Why Does Apple Make So Many Android Apps?

It’s all about the money

Key Takeaways

  • Apple makes more Android apps than you'd expect.
  • Tim Cook’s Apple loves services revenue.
  • Apple’s obsession with services might end up hurting its core business.
Woman siting in bed while working on a MacBook

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For a company known for its exclusive, tightly integrated hardware and software, Apple sure is making a lot of Android apps. 

Apple Music, Apple TV, Beats, AirTags support, and FaceTime video calls in the browser—all these are Apple apps running on Android devices. What’s going on? Two things: Apple loves services revenue, and Apple is scared of government regulation.

"Apple is playing the market," Christen da Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire via email. "The more they appeal to Android users, the more money they can get from them. They're essentially muscling in on Android-specific spaces to secure more market share."

Money Money Money

Two things seem to have defined the Tim Cook era at Apple. One is relentlessly efficient manufacturing of absurdly high-quality devices. The other is Cook’s love of services revenue. The iPhone money train won’t last forever, but if you can sign up all those customers for Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple TV, and so on, then you can take a sweet chunk of money from your most loyal customers every month.

The more they appeal to Android users, the more money they can get from them.

But why stop there? Why not sell those services to folks who don’t own Apple devices? Or perhaps people who own one device, like an iPad, but use a PC at work and own an Android phone?

"Apple, like many other technology companies, is finding value in services. We are seeing a continuing shift for companies to develop hardware products, but supplement them with ongoing service costs to the consumer," technology reviewer Michael Archambault told Lifewire via email. "Whether Apple Music is on iPhone or Android, for example, Apple can continue to grow its services’ hold."

Eaten apple next to four stacks of coins of varying heights

Damir Spanic / Unsplash

Historically, everything Apple has done has been aimed at selling more hardware, from free OS updates (Apple charged as much as $129 for its OS X updates until 10.9 Mavericks in 2013), to a suite of excellent free software like iMovie and GarageBand. But recently, that focus has shifted. Now, services are one of Apple’s fastest-growing profit centers. There’s a reason the Apple TV app appears pretty much everywhere that TV apps can run: money. 

Running Scared

Another part of the Apple-Android puzzle is the slew of anti-trust investigations against Apple, Amazon, and other big tech companies around the world. In particular, Apple’s app store is under great pressure, because it’s the only way to get apps onto iOS, and Apple charges developers 30% on pretty much anything that passes through it. 

"Apple has been under scrutiny for anti-competitiveness and ecosystem lock-in," says Archambault. "Showing a bit of willingness to allow Apple services onto other platforms helps to shine a positive light on the company; Apple is essentially saying, 'We aren't anti-competitive—look at how many of our services are available on any platform of choice.'"

But this is likely a distant second reason. Building apps for other platforms could be viewed as a way to increase lock-in, not to alleviate it. It’s much more likely that Apple is trying to expand beyond its iPhone and Mac markets, and even beyond hardware altogether. 

But this approach also comes with risks. Apple’s obsession with services revenue threatens its core business. By insisting that almost every purchase through its App Store pays a 15-30% cut, Apple risks government regulation. 

Whether Apple Music is on iPhone or Android, for example, Apple can continue to grow its services’ hold.

This regulation currently seems to be targeting Apple’s inclusion of tightly integrated first-party apps. And this integration—the tight fusion of hardware with software—is Apple’s unique attraction. This integration makes the M1 Macs possible. It’s why the iPhone is impossibly powerful, but also frugal on power. It’s how fancy features like iOS 15’s Live Text and Universal Control are made possible. 

And it’s this obsession with services revenue that is driving Apple’s push into Android. Why else would it commit resources to develop for a rival platform? 

Perhaps, in the long term, some Android users will be tempted over to the other side, but in the meantime, Apple doesn’t care where the services cash comes from. But the government does, and that might turn out to be a big problem.

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