Why innovative app developers choose Android first

Apple's iOS, being a consumer platform for consumer apps, Android's open nature makes for far more innovative mobile app possibilities.

Developers seeking to build highly differentiated mobile apps usually lean toward native apps. This decision in turn leads to a platform decision between Android and iOS. What are the unique reasons app developers choose Android as their first platform when building a unique new business? Two emerging businesses Pictoreo and Tovbot are great studies for understanding this choice.

Freepoint founders Alex Kennberg and Marcelo Cortes are building a platform to accelerate app development. Built on this platform, Pictoreo lets developers create beautiful cognitive dissidence-affecting pictures with HTML video movement. The description is simple to state but hard to understand. That is, without this sample video:

Pictoreo was built first for Android because of its large market share. The availability of the Android source code gives developers deep insight into how their app operates on Android software and hardware. This is especially valuable when developers are building apps tightly integrated with hardware sensors. For example, Pictoreo works closely with the camera, so Kenneberg and Cortes needed to better understand the behavior of camera API functions such as exposure, focus, and white balance, which would be difficult if they were developing for iOS.

In building the Pictoreo beta, Android is advantageous because there are no roadblocks or limits to engaging customers through the Google Play app store. This is important to a developer seeking to engage large numbers of early users so that direct and instrumented user feedback can be employed to improve the product design and user experience through iterative release testing. There isn’t an approval requirement in the Google Play store delaying iterative releases like there would be when developing for iOS and distributing through Apple’s App Store. Kennberg prefers Android user feedback because "compared to iOS users, Android users provide more responsive and constructive feedback."

Tovbot's first product is a music-listening companion robot. According to founder and MIT media lab veteran Guy Hoffman, PhD, it’s the first product based on the "smartphone-based dumb robot" concept. The smartphone is a powerful and economic controller for affordable and extensible home robotics. Android offers developers an open platform with powerful processing capabilities, such as accurate sensing capabilities. Android supports three categories of sensors: motion sensors, environmental sensors, and positional sensors. Depending on the phone’s configuration, sensors measure commonplace conditions such as geoposition and direction, but could measure more esoteric conditions such as acceleration, temperature and atmospheric pressure. Additionally, because of its open architecture, Android can support true real-time control interrupts.

Tovbot’s product Shimi uses the smartphone’s microphone for voice recognition or a tapped-out beat to choose music. It also employs a camera to track the listener’s actions and choose genres based on dance moves. It’s much more than a music dock for recreating music on acoustic speakers from an MP3. The phone is automatically recognized when it is inserted in Shimi’s dock and the user and Shimi begin to interact. Shimi is available for sale at $199 and on Kickstarter for $149.

Hoffman has many other ideas, such as kitchen scales that know your recipes or a robotic task light that follows the users’ actions and voice requests for illumination. The possibilities for drop-in "smartphone-based dumb robots" are endless.

Compared to Android, iOS is a development platform for consumer applications. Android is a much more general purpose development platform based on its Linux origins, its wide following and its broad diversity of hardware OEMs.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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