Android vs iOS - Which Mobile OS Will Help Filmmakers?

Apple has released iOS 4.2, which comes with a slew of improvements for iOS devices. However, iOS isn't the only kid on the block, with reports that Samsung's Android-powered iPad competitor shipped 600,000 units in the first month. Amid reports that Android phones are outselling iPhones (possibly 2-to-1), and the news that Apple and Google are locked into competition over who will premiere "tap to buy" first (which will allow us to use our smartphones as virtual credit cards), I thought I'd delve into No Film School's analytics to see what percentage of visitors are running iOS versus Android. Both mobile OSes will be a growing distribution platform for movies, but which OS will help independent filmmakers?

First let's look at No Film School's (mobile) readership:

iOS-powered devices account for 80% of No Film School's mobile traffic, whereas Android is only responsible for 10%. Sure, iPhones have a sizable lead on Android phones, given the iPhone was released in 2007, and the current explosion of Android only happened in late 2009 with the release of Android 2.0 devices. But the iPad has only been on sale since April, and it already accounts for double the traffic of Android devices. Just because Android is shipping a lot of devices does not mean those phones are being used to access and consume content at anywhere near the same rate as iOS-powered devices.

More importantly than this web site's traffic, iOS is a much better engine for commerce. This article guesstimates that Android's market receives only 2% the commerce of iOS:

Overall we estimate that $6,000,000 has been paid out to developers for games, and $15,000,000 has been paid out on apps. That is a total of $21,000,000, nearly 1/50th the amount paid out to devs on iPhone.

Anecdotally, I only recently bought my first Android application -- the vintage photo processor Vignette -- but everyone I know running iOS has bought many applications. I can't say the same about my droid-based friends; anyone who's used Android's market knows it's terrible, and it's in fact restricted to the devices themselves, with no web equivalent (though the market is reportedly one of the main focuses of the next version). Thus the need for third-party Android app marketplaces like AppBrain: the default store is that bad.

As filmmakers and creatives who need to find new ways to monetize our content, the openness of Android is certainly a draw for development, as is the fact that it supports Flash. However, the OS suffers from extreme fragmentation problems, with hundreds of devices running dozens of different version of the OS at any given time, which can make development difficult (especially if you ask Steve Jobs). Some developers are even developing multiple versions of the same app for different Android devices, which will be a headache with hundreds of iterations in the wild. In my own experience, my Motorola Droid was a terrific phone -- until I updated to Android 2.2, and now the phone is bug-ridden and woefully slow. If it were a simple process to rollback to 2.1, I would, but I might have to reinstall all of my apps if I do so. Not an optimal experience, despite my appreciation of the platform's open philosophy.

Finally, there is no iTunes equivalent on Android. While the difficulty in getting independent content into iTunes has been well-cataloged, at least there's a way to buy movies on iDevices. On Android, there's no easy way to buy a movie, and for that reason the platform fails filmmakers entirely. Though Google is reportedly working on releasing Google Music to enable song purchases on the device, the title of the service should be indicative that it's not a movie marketplace (though they could be making the same mistake Apple did when they named iTunes something music-specific, since it's now a video and app marketplace as well). There are also fundamental issues with Android's security and its ability to provide consistent Digital Rights Management controls, which is why only certain Android phones will be getting Netflix. That'd be like Netflix Instant Streaming working on PCs from Dell, but not HP. Fragmenting a consumer base only serves to decrease sales, and besides, there's no way distribute movies on Android yet anyway. In its current incarnation, when it comes to contributing to the future of film distribution, I'm afraid Droid Does Not.

Am I missing something? Have any thoughts on the future of these (or other) mobile platforms for film distribution? Chime in with a comment...

Your Comment


I'm not familiar with XBox, but is there any chance of distribution opportunities through XBox Live or PSN? That'll give access to TVs, and in the case of XBox Live, it would tie in to Windows Phone 7 as well. And if a PlayStation Phone ever arrives, PSN may tap into that as well.

