One of the most common questions we hear from our clients is which platform is better; Android or iOS? Our answer is always the same: it depends. Whilst ultimately the decision rests upon several factors, nothing is more important than knowing your audience.
The first step in any project must be understanding who is going to use it. We cannot overstate this. Without adequate user research you cannot hope to understand the needs of your current and future users. This is why we always recommend starting with an analytics platform and trying to answer one question: what mobile devices are the majority of customers using to access your content?
When you have answered this, take a step back. Have a look at the bigger picture for your target region; Global Stats is a great tool for this. As you will see, if your audience is mainly in Europe, Asia or South America the answer is obviously going to be Android as it has an overwhelming market share. In the US market however the choice is less clear, as both platforms have nearly the same level of adoption. In this case though we almost always recommend building iOS first, especially if you’re a startup.
The Case For iOS
While Android and iOS are split fairly evenly in the US market, iOS holds several advantages. First, it’s an easier build. Due to Android’s open source nature, manufacturers around the world have free reign to launch smartphones and tablets of all different shapes, sizes and specifications. This is commonly referred to as ‘fragmentation’, and it can take additional resources to prepare for such a wide variety of screen sizes. Also on Android users are slower to upgrade to the latest operating system version and sometimes there is not even the latest version available as every device needs its own firmware upgrade and some manufacturers simply don’t care to provide them for older devices. For iOS on the other hand upgrading is straightforward and usually around 80% of all iOS users adopt the latest operating system version within one year.
Secondly, iOS users are generally more willing to pay for apps and complete in-app purchases. The main argument is that iPhones are more expensive therefore iPhone owners have more disposable income. However, it always comes back to your audience. Because of the price variance, many parents choose to buy less expensive Android-powered devices for their children, therefore apps and games designed for kids may have a higher adoption rate on Android rather than iOS.
Third is the case for startups. Generally, a team of developer entrepreneurs will raise a small “seed” investment to create an app-based startup. Those entrepreneurs are now on a race against the clock to not only build a polished product, but also show rapid user adoption in order to raise additional capital. They simply cannot afford to handle the hardware fragmentation that accompanies an Android-first approach.
The Case For A Serial Approach
We at Mobile Jazz are a big proponents of a serial approach to mobile app development than building in parallel. There are certain critical issues that need to be addressed and solved no matter which platform you are developing on. These can include visual design, user experience, backend communication and with a serial approach you only need to solve them once, then they are easily replicated to a second or even third platform.
Developing a mobile application is more akin to early exploration than a perfected science. Oftentimes early prototypes and user feedback create more questions than answers and the finished product is almost always a very different destination than anyone could have predicted.
It takes the full production lifecycle of one app to make all of the relevant design, UX and technical decisions to deliver a usable, stable and well-functioning application. If you’re trying to do this on two platforms simultaneously then you’re probably looking at doubling the cost of this discovery process.
Every case is unique and sometimes the product absolutely needs to launch simultaneously across all devices. When this happens, just make sure you’re well funded and have an extremely clear idea of what needs to be developed.
If you need an expert opinion or simply want to put your idea into an actionable framework, feel free to contact our experienced engineers, designers, marketers and mobile business strategists at Mobile Jazz. We’ve launched more than 50 successful applications, many of the them with 10M+ downloads, some of them even above the 100M mark holding top positions in the App Store and Google Play Store. To learn more about our work, check out our full range of services on our Mobile Jazz website.
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