How Will the Battle of Apple V Android Affect Mobile Marketing?

Android is devouring market share at an alarmingly rapid pace on its way to the top of the mobile OS world, but, if you’re at all interested in mobile trends, you probably already knew that. But while Android continues to conquer, what you may not realize is how significantly this trend could affect what have become common practices among advertisers and businesses that want to take advantage of the new media frontier. As Android’s growth outpaces Apple’s, even after the release of the iPhone 4 just months ago, the once commonplace question for brands getting started with mobile marketing-native app, or mobile website?-no longer seems fitting for the state of the mobile market.

Those who built iPhone apps (instead of mobile websites) early on to capitalize on the remarkable growth of the market, are now, when it comes to market share, bound to Apple’s fate as the competition intensifies. To better articulate the problem with building native apps while the mobile market remains fragmented, let me first provide a little background information. The biggest barrier to Apple’s growth at this time, and what is empowering Android to snatch up more of the market, is that the distribution channels for the iPhone are very limited. In the U.S, AT&T isstillthe only wireless carrier that sells the iPhone. After months of rumors of a Verizon iPhone in the works, AT&T remains thesolecarrier to provide service for the iPhone and, therefore, Apple’s only distribution channel. Meanwhile, Android devices are available through any major carrier in the U.S., including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which makes the Android platform available to many more mobile users. That means, despite the wild popularity of the iPhone, unless, and until Apple can work out deals with other major U.S. carriers for distributing the device, iOS will keep bumping into the ceiling when it comes to global market share. And so will advertisers that have hitched their wagon to the iPhone star.

Whether or not Apple takes the steps necessary to recover market share (such as broadening the iPhone’s distribution channels), in the meantime marketers need to start re-evaluating their strategies for moving forward on the mobile web. In the past, a device-centric marketing campaign wasn’t necessarily a bad approach-prior to the rise of the Android operating system, and its adoption by consumers and carriers alike, iPhone owners were the audience worth targeting, whether through mobile advertising or developing a branded app native to the iOS platform.

But businesses that released iPhone apps early on may not have realized how much that choice would limit their exposure in the months and years to come. Today, it has become critical for advertisers to consider market (and audience) segmentation when weighing mobilization options. And in many cases, unless there is some circumstantial reason to consider iPhone owners a more qualified audience, or one with more buying power, it’s hard to make the case for an iPhone app, which will cost more to develop and ultimately reach less than a quarter of all mobile users.

If the current trends are any prediction, the mobile market will remain fragmented, as each platform grows and progresses separately from others. This means, for advertisers and businesses that want to overcome market segmentation and reach mobile users on all platforms, the best option currently available is website mobilization. Though there are some situations where building an app can be advantageous to advertisers, when it comes to today’s mobile market, to make your business accessible to the broadest audience, website mobilization is clearly the best solution. With a mobile web site, marketers, businesses and individuals can work around platform fragmentation problems, and start engaging the broader audience.