iOS vs Android – Which to develop first?

Richard Jess

October 12, 2017

As a mobile app development company, this is possibly one of the most popular questions we get asked (along with ‘how much would it cost?). The problem is, the answer is rarely straightforward and can be influenced by a range of factors, which we will discuss shortly.

We understand getting an application developed first and foremost can be a daunting undertaking, but launching it shouldn’t be. Our job is to guide you in the best possible direction and that may mean developing one platform before another. Before we outline the reasons for this, here is an example that you might find interesting:

Instagram, first launched on iOS in 2010, became available for Android users only 4 years later, in 2014.

apple
android

What are the risks of developing both iOS and Android apps at the same time, well:

  • It will be expensive paying for the development of two apps simultaneously
  • When forming the app ideas and requirements it will be difficult to anticipate how the users will react. It is much more effective and worthwhile developing for one platform and fixing the problems identified before developing a second platform. Developing both is a risky strategy.
  • If changes are required during the development, it is a waste of time making every change twice, which could have been identified after launching one application

Well-established and more resourceful companies may feel the upfront expense and risk is worthwhile to develop both at the same time. However, unless the app is fairly straightforward, it will need to go through the same iterative process (similar to any other application) before it provides the best experience for its users.

At the start of this year (2017), iOS and Android shared a significantly large piece of the market, 96% to be exact. They have more or less wiped the floor with the other operating systems on the market, so iOS or Android is the only debate that matters in regards to platform.

At Odd Panda, more often than not we recommend developing first for iOS and then Android, but in the interest of fairness we will discuss the key factors that should be considered when making your decision. Let’s find the strengths and weakness of both platforms for each key-influencing factor:

1. Popularity

Having heard the surprising 96% iOS and Android market share, it would be interesting to see the breakdown for each platform. To demonstrate the fluctuation in such a short period of time, lets first go back to 2012 when Android had a 21.5% share of the global mobile market compared with a 61% iOS share. Fast forward just five small years to 2017, and currently the tables have turned. Android has 65.53% share of the market, whilst iOS has 32.34%.

If you are basing your decision on the popularity of each platform you should understand that although iOS has less of the market share, there are many areas of the world where Apple dominates the market and the demand for their products far outweighs Android devices. This includes countries with a higher standard of living and developed economies such as Europe, China, Asia and America. This will surely have an impact on a development decision.

2. Revenue

Although launching your application on Android will give you a broader audience (speaking different languages), launching an iOS application will target an audience with a higher purchasing power helping to deliver a faster Return on Investment (ROI). For example, last year (2016), the Apple App Store generated almost 64% more revenue than Android even though iOS had half as many users.

The best way of resolving the revenue factor is that Android and iOS platforms use two very different revenue models. Android generally have a higher percentage of ad-supported applications, whereas paid apps are still very common on iOS.

3. Development complexity

This topic is very easily comparable and there is clearly only one winner. Apple has a limited number of devices running on iOS – the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad, which makes development and bug testing so much simpler. The development journey flows much faster as apps are built for a limited range of devices and operating systems.

The complexities of Android development are higher simply due to fragmentation. There are tons of Android smartphone and tablet devices with different screen sizes and aspect ratios adding greater complexities. As a result the app should be suitable for every device and screen size on the market. This adds both technical complexities and time complexities because the UI design will require time to cope with the various screen sizes.

4. Tablet development

Despite the majority of applications being built mainly for the mobile platform, it is worth mentioning the dominance of iOS in the tablet sector. The iPad has totally taken tablet usage to a new level, so much so that you will rarely come across an Android tablet in any business context or meeting. This should be considered when making a decision, as most apps will be developed and responsive across mobile and tablet devices.

5. Launching the app

Although Android have competed strongly, hopefully by this point you are beginning to join our way of thinking that iOS may be a better platform to develop first. Even when the app is perfected and fully complete there is one final stumbling block before you can cross that finish line – launching to the app store. Android uses Google Play Store, whereas iOS uses the Apple App Store and both have their pros and cons.

The Google Play Store is much more flexible when launching an application and will only take a few hours until it is available for download. Throughout this time period the developer can easily run a live beta test and make updates where appropriate. The one-off cost of this process at a mere $25 (£19) is also very inviting for the user.

In comparison, the Apple App Store is much more rigorous and strict in their publishing approval policy. Every app and update in the App Store are required to go through a strict human approval process which can take between a couple of days and a week to complete. The biggest downfall, in comparison to the $25 one-off payment on the Google Play Store, is that users are required to pay $100 per year for launch on the Apple App Store.

Although it may feel like Android is easier and cheaper to launch, some would look at this and say the complex approval process is a positive asset to ensure the application adheres to modern standards and practices. The additional benefit of iOS is that software called TestFlight can be used for bug fixes, a final testing review and user experience check/feedback before launching. This is not possible with Android.

Platform summary

Having dealt with the key factors that should influence your decision for which platform to build first, let’s summarise the advantages and disadvantages of each to make that decision simpler.

iOS Advantages

  • Strong market share in America and Europe
  • Generates a higher revenue (on average)
  • Easier and faster development process
  • Better testing software tools

iOS Disadvantages

  • User base smaller than Android
  • More complexities when publishing
  • Not ideal for in-app ads

Android Advantages

  • Larger user base
  • Faster and less restrictive publishing process
  • More revenue from in-app ads

Android Disadvantages

  • Longer and more complex to design apps due to fragmentation
  • Less revenue
  • More potential bugs due to range of devices and screen sizes

Should simultaneous development be considered?

Although we have debated at length the advantages of building one app initially over the other, there may be circumstances when developing both apps at the same time is the best option. However, we would recommend avoiding developing two Native applications simultaneous. At Odd Panda we use React-Native when developing apps simultaneously and the advantages of this are as follows:

  • It enables us (the developer) to build cross platform using a single source code
  • The framework doesn’t distinguish between the Android and iOS platform
  • Both apps are built faster when using React Native compared to the Native option
  • It simplifies the development complexities because it is a compiler, which only uses JavaScript
  • The UI for each app will remain fully native

Note: More information on React Native and some of the top businesses using React Native can be found here – https://facebook.github.io/react-native/showcase.html

Conclusion

Although these five points should form the basis of your decision, it is important to know your target audience in terms of demographic, interests, location and other characteristics. What characteristics do users of each platform have, we hear you ask? Well:

Average iOS Users

  • Predominantly live North America and Western Europe
  • Spend more money on internet and in-app purchases
  • Tendency to focus more on Business, Education and Lifestyle applications

Average Android Users

  • Predominantly live in Asia, South America, Central and Eastern Europe
  • More inclined to appreciate price over quality
  • Tendency to focus more on apps with Entertainment, Communication and software tools
  • Common in-app ad users

The iOS vs Android battle is continuously intense, and on many occasions there is no correct answer to which platform to build first. However, our preference is iOS because of the demographics, testing and UI capabilities as well as speed to the market. We believe iOS users want good quality applications with a willingness to spend money on additional content, products and services within the mobile app.

Although we can provide the facts and our recommendations, the decision ultimately rests in your hands and with the comparison presented above, we are sure you will make the right one.

Good luck!

Speak to us about developing your app!

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