iOS vs Android development – which platform is better to start with? This is the question that many app entrepreneurs come up with. Read this list of pros and cons for both platforms to find out for yourself.
Making mobile app can be a profitable business once you got the basics and gain some initial experience. In this post, I’m going to show you the pros and cons of mobile app development for three platforms: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
The reason for this comparison is to find the best platform to start with if you don’t have enough budget or resources to create the app for more than one.
In this article, I assume that you have decided between responsive web design (RWD) and native app. If not, you can read here about how to choose between them.
In this case, it is reasonable to find the one that will be the best fit for your idea and your audience – which is actually your potential customers and users.
I’ve chosen those three platforms – iOS, Android, and Windows Phone – for one more reason.
It is because at Whalla Labs we develop mobile apps for those mobile operating systems for over three years know and when we are talking about mobile app development for them, you can rest assured that we know what we are talking about.
Speaking of mobile app development we will consider app’s reach, but also about market competition, monetization possibilities and more.
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Now is the time to dig deeper into it.
In this part, we will take a look at the Android platform. Here are the pros and cons at the glance.
So this might give you some idea of what it takes to develop a mobile app for Android, now let’s discuss it further.
Take whatever data you can find, they all tell the same thing – Google is shaping up to be the biggest player in mobile devices OS market and starting your first mobile app on its platform will give you more users globally. Well, at least in theory.
Demographics are related to market share. The more people you can reach, the bigger the possibility to reach specific demographics and niches.
And the truth is that Android users have broader content category reach.
Whether you are going to create a mobile game for kids, business tool for B2B industry or health monitoring app for seniors, with Android you are able to find more highly specific niches with potential users.
This is a double edge sword for Android and I will speak again about it while covering the fragmentation, but for now let’s focus on its bright side.
The good thing coming from Android’s presence on lots of different devices is that you are not bound to the specific group of users. Android devices come with the wide range of screen sizes and prices, therefore, much more people are able to install your mobile app.
And since some of them can not have money to spend it on your app, you can still cash on them by displaying ads.
In the Q1 2015, Android has overtaken the iOS in revenue generation on all types of devices, according to Opera Mediawork. Although iOS is still on top while it comes to monetization, this is a serious step forward for Android and everybody willing to make money with ads.
As I mentioned before, Android users may not be willing to spend money on apps, but there are other ways to monetize your application and displaying ads is one of them.
Compared to iOS app development, Android has fewer requirements for development. The only thing you or your team has to have is a computer and knowledge of Java programming language.
Of course, you can use the Android Studio, which is the Google’s official Integrated Development Environment (IDE), but you don’t have to. You can choose from lots of other development tools, thanks to great Android developer’s community around the world and the fact that Android is open-sourced since its very beginning.
Since Google Play has much more simple guidelines and review systems, it takes less time to feature app to the app store.
In general, it takes up to two or three days to get the app published on the Google Play while it can take weeks with the Apple’s official store.
And it is not only faster to publish your first mobile app on the Google Play store – it is also much cheaper.
While it takes to pay $99 a year to feature apps in Apple store, on Google Play you are charged only one with $25. Big difference, especially for independent app developers on a short budget.
Assuming you will use Android Studio to develop your first Android app, its publication process will be as simple as possible. All you need to do after the work is done is to hit publish button and you are all set!
Now you have an APK file which you can share, run on different devices and publish on Google Play. Now you can send it to beta testers or – if it is already bug-fixed – share it with the world.
Speaking of beta testers, it is also a lot easier to find them on Android platform than for iOS apps.
Actually, Google Play launched a service for beta testers, which allows every technology geek to try out the newest apps as the come out.
As Android apps are more exposed to bugs than the iOS ones, early bug-fixes can make or break you new applications success in the app store.
Android fragmentation, image source
With this one, we come to discussing the cons of Android development. I told you before that variety of devices Android is present on is actually a double edged sword for this platform.
And it is truth. The same thing that allows Android reach more users makes it more difficult to develop a good app.
The fragmentation means that not only Android users own different devices, but they run also different, very often old version of the OS. Developers have to face developing for different screen sizes, but also OS version and devices technical capabilities.
And the problem is that you can’t make it perfect every time.
This leads to more potential bugs in Android apps than on iOS. Easier publication process and a lot of devices and OS versions to fail on, make developing on Android more tricky, especially when you want to publish your app as soon as possible.
The truth is that you will not avoid bugs on Android, but you can take some time to beta test it and double-check the code before publishing, to make sure it is firm enough to introduce it to the users.
During developing apps for both Android and iOS, Infinum took some time to collect and compare the data that show which platform is faster (and because of that cheaper) to develop for.
It appeared that Android development has required more lines of code than iOS one, which meant also dedicating more time for it, and – you guessed – more developers’ work hours. And since most of the software companies will charge you based on hourly rates, this means more money to pay for you.
Infinum research, based on developing six apps for Android and iOS, has shown that it takes to write about 40% more lines of code to develop Android app, which makes it 30% more expensive than iOS one.
Now, when you have a big picture of Android development, let’s see what it means to develop iOS mobile apps.
Global iOS and Android app revenue, image source
This is one of the most common argument in the iOS vs Android discussions. Apple devices are in most cases more expensive, which makes their users willing to spend more money for tools and services related to them – because they simply have more money.
If your target audience is based on developed countries with higher income per capita or urban areas, targeting iOS users is a good idea. You can expect them to be willing to pay for your app since they are spending more on apps than Android users.
Although Android developers make more money on ads, selling apps is still more profitable on iOS. And it doesn’t seem to change anytime soon.
It is not a secret that iOS users are often very dedicated ones. If you provide the app that will answer their needs, offer unique user experience and on top of that has a great design – they will stay with you.
