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Is Xero Apple-biased?

Posted 5 years ago in Platform by Matt Vickers
Posted by Matt Vickers

We sometimes get a bit of stick for a perceived bias toward iOS on smartphones. Are we ignoring the largest smartphone market? There’s so many more Android devices out there, right?

If we focussed on sales figures – it’d be a no-brainer. Android is clearly the platform of choice for buyers of smartphones. Only Android, iOS and Windows Phone really have any maturity as smartphone platforms. iOS sells a handful of models and Windows Phone hasn’t yet captured much of the market. All the diversity and variety in hardware is on the Android platform. If it weren’t for Android, all those telco handset stores would only have half a dozen models on display.


But the reality is that our data tells us our users, the people that buy and are considering buying subscriptions to our software, are predominantly using iOS devices. Visitors to our marketing site are prospective customers who are researching Xero and also existing users who want to login to and use Xero, and they are the sorts of people to read content, to watch video, to read our blog, and so on. The story this tells is that plenty of people might buy Android phones, but a smaller proportion of those people use those phones to browse our site or use our applications.

MobileStats.005 MobileStats.006

It was also interesting to note at Xerocon, when I asked the audience what type of device they had, over half the audience identified themselves as owning iPhones. Less than a quarter had an Android device. Xerocon attendees represent our most committed and loyal accounting partners.

It’s not just our site traffic and the people that come to our conferences. Check out Luke Wroblewski’s collation of research around Android use. The Android Engagement Mystery is real. People just don’t seem to use their Android handsets like they do iPhones – and if they do, they’re in the minority.

An argument might be made that if more people made apps for Android and put it on equal footing with iOS, we might see more people using Android handsets like we expect. However, it’s not our job to sell handsets or to encourage people to use their phones in a way that isn’t natural to them. Our job is to develop features and apps for our customers on the most highly utilised platforms – and to ensure the needs of as many of them as possible are met. In the mobile world – that currently means iOS and Android, while accepting that the bulk of our active mobile customers are using iOS. That may change, but it hasn’t yet.

Android’s an exciting platform and there’s enough use amongst our customer base to commit to supporting it. We’ll continue to make sure our full site works equally well on iPad, Android and other tablets, and in most cases we’ll continue to develop both iOS and Android apps where it makes sense. We covered some of our thoughts on apps on Monday. Despite the engagement mystery, there is definitely a trend toward Android – and we aim to be ready when and if a shift in usage patterns happens.


March 20, 2013 at 10.54 am

The iOS vs Android is an ongoing tech debate, I can help but think that the landslide of iPad sales vs Android tablet sales contribute towards the significant skew in the iOS favour too.

March 20, 2013 at 10.56 am

So the answer is yes, to the detriment of other platforms in terms of Xero user experience.

the irony here is that when I was working at a chartered accountancy one of the biggest reasons that people moved from MYOB et al to Xero is because Xero supported Apple computers where other packages didn’t. So Xero made a lot of headway by paying attention to marginalised systems, and is now marginalising Android and Windows devices themselves.

March 20, 2013 at 11.14 am

Sounds like a chicken/egg problem. Maybe the reason there aren’t android users subscribing and visiting the site is because the Xero Android version sucks. The reviews are low scoring, mention bugs, heck the 3 most current reviews right now are 2x 1* and a 2*.

However I think the bigger reason is simply cost. Xero isn’t cheap – the features are great for the price if you can make use of them though. iPhones also aren’t cheap.

A client that picks up a $399 Nexus 4 instead of a $799 iPhone is likely to be the kind of client that won’t pay $49 a month for their accounting software.

Matt Vickers
March 20, 2013 at 11.53 am

@Chris – No, I disagree. Our aim is to support all platforms via the web, iOS, Android, Windows, Tizen, Bada, Blackberry, you name it. In the desktop world – it wasn’t that we supported Apple, it’s that we supported the web, which was OS agnostic. When it comes to native apps, there are only a limited number of specialised mobile applications that we can build, and that has to be based on usage data. There is no sense in spinning up a team to service a 1-2% market share. iOS and Android have the numbers to justify specialised applications. As for other mobile devices and the web, I’ve got an update on that which I’ll post in the next few days.

Matt Vickers
March 20, 2013 at 12.02 pm

@Blake – Yes, it probably is a bit chicken and egg. There are users who are happy with Xero Touch on Android but we’d like it to work more consistently across different handsets, so we’re exploring a native build. It will be interesting to see what effect that has on usage – I’m not convinced we’ll see much difference.

Droid Xero User
March 20, 2013 at 12.57 pm

So in other words, yes. Despite every one of those graphs showing significant uptake in your own users with ‘droid devices. Despite 1/4 of your important loyal customers running ‘droid.