November 23, 2010 at 1:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I think that iOS will be the dominate force for filmmakers moving forward. Android needs to settle on one universal operating system that works the same on every device before they can really be an asset to filmmaking. I had the first Android phone which was the T Mobile G1 and it was a very solid phone. However, I rarely used the Android marketplace since it was so cluttered and confusing to find apps that you would really like or need. I recently picked up an Iphone 4 and I could never go back to an Android phone.

The Iphone has so many apps for filmmaking that I use. I find it really helpful on set to use some of these apps and also to show people my work while I am on the go. I am sure the new Android phones can do this as well, but I have found the Iphone to work so reliably and so quickly. I recently was an actor in a small short and I used an app called rehearsal on my Iphone. I was able to highlight all my lines and rehearse them with the other actor. It was a first for me and being able to do that just blew me away.

Being from Las Vegas , I am a betting man. My bet is on iOS. It easy to use and easy to find what you need. Apple is a very smart company and makes products that are simple to use. It will always be a hit with the masses.

That is mobile though. I do believe that Google TV is the future of television. It might take a while to catch on, but when it does it will open up huge doors for indie filmmakers. Hopefully in the near future we will have a fully operational fiber optic network in the U.S. and be able to stream Blu Ray quality content in mere seconds.

Going off topic a little bit , I still take Quentin Taratinos advice when it comes to independent filmmaking. In such a competitive market where everyone can make a movie its up to you to make the next Reservoir Dogs. If you can make a film that just blows everyone away , everyone else will just be waves on the beach. If you make a great movie that changes the landscape of filmmaking , it does not matter what device you have. People will find a way to watch no matter what operating system or format.

November 23, 2010 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Rob Sholty

I've an android phone and haven't found many apps for it, while people I know with iPhones have got a few good and free apps. I expect I'll get an iPhone at the next upgrade.

November 25, 2010 at 8:48AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Having experience with both an android phone and now an iPhone 4, I would have to say the iPhone is a much better phone for filmmakers, mainly due to the massive amount of apps for filmmaking in the app store. The best resource for andriod and iOS film making apps is: My personal favorite is the hitchcock storyboard creator:

November 25, 2010 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I second the notion that GoogleTV is the future of television. While mobile technology is new and thus customers will put up with the walled garden of Apple for convenience, tv is established and people are used to being able to watch or play whatever they want whenever they want and I believe GoogleTV will encourage Android development so as to better sync with the TV content. In the end it really depends on how people end up using their devices, I have an Ipad and almost never use it to watch any video content but I suspect younger people will and since you on your sight have already said indie film isn't hip or cool enough for most young people, I think it's unlikely they will be looking for indie fare. Even if they were, young people are the single most unemployed section of the population and are unlikely to pay for media they don't have to. I see studio fare will probably do well, maybe short short films but without big names or a killer trailer to hook young people they will rather download a movie like Transformers 2 that they know they like rather than take a chance to spend a buck on a movie they've never heard of. I also think if you are older you are going to fire up an app like Netflix and Hulu and watch something rather than sift through what is honestly the dregs of most indie film. Now if Sundance or the IFC channel, (ahem)....made an app that aggregated short films which are the most interesting and exciting or talked about being produced that's one thing, but if I am watching something on my mobile device I'm almost assuredly looking for instant gratification and not interested in finding the newest amateur masterpiece. Just my two cents.

November 25, 2010 at 12:57PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I found this article really a budding indie filmmaker and being on my way to the local mobile store, I would be thankful if you would say a word or two on how Symbian fares with iOS vis-a-vis filmmaking. I fell in love with the Nokia N8 but your article has made me stop and think? The N8 has a whopping 12Mpixels and I've seen some amazing footage but what about the apps for filmakers side? Any nofilmschool-ers out there have some experience/suggestions to share?...Should I propose to Nokia?

November 27, 2010 at 4:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


iOS suffers from fragmentation too, just at a slower rate. Some things that run on iPad wont run on iPhone, and there is huge performance differences between the 3G, 3GS, and iPhone 4 that make applications perform differently.

iPhone will always dominate in the filmaker arena because that market has always been Apple dominated. Android allows for more intuitive apps though because the developers have more options on what they can tap into on the phone.

November 29, 2010 at 9:09AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


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