Apple released iOS7 on September 18, so it was interesting to note its announcement this week that the new operating system is already running on two thirds of its mobile devices. This is great news for all those interested in iPhone app development.
That’s simply staggeringly high penetration. It is also in stark contrast to the Android eco-system which not only has a multitude of devices, but also continues to show material fragmentation in the versions of its operating systems the user base is split amongst.
Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO, already called iOS7 “the fastest software upgrade ever”. “Nearly two thirds of iOS devices are running iOS7, significantly higher than other operating systems.”
Apple also reported this week, that it sold a staggering 33.8 million iPhones and 14.1 million iPads during the last financial quarter, bringing total yearly sales to 150 million iPhones and 71 million iPads. Whilst a significant portion of those new sales will be customers upgrading their devices, it also worth noting that many devices live beyond their first owner – either handed across to family members, sold to friends, or sold via eBay. Indeed, Apple is even trialling it’s own exchange program in the US – demonstrating that with each new device sold, there’s a good chance someone new may enter the Apple eco-system, or become re-engaged by a comparatively new and faster device.
This is how the opportunity for app development within the Apple eco-system continues to grow; much like the concept of compounding interest.
Of course, Apple made the process of upgrading to iOS7 fairly easy by enabling users to install the new operating system without needing to connect their devices to a computer. Compare that to the user experience of an Android user, where the service providers (telcos) control the update process – pushing out the upgrade to their customers, after they’ve had time to customize it. In some instances, this process never happens, leaving smartphone customers on old versions of Android.
Android’s 2012 operating system release was entitled Jelly Bean (2013 is Kit Kat, which will be released by Google this week). It’s taken more than a year for Jelly Bean to penetrate near 50% of the Android market (so over a year, to achieve less penetration than Apple has in its first month). What’s more, that Jelly Bean penetration is split across 3 versions (4.1, 4.2 and 4.3).
The penetration achieved by iOS7, also sends a very clear signal that Apple users have, in the majority, liked Jony’s move away from skeuomorphic design. What’s more, whilst there were significant early teething problems with security, usability and the accuracy of the hardware in the new iPhone 5s – don’t get Iain started on his 5s’ spirit level!! (which was fixed by the M7 chip recalibration) most of these have already been addressed in update 7.0.3.
App compatibility remains a challenge for owners of apps that existed before the release of iOS7, but that should encourage not discourage those new to iPhone app development as in and of itself, it creates opportunity to new apps competing in the same segment.
With the new iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display arriving on November 1, then the penetration of iOS7 as a portion of the total is only going to increase in the build up to Christmas. The retina mini in particular looks likely to be true to the old adage of Apple products – always buy the second version of their hardware – we’re all keen to get our hands on one, as we consider shifting down from the full iPad (Iain’s even thinking of upgrading from the Mini).
This is all terrific news for existing developers and people with an app idea, that haven’t yet executed on it. It means in building minimum viable products to validate your idea, where it’s a consumer app you wish to target at Apple users, you can simply build and validate on iOS7, and postpone earlier versions of the operating system (and their skeuomorphic design) to a later time (if ever!) when your idea is proven and your app is making money!
What all this means is that the app opportunity is not going away, and whilst it’s more competitive now, if you invest the time and money in understanding what it is you’re looking to make, then you can and still will be successful.