Why Nike's FuelBand Won't Have an Android App

Chris Velazco, writing for TechCrunch:

Exactly why the app has been shuttered isn’t yet clear, but that hasn’t stopped we members of the press from ruminating a bit. Consider Business Insider’s take, courtesy of Steve Kovach. He posits that a close relationship between Apple and Nike (Tim Cook sits on Nike’s board, in addition to running Apple) may have ultimately stymied development. For what it’s worth, I suspect the real reason isn’t quite as intriguing — ensuring a smooth syncing experience for a handful of supported iDevices seems like a much simpler proposition than doing the same for a veritable galaxy of Android devices, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the company just got sick of the process.

This story caused quite a bit of consternation in the Android community. It must be a huge disappointment for Android fans that use the FuelBand.  The comments in the linked article (and many others on the web) are filled with questions about this move. Let's analyze the most popular hypotheses.

1. Tim Cook Killed It

As noted in the quote above, Tim Cook is on Nike's board so the idea behind this hypothesis is that he killed the Android app to hurt Android (and by extension, Google). While this certainly sounds juicy, it doesn't necessarily ring true. The potential backlash from making this kind of move is not worth the payoff. At best, this would eliminate a single application for a single device. At worst, this could potentially incur anti-trust allegations. Either way, not worth it.

2. Nike Doesn't Realize That the Android Market is Larger Than the iOS Market

This idea is actually sort of funny. The folks saying this are essentially arguing that Nike, for all its marketing analysis prowess, is somehow unaware that Android has roughly twice as much of an installed user base than iOS. That just doesn't make sense. It's far more likely that Nike realized that the time, money, and effort spent on the Android side may not be worth the investment. The revenue numbers for the App Store versus Google Play as well as the web usage numbers tell an interesting story of how the Android market, despite being considerably larger than the iOS market, is somehow considerably less lucrative.

3. Android Fragmentation is the Issue

This makes sense. The myriad devices coupled with the fact that many devices on the market run a very old version of Android (i.e. Gingerbread) stymies certain types of app development. In this case, device integration via the Bluetooth stack isn't straight-forward when looking at different devices.

What is the most likely reason for Nike dropping Android support for the FuelBand? It is probably the combination of higher development and testing costs (due to platform fragmentation) with the decreased revenue return expectations when developing for Android.

It's not all gloom and doom, though. The fact of the matter is that companies can change their mind at any time. It's not as if Nike committed to never developing for Android. As well, the combined market share for the excellent Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean versions of Android is finally starting to eclipse the market share for Gingerbread. This means that it'll be much easier and less expensive for developers to create apps for Android.

Patience, folks.