Android vs. iOS Development - Which Platform Should You Choose
According to a report by Hootsuite, the number of digital users has officially hit the 4 billion mark this year. On top of that, the report shows that ¾ of this digital population is made of mobile social users, making it one of the most lucrative markets in the world.
Does your business have a mobile app? If not, then you’d better start building one now in order to benefit from the huge market potential that this industry represents. Now, when it comes to building mobile apps, there are mainly two operating systems that you should consider, namely Android and iOS. You can either start with one at first or do both in order to get maximum exposure.
At the end of the day, your business will benefit when you opt for the most relevant operating system to your target audience. The good news is that we’ve put together a helpful guide on both operating systems to help you make a better and informed decision.
1. Number of Users
At the core of any business endeavor are the people who support the product or service. That is why it’s so important to create your app with your target audience in mind. Consider their demographics, their income levels, their geographical location and the social platforms that they frequent. The following data is an amalgamation of all the latest research-based information on Android and iOS users.
• Market Share
It’s a well-known fact that Apple is the only producer of iOS supporting devices in the world. On the other hand, there are literally thousands of mobile app developers that design and manufacture Android devices, which makes the latter a bit more accessible and wide-spread in comparison to Apple products. As a result, the demand for Android devices has literally given Apple’s iOS a run for its money.
Current figures show that 75% of the digital population around the world uses Android devices, while iOS users only account for 19%. This makes Android the undisputed winner when it comes to user volume, but there’s more to this battle than that, as you’ll see below.
• Latest OS Version
Another important consideration to make is the number of people who use the updated version of the operating system in question. Factoring this in is a huge part of the success behind the Sephora and IKEA apps, which are known for their progressive VR objects and AI chatbot features respectively. Both of these apps wouldn’t have been able to integrate such features if it wasn’t for their ability to leverage relevant hardware while keeping up with the newest operating system updates.
The downside is that these features won’t necessarily be available to all of your users. Although iOS devices automatically update without any external input from the user, Android devices have to be manually updated.
As a result, of the millions of Android users out there, only 5.7% of them are using the latest Android version, which is known as Oreo. Meanwhile, a staggering 76% of iPhone users actually operate their devices using the latest iOS version.
• User Loyalty
You should also look into the level of user loyalty that’s exhibited by the users of each operating system. For example, research shows that iPhone users are very loyal to the Apple brand, as 92% of them claim that they would never purchase a device from another manufacturer. Android device owners, on the other hand, seem to be very fickle in comparison, as only 77% of Samsung and 59% of LG phone owners make the same claim.
• User Demographics
It’s also important to consider the geographic region of your target audience. For example, you’re going to have to use a different platform in order to reach audiences in small areas as opposed to reaching a global audience.
For example, users in the African, Asian, South American and European regions prefer to use Android devices. On the other hand, iOS-backed Apple products are more popular among users in predominantly affluent countries like Australia, the US and some parts of Europe.
For most users, the choice between these two operating systems boils down to an affordability issue, as most Android phones are more accessible than iOS devices.
It’s also interesting to note that iOS users tend to be a younger and more educated crowd, whereas Android users tend to be a bit older and more modest earners.
• App Revenue and Spending Power
While Android-supported products are more affordable and wide-spread than Apple’s iOS devices, the Apple Store actually trumps the Google Play Store when it comes to mobile app sales. In fact, the most recent research shows that the Apple App Store bought in $38.5 billion last year alone, whereas the Google Play Store made just $20.1 billion.
When it comes to the revenue generated by apps per customer, iOS apps typically generates 45% more than Android apps, while iOS users also lead the pack when it comes to the amount of in-app purchases made.
Although the above examples are pretty revealing of both operating systems, there’s actually much more to learn about the differences in development between Android and iOS apps.
2. Development Complexity
While the platform you choose to base your app on is important, it’s of equal importance to consider the functionality. Both of these influence the development complexity of the app, among other things of course, such as:
Aside from the technical skills of a developer, Android apps can be built using any type of computer, from Windows to Mac and even Linux. iOS apps, on the other hand, can only be developed on a Mac.
One has to also consider the type of programming language that’s used when building the app. Right now, developers are using the more innovative Swift and Kotlin programming languages, both of which have overtaken Objective-C and Java.
In terms of compatibility, Kotlin is a 100% match for Java, which means that you can still draw on the various Java libraries and frameworks when working on a Kotlin project. This compatibility also allows you to shift from the two programming languages automatically.
