I am an app developer, I have tried most of the mobile app development platforms.
Android vs iOS development... many companies struggle to decide what platform they should use to develop their app. From a financial standpoint the iOS platform consistently earns more revenue than Android but there is more to the story and we need to dig deeper to understand the importance of each platform and how and when to develop apps for Android and iOS.
Demographics tells us a lot about Android and iOS users. This is where we need to begin our investigation. Android currently holds the largest global platform share. However, this market share comes mostly from developing countries and lower income areas.
On the other hand, iOS users are typically younger, with a higher level of education, greater engagement and earn more money so they spend more per app.
Another factor one needs to consider when making the decision about the platform is on what platform are apps that make you money. Android has a greater percentage of ad-supported apps while the iOS platform relies predominantly on purchases.
Even though iOS makes you pay for apps they still earn more revenue with that model. In the first quarter of 2015 iOS earned 70% more than Android.
How fast you can get your app to market is always a primary concern when building an app. In general it can take 2-3 times longer to build an app for Android than for iOS. Why? It has to do with system release cycles and something known as Android fragmentation.
Android fragmentation simply put is that Android devices come in all shapes and sizes as well as with huge differences in performance levels and screen sizes. Another aspect of Android fragmentation is that there are lots of different versions of Android that are active at the same time. This means developing an app that will work across the whole range of Android devices can be very time-consuming and challenging for a developer. Thus, it's crucial to consider timeframes before you outsource app development.
There is another element to the speed of development and that relates to the release and approval process. Apple’s approval process is faster. Most apps can get updated 3-4 times a month on average.
Because Android is locked down by carriers and OEM’s it makes their releases more difficult, and adoption of the latest OS versions is slower than with iOS. For example, today over 80% of all iOS users have adopted some version of iOS 8 which was released in September of 2014. Lollipop was released for Android in June 2014 and currently less than 10% of all users have adopted Lollipop.
For developers there is a benefit to being able to focus on supporting the newest versions of an operating system you can reasonably expect to reach a broad audience. If only 10% of the users of an operating system have adopted it then the developer has to support older devices, do more testing and expect increases in the development cycle time.
With iOS’s higher adoption rates developers can stop supporting older versions and devices sooner, reduce testing, build against newer API’s and reduce their development cycle times.
An important consideration in determining which platform to build for, or to build for first is how much does it cost to make an app. The longer it takes to develop an app the higher the cost. In the case of Android apps the longer development time means developing for Android will carry higher upfront costs. When you combine this with the fact that Android apps drive lower revenues than iOS. From a cost perspective iOS is cheaper to develop and will likely bring in more revenue.
Numbers vs. Engagement
When deliberating about which platform to develop an app for a developer has to take into consideration whether it is more important to have higher numbers of users or fewer users that engage more frequently. A part of making this determination depends on developers idea of how to monetize an app. Android has more users in general and broader content categories but iOS has more engaged users.
Choosing Your App development Platform
By now you may have guessed that in general it is more lucrative and easier to start developing apps for iOS because they earn more, you can get your app to market faster and cost of mobile app development is lower. Another important reason for starting out using the iOS platform is that when you are developing a new app there is a large learning curve to understand what is working and what is not. If you have to do that across two platforms or even for Android alone, which is much more challenging because fragmentation, it makes app development prohibitive in terms of both cost and time.
If your company is a start-up and your capital is limited then iOS is the best place to begin because not only is it cheaper iOS also brings another benefit to businesses and that is influencers and PR. For more press on your app the chances are far greater when you develop for iOS.
If your audience is in a developing nation or a lower income area then it makes sense to start with Android since they visit app stores for android more often. Another reason for starting with Android is when you are customizing an element of the Android operating system that is not accessible on iOS such as the specific hardware the app will run on.
When is it time to move to another platform? Growth is the primary reason for moving to a new platform. Once you have exhausted or hit a critical mass on one platform then you can target the audience demographic of a second platform to increase your total number of users.
There are many aspects to consider when choosing a platform for app development but from a financial standpoint as well as a time perspective iOS is generally a better choice unless your company has been established in app development for a long time and can navigate the more complicated Android OS and afford longer development times and testing.