This would have been a much shorter and more accurate post to simply say “Yes we are and we’re fine with that. Can’t do what you need? Go elsewhere!”.

Linda Whyte
March 20, 2013 at 1.21 pm

Hi – I must admit I found the original Xero Touch too lacking in functionality to bother with, but it has improved. However, there has always been the option to log in as normal through safari which gives far greater functionality, and I presume android users can do this as well???
I look forward to further improvements, as is the norm with all Xero products..

Greg Southcombe
March 20, 2013 at 2.08 pm

Maybe it’s “the norm”? On our site (TravelCafe) 20% of traffic comes from mobile and of that 77% is an Apple device (about 50/50 iPad/iPhone)

Matt Vickers in reply to Greg Southcombe
March 20, 2013 at 4.10 pm

@Droid Xero User – Not sure how you reach that conclusion. Our intention is to build a native Android application and we’re currently hiring with that in mind. We’ve pointed out that our iOS numbers appear to be in excess of our Android numbers, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to support our Android users – they are there in sufficient numbers for us to want to do exactly that.

March 21, 2013 at 3.24 am

Hi, I am a McDonald’s franchisee in Malaysia and a satisfied Xero user since 2010. One of the reason why I choose Xero is because it supports iOS better than the others. Xero Touch is limited in capabilities but I believe Xero Team will do wonders with it in due time. Cheers!

March 21, 2013 at 9.24 am

Fair enough about then usage stats, but at least get the current version working again for Android users. The app has been unusable for a few weeks now, and I’m not the only one experiencing issues. New features aside, at least address bugs and issues so we can continue to use the existing features.

Matt Vickers in reply to Niraj
March 21, 2013 at 9.44 am

Hi @Niraj – There’s a known problem with the very latest version of Android (4.2.2) and the framework we used to build the HTML 5 version of the Android application. It’s this sort of thing which is acting as a catalyst for change. A fix for this is our top priority right now.

David Livingstone
March 21, 2013 at 10.55 am

I chose Xero primarily for the browser user interface first and the cloud base a close second (although the cloud is not a practical option without the browser: possible using a client app or VNC – but not sensible). Next was the bank feed facility and sound functional design. Only after starting did I find the outstanding support.

Now the topic: I have an enterprise-scale system experience and have implemented a number of ERP instances using an open-source, cloud-based, browser-UI suite running on industrial-strength Linux servers, which we have extensively customised for specialised vertical applications. It’s immensely powerful but necessarily complex and not suited to the SME environment that has been the natural market for MYOB, itself too locked in to the Windows single-user environment. Networking it is lipstick on a pig.

Using a cross-platform browser (initially Firefox & Opera, but these days Chrome & Safari are supported on multiple workstation platforms as well as mobile devices) provides a device-agnostic client service. (Pause for applause for Xero!)

I’d love to use Linux on the desktop and I’m immensely pleased with the well-deserved success of Android, but so far there is no practical, easy to use Linux desktop for the small business/private practice user. (Pause again for Google to announce the Chromium stand-alone desktop operating system – it’ll happen and remember you read it here first.)

The answer is a no-brainer – Apple provides:
– a solid *nix-like open-source operating system, with a simple, elegant and intuitive user interface;
– seamless integration and synchronisation of components;
– superb build-quality and beautiful design;
– extensive bundled and inter-operative software;
– iPhone & iPad market penetration means you’re not likely to be left with an unsupported orphan.

I haven’t chosen Apple for Xero; I’ve chosen Apple to remove the heavy support burden that comes as one of the few “standard” features of Windows which allows my clients and me to focus on the cloud-based services without the distraction of workstation failures.

I started buying Apple desktops when they moved to OS X, and will continue to as long as the product and support remains as good as it is today.

Droid Xero User
March 21, 2013 at 12.16 pm

@Matt .. Look at the volume of this article dedicated to talking down Android. The only paragraph in which there’s any vague positive outlook on Android is laced with “if”s. Taken as a whole, this article reads entirely like a justification for the half-assed approach on Android support so far – comments on the Play store are overwhelming negative and probably damage your brand and push people away from using it than the belief you’re expressing here that it’s because they don’t want to.

If your intention is to treat Android as a first-class platform (and again, nothing in this says anything of the sort, just a bunch of ifs and whens and vague “we’ll I guess we might” noises) then write purely that. Don’t bury it under a load of anti-Android beliefs and justifications. It doesn’t convince anyone you actually mean to treat Android as a first-class platform for your service.

Droid Xero User
March 21, 2013 at 12.21 pm

I’d add to that, your statements about not being platform biased because you wrote for the Web are equally nonsense. You can’t write an application of this complexity without testing against browsers. Now, I’ll wager you didn’t give a damn what the market share was for Safari (for reference: single digit percentage) when you tested against it.

