September 13, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and following lockdowns have led to more businesses investigating mobile app development. This has prompted the resurgence of an ongoing debate about what platform is better to focus on first - Android or iOS?
In our experience of building native apps for different businesses and teams across many use cases, we’ve come to realise that there’s no hard and fast rule. Both platforms have pros and cons, and these must be taken into consideration before tackling an app build.
Arguably the main benefits of developing for Android is the flexibility of the development experience, the ability to build for a broad ecosystem of devices and extend the app’s functionality, and the availability of learning resources.
On the whole, Android is more open than iOS. This means the build process can be more flexible and simple, and your finished app will likely function on most Android devices without any hardware compatibility issues.
The platform relies on Java, C++ and Kotlin programming languages. Java is known to be a versatile language, and as it’s supported by Windows, Mac OS and Linux it gives developers more freedom and often a smoother overall experience. Additional Google development tools to aid in the process include Android Jetpack, Firebase and Android SDK, which all help to build a comprehensive app.
Another pro is that the Android platform allows you to develop for an entire ecosystem of devices. Your app can go beyond smartphones and tablets to include Daydream and Cardboard VR headsets, Wear OS devices, Android Auto and more. This opens up the ability to integrate apps into other areas of a user’s world, through the likes of smart cars, TVs and watches.
When it comes to resources and publishing, Google offers an extensive database of information including interactive materials and full training programs for all levels of developer. This can help greatly in successfully creating an intuitive user interface. Finally, despite the fact that the review process of the Google Play store was changed in 2020, the majority of apps are still accepted and the publishing process can be easier than with the Apple Store.
Main cons of the Android platform are quality assurance, security, cost and user engagement.
The flexibility of the Android development platform is as much a potential con as it is a pro. The ability to develop for multiple devices can extend the use case and ROI of the app, but it can also present challenges in ensuring adequate testing and the ability to deliver fixes to users that are slow to update their device. In addition, as Android is an open-source platform it can attract more cyber attacks than the more locked iOS platform, leading to costly damage control.
It’s also good to note that the Android platform can take longer to develop for, in comparison to iOS, which can lead to higher costs both in development and quality assurance. Once released, studies show that Android users tend to favour free apps, and spend less time on in-app purchases compared to iOS users, so winning over your target market can be more difficult.
Performance and high quality UI/UX experience are standout pros for the iOS platform.
Overall, the iOS platform is known for being fast, reliable, user friendly and bug-free. In addition, as Apple provides developers with detailed guidelines for creating their user interface (UI), often those developed for iOS are intuitive and aesthetic.
iOS apps are also generally more cost effective in terms of development time. Predominantly, developers rely on Apple’s native coding language Swift, which is relatively easy to use and tailored to iOS. Additional development tools include iOS SDK with the Cocoa Touch UI framework, XCode and Swift Playgrounds. The fact that iOS isn’t open source means that apps are standardised, which can lead to greater functionality, shorter build time and less bugs.
A pro outside of the development process is that iOS users tend to have a higher lifetime value. This means iOS customers are more likely to spend money inside the app and buy additional content, increasing the probability that they’ll be a long standing source of revenue.
As with Android, the pros of iOS are often also the cons. For one, the development environment and closed source code can be rigid for developers. On this front, iOS restricts the ability to fully customise an app’s interface, making it difficult to add some features if they require interaction with third-party software. In addition, development software such as XCode only runs on Mac, limiting the tools developers can use.
Another notable con is the fact that the Apple App Store is typically more demanding than Google Play. Fully functional apps can be rejected if they’re deemed irrelevant or not useful. It also costs a yearly fee of $99 in comparison to Google Play’s initial fee of $25.
Android devices are currently holding 72.18% of the global market share, and account for many people in developing countries and lower income areas. However, iOS apps are becoming more popular as the cost to develop drops and their high performance remains consistent. In addition, iOS apps tend to attract users that are younger, have a higher education level and earn more money. Various studies show that Android apps are popular in technical and medical fields while iOS apps are popular for business professionals and sales experts.
This is to say, before committing to iOS or Android you must consider your app project and what you want to accomplish, and do your research. In first identifying your target market, business case, monetisation and engagement goals you will be able to choose the best development environment for you. At Sush Labs our first step is to identify the business problem or objective and then work from there. In this way we’re able to deliver a fully functional app that’s fit for purpose and improves your bottom line.
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