Android有些许iOS所缺乏的应用，如Swype和SwiftKey等键盘替换软件。尽管强势的苹果在应用上仍处于领先地位，但已有越来越多的新型应用优先选择登陆Android平台，而不是iOS。这有益于Android Market的发展壮大，该平台正不断前进，预计今年年末总应用数将超过苹果的App Store。这个趋势使开发商对Android平台的独特诉求显得更为突出，也就是说随着平台硬件销售逐渐升温，尽管开发商的盈利无法与iOS相比，但富有创意的开发人员可以在此平台上找到更多的乐趣。
过去半年来，我见过并选择许多首先在Android上发布的应用。Enterproid、Aro Mobile、ThruTu、Zazu、Contapps、Skifta和RadioMe只是跳过iOS的少数应用，我确信还有许多采取这种方式的应用自己未曾注意到。开发商兴致提升部分原因在于Android手机的成功，其销售量已超过iPhone（游戏邦注：依此来看，其他平台手机也落于下风。），众人可能有意在苹果饱和的App Store外开辟新市场。
Contapps（游戏邦注：一款联系人应用。）联合开发者及首席执行官Lior Romano说道：“越来越多的开发商偏爱Google的开放性，不愿忍受iPhone上的层层审查，他们只想要制作自己的东西并在市场上发布。现在随着Android系统的发展，Android Market的规模已同苹果App Store不相上下。如果你开发的是免费应用并希望能够得到用户的接受和回应，Android确实是个非常诱人的选择。”
上述言论体现出Android平台的些许魅力所在。开发商可以深入挖掘设备，制作出大量可与现有平台兼容或替代其功能的应用。以ThruTu为例，这款应用允许用户在通话过程中传输照片、联系人或用户位置。选择先期在Android上发布的Aro Mobile使用自有带语义技术（游戏邦注：语义技术指计算机通过句子或段落推断词句在上下文中的准确含义。）的云连接版本，替代设备上原本的联系人、邮件、搜索、电话和浏览器应用。Aro Mobile随后在iOS上发布，但由于该平台本身限制性较强，应用无法完全替代设备现有的功能。该应用只能与原功能并行，对用户的吸引力有所降低。像电话簿应用ON之类的其他应用，在苹果平台上运行时也大打折扣。
苹果的方法对那些寻找精致应用的消费者来说大有裨益，苹果的控制和排列方式也是App Store中应用下载量高涨的部分要素。但Zazu联合制作人Punit Shah认为，这种方法可能打击某些意图在苹果不怎么感兴趣的领域进行创新的开发商。Zazu是款个人辅助应用，可大声读出新闻、社交站点反馈和邮件，正致力于开发出帮助用户编排日常事务的功能。
Android Grows as Primary Target for Innovative Developers
Android has always had some apps that iOS didn’t, such as keyboard replacement software like Swype and SwiftKey. While Apple still holds a strong lead in apps, there is an increasing number of cutting-edge, innovative apps initially launching on Android before they go to iOS. It’s part of a larger build-up for Android Market, which is on pace to have more apps than Apple’s App Store later this year. But it highlights the unique appeal of the Android platform, which doesn’t make as much money for developers but is finding more interest from creative programmers, especially as hardware sales heat up.
In the last six months or so, I’ve seen — and been pitched on — a number of apps that consciously launched on Android first. Enterproid, Aro Mobile, ThruTu, Zazu, Contapps, Skifta, and RadioMe are just a few of the apps that bypassed iOS, and I’m sure there are many I’m missing. The growing interest from developers is due in part to the increasing success of Android phones, which are outselling iPhones (and every other platform, for that matter) and possibly the desire to simply target a space outside of Apple’s saturated App Store.
But a lot has to do with the advantages of the open platform of Android, which encourages more cutting-edge applications with a broader array of features in some cases. Apple’s limits on access to its hardware as well as its tougher review process also seems to be playing a role. It’s still easier to make money on iOS, and fragmentation is a headache for many Android developers, but for a growing number of developers, it makes more sense to start on Android first.
“You have more developers who love the openness of Google and don’t want to go through the iPhone funnel, they just want to create their own thing and get it out there,” said Lior Romano, the co-founder and CEO of Contapps, a contacts app. “Now with the growth of Android, the size of (Android Market) is now getting equal to Apple. If you develop free applications and want to get to scale and responses from users, Android is very inviting.”
