Painting in Blue: Why we chose to develop YO! in Android first

  For many years, debates have waged amongst mobile startup wannabes about whether to take an ‘Android-First” or ‘Start-with-Apple’ approach to mobile application development.   On one side of the argument (Android), you have the case for market size: that there are a lot more Android users in the world, articulated by worldwide shipments and installed user base. On the other side (iOS), you have the argument that Apple consumers, though smaller in number, are more affluent and have a greater propensity to pay for downloadable content, apps, or engage with in-app monetization. Added on to that is the fact iOS provides a lot less fragmented development environment and more structure which reduces the total testing time and total cost of development.   For those that have been following along with our progress, you know that we chose to build Android first. History will judge us on whether this was the right decision or the wrong one.   In fact, our iOS still has not hit the shelves of the AppStore. We have been testing it in the field, however, and I have been told that we are close. Really, really close. Perhaps as early as “later this week” close. To quote Steve Jobs, “Real artists ship” and it will be great to finally have this version in the hands of users.   Perhaps it is that that I am anticipating my forthcoming trip to Amsterdam for the WiFi Innovation Summit (and a side trip to the van Gogh museum), that I see parallels to what we are doing to creating art. Not in that pretentious “oh-look-at-this-masterpiece-hanging-on-a-gallery-wall” sort of way, but in a physical manifestation of the social, economic realities of the world around us. Regardless, I can’t stop myself while writing this post to thinking back to my days in university where I roamed the old stacks in the library of the University of British Colombia, reading old tomes and notes relating to either my English or Art History studies [editor’s note: I know… a strange journey from there to running a tech company today].   I remember once writing a paper looking at van Gogh’s ‘Blue Period’ based in large part on an analysis of his letters to his brother Theo. Most people believe that the presence of so much blue during this time was symbolic of his depression and manic states, but I think it was more a question of access.
“The most expensive is still sometimes the cheapest. Cobalt especially – it can’t be compared with any other blue as regards the delicate tones that one can get with it …. Cobalt – is a divine colour, and there’s nothing so fine as that for putting space around things”
We tend to work with or appreciate the materials we have access to at that moment in time. For van Gogh, it was blue paint – a ‘divine’ paint that he couldn’t afford in his early years, allowing him to paint a collection of masterpieces that were some of his most famous. In other words, once he got access he was able to create magic.   For us, our decision to do Android first stems from a multitude of contributing factors relating to access: access to Android hardware to build/test on; access to developers who already knew the environment; and access to real-world users (after all, the pain we are solving exists every day for our developers and their friends and family). Simply put, when we first started we could not do (technically) what we wanted to do on iOS, and even if we could, we didn’t have access to the hardware and the developers.   But in hindsight, our decision to do Android first has less to do with the practical reasons above, but more from the philosophical ones stemming from our BHAG and from the  ‘Why’ statements I tried to articulate in my post of last week.
“We believe everyone should be free to engage with their community, discover new ideas, and make their world a better place.”
Last month, Sundar Pichai, Google’s new CEO, reported that Android has 1.4 billion monthly active users. That means 1 in 5 people on the planet, an increase of 400 million people in under 18 months. This equates to an 82% market share according to Gartner…. Huge numbers to be sure, but it also highlights that are billions more without access.   Where is all this Android growth coming from? Emerging markets: Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, and all across Latin and South America. That is, it is coming from the markets that have new smart phone users gaining access – to each other and to the world – for the very first time. It is coming from markets where the buying power is limited and buying a new smart phone (any smart phone) is a major financial decision.   In short, it is coming from markets in which YO! can have an immediate and life-changing impact. Maybe it is not that we are the artists ourselves creating the masterpiece, but maybe it is that we are the paint merchant, giving rise and access to a whole new world of artists? Time will tell.