iOS vs Android: Selecting a Platform for Developing Your Mobile App

Mikhail Shchelkunov ◽ Mar 20, 2022

Choosing an operating system is an important step in creating any mobile app. Many factors have to be considered, from time and expenses and monetization prospects, to the technical side, including the programming language, the development environment, features of optimization, testing, and so on. Below are the aspects that may affect your final decision - iOS or Android?

Technical Aspects

Programming Languages

Kotlin and Java are the basic languages for Android development. iOS apps are built in Swift and Objective-C. Swift and Kotlin are relatively young languages and have a modest community, while Objective-C and Java have been very popular for decades. This makes it much easier to find the information you need to solve coding problems. Finding a Java specialist is also much easier in general.

Hardware

You can only develop apps for iOS on a Mac because the Xcode IDE development environment only runs on macOS. You can create software for Android on any device, both on a Mac or on a PC running Windows or Linux.

Optimization and Testing

When developing apps for Android, the app’s performance on various devices and the specifics of the OS shells must be taken into consideration because they can significantly increase the cost and time needed for optimization and testing. iOS is only installed on Apple devices. This uniformity reduces the load on testing. Just a couple of devices with different screen sizes will suffice. On the other hand, even the most advanced iOS emulators do a poor job of mimicking the operation and functionality of the OS. So either way, the developer will have to get a smartphone from Apple.

The Release

Apple puts a lot of requirements on an app’s quality. Publishing to the App Store is a meticulous process that can be time-consuming if the strict moderators don't initially accept the app. A developer account costs $99 annually. It is recommended that an account be registered even before development begins, since it can take from 14 to 30 days for it to be verified. Otherwise, you may miss your release date.

It will take 1 day to upload the marketing materials and another 2-3 days for the app itself to be reviewed. Verification usually takes more than a week. Apple regularly "purges" previously published apps. So if a careless reviewer misses an app with violations the first time around, they will still identify it sooner or later, and the app will be removed from the marketplace.

On Google Play, a developer account only costs a one-time payment of $25. In addition to Google Play, an Android app can also be listed on Huawei’s AppGallery and the Samsung Store, where developer accounts are free, by the way.

An app’s release can take a matter of just a few hours or up to 3 days. There are no special functional requirements for the product. That means that almost any app can be published on Google Play.

Updates

New versions of iOS are released every year, meaning that you’ll have to publish updates more often than you would on Android. On the other hand, up to 50% of Android smartphones run on outdated OS versions. This can lead to frequent errors and crashes in new apps that function just fine on current devices. If you’re targeting a mass audience, you’ll need to release updates for many versions of Android. Maintaining apps on Android is often more expensive than on iOS.

Security

The App Store is (in)famous for its strict control. Before appearing in the store, iOS apps go through rigorous manual moderation, which makes them safer for the end user. This helps avoid unwanted financial and reputational risks.

The above list of technical differences only covers the most important points that may affect which platform you choose.

Generally speaking, creating apps for iOS is easier, if only because there aren’t as many devices running this OS. Plus, one of the key problems with Android development is the fragmentation, meaning that apps have to be adapted to a myriad of smartphones and tablets of various sizes, hardware, and OS versions. This fact translates to the overall process taking up to 30-40% more time than for iOS.

Business Aspects

Market Share

In 2021, the Android OS maintained its position as the world's leading mobile operating system with a 72.2% share of 2.8 billion active users. iOS occupies just 26.99% of the global market.

The Geography of User Distribution

iOS is more popular in developed countries where users are accustomed to paying for mobile services. In the US, Japan, Canada and Australia, iOS devices make up over 50% of the market share. Android dominates in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, China and India.

Target Audience

There are indeed some differences between the users of the two operating systems, which can tip the scales in favor of one over the other. In 2021, iOS users spent 87.3% more on in-app purchases.

The target demographic for iOS is young people aged 18 to 45. Mostly women. Students, managers and supervisors. Determined and ambitious. Willing to pay extra for products and services with advanced features. At the same time, iOS also has a fairly large “passive” audience. Some get an outdated model from a family member or friend, some purchase a second-hand iPhone from a couple of years ago. You can read more about targeting and iOS app positioning here.

Android smartphones are used by people of all ages and income levels from 15 to 65 years old. Usually men. Regarding this demographic’s financial solvency, we’re talking about technical specialists, doctors, and car owners.

