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To Spend on iOS or Not to Spend on iOS, That Is the Question

Published: September 5, 2018

Author: Derek Feuerman

Mobile advertising over the past few years has seen extreme growth, and it’s only going up. In 2017 the mobile marketing industry saw spend in the U.S. exceed $104 billion, up $27 billion from 2016. This year we are expecting to see another $30 billion increase in mobile ad spend.


With all this mobile spend, marketers need to know where the majority of spend and best returns are coming from. Worldwide we know that there are more Android devices out there than iOS devices. Unfortunately for Apple, the iOS market share seems to be declining year-over-year. In 2016, new iOS device sales had a 14.4% market share, but one year later that market share dropped down to 14.0%.

With the data shown above, it seems like Android would be the obvious target to get some great return on ad spend, right? Well, while the Android user base and devices may outnumber iOS, the industry sees that the premium users (biggest in-app spenders) are actually iOS users – so much so that in the first half of 2018, the iOS App Store generated $22.6 billion in revenue, while Android’s Google Play only generated $11.8 billion. Both iOS and Android stores have seen year-over-year growth, but iOS still remains the top revenue generator.

It is pretty remarkable that a platform with less than half their competitor’s user base can generate more than double in revenue. Even while understanding that iOS users have a higher probability to spend on your app (and thus carry a higher advertising cost), advertisers must recognize that there is still great value to be found in advertising to Android users. The value is pretty simple: it’s in downloads.
While iOS has the larger share of spend, Android has more than double the user base, giving advertisers a lot more eyeballs to show their ads to. Looking back to the first half of 2018, iOS has 15 billion app downloads, while Android still remained top dog with 36 billion app downloads.

Now, there is clearly a specific strength to each platform. You can sum it up as: iOS being strong in revenue and Android being strong in download volume. Download volume, while not exactly correlated with volume, has two huge benefits: 1) apps with more downloads rank higher in both the App Store and Google Play Store, and 2) more active users make apps more valuable to advertisers.
The true value of these platforms really depends on the advertiser’s needs. Based on your specific need, where do you think you can get the best return on your ad spend? To spend on iOS or not to spend on iOS, that is the question.

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