Strategy Analytics ( says Apple’s early lead in the smartphone space, massive credit card base, addition of the iPad and strong support for virtual good sales, will help maintain developer interest in iOS.

Creating compelling business models is essential for Apple, since the rapid growth in Android devices is forcing developers to choose one primary platform for building apps, notes the research group. Strategy Analytics says the iPhone is losing momentum due to the tsunami of compelling smartphones from Samsung, HTC and LG, which are stocked by operators looking for an alternative to Apple.

Despite that, the iPad remains unique in its ability to entice app developers. Even though the iPad lost 17% of developers between last year and this, more than half of those defectors have stated that they would return to developing for the iPad in the coming year. No other platform commands such loyalty.

The iPad surely benefits from both Apple’s ability to sell premium apps and the Apple lead in virtual good sales. As such, more than 30 percent of iPhone and iPad developers expect to leverage in-app virtual goods as a revenue source over the next year – more than any other platform. With virtual goods playing an increasingly critical role in applications development, growth of the Windows Phone, which lacks such offerings, could suffer.

“Virtual goods will be a key decision factor for developers, who realistically must choose where to focus their efforts beyond the obvious choice of either the Apple or Android operating system,” says Josh Martin, director of Apps Research at Strategy Analytics. “Companies such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which are locked in a battle for developers, have yet to take advantage of the virtual goods opportunity.”