice would say “Droid” followed some futuristic imagery. In October of 2008, the first smartphones using the Android system would appear. Android did OK, but didn’t seem like much of a threat to Apple or iOS at the time. The Android market became a solid number two, but Apple had set the bar so high that Android could barely see it, let alone reach it.

Apple sold more apps for smartphones, and their iPad was far the dominant tablet. Android smartphones began to catch up, but they had almost no tablet market. In 2012, though, things were about to change in a big way for Android.

The Samsung Galaxy series of phones and tablets exploded, making a serious dent in the market. Google released its own Nexus 7 series, which was a stunning success. The Android market merged with Google Music to become Google Play.

Finally, in 2012, first quarter statistics showed that Android smartphone sales had surpassed iOS sales in Australia, with a market share of 51.8% compared to 35.3% for iOS. Since not everyone has new smartphone, this doesn’t mean that there are more Android phones in use than iOS phones yet, but it definitely means that Android is doing some serious damage to iOS dominance of the market.

While no totals for 2012 are available yet, the end result here is that Android is now as popular as iOS in Australia, and two major banks are taking notice. Commonwealth Bank of Australia and St George Bank have both announced their intention to treat Android and iOS as equals in the marketplace when developing their apps.

Since mobile banking apps first appeared, it was standard operating procedure for banks to launch an iPhone app first, and then an Android app almost as an afterthought. With the rise of Android, banks have changed their approach.

Travis Tyler, the head of mobile for St George Bank, said in a recent Financial Review article that he had seen research indicating that Android had officially overtaken iOS as Australia’s most popular operating system. Tyler referred to the news as a “game changer,” and remarked that “(Android and iOS) devices and…operating systems are…on a par now, and…the shine has come off Apple.”

Tyler would go on to remark that Android users “can’t be penalised” for Apple’s past dominance of the market. Tyler would also mention that his bank would “not be looking at supporting all the lower-end phones,” and would concentrate instead on “looking for a design for those bigger phones.”

Michael Harte, chief of technology for Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said that his bank would focus on cross-platform mobile apps, such as those being made with HTML5. According to Harte, “We are device-independent, carrier-independent, and channel-independent, because the customer is going to use whichever device they choose.” Harte would go on to say that the market is too volatile for his bank to be “beholden to Google and available only to Google’s customers.” He also remarked that “customers’ choices are paramount.”

So, what does this mean to you, the Android apps developer or the Apple iOS apps developer? It means the game is on. Both Google Play and the Apps Store estimate their inventory at 700,000 apps. The competition is healthy, and the market for apps has never been better. Apple, which has always priced their products higher than the competition, and blew a golden opportunity when they priced their iPad mini too high, is even considering a lower-priced iPhone.

Whenever one company dominates, it’s bad for apps builders and developers. It’s easier, because most of the apps are on one platform, but the company which owns the platform can become too demanding, and the platform has the advantage in the market.

With competition, the advantage goes over to the apps developers.

Isn’t it great?

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