Above illustration: Peach iDollars theme for iPhone by Studio Peach

I recently opined that our Android friends are less willing to pay for quality content, namely apps. It’s nice to see this notion shared by professionals that have experience with both platforms. In a chat with Peter Kafka over at The Wall Street Journal’s MediaMemo blog, Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s boss Bob Bowman said this:

The iPhone and iPad user is interested in buying content–that’s one of the reasons they bought the device. The Android buyer is different. It’s a great phone–make no mistake about it. But if you really want first rate digital content on a device, your first look will probably be an iPhone. And on the tablet, an iPad.

And Bob should know. He previously urged for a greater quality control in Android Market and his company, owned by all of pro baseball’s teams, has 1.5 million mobile app subscribers. They develop for both Android and iOS plus Facebook. He singled out Android fragmentation as a reason enough to limit the number of supported Android handsets. At some point, he said, fragmentation is “diminishing returns” and added:

The Android user typically is less likely to buy, and therefore the ROI on developing for Android is different than it is for Apple.

Nevertheless, Google’s platform cannot be ignored, he underscored. Saying they learned to live with Apple’s customary thirty percent cut on content sales through their digital stores, he called the company “a great partner”:

Last I checked, they created the iPhone and the iPad.

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Look, that’s not to say Android isn’t worth developing for, but the economics are different. Android was conceived as an advertising-friendly platform – that’s why they’re giving it away. Google’s primary interest here is mobile advertising estimated to be worth this year about $2 billion in the US alone. Besides, Android attracts a different demography – many facets of it promote ad-supported or freemium monetization models. For example, Rovio’s CEO Mikael Hed recently told Wired that both the 99-cent Angry Birds for iOS and the free, ad-supported Angry Birds on Android generate similar revenues, based on 20 million downloads each.

Android users are being monetized through advertising rather than by requiring them to pay for first rate digital content, which is in stark contrast to the iOS’s app monetization philosophy. In my personal opinion, fragmentation is the biggest hurdle for Google’s platform and the lack of it is one of Apple’s greatest advantages. Fragmentation is more than just an inconvenience – it’s clearly holding back big development projects with fat budgets, most evidently triple-A games from big name publishers and VC-funded mobile developers.

I also see fragmentation widening the gap between iOS and Android in terms of user satisfaction. Not all users are geeks and fragmentation will be clearly ticking off mainstream consumers. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in the comment section.

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