The iOS users are also more engaged ones, which means that they not only install a couple of apps just to test them and switch to another but instead they pick their favorite apps more carefully and stay with them as long as they find them valuable.
If you plan your app to be your mobile commerce tool, then iOS is definitely the best option.
For example in the UK, iOS users are responsible for a majority of mobile commerce purchases, as 66% of them make an online purchase via smartphone o tablet at least once a month, according to Episerver.
Making an app for mobile commerce follow the money – and they are in hands of iOS users.
Remember what I told you about Infinum comparison? If you are hesitating between iOS and Android app development, it clearly shows that it takes less code to develop one for Apple devices.
With Objective-C or Swift, you can develop your first mobile application writing fewer lines of code. Or if you want to hire developers to do it for you, it means that you will pay less – because it will take less time to make it.
This is also a huge advantage of iOS apps. Because there are only a few types of devices running on iOS and they are mostly using the new version of the OS, it is easier to develop an app with as little bugs as possible.
It is also that because of strict development guidelines. Ok, featuring iOS app in the iTunes can be a nightmare and often takes a lot of time (for sure not two or three days as it is with Google Play), but once you finish this process and gain permission to publish your app on Apple’s store, you are set.
Also writing less code to develop your app works for you on this – less code, less possible amount of bugs.
Ok, this one may be controversial and I’m sure that many Android developers would disagree with that, but in common opinion, Apple provides its developers with better tools.
Let’s face it – Android Studio is a good IDE, but it’s on the market for a quite short time now, while Xcode has released version 7.3 already. It is built on years of experience and developers everyday work. And it is also free.
For many developers, Apple’s tools are firmer, emulators are faster and Apple’s commitment to developers is way bigger.
This may be a disadvantage if you want to release your app as soon as possible.
Because of the strict development guidelines, it usually takes more time to publish an app on Apple’s app store. This assures, as I mentioned before, that your app meets better quality standards, but it may also be the reason for the launch delay.
If you want to avoid that, take review process into consideration while planning your iOS app development.
For some, it will not be a problem, if we consider that on iOS it takes fewer apps to make sufficient amount of money, but for those who count of the app’s reach – it may be another downside of picking iOS platform.
To make as much as possible of the app’s reach, decide if your target audience comes from developed countries, where customers are more willing to buy Apple’s products and spend money on apps. Urban areas are also the ones with bigger iOS share.
I bet that a lot of you will consider this as a joke, but… it’s not.
At Whalla Labs, we are really confident about Windows Phone development on certain occasions.
For the record, it may not be the best app to start with, but it is worth to consider further in developing your business and reaching more users.
And also, it is worth to know the pros and cons of Windows Phone development as well.
You can easily find out that many companies use Microsoft devices and software for everyday work.
If your app is meant for B2B industries and you know that they use devices running on Windows or Windows Phone, then it is a clear sign to develop your app for them.
Actually, while SaaS software is becoming more and more common, delivering software that is compatible with PCs (mostly running on Windows) and mobile devices, could be a big advantage for WP.
The thing most Windows Phone users complain about is not its performance as the OS – it is the lack of good mobile apps and WP versions of well-known ones.
Targeting those users is easier for two reasons. First one is that they are very committed and active users once they find a good app. And the second one is really simple – there are fewer apps in Windows Store, therefore, it is easier to market an app there.
The data from Microsoft Store shows that Microsoft phone’s users are willing to download games the most, but they also prefer apps coming under the Utilities & Tools category.
This may not be huge but proves that – at least in some countries – Windows Phone is not dying yet.
According to Kantar WorldPanel research, Windows smartphones OS sales shares grew last year in Germany, France, and Australia. Although the market shares are very low, compared to Android and iOS ones, but they show that Windows Phone is not over yet.
Small mobile OS share seems not to worry Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella.
In his opinion, all devices using Microsoft’s software are more like one platform and delivering the same user experience for the users on all of them is more important, than individual market shares.
He calls it “mobility of experience”.
Piggybacking on this tactic may be a good reason to develop Windows Phone or Windows app.
I have already mentioned that Windows Phone has a really small market share (about 2.6% in Q2 2015) and what Microsoft seems to go after with completing the experience across all of the devices, but if it doesn’t convince you, I totally get it.
It is hard to foresee how mobile app market will change for the Microsoft and we have already heard that it may allow Android app to be released on WP as well. So if you are not in a hurry with Windows Phone app or don’t have a budget for it if it’s not necessary, it would be better to wait with that.
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In this part, I will cover only Android and iOS platforms as they are the best to start with.
Surely it would be best to start with both of them and develop your first app simultaneously, but I assume that the reason you have searched for iOS vs Android guide is because you really need to choose only one to start with.
Let’s quickly recap the most important advantages of both platforms.
Taking all pros for consideration, developing your first mobile app for Android may be a good idea when:
Ok, while the last point is kind of obvious, the rest of them shows that Android is great if you want to reach wider demographics, types of devices and actually to reach more users and cash it with ads.
Ok, then when it’s best to deliver your app for iOS first?
In this one, the design thing might be optional, but the rest is solid truth. If you want to sell apps – iOS is the best. Also, if you want your app to have fewer bugs and be delivered faster and cheaper (less code, remember?) – then also, iOS is the one to start with.
There is no easy, one-and-only answer for the question “Which platform to choose for my first app?”
As you can see, a lot of things depends on your plans, the app’s purpose, the problem it solves, the audience it reaches.
First, go figure that out – then the answer will come.
P.S. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the reason I covered those three platforms – iOS, Android, and Windows Phone – is because we develop apps for them for three years now.
We know exactly how much hassle it is to make a good app that will be downloaded by millions of users (yes, we made it).
Do you want a next great app? We can make that happen.