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Instagram finally heads to Android, perpetuates “iPhone first” era

by Kristen Nicole

I have a friend that’s always quick to remind me that Instagram is great because it’s exclusive to the iPhone. The popular iOS photo-sharing app has taken the mobile world by storm, and you can’t get that popular on one platform without at least considering the other. And now, 14 million iOS users later, Instagram is finally sharing its plans to launch an Android app.

“We have two people working on Android now,” said Instagram chief Kevin Systrom at the LeWeb conference in Paris this week, though he didn't say when the app will hit the Market. “I'm excited to be able to see our numbers today nearly double.”

Who wouldn’t be excited to see their numbers doubling? Instagram’s risen in rank battling big players like Facebook, with an attractive photo-sharing network that relies heavily on its membership. And Instagram’s user base could really grow once they present an Android version to the world. Where iOS has a more unified developer platform, Android has the volume, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt says developers will ultimately go for that. Android just hit the 10 billion mark for apps downloaded, rapidly catching up to iOS’s 18 billion or so downloads with a two-year head start.

Will Android ever get apps first?

But Instagram’s case isn’t all that unique. Several app publishers, big and small, will launch an iOS version prior to an Android release, partially due to Android’s varied device portfolio. It’s often much easier to release an iOS app, and as the iPhone retains its popularity as a singular device, Android will have to better compete on the platform level. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is one important step towards its OS unification, but will it be enough? While Instagram has made a lot of Android fans happy with this week’s news, other popular iOS apps, like Evernote and Flipboard (both had major updates this week) also have a heady focus on iOS versus Android, as ZDNet points out.

The economy of Android’s OS is still maturing, from the developer standpoint to its revenue models. Google may boast about having reached 10 billion app downloads, but they’re less giving with revenue numbers. Nevertheless, Google’s got a strong business behind its search and advertising efforts, and a widely adopted mobile platform. As these two paths continue to converge, we may one day see more Android exclusives than iOS.