Is Android Killing Indie Developers? – Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc (GOOG)

Mobile operating system platforms live and die by how robust their complementary content ecosystems are. Of course, one of the biggest sources of content on mobile platforms is now the almighty app. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal now has a dedicated section, The Business of Apps, with one of the recent articles describing how the app economy is creating a whole new line of work for many small developers.

Competition is stiff, though, since there are relatively lower barriers to entry than the software industry has historically seen. There’s still plenty of opportunity and numerous success stories of small independent developers hitting it big, like Imangi Studios and its smash hit game Temple Run. Imangi is just a husband-and-wife team.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)Unfortunately, it’s getting harder for indie developers before it gets easier, and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android is largely to blame.

The weakest link
Fragmentation has long been cited as Android’s biggest weakness, and a recent report from Flurry Analytics shows just how out of hand it’s gotten. While fragmentation isn’t entirely unique to Android, it’s far worse on that platform than any other due to its open nature. In fact, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) added an additional layer of fragmentation to iOS just six months ago when it introduced the iPhone 5 and brought 4-inch displays and resolutions to its platform.

However, that’s negligible when you consider the plethora of different Android devices on the market, each with different specs that developers need to target like display size, aspect ratio, and resolution, among others. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) tries to balance these considerations by supporting a limited number of resolutions in Windows Phone.

Overall, if an app developer wants to be able to reach 80% of all active devices, they would need to support 156 different models.

Source: Flurry Analytics.

That figure changes depending on what percentage of devices a developer wants to reach, and shooting for 100% approaches 1,000.

Target Reach Number of Models
90% 331
80% 156
60% 37
50% 18

Source: Flurry Analytics.