Android or iOS. Which platform to build first?
Great, you have an app idea! You are a tech founder or enterprise mobile leader and you really believe in your vision and team, but now, you’re challenged with deciding Android or iOS.
First, there is no universal truth or answer to this question.
With variable amounts of time, money, and manpower, it can be difficult to determine which platform best suits your strategy. Despite the challenge, with careful comprehension of key considerations, you can definitely figure out the best platform for you.
4 Factors to Consider When Deciding Android or iOS
Who is your target audience? Who do you see downloading this app? Break this question down into two identifiers: location and socioeconomic status.
Location: If your target audience is based in America, Canada, United Kingdom or Australia, then iOS makes more sense. However, if your audience is located in more developing countries in continents like Asia, South America, or Africa, choose Android. Device Data has plenty of data for more specific country breakdowns.
Socioeconomic status: Similarly, if your audience is based in more developed countries, then their presumed wealth indicates that iOS might be more popular. Contrastingly, in less developed economies, users are less likely to pay for apps and prefer in-app advertisements. For this reason, Android might be more profitable. Slate produced an investigative report supporting the economic divide between Android and iOS.
Which operating system is more compatible with your vision? Break down the pros and cons: operating systems and the App/Play Store.
Operating Systems: If you would prefer the ability to have more customization and control, then Android’s operating system is more compatible. If customization and control are not major priorities in your decision, then the iOS, more restrictive language, might be best. On the other hand, if you would prefer to launch faster, develop on iOS—launching is faster here as iOS lacks device fragmentation.
App/Play Store: It is objectively easier to get your app approved on the Google Play Store—the approval process is automated and primarily focused on violations. Approval on the Play Store is a much more lenient process than the App Store. Contrastingly, approval on the App Store may be more difficult.
App development, of course, requires access to labor, funding and time. How long do you have to develop this app? And what does your funding look like? This will primarily serve to hire and sustain your engineering talent required to develop the app.
Access to Labor: If you only have access to iOS engineers (and your audience is on iOS), then you will lean towards developing for iOS first. If you have access to Android engineers (and your audience is on Android), then develop for Android first. If you have access to both and sufficient funding, then build for both!
We pulled this graph from Infinum that depicts the hours of work for each project. They calculated that Android development consumes 30% more time, thereby making Android more costly.
Funding: Developing a mobile application can have varying costs depending on the type of app and its features. On average, iOS engineers have a higher hourly rate for development.
Deployment Time: How quickly do you need the app deployed? The Google Play store is more likely to release your app—additionally, they offer Google Play beta App Store for test releases. Contrastingly, the App Store carefully reviews all apps and wait times can be days or weeks long. If you are in a hurry to deploy your app, then Android might be the best option here.
Modern Mobile Development: We believe the future of mobile innovation is multiplatform mobile development. If you’re interested in exploring how Kotlin Multiplatform can help you code once and deploy to Android and iOS, check this out.
4. Revenue Model
Revenue: Your revenue model should reflect your target audience. iOS users are more willing to spend money on their apps, and are more annoyed by in-app advertisements. Contrastingly, Android users are more likely to not spend money on an app and more likely to be okay with in-app advertisements. If you are looking for the most revenue-generating model, iOS definitely wins there.
We pulled these charts off of App Annie depicting the difference in revenue generation for the App and Play Stores. More Google Play users are downloading apps; contrastingly, more iOS users spend in the App Store than Android users in Google Play. Therefore it makes more sense to use in-app advertisements to generate revenue in Android and charge consumers for in-app purchases in the App Store.
Examples of Successful Companies Who Chose Android, iOS or Both
Android first: Thrive Global (current Touchlab client) is an app designed to effectively monitor and control mobile use. The app requires a lot of device side controls (not allowed on iOS), which guided the decision to develop on Android first. Check it out here!
iOS first: In the United States, iOS has 65% market share while Android has 35% (according to DeviceData). For this reason, there are generally more iOS engineers available compared to Android engineers and Apple gets more consumer fandom—therefore, successful startups in the past have generally developed iOS first, followed with Android. For example, App Annie states that Airbnb launched their first app in iOS in November 2010. In January 2012, after amassing a strong base and revenue model, they launched Airbnb in Android in January 2012. Another successful app, Instacart, also started this way with iOS in August 2012 and Android in May 2014. Unsurprisingly, Touchlab’s early years were porting iOS apps to Android.
Both (ideal!): If talent and funding are less constraints, developing iOS and Android simultaneously is the best option. One example of a successful app that developed on both platforms is: Crew. They launched in May 2015 and have raised $24.9 Million in VC funding.
Another example of developing for both is DoorDash. DoorDash released on Android and iOS around the same time! App Annie confirms that DoorDash in iOS was launched in October 2013 and DoorDash in Android was launched in December 2013. DoorDash is an excellent example of an app that understood its target audiences because DoorDash is hoping to attract not only clients who will use the app for deliveries, but also couriers who will make the deliveries. For these reasons, one can assume a difference in socioeconomic status and therefore expect to find clients on iOS and labor on Android. DoorDash reacted accordingly and pursued the development of iOS and Android concurrently.
Additionally, sometimes your app does not need to come first because, perhaps, your product is best for the web right now. App Annie shows that Reddit was launched on both iOS and Android on April 7, 2016. Yet, Reddit was founded in June 2005. As a web-based platform, they were able to establish themselves and later develop concurrently for mobile platforms.
As you can see, companies and developers take different approaches to their mobile app development—and no approach is right or wrong. The only way to mitigate risk is to first understand the considerations, factors, and your audience—then, you make a wise and informed decision.
This post was written by Touchlab marketing intern Mina Mahmood.