When it comes to operating systems named after types of fruit, Apple and BlackBerry are without a doubt the top two contenders. Okay, admittedly that was a silly line...but it offers us a nice clean segue into our topic of discussion this time around. We've been asked on occasion that, even though Apple is the bigger player in the mobile market, does that necessarily make it better, from an app developer's point of view? With that question in mind, we'd like to discuss the pros and cons of building apps for the Apple and BlackBerry systems.
Client Demand. First off, the obvious: Apple devices outsell those of BlackBerry by a considerable margin. In terms of demand, therefore, Apple has the clear advantage, simply because clients paying to have apps created are gonna to want to have them developed for the more popular—and thus more profitable—system. This creates kind of a Catch-22 situation for BlackBerry, as this article from CNBC illustrates:
There's a bit of a recursive loop about all this. BlackBerry needs app developers to embrace the product and design apps for it in order to succeed. But developers who believe the phone won't succeed won't develop for it, which could contribute to its failure.
Developer Support. In this category, both systems are pretty much equal—at least on the surface. Apple and BlackBerry both have online centers dedicated solely to app developers and their specific wants and needs. However, an advantage appears here for BlackBerry, according to Tech Republic: their support tools include a suite geared specifically to the Chrome Web Inspector, which is unique among mobile operating systems.
But, when you dig a bit deeper, an Apple advantage becomes apparent. If you take a moment to browse the web for independent developers' forums—where professionals in the industry share tips and experiences with one another—those focusing on Apple outnumber BlackBerry forums by a wide margin.
Red Tape. Here's a category where BlackBerry is the clear winner—but it's a bittersweet victory, at that. The guidelines for getting an app listed in Apple's Apps Store are considerably more strict than those for BlackBerry World. It's not that BlackBerry is a pushover; they have their standards, of course—but they're a little more lenient when it comes to giving apps the green light. Apple, in comparison, is the king of the hill right now, and they have the luxury of turning apps away more often. The bottom line is: BlackBerry wants more developers to take an interest in creating apps for them, and they'll work a little harder with developers to make that happen. They're less likely to say no than Apple is.
When BlackBerry recently released their BlackBerry 10 operating system, Forbes followed up with an article that included interviews with several app developers. It includes a quote from Jan Dawson, Ovum's Chief Telecoms Analyst, that sums up the research we did for this article quite nicely:
Developers don’t want to [build apps] that are only going to be used by a few people. They want to develop for platforms that have a lot of users [and] ideally make a lot of money selling the apps. It is not clear that BlackBerry 10 is the platform that fits those criteria right now.
So, if there's an underlying theme here, it's this: it's not necessarily that developers prefer creating apps for one operating system over another; it's a simple case of supply and demand—and, unfortunately for BlackBerry, the demand just isn't there right now the way it is for Apple. As we've outlined here, both systems have their pros and cons in the eyes of app development professionals. As Funkoi Games founder Daniel Jeppson said in the Forbes article cited above, “It is not always the best technology that wins out.” It's important to make that distinction, especially in this article. It's not necessarily that Apple's the best technology, but among consumers it's undoubtedly the most popular. And that, for better or for worse, is the trend we as developers must keep our eyes on, as our clients clearly do.
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