The best way for Apple to keep iOS developers loyal

Shane Schick

What has become accepted wisdom in app developer circles--deploy to iOS to make money, deploy to Android for reach and engagement--may soon be debunked. 

A few weeks ago, a company called Tapdaq based in San Francisco published a blog post that pulled together the results of an informal survey it conducted with 50 independent app developers. Tapdaq, which describes itself as a peer-to-peer mobile ad network, asked about discoverability on Apple's App Store, questions they would like Apple to answer and their overall experience with the platform. Then came the doozy: Half of the developers said they would ditch iOS if they could generate the same revenue elsewhere. 

"As soon as new, lucrative avenues open up for developers, it will be very interesting to watch whether a wave of developers abandon the platform to new pastures, or whether Apple will start to acknowledge the crescendo of needs coming from the developers who, after all, very much helped take Apple to become the world's most valuable technology company," Ted Nash wrote. 

Of course, 50 is a pretty small sample size, and may not indicate the enormous wave of discontent Tapdaq is suggesting here. We should also remember that the company specifically sought out developer frustrations with iOS. That said, its data certainly corresponds to the surprisingly angry response to Apple's recently published Common App Rejections page, which I recently wrote about. 

Besides increasing transparency around how the App Store works and reducing the risk of device fragmentation, Tapdaq leaves out one area where Apple could continue to cement developer loyalty: by bringing ongoing innovation to the platform. For example, I recently asked David Bonnefoy, a developer who created the OneReader app, how well Apple is meeting his needs. He was refreshingly positive: 

"I really like how iOS 8 brings a new openness. This is a very welcome change, and I think it will allow us to greatly improve our apps," he wrote via e-mail from Paris, France. "For instance, OneReader connects to many external services as sources of information and for sharing or storing articles. It is now quite tedious to have to log in to all these services. Agilebits have shown how the new extension mechanism in iOS 8 will allow apps to integrate with 1Password, so that users don't have to type their passwords anymore. Widgets and interactive notifications will also allow to have a much deeper integration with the system."

Android is often praised for the flexibility it offers as an open source platform, but if Apple can demonstrate even incremental improvements like this, it will stay more than competitive. Let's be real: It's not about the money for a lot of indie developers. Maybe iOS shouldn't be, either.--Shane