By Matt Garrett March 2, 2018

Should You Develop Your App on iOS or Android First?

Developing an app for smartphones can be very rewarding and fun, but it can also be time consuming and expensive. For this reason, you need to pick and choose how you use your development time to create the perfect app.

One of the biggest questions often asked by developers is: Should they develop their app on iOS or Android first? Of course, the answer isn’t always black or white. In many cases, it depends on the app they are developing and what platform their target market uses the most.

Let’s examine several factors that will help you determine which platform you should develop for first.

What You Must Consider

It’s easy to get so excited about your new project that you forget some to jump in and sort out some of the details about your app. But understanding some of the details can help you determine not only who the app is for, but what platform you should use for your new project.

Demographics

Before you type one line of code, you must determine who you are creating your app for. Who is your target audience? Once you know that, you have to examine the demographics of Android and iOS to determine which platform best fits your app.

Android is the most used mobile operating system in the world, but just because it’s used by more people doesn’t mean it is what your target audience uses.

Android has a much larger proliferation in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. But in developed countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, iOS is in the lead.

If your app is built for the global community, such as a messenger app or a new web browser, then you may want to choose Android, as it has worldwide appeal. However, if you are creating an app to be used in developed countries such as the U.S., such as local home delivery of goods, then you may want to begin with iOS, as it has a larger hold in this market.

Revenue Models

App development and maintenance are expensive, and chances are that you are hoping to make a buck or two from your creation. That is where revenue models come into play.

Do you plan on offering your app for free or with a freemium model, or do you want to charge for your app right from the store? Android has more free apps that are supported by advertising, while iOS has more apps that must be bought and more users that will pay for them.

Your revenue plan can have a great impact on your starting platform. If you want to start with a free app and monetize it later, or you plan on supporting your app with ad revenue, Android may be the better fit. However, if you want to charge for your app, then you will have better luck with iOS.

Platform Features

When you look at Android and iOS, on the surface, they seem very similar in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to features and what you, as a developer, can do. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will see that things aren’t always what they seem.

Apple’s iOS is more of a closed operating system. Whereas on Android, you have free reign to access every part of the internal operating system, on iOS, you can only go so deep with your coding.

Development on iOS is a little more difficult, as some access to the operating system for advanced features in your app simply isn’t available. Android, on the other hand, is much more open. While that can be good and bad, as a developer, it will allow you access to create new and interesting apps in unique ways that simply aren’t possible on iOS.

Operating System Release Cycles

Both Android and iOS have release cycles that are similar, with each platform releasing a new version of the operating system every year. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Because Android is open source, there are many different versions and flavors floating around, and these versions must then be updated from the original version of Android released by Google. It often takes many months for Android users to receive updates. This is why, as of January 2018, only 27 percent of Android users were using Android Nougat or Oreo.

Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, is quite different. As of February of this year, over 80 percent of iPhone users have moved to iOS 11. Because of these adoption rates, you can focus more on the features available in the newest versions without worrying about leaving your potential user base behind.

Tablet Apps

While sales of tablets may be declining, Apple is clearly the dominating player in this market. In fact, the iPad dominates so much that it can be tough to even find someone with an Android tablet these days. Even die-hard Android smartphone users often prefer the iPad when they do use a tablet.

If you are designing an app primarily for tablets, this factor must be bumped to the top of the list when you are making your decision.

Choosing iOS or Android First

Which platform you design your app for first depends on all the factors above, and carefully considering each one is crucial to the success of your app.

If you still aren’t sure, try making a list. Create a column for Android and a column for iOS. Then go through each factor listed above and determine if your app is better for Android or iOS. When you have completed your list, figure out which platform works the best for the app you plan on creating. That’s where you should start.

For example, if your target demographics are mostly Android users and you want to use an advertising revenue model, then Android is the place for you. On the other hand, if you are designing something that finds your target demographics using iOS, then that’s where you should start. It’s really a matter of numbers. You go where your audience is.

But what if you are more familiar with one platform than the other but find your app will be right at home on that unfamiliar platform?

It’s time to think outside the box. You must go where your audience is. This is not a Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come” mentality. You must design your app on the platform where your audience resides.

If you are uncomfortable with that platform, consider hiring a developer to help you create the app. If hiring help just isn’t in the budget, it may be time for you to learn a new skill. We all love learning, right?

Developing for Both Platforms

In general, I don’t recommend developing for both platforms, mainly due to budgetary and time restrictions you are no doubt facing. However, there are times when this path does make sense.

In some instances, you may need your app to reach as many people as possible across the world. Designing for both platforms and releasing them simultaneously will guarantee you that coverage, but if you don’t have the experience, it could drastically lengthen your development time.

No matter what, if you plan to develop your app cross-platform, you need to develop a plan of action in order to be successful.

In most cases, companies with deep pockets, and lots of experience developing for both iOS and Android, can get away with creating their app for both platforms at the same time. But if you are an indie developer, chances are this won’t be the case. You will have limited time and resources to develop and release your app. For this one reason alone, it is better to focus on one platform before developing for the other.

Take Your Time and Make the Best Choice

Both iOS and Android have something to offer the mobile development world. Each operating system comes with their own strengths and weaknesses, and both are very popular platforms across the world.

Which operating system you choose for your app development will depend largely on your experience and your target audience. However, no matter which one you start with, for the greatest success, you should port your app to the other platform.

Just make sure you start with the platform that makes the most sense for the app you are trying to create.

About the author

    Matt Garrett

    Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.