Monetization

Just a couple of years ago, most Android apps were free and generated their revenue from ads alone. iOS had more paid apps, subscriptions, and in-app purchases. At the time of this writing, the market has almost leveled off - paid apps are becoming increasingly more common on Android. iOS now has more free apps with ads. By the fourth quarter of 2021, only 6.3% of apps in the App Store could be purchased.

Android device owners are starting to pay more for apps. For example, in 2021, Google Play generated $48 billion from in-app purchases, up 23% from the previous year. Monetizing through in-app purchases, subscriptions, and freemium all work equally well on both Android and iOS. The ideal monetization method depends on the product, not on the platform.

Cost of Development

Development costs depend on a project’s complexity, functionality, and many other factors like back-end development, design, document preparation, technical support, and so on. The app’s platform doesn’t matter in this case.

Pros and Cons of iOS Development

Pros

  • A limited number of devices and OS versions - iOS runs on a small number of devices, which means that you can polish your app to perfection. It also speeds up and simplifies optimization and testing.
  • Transparency for updates - With the release of each new version of iOS, Apple provides its developers with a detailed guide for developing and optimizing applications. It explains how to replace existing code with the new, better code.

Cons

  • Exclusive to Mac - You’ll have no choice but to buy Apple’s not-so-cheap equipment, greatly increasing your initial investment.
  • App hosting can be expensive - A developer account in the AppStore is $99 every year.
  • Creativity limitations - Apple expects developers to follow their UI design guidelines, which make iOS apps look neat and concise, but also very similar to each other. Google offers a lot more freedom in interface design.
  • Publication - New app moderation for the Appstore is done manually, meaning it can take over a week to complete. Apps can also be repeatedly rejected due to the marketplace’s strict requirements.

Pros and Cons of Android Development

Pros

  • You can use any computer - Mac or PC running Windows or Linux. It all works.
  • Java - The official language of Android development. For two decades now, it has been one of the most popular languages in the world. Its versatility is what sets it apart, whether you’re writing mobile or web applications.
  • A huge audience - Android runs 72.2% of all smartphones. That’s almost 3 billion users.
  • An open system - Many important features not available in iOS can be implemented in Android apps.
  • Low hosting costs - Registering a developer account costs just $25. And it’s a one-time purchase.
  • Publishing is simple - Google Play app moderation is automatic and happens as quickly as possible. The market is open to new projects, allowing you to launch MVPs or early versions of apps so you can quickly gather feedback.

Cons

  • Adapting to so many devices - A wide variety of screens and hardware can complicate the development and testing process.
  • Multiple OS versions - Google can’t update Android on all its devices; that’s up to the vendors. As a result, there can be many versions of the OS floating around at the same time. Apps have to be able to adapt to the most common ones out there.
  • Copyright - Google Play doesn’t verify copyrights and patents. You can publish an app with the same content and features as other developers. And that’s a two-way street.

When you should start with one platform

There are only three situations that call for you to develop your app on one specific platform.

1. A Limited Budget

If you want to save money or don’t have enough funding for two platforms, start with Android. Creating an app for iOS requires additional hardware costs. You’ll have to buy a Mac computer and at least one current smartphone for testing. Plus, your developer account would be much more expensive.

2. Your app is aimed at users in a specific country

Your app’s future target audience is in a region that has a strong preference for one of the operating systems. For the USA and Japan, you want iOS. For India and China - go with Android.

3. You need to test a hypothesis or launch an MVP

You have a promising idea, but you need to know how your potential audience will respond. Start by developing an MVP version for a specific platform.

In other situations, it’s clearly not worth getting hung up on one platform.

A Hybrid Application

Native apps have long been a priority for developers. They unlock the full potential of the device’s hardware and OS. They give the user a familiar design while guaranteeing stability and fast speeds.

But recent advances in cross-platform development have made hybrid apps more competitive and capable of delivering a good ROI.

Good reasons to make a hybrid app:

  • By choosing one platform, you’re cutting yourself off from the audience of the second one, and that means lost profits.
  • Developing individual native apps is expensive and time-consuming. It will take you much longer to turn a profit.

Regardless of which OS you choose for your product, you need to find a tool that will help you fully realize your ideas. An app-building tool is the perfect solution for creating both native and cross-platform applications. With just a visual environment and some customizable templates, you can create a fully-functional mobile app that can be successfully monetized.


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