How to Choose Between Android and iOS App Platforms

By Zack Halliwell / 25 July 2019

Businesses need to consider their audience, timeline, budget, and features they want for their app before deciding between Android and iOS.

Businesses usually want to offer their mobile app on both Android and iOS platforms, but choosing one to start with can help keep costs down and reduce risks. 
The difficult task is deciding which platform is going to be most beneficial for your business. 

This generally depends on five main factors:

  • Audience
  • Time
  • Features
  • Budget
  • Release Cycles

Considering these factors before designing their app can help businesses predict which platform will offer the most success. 

1. Consider Your Audience 

There are certain areas of the world that are dominated by iOS while others are majority Android users – Where is your audience?

You must look into the geographical significance of each platform. Android has more presence in up-and-coming markets such as Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

On the other hand, Western Europe and North America are mainly comprised of Apple users. 

If you’re targeting a global audience, then Android may be the best option. However, if you’re launching an e-commerce or enterprise app then iOS may be ideal.

Keep in mind, however, it’s not just a case of where in the world your users will be that defines your audience. Also, consider how much disposable income they have to be spending money on an app. 

Even if your app isn’t free, it’s likely you’ll still be including some in-app purchases.

iPhone users tend to be more affluent than Android users earning approximately 40% more, iPhone users are more likely to have higher education degrees. 
Age also seems to influence how people use their devices - Younger generations tend to spend more time on their devices with some 16-24 year-olds spending as much as seven hours on devices each day.

Age also seems to influence how people use their devices with older users being more likely to purchase an app or make in-app purchases.

Consequently, they’re also more willing to spend money on in-app purchases, while, on the other hand, older users are more willingly to buy the app in the first place.

However, if you’re not targeting high earners or a specific age range, Android may still be the frontrunner if you’re trying to target an international audience. 

2. Create a Timeline

Perhaps one of the biggest factors when it comes to deciding between platforms is calculating how much time you have to work with. 

How fast would you like your app to go to market? 

Is it to be launched in coordination with a certain event, or is there no deadline to meet? 

It’s important to note that the longer the app takes to develop, the higher the costs of development will be.

The time it takes to build your app can depend on a number of things. 

For example, an Alexa developer will be designing an app for a specific device, whereby they probably have a system already in place to meet the exact requirements.

On the other hand, a developer working for a start-up will need to work closely with the brand to establish what they want – and this may be a back and forth process that requires more time.

It’s also generally quicker to build an app for iOS because unlike Android, iOS is not open source. The increased flexibility of Android introduces more components, devices, and potential for software fragmentation.

Apple offers fewer features but that also means there are fewer devices and operating systems to consider, which means it’s quicker to build for. 

3. Think About What You Want the App to Feature

The Android vs. iOS debate is endless with each platform presenting a unique combination of pros and cons. 

Android platforms are extremely flexible – Since Android is an open-source platform, it gives you the ability to customize endlessly, offering the exact features your users want and need.  

The downside to this is that Android is much more susceptible to attacks due to being open source. 

Apple’s platform is more secure, so if you’re looking to take payments or other vital information via your app, then iOS may be the safer choice – for both your business and customers. 

It’s also important to consider the latest operating systems for each device. 

For example, by April 2018, 76% of Apple-compatible users had upgraded to iOS 11 which it launched in September 2017. 

Conversely, the latest Android version, codename Pie, has been released since March 2018 and still – as of May 2019 – only 10% of Android users have upgraded.

Android users are less likely than iPhone users to update their phone's operating system.Source

In fact, the largest proportion of users (16%) seem to still be using the Marshmallow version released in 2015. 

With Android, you may find yourself creating an app for a software version that 90% of your target audience hasn’t yet upgraded to when it comes to Android. Whereas, with iOS, the consistency of upgrades seems to be much more reliable. 

Additionally, businesses should also consider how the app and its features will be compatible across all the associated devices. Both Android and iOS have a wide range of devices on the market that they can be paired with, all of which have a variety of screen sizes to consider.

4. Consider Your Budget

There’s no denying that it is cheaper to develop an app for iOS. In fact, it can be 30-40% cheaper than building an app for Android

The primary reason for such a price difference is that Apple is easier to develop for because of the code; Android apps are typically written in Java which involves more writing compared to Apple’s coding language which is Swift. 

Cost of rolling out the app can also be a factor in choosing between the two devices. Android requires only a one-time fee of $25 to publish an app, whereas iOS is a recurring annual cost of $99 for individual developers and $299 if you are publishing as a company.  Depending on the budget and size of your business, then, these costs could become a pro in favor of Android publishing. 

If you’re operating on a budget, it can be more beneficial to develop an app for iOS then move onto Android, instead of the other way around. 

5. Schedule Release Cycles 

It's important to regularly update your app. Many businesses choose iOS because of the release cycle. Updating your app on Android, however, can be restrictive due to the various partnered devices–Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Panasonic, to name but a few.

This will never be an issue with Apple and its endless list of iPads and iPhones. This means that you can support the new iOS version in your app with ease, whereas Android comes with more fragmentation which makes releasing new versions difficult. 

Subsequently, developing for Android may require more time and money to ensure your app remains compatible with the platform.  

6. Extend to Other Platforms 

Once you have steady, noticeable, success on one platform you may wish to extend your reach to the other. If revenue is consistent, then this is more of an inevitability than a question. 

However, why not just do this from day one?

Cross-platform design supposedly ended the Android vs. iOS debate years ago, but this dual-use often comes with a steeper price tag. However, some argue that although cross-platform is more expensive upfront, businesses that choose this option won’t have to eventually pay twice to have their app developed for both Android and iOS. 

It’s a fair debate with compelling points on supporting both sides of the argument, but the answer for your business will always come down to individual circumstances and priorities. 

Which Platform Is Best for Your Business?

The root of all of your decisions - even when it comes to app design - needs to come from a business perspective. Which platform provides you with the most budget-friendly, ideal features, and better overall experience for your potential customers?

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer. But, it may be easier (read: cheaper) to start out on one platform rather than choosing a cross-platform build. Once you decide, be sure to hire an app developer that specializes in your chosen platform. 

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