Android devices held 87% of the global smartphone market in 20191 and Google’s operating system is expected to increase its share over Apple’s iOS during the next few years — a lead the company has been growing since 2012. As more Android devices are shipped around the world than ever before, such large levels of ownership have had an impact on the balance of the in-app ecosystem. Q4 2019 data shows that of the 28 billion apps downloaded across both operating systems, 21 billion were on Android.2 Insights from the Smaato platform also reiterate the extensive reach of Android; the OS accounted for 79% of unique devices that interacted with the Smaato exchange in Q4 2019.
Google originally built its Android OS to maximize its device user base and to reach more people via search-based advertising (as the default mobile search engine). They also allowed any original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to access the platform and release devices that were pre-loaded with the software. While advertising was the objective of Google’s mobile strategy, Apple took a different approach based on premium iOS devices and apps, with a focus on individual purchasing and high conversions. With both companies driving contrasting strategies to app monetization, let’s take a closer look at how things stack up using insights from the Smaato platform.
iOS vs. Android: Share of Impressions by Region
On a global scale, Android may have an overwhelming share of device reach and app downloads, but this doesn’t tell the full story from the perspective of in-app advertising. Smaato data shows that the share of in-app impressions by operating system varies extensively in different regions, as illustrated in the charts below. In the Americas, iOS has a stronger foothold at 47% of impressions, with Apple’s iPhone a more prominent smartphone among users (60% of US smartphones owners use iOS). In the EMEA region, the share of impressions for iOS decreases to 40%. It’s in APAC where Android truly shows its reach in device ownership, accounting for 74% of app impressions. Android’s dominance in APAC is driven by the accessibility and demand for lower-cost devices throughout many emerging markets.3
iOS vs. Android: Mobile App Categories
When it comes to the app categories driving these impressions across both platforms, there are clear differences between iOS and Android. We’ve already established that Android devices account for the lion’s share of global app downloads, but which of these specific app categories are thriving on Google Play and the App Store? Q4 2019 data shows that Android gaming apps account the the largest amount of downloads of the top 5 app categories — an enormous 8.6 billion downloads in the last quarter of 2019 alone.4 On iOS, mobile games are also the largest category, but not quite as far ahead of other app types at 2.3 billion downloads. It’s a mixed picture for the other app verticals; tools and communication apps are popular on Android highlighting the customizable features of the platform. On iOS, photography, entertainment, and shopping apps are some of the top categories — hinting at the behavior and habits of iPhone users.
iOS Users Drive Ad Revenue
The business model surrounding Android devices has clearly secured the platform’s enormous reach and user base. However, Smaato data shows that iOS is actually the most lucrative and high-performing operating system for publishers and advertisers alike. Globally in Q4 2019, iOS users received over 2.5X as many ads per unique device, and generated +162% higher ad spending on a per-user basis. It’s no surprise that advertisers are willing to spend more on iOS apps — iPhone users spend on average over $30 per online transaction, compared to an average of $10 that Android users spend.5 Such user behavior ensures that Apple’s platform is ideal for advertisers looking to generate ecommerce sales. It’s good news for publishers too, as Smaato data shows that on average an iOS user generates over twice as much ad revenue than an Android user.
So, Android or iOS?
iOS and Android platforms have distinct characteristics and benefits to both advertisers and publishers. From their varying consumer base and app category usage, to the differences in regional device penetration, both operating systems offer different options whether you’re an app developer with a specific monetization goal, or a brand looking to connect with particular user demographics.
Android devices offer advertisers huge audiences and large-scale impressions — perfect for brand building and maintaining a presence with consumers. On the other hand, iOS devices can deliver high conversion campaigns to valuable user groups.
For publishers, developing apps for either operating system has its advantages, be it accumulating ad spend via large user bases on Android, or generating larger amounts of advertising revenue from valuable iOS users. Or even better, cover all the bases by developing your app for both!
Sources: 1Statista, September 2019 | 2Sensor Tower, January 2020 | 3AppsFlyer, November 2019 | 4Sensor Tower, January 2020 | 5Soomla, January 2019