Eric Schmidt isn’t the technology industry’s best fortune teller. He infamously declared in 2011 that developers would want to support Android before other platforms because of its size. It’s a logical prediction that had the misfortune of being made in an illogical market: Developers continue to release apps on iOS before they release them on other platforms, if they ever bother supporting them at all.
Moovit is bucking that trend by releasing the latest update to its mobile transit application on Android weeks before bringing it to the iPhone. It is also developing a Windows Phone version of the service expected to debut around the same time as the iPhone update, allowing it to better cater to the European and Latin American markets in which it operates. The iPhone is no longer the company’s first priority.
“I think for us, providing an application that is cross-populations, cross-gender, cross-age, etc. you really need to be able to provide solutions for everybody,” says Moovit CEO Nir Erez. “And I think that we’ve just reached the point where we can’t ignore Windows Phone.”
This isn’t to say that many developers will suddenly decide to support Android or Windows Phone instead of iOS. People have their own favorite platforms, and it makes sense for developers to make software for the devices and operating systems they enjoy using. And developing for iOS instead of its competitors has its benefits: though its users tend to download fewer apps than their counterparts, they also spend more money on the apps they do purchase.
That means little to companies that offer their software for free, however. Moovit’s continued development depends on constantly attracting new users, and charging for its software will limit its growth, especially in the developing markets it’s focusing on. It will instead introduce new features — such as a pilot program that allows users to purchase transit tickets from directly within the app — and make money that way.
In that sense, bringing its update to Android first and expanding to Windows Phone makes more sense than focusing on iOS. Erez says that 60 percent of Moovit’s users are using Android smartphones, and the low-end smartphones boosting Windows Phone’s popularity are becoming increasingly popular in the company’s core markets.
Schmidt might not have gotten the timing of his prediction quite right, and many developers will probably support one platform over another no matter how popular it becomes. As startups continue to rely on free services and appeal to developing markets, however, more companies might make like Moovit and prioritize platforms besides iOS.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]