Google has had a more open approach from the beginning, and that resulted in some innovative apps like home screen replacements and third-party browsers. But Lior said not all developers took advantage of the opportunity because the audience wasn’t there yet. But now, many are timing their apps to take advantage of their fast growth of the platform and are coming out with titles that make more use of some of Android’s architecture. Contapps, for example, offers a contact list replacement app that’s more visual, with gesture-based search, social integration and search and mapping built into the app.
Lior said building in Android offered more access to the core functions of the phone, the ability to integrate with more third-party APIs and good tools to build with. He said he was also worried about Apple stifling the app because it might be too close to the iOS native functions. ”We want to be a one-stop shop for contacts and interaction; that’s a big goal and we need the openness of Android to undertake those possibilities,” Lior said. “With Android, you get a lot of access from Google and the opportunity to build something big, not something skin deep.”
That’s some of the allure of the Android platform. Developers can get deep into the guts of a device and build out a lot of apps that work with the existing the platform or simply replace its functionality. ThruTu, for example, allows users to send pictures, contacts, their location or a vibrating “prod” while in the middle of a voice conversation. Aro Mobile, which debuted first on Android, replaces the native contacts, email, search, phone and browser apps on a device with its own cloud-connected versions with semantic technology. Aro Mobile later launched on iOS, but because of the platform’s more restrictive nature, the app wasn’t able to fully replace existing functions. It has to work alongside them, undercutting some of its appeal. Other apps like ON, an address book app, also have had to be watered down to work on Apple’s platform.
Apple’s approach has been great for consumers who are looking for very polished apps. And Apple’s control and sense of order has been part of why downloads have soared in the App Store. But it can be stifling for some developers looking to innovate in areas that Apple is less interested in, said Punit Shah, co-founder of Zazu, a personal assistant app that reads aloud news, social feeds, and emails, and is looking to help users plan for upcoming calendar events.
Shah said the Apple hardware is great, but he’s not able to do as much with it compared to Android. On Android, he gets easier access to dialer information and can incorporate contact lists from different sources without asking for additional authentications for each source. That has led to a more robust app, Shah said. Zazu recently completed an iPhone app, but there’s no guarantee that it will get approved. With Android, there’s no review process, so developers are assured they can launch on Android Market. “As an entrepreneur, I want to make something new that’s ridiculous and provides value. But from a company perspective, it’s much harder to do that when you have too many variables where you can be shot down,” he said.
Andrew Toy, co-founder of Enterproid, an app that creates a partition between enterprise and personal data, said his company is open to all mobile platforms. But with Android’s growth in the past year, it now offers developers the ability to get traction with a sizable audience, which wasn’t the case early on. But he said his choice to launch on Android was also prompted by Apple’s review process, which can be a concern for some start-ups, as they must invest before they’re sure Apple will approve their apps. The review process for updates can also be harder for developers who like to iterate quickly and constantly test their apps, said Toy. And he said Android is more flexible with monetization options, he said — another bonus.
“Android gives us the ability to use agile development. We’re able to fix bugs, test new features, and release new versions very quickly. Android also allows us to explore different business models as we bring our products to market. This is especially important for a company like ours, where existing revenue-generation models like advertising or paid apps don’t fit well with our target market,” Toy said.
Now, fragmentation is still a major issue for Android developers. Lior said different screen sizes, custom ROMs and operator additions can wreak havoc on testing. And Apple is still a better place to make money, he agrees. But with device sales running high on Android, we’re likely to see more developers not just port iOS apps over to Android, but instead begin their work on Android. Experimental stuff, in particular, may start showing up more on Android. And we eventually may see a class of apps that are more robust on Android than on iOS. This may not do much to alter the momentum of each platform, but there’s an increasing chance we’ll see more really ground-breaking mobile apps on Android as time goes on.
Google still has to do a lot to ensure that the platform evolves well with more tools, enhancements and access to more APIs, something we’ll like hear more of at Google I/O next week. And the buying experience in Android Market needs to continue improving to make sure it reaches its money-making potential. But it seems like the early bet on Android’s more open design is increasingly resonating with developers and that can only mean more momentum for the platform as a whole. (Source: Gigaom)