Android is eating the planet as more people worldwide take up Android as either their first or latest smartphone. Problem is, those people need apps, and apps need coders to make them, and a number of hiring managers, founders and consultants here in NYC are coming up dry when looking for capable Android talent.
“Hiring for Android is almost impossible,” Ben Schippers, cofounder of dev-shop HappyFunCorp, told Betabeat. “You’re seeing a spike in Android use, and now we’re competing with Samsung, Facebook, Google and the Fortune 500 for talent.”
So why the shortage, if there’s such demand? For one, Silicon Valley just doesn’t care about Android like the rest of the country, even though Android still holds over 50 percent of the market in the U.S.. From a series of founder testimonials on Quartz:
The problem with Android is really a problem of perception. People think that developing on the platform is inferior to iOS, that it’s difficult to monetize, and that fragmentation is a huge pain. Whether or not this is actually true, perception is reality, so unless Google does a better job communicating its value proposition to developers (while minimizing functional weaknesses vis-a-vis iOS), these beliefs will hold true for a long time.
On top of that, the other perception problem is that iOS users are better early adopters for a startup trying to develop a following. The iOS crowd is more urban, wealthy and tech savvy—the kind of ~*~influencers~*~ young startups want access to.
This kind of barrier could, in another circumstance, start a vicious cycle the leads to the slow demise of a platform: nobody wants to develop for an OS, so no one uses it, so there’s no money there, so nobody wants to develop for that OS (rinse, repeat). But Android isn’t going anywhere—sure, the latter half of this year saw a lot of Android users going over to Apple now that the new phones are bigger, but they’ve still held the majority influence.
Besides, in countries with growing mobile marketplaces like China, Android isn’t just the majority, it’s the clear king at numbers like 80 percent and higher. And the bigger Android gets, and the longer it generates trust, the earlier startups are going to want to get access to that piece of the pie.
“About a year ago, it became very clear that you can still lead with iOS, but you really need to build Android very soon after,” Mr. Schippers said. “Now, you need to be addressing Android very quickly, or building them effectively at the same time.”
Jeff Ng, a developer and consultant who helps startups build their mobile strategy, told Betabeat that most of the Android coders he’s found have to be poached away from high-earning salaries.
“Sometimes, developers are freelancing on contract basis,” Mr. Ng said. “but they’re usually stacked up, so there’s no availability.”
The new generation of Android coders isn’t going to show up overnight, either. The problem with simply training a legion of Android coders in a few quick months is that market share isn’t the only influence which an OS focuses on first.
Also, Android is just harder to code on. First, there’s “device fragmentation.” If you build for iOS, you only have to take in a small handful of phones and tablets when designing your app. But Android powers phones and tablets from all sorts of manufacturers, in addition to car dashboards and wearable decides. The book subscription app Oyster had exactly this problem in June when Oyster rolled out their Android app.
“Android supports over 4,000 different readers,” Oyster cofounder and CPO Willem Van Lancker told Betabeat. “To build as beautiful a reader as we have on iOS takes a lot of consideration.”
Then there’s language. Android apps are written in Java, which is clunkier to code in than languages like Ruby or JQuery. Apple, on the other hand, has built an entire developer ecosystem around Swift, their own langauge based on Objective C, and have been doing so for years. There are already classes, intensives and communities built around iOS development.
“Objective C isn’t really less accessible than Java, but Apple was ahead of the game—they got a four year head start,” Mr. Schippers said.
So what is Google going to do about the shortage of developers for the platform they built? First, they’ve started partnering with online schools like Udemy and some of the local code programs like Flatiron School to start offering Android development classes where there are already full-time iOS intensives. We also also talked to coders who were also impressed with Google’s new recruitment tools and style guides.
Mr. Schippers, Mr. Ng and the other devs we talked to were convinced that eventually, the pendulum will swing and the coders they desperately need will be as available as iOS developers. In the meantime, Android developers are going to see their salaries go up significantly.
“There’s still some catching up that needs to be done,” Mr. Ng said. “But it’s just a matter of time.”