iOS or Android: Which platform first?
If you’re looking to build a custom application, there are many different questions to ask an iOS app development company.
Still, one of the most common questions we receive about the development process is whether we recommend building both iOS and Android versions of an app simultaneously or just one at a time. And if app development for each platform occurs at different times, should iOS development or Android development come first?
We touch on this question in Chapter 3 of our book InspiringApps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps. In this article, we’ll provide more insight into this debated topic.
Should we develop iOS & Android at the same time?
When feasible in mobile app development, we recommend picking a single platform to start with rather than developing for both simultaneously. You may not have that luxury if you’re developing an app to release to consumers who all need to have the mobile app at the same time—perhaps in conjunction with a film or other product release.
However, approaching one platform at a time in the development process can provide some benefits as you learn from your experience and user feedback on the first platform.
Unless a mobile app is straightforward, it will undergo several iterations before offering the desired experience. Trying to manage learnings across both iOS devices and Android devices takes work. A focused approach allows the feedback and refinements from the first platform to facilitate quicker mobile app development on the second platform, saving both time and money in producing across mobile devices.
What factors should we consider in picking an OS?
When advising customers whether to focus on Android development or iOS app development first, we consider these factors to help guide the decision.
User & Market Preferences by Platform
Industry & Demographics
You may find an industry bias for operating systems (OS) that affects your project. For instance, we found iOS devices more prevalent in medical applications, while Android app development seems more prevalent in construction.
If you don’t have industry insight, try checking your website’s analytics to determine user platforms. Trends might help decide what type of platform may be best suited.
You can also use sites like Mixpanel to discover applications and software more suited to that platform. If one platform is used far more than the other, you know a preference exists and should develop accordingly.
Likewise, depending on the market you are serving, age-related differences affect whether you should focus on iOS app development or Android app development first.
For app developers who intend to produce mobile applications for the general public and do not know the OS preference of their target audience, these market considerations may provide some guidance:
- In the United States, the market share of both iOS and Android has stayed constant over the past year, hovering at or around 60% and 40%, respectively.
- In Europe, the UK, Asia, and many other countries, Android has had a higher market share than iOS.
- Android maintained its lead in global market share capturing around 70% in August of 2022.
Android devices have captured most of the global market share for many years. Google provides free and open-source software manufacturers can install on their smartphone devices. Android developers are at an advantage in many markets because of the large number of Android users and the lower cost of Android devices to consumers.
Unquestionably, Android is the world’s most popular smartphone OS. However, Apple has a powerful brand, particularly in the US, where Apple’s ecosystem, stable OS, and device durability enable iOS to keep large numbers of active and premium smartphone users.
OS Adoption Rates & Upgrade Complexity
Apple has a remarkable track record of getting iOS users to upgrade to current versions of its OS, whereas Android adoption is much slower:
- As of May this year, 81% of users have updated to the current iOS.
- As much as 60% of users are running older versions of Android operating systems on their phones.
Apple handles the distribution of its iOS updates exclusively. Developing for and supporting fewer OS versions on Apple devices leads to quicker builds, faster testing, and more direct support in the long run for iOS developers.
Google only gives direct updates to its products, like the Pixel series. Other manufacturers like Samsung must first get the update from Google and optimize it for Android devices before sending it to Android users. Some mobile carriers also go through updates before distribution, too. Android developers may have to deliver more app fixes as a result.
Speed & Ease of Development & Publishing
In the app development world, getting an app out quickly and easily is crucial for its success and reach. However, when choosing between Android and iOS platforms, speed of development and publishing are less “cut-and-dry” factors.
Android’s pros and cons center around its flexibility.
- Pro: The Android platform enables a more flexible development environment. Because Windows, Mac OS, and Linux all support Java—which Android relies on—Android developers can build Android apps on various machines.
- Con: Whereas iOS developers build for a limited type of device (iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch), Android accessibility to a wide range of devices means more devices to test and support.
Speed and ease of publishing represent a pretty even playing field between Android and iOS.
- Testing: Google Play allows developers to publish multiple versions of the same app (alpha and beta) directly on the Google Play Store. With these alpha and beta versions, developers can test the app live, fix bugs, and launch it to a broader audience. However, through TestFlight, Apple does support previewing versions of an app with up to a thousand beta testers before releasing it for wide distribution in the Apple App Store.
- Compliance: Furthermore, Google has become less lenient and more time-consuming towards apps that developers submit to Google Play, narrowing the line between ease of publishing on Google Play vs. the App Store.
To help navigate the differences and complexities in more detail, check out the Complete Guide to the App Store & Google Play. This free guide provides step-by-step direction and best practices on Android and iOS platforms.
Development Cost & Profit Opportunities
Cost and profit will vary depending on the type and complexity of the app you’re developing; still, Android apps are generally more expensive to create than iOS apps are for iPhones. Overall, Android users tend to favor free apps and spend less on in-app purchases than iOS users, which can lead to higher sources of profit on iOS, not accounting for market differences.
Should we develop for iOS or Android first?
When developing an app, choosing between iOS and Android platforms is important. This decision can greatly impact the success and profitability of your app. To make the best choice, we recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with the nuances of native, hybrid, and cross-platform development before diving into app development.
Like an artist considering each brushstroke on a canvas, creating an app requires careful planning. If you have questions, consider contacting a trusted, experienced app development partner like InspiringApps.
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