Yet, here Xero is, using market share as the basis for what it’ll make sure is supported and for determining what the first-class platforms will be. It’s not consistent, and I believe it reflects a profoundly pro-Apple stance.

Matt Vickers
March 21, 2013 at 12.46 pm

@Droid Xero User – I can only reiterate that we want to support Apple and Android natively and we are busy hiring to build teams for both. Any negative feedback for our Android application thus far has only catalysed that.

Kerry Main
March 23, 2013 at 12.46 pm

Been here many times before. When a vendor tries to tell their customers what client platform to use, they inevitably lose Customers. “Trust us.. the xyz platform is better!”

Reality is that the vendor is typically trying to keep their support costs lower and not thinking about their Customers.

I was browsing and looking for a new cloud accounting package for my new business. I won’t even bother looking at Xero as I have been down this vendor biased platform road before.

Matt Vickers in reply to Kerry Main
March 23, 2013 at 4.12 pm

Hi @Kerry – We’re not telling anyone to use any particular platform or device. Xero is a web application which means it can be used on any computer or device with a web browser. You can’t get more cross-platform or non-vendor biased than that. In a subsequent post I talk about how we aim to improve the experience for devices of all brands, shapes and sizes.

When it comes to downloadable mobile applications, we do need to be a bit more selective. But those applications are not essential to using Xero. Xero is always available through the browser.

Dan Pollard
March 23, 2013 at 11.27 pm

After reading the thread I cant resist to comment, i
started developing software about 4-5 years ago, the ipad did not
exist, it was amazing that we were able to buy notebooks with
internal simcards, the next year iPads were released and then came
the realisation that app were available on phones in a big way
about 3 years ago. The only android platform that has any chance of
success at the moment is the galaxy everything else is a waste of
time. As a developer why would we waste precious resources on
platforms that have not proved they are going to stick around. To
give Xero or any other company a hard time for not making android
apps for products that are less than 2 years old is a bit rich. Not
only does it take a lot of time and money to make apps it also
reflects badly on the developer for not picking the winners to
back. As for us we are going to let the market settle for another
year and make sure galaxy is a stable and long running platform
with a consistent and stable operating system/environment before we
make android app. With that in mind i bought a galaxy after the
third repair i bought the 5, my goodness that is a great

March 24, 2013 at 12.24 am

Is it a full moon? Great to see the passion of mobile xero
app users! Would love to see an advert reminiscent of the ‘I’m a
Mac vs I’m a PC’. I.e. ‘I’m an iOS user vs I’m an Android user’.
However I have to admit my mental picture of Android users isn’t
too becoming after reading some of the comments on this post.
Personally I prefer to access Xero on my iPad (browser) and only do
my expenses (photo) on the mobile app. Love what your doing Xero.
Stay focused keep up the improvement and constant innovation with
what is already an excellent great product.

Kerry Main
March 24, 2013 at 3.58 am

Mobile devices (tablets, cell’s) are rapidly replacing laptops and desktops for many users (like me) who travel extensively. Imho, a guiding principal for any vendor that likes to think they are providing high end user experiences should state that using an Android (or BB) tablet or cell should have the same experience as an Iphone.

Kerry Main
March 26, 2013 at 3.47 am

Just to elaborate my last point… The successful App vendors are going to be those who stay out of the client preference religion wars (as already shown here). Picking one inevitably will cause that App vendor to limit their clients to that one choice they make. While developers will hate this statement (most developers like to pick their preferred develop platform on their own), the way to address this is not a technology strategy, but rather a business strategy that will isolate the App company from changes in client preferences and by code that is as cross platform neutral as possible (there are always some differences).

Is Apple hot now? Sure, but there is also a huge market for BB and Android. App vendors should state “we make an high quality App and let our Customers determine which client device (Android, Apple, BB, Wintel/Linux) they want to use.”

Or App vendors can continue to spin the roulette wheel and bet on their favorite numbers.

Matt Vickers
March 26, 2013 at 7.30 am

@Kerry – thanks, but I’ll refer you back to my previous comment. A high-quality cross platform app for app store distribution that competes with the native experience is a nice idea. Maybe one day we’ll see technology that’ll make that more easily achievable.

In the meantime – our web application can be used on any client device you want to use, and we’re busy enhancing that experience for everyone.

April 30, 2013 at 8.47 pm

I would like to see the model of phone in the stats. I think there is a usage pattern correlation between devices of similar price.

For example a Samsung Galaxy S3 owner may have similar usage patterns to a iPhone 4/4S owner.

Tablet statistics are strange though – wouldn’t a better graph be one of just tablets, no phones?

Matt Vickers
May 1, 2013 at 11.44 am

HI @Ben – might do a further breakdown in a future blog post. 🙂

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