Android vs. iOS: Guess Which Earns Developers More?

Google’s Android might dominate Apple’s iOS when it comes to the market for smartphone operating systems, but that doesn’t mean Android developers are making more money than their iOS counterparts. Far from it, in fact.

The Verge crunched the numbers from Google’s most recent quarterly results (which offered additional insights into the company’s revenue streams, including what it’s made from YouTube and hardware), which revealed that Android developers have earned $80 billion since the operating system was launched.

That’s well behind the $155 billion that Apple had paid to app developers since iOS and the App Store launched. It also proves, yet again, the prevailing theory of the mobile-app ecosystem: That Android has more reach globally, but you build for iOS if you want your app to actually make money.

Although Google didn’t provide further insight that would allow us to break down regions, top-performing categories, and so on, we can glean some of that information from other sources. App Annie, for example, regularly analyzes the app market; it’s found that the biggest companies (Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and so on) regularly dominate the most-downloaded categories, along with apps and games backed by corporate-level budgets (Netflix, Candy Crush Saga, etc.). That aside, games and social-media apps do have the potential to break through—just look at how “Flappy Bird” became a worldwide phenomenon.

More Money, But Hard to Stand Out

The sheer density of Google Play and Apple’s App Store make it hard for any one product to stand out, even with significant marketing spend. Over the past several years, the optimal timeframe that apps have to rack up downloads before fading into obscurity has progressively shrunk—developers only have 17 weeks or so to build up an audience.

Perhaps that’s a core reason why Apple and Google have encouraged developers to shift from one-time app purchases to a subscription model. For example, Apple reduces its 30 percent cut of subscription-based revenues to 15 percent once a user has been subscribed for more than 12 months, and it’s claimed that overall subscription rates are up.

Developers are also relying on in-app ads as a big revenue stream. “We’ve already seen indications of maturation in advertising strategies for apps leveraging in-app ads as part of their User Acquisition (UA),” App Annie wrote in a report last year. “With more consumers than ever before using mobile, and more time being spent on these devices, it is expected for advertising dollars to follow.”

Whatever their revenue choices, though, this new data from Google highlights one of the starkest divisions confronting developers within the mobile ecosystem: Android might get you eyeballs… but iOS will get you paid.