Google Inc (GOOG), Apple Inc. (AAPL): How China Could Lift Android Over iOS

Android is the world’s dominant mobile operating system. Last quarter, nearly 80% of the smartphones sold worldwide ran Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s open-source platform. Yet, despite its market share edge, Android continues to lag Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s iOS in one key area: software.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)But one thing could change that, or more accurately, one country. Android is the primary smartphone platform in China, and as the world’s most populous nation becomes a larger player in software development, made-in-China apps could give Android the lift it needs.

China is Android country
Android absolutely dominant in China. Last quarter, it powered roughly 70% of the smartphones sold. And that’s just phones sold in a recent quarter. Back in May, Android passed the 50% installation mark; now, more than half of all existing phones in China run Android.

For comparison, Android’s position in the U.S. is far less dominant. Last quarter, Android accounted for just 52% of the smartphones sold — a majority of the market, no doubt, but not that far ahead of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iOS at 40%. This difference is even less significant when one considers that many Android owners in the U.S. probably use their phones as little more than feature phones — iOS continues to far outpace Android in terms of user engagement.

Thus, if you’re an app developer in the U.S., you’re probably more inclined to go with iOS, at least at first. There are numerous examples of apps that have started off on iOS and only later made their way to Android, including Instagram and Tinder. Electronic Arts‘ new hit mobile game, Plants vs Zombies 2, remains an iOS exclusive for the time being.

But that isn’t the case in China. According to analytics firm Flurry (via Computerworld), Chinese developers build two-thirds of apps used by Chinese smartphone owners — and given Android’s total dominance in China, it isn’t surprisingly that developers favor Android.

Even Android app stores are big business. Back in July, Chinese search giant Baidu bought 91 Wireless — an Android app store — for $1.9 billion.

Made in China, downloaded in the West
One day, China’s love for Android could spill over into the West. Presently, few Westerners use Chinese-developed apps, but that could change. Chinese developers have begun to export to the rest of Southeast Asian, particularly to Korea, Japan and India, according to Flurry.

Could Chinese-developed apps become popular in the U.S.?