Instagram for Android is out and why it dooms Android to second-class app status

Think Instagram is popular? Go watch the search over on Google+: Every few seconds a new post gets made. Who said no one is on Google+? Not me.

But the Android users' excitement for Instagram is exactly what is going to doom it to always playing second fiddle in the app market.

App developers are watching. App brands are better built over on iOS, then moved to Android. At least that's what Instagram is teaching. I can't think of a counter example, can you? Israeli company is the closest example of a cool app that started on Android first, then moved to iOS, but it hasn't built a brand or user base even close to Instagram.

There are many reasons why iOS is better for launching world brands, developers tell me.

1. It's easier to build a well-designed app on iOS. Path's CEO, +Dave Morin told me that, but so have many others. The results speak for themselves. The latest San Francisco hotness, Highlight, is better designed than Glancee, which is available on both iOS and Android. This design centricity makes brands. +SmugMug's CEO, +Don MacAskill told me the same thing. He's struggling to get his camera app to work on Android, while shipping it on iOS was much easier for a whole lot of reasons (fragmentation of user base, inadequate tools, etc).

2. Getting distribution is easier on iOS, especially for top-line apps. Yesterday I talked with an app developer who was featured in Apple's app store. Being there gets you more downloads, er, users, than any other place. Even a Techcrunch post doesn't do nearly as well. Apple has featured Instagram many many times and, indeed, gave it "app of the year." Apple is making an investment in app quality and looks at each app before it's shipped. Google doesn't have anything like that.

3. Most of the "influencers" have iPhones. At SXSW there were about 75% iPhones. At LeWeb the number was even higher. At Where 2.0 last year? 80% iPhones. And on and on. So, the people who hype up apps and talk about them are largely using iPhones. Normal people, on the other hand, largely use Android, but normal people don't write for mainstream press in nearly the same numbers and aren't the ones who "filter" apps out for Apple and Techcrunch and other players.

These trends came all together for me last week at Y Combinator when was showing their Android-based phone system around. Number one question? "Can I try it on my iPhone?" The entrepreneurs rolled their eyes each time and they were right to do so. Their system wouldn't sell at all on iPhone, but might do very well on a low-end Android phone aimed at kids younger than 12 and their parents. But it's hard to get hype when so many in the press use iPhones.

By the way, to try to fight this tendency even amongst myself I'm forcing myself to use an Android Tab and a Nokia Lumia 900, which arrives tomorrow. I also have a new Windows 8 computer to see if I can break free of my pro-Apple bias for a bit.

But the reaction I'm seeing about Instagram shows me that Apple will be on top for quite some time and that developers who want to build world brands aren't likely to develop first for Android anytime soon.
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