On the other hand, Swift is not entirely compatible with Objective-C, which tends to cause development issues when working with either programming language. Not only that but you’ve got different code versions that are compatible with different frameworks and this complicates things even more.
The good news is that compatibility won’t be a problem when you’re building a new app from scratch, but it will pose a challenge for a developer that’s updating an existing app.
As with anything in the tech world, programming languages are constantly being updated to new and improved versions. Again, this makes it difficult to use the latest version of programming code to update an existing app as it will most likely be based on an old version of the programming language.
• Device Fragmentation
It’s much easier to keep track of device fragmentation when it comes to Apple devices because the company has only released 18 iPhone models thus far, and 14 of them remain popular among the brand’s loyal users. Conversely, there’s an unlimited number of Android phone models out there which makes it much more fragmented.
Factors that affect app complexity and affordability when designing an Android application include screen size which definitely limits the number of devices that the app will be compatible with. Developers also have to deal with the countless Android operating systems being used by people all over the world, which significantly increases the amount of time and money required to successfully develop an app that will serve even a fraction of the Android user population.
• Interface Peculiarity
In order to give the apps on their store a more authentic and reliable look and feel, both Apple and Google try to make the apps look as though they’re built-in to the system. As such, all the apps featured in Apple and Google stores follow easy design guidelines to ensure some form of brand uniformity.
There are also a few noticeable differences between these guidelines, such as the fact that Google only sets out core material design principles while leaving the rest to the individual designer. Meanwhile, Apple has more stringent requirements and they evaluate the app for compliance at every step of the app publishing process.
3. Publishing to the App Stores
Each app store has a different procedure when it comes to releasing apps. It’s very important to read these rules as they will affect your app’s release.
In a nutshell, here are the most important features to keep in mind:
Android users are required to pay a once-off charge of $25 in order to roll-out an app, regardless of whether you’re a developer or a company, and there’s no limit to the number of apps that you can publish. iOS, on the other hand, comes with an annual charge of $99 for developers while companies are required to pay $299 per year.
• Approval Time
Because the Apple App Store is backed by a team of qualified individuals that are tasked with the responsibility to approve app releases, the approval usually takes just a few hours. The same goes for Google.
• Phased Releases
Both the App Store and the Play Store enable developers to test their apps before publishing so you can be sure that your updated app is as functional and looks as expected.
On the Play Store, this process is referred to as a staggered release, and it involves testing your app with a limited number of users in a few select countries or localities. The best part is that you can switch the staggered release function on and off as you please.
The App Store, on the other hand, has what’s known as a phased release in which you get to choose the percentage of users who will have access to your updated app on any given day. A phased release can also be stopped and restarted as you like.
• Time and Cost
Android and iOS apps pretty much take the same amount of time to complete, with the only noticeable time discrepancies being in the testing phase. Testing an Android app typically takes longer than testing an iOS app, simply because you have fewer device models to consider with Apple.
Should You Start With Both Platforms or Switch to Another One?
While it’s generally a good idea to start out with one platform when developing an app because of the time, resources and requirements required by each, there are certain situations when it makes sense to develop it for both platforms.
For instance, let’s say your company is about to roll-out a major product line and you want to reach a global audience. Your app would need to have a presence on both iOS and Android devices in order for you to penetrate the market completely.
You may also want to change platforms once you’ve exhausted the amount of exposure that you can get with the first platform, or if you get access to data which projects an increase in exposure and user base after switching.
Alternatively, you can opt for cross-platform development through a framework such as React Native or Xamarin.
What to Finally Choose
In order to properly answer this question, you first have to take into account the type of app that you’re planning to write as well as the devices used by your target audience, whose habits you should be very familiar with by now.
Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both the Android and iOS operating systems:
Android App development Pros:
• Wider geographic reach and bigger audience
• Better app advertising turnover
• App publication is quick and easy
Android App development Cons:
• Apps generally yield lower profits
• The development process is much more complex due to high fragmentation
• Errors are quite common, regardless of the performance level
iOS App development Pros:
• Very secure
• Provides access to an affluent audience
• Development is quick and easy
• Wider market reach in affluent parts of Europe and the US
• Apps generally yield higher revenue
• Allows for increased productivity
iOS App Development Cons:
• Lower user rate when compared to Android
• Lower ad monetization success rate
• Stringent app publishing requirements
In a nutshell, both the Android and iOS platforms have a high level of relevance and they’re both really solid options, especially when it comes to app stores.
There’s really no one size fits all option as it all depends on the project being done, its target audience and any other relevant specifics that will influence the app development and vice versa.