Android lags behind the iPhone platform in medical app development – both in volume, and in quality. There isn’t even a medical category in the Android marketplace, an issue we wrote about extensively last week.

Developers have relayed to us some of their concerns and technical hurdles in creating medical apps for the Android marketplace. We have complied some of the major themes of their comments – some might actually shock you.

The main question we posed to Android app developers: What hurdles have you encountered, and what concerns do you have, as you create medical apps for Android?

  1. Android is still relatively ‘new.’ The last year has seen significant growth in the number and popularity of Android devices. That being said, Android has yet to build up a group of loyal followers on the same scale as the iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch). Fewer devoted users means less downloads, and smaller profit margins for app developers. One developer of both iPhone and Android apps reports In terms of sales and revenue, the Android experience does not come anywhere close to the iPhone experience.” Will the market for Android phones continue to explode? Can Android app developers expect greater profits for their labor in the future? The answers to these crucial questions depend both on the continued popularity the Android devices, and (perhaps even more importantly) on the timing of the iPhone’s rumored expansion to Verizon and other wireless networks.
  2. Variability in user experience. In contrast to the iPhone, the Android experience differs significantly depending on which hardware (phone) you own. You have heard the oft-repeated complaints from Android users without access to newer apps on older versions of the Android operating system, but Android developers also report difficulties with the appearance of their apps on different Android devices – even those running the same version operating system. Menu malfunctions, screen size discrepancies, and non-appearing items all seem to plague Android devices more than the iPhone/iPad.
  3. Storage limitations. Most Android devices are equipped with a small amount of internal storage, with extra space on a larger removable storage card. Since most applications cannot be run solely from the SD card, the amount of space for numerous apps is limited. This unfortunate feature of Android devices (iPhones typically have comparatively more internal storage) limits not only the quantity of apps for health professionals, but also limits the quality. Large apps, especially those with multimedia, quickly fill the limited storage space on Android devices. Several months ago, I called T-Mobile customer service for help with our MyTouch, which had been running slow. After reporting that I had downloaded approximately 25 apps (a small number, I thought), the tech support person told me “we recommend limiting the number of apps on your phone to ten. Having too many apps is probably slowing down your phone.” Sad.Thankfully, a solution to this problem is on the horizon. Skyscape and Clinically Relevant Technologies, among others, are finding ways of storing multimedia and other large components on the SD card, while running the base app from internal storage.
  4. Security concerns. In theory, iPhone developers have less freedom to create innovative apps than do Android developers. We keep hearing that the strength of Android is its “open” nature. But the comparatively “restrictive” nature of the iPhone platform also assures greater security for developers from a proprietary perspective. “The manner in which provisioning and licensing of devices… is controlled [by the iPhone] helps protect proprietary developer rights better than the Android OS does.”

Here at iMedicalApps, we consistently hear from medical app developers that the experience with creating medical apps for Android has been marred by technical frustration and severely lagging sales in comparison to the iPhone. The Android faithful can only hope these problems will resolve as the Android market matures and developers find innovative means of creating and protecting their products.

Developers: have you had similar experiences as these? How are you seeing the overall experience improve?

Based on your immediate and continued feedback, we will be updating this post in the future to reflect the evolution of the Android operating system, including the resolving and ongoing issues for developers.