startups · 27 Oct 2022

Android vs iOS Development: Which Platform is Better for Your App?

Alex Melchenko

Alex Melchenko

Chief Operational Officer

android vs ios development
Illustration by Amir Kerr

Over the last few years, we have witnessed the rise of the app culture, driven by the proliferation of smartphones and global events. The COVID-19 lockdowns, rising mobile competition, and overall demand for accessibility among customers have contributed to the mobile economy’s upturn.

The growing consumer spending demonstrates this upward trajectory. For example, in Q2 2022, iOS users spent $22 billion on mobile applications, while Android users spent $11 billion. No wonder companies have an interest in joining this lucrative mobile market. 

Once a company decides they want to move forward with an app, the main question arises: “Should I go for Android or iOS development first?” Let’s find out.

Option #1: Android App Development

To solve the ever-present Android vs. iOS development dilemma, you need to have a closer look at each of the two, starting with the Android platform.

Billions of mobile devices have the Android operating system at their core. Catering to over 190 countries, Android is considered the largest installed base of any mobile platform, with a wide range of Android-based devices. Google Play, the official Android app marketplace, lists over 2.65 million apps.

The Benefits of Developing for Android

The sheer number of Android applications is not the only advantage of this operating system. Below, you can find the main differentiators of this platform.

Flexibility

Typically, Android phones offer more flexibility to their users in terms of app customization compared to iOS’s rigid environment. This freedom of creativity stems from the platform’s open-source nature, which allows no single industry player to restrict or control innovations. It also accounts for Android’s cross-compatibility potential.

Global, diverse audience

With over 3 billion Android devices in the wild, this operating system caters to users across various geographies and age groups. Therefore, if you’re aiming for a general target audience in multiple locations, Android is the safe choice.

Rich design

Although this advantage may create roadblocks for inexperienced app developers, the good old Material Design standards provide layered, dynamic designs with custom animations. Moreover, Google offers a vast collection of layouts and templates to help Android developers craft simple and complex designs.

Mature ecosystem

Developing Android apps means tapping into the diverse ecosystem of Android-powered devices. You can boost user engagement by writing your apps for the Wear OS experience, Android TV, and Chrome OS devices. Although each integration requires additional effort, a multifaceted user experience justifies the required effort.

Faster release

Google tends to have a less stringent approach to the submission and approval procedures. During the pandemic, however, the Google Play store has adjusted its reviewing times, and it now takes longer than usual to get feedback on your release. Still, if your application doesn’t violate the store’s guidelines, it generally takes editors two to three days to review your submission.

The Drawbacks of Android Development

Despite the many benefits, building for Android may entail some pitfalls. Below, you’ll find the drawbacks of developing Android apps, which help when choosing between Android and iOS app development.

Fragmentation

A rich ecosystem of devices is a double-edged sword. While it may help extend your reach, a wide device range also requires you to adjust your application to different screen sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios.

Quality assurance and maintenance

As multiple companies manufacture Android OS devices, Android app maintenance takes significant dedication and effort. Some devices also have off-center system integrations or rare bugs, which, unless taken into account, may lead to device-specific issues. Moreover, some devices have cheaper components, which can slow down apps.

Cost of development

Although this criterion varies by the project, Android app development and testing can be quite costly due to the wide range of devices. However, the total development cost depends on the overall app complexity and the number of features.

Option #2: iOS Development

Apple devices are not as numerous as Android ones. The number of active Apple devices has reached 1.8 billion in 2022. But despite a lower number of users, this operating system has some aces up its sleeve. 

The Benefits of iOS App Development

Below, you’ll find the main benefits of using Apple as your target platform.

Revenue

Apple users spend nearly 2.5 times more than Android users, while Android users tend to be more frugal regarding in-app purchases. Therefore, Apple customer spending behavior might also be a deal breaker for you. With Apple users, you can benefit from this tendency by using the freemium monetization model instead of cluttering your application with ads.

The number of devices

Less is more, especially when it comes to the number of devices you must optimize your app for. As iOS only powers Apple products, your application only needs to be adjusted for a limited and definite number of screens and devices.

Consistent user experience 

The battle between iOS vs. Android app designs is never-ending. However, if you’re aiming for uniform, consistent design, iOS will keep your UI/UX team within the bounds of conciseness. 

Apple design guidelines take their origin in the flat design that makes iOS look and feel stand out among the rest. Therefore, Apple's designs revolve around clarity, simplicity, and minimalism, supported by consistent experiences across all iOS devices. Also, total cohesion between software and hardware means a better user experience since your design will hold up across all devices. 

Closed-source ecosystem

The iOS platform is classified as a closed ecosystem, as Apple has complete control over both the software and the hardware. While it can have its drawbacks, proprietary software code has a lower chance of being compromised, and this sets higher standards compared to the open-source ecosystem.

The Drawbacks of iOS Development

Despite its benefits, Apple devices can set some limits on your project. Below, you’ll find the main drawbacks.

Limited customization 

Sleek, flawless, and uniform designs are the hallmark of the Apple ecosystem. However, the uniformity of designs comes from the restricted ability to customize iOS app interfaces. Moreover, it can be difficult to add third-party integrations when needed.

App release

The App Store notoriously has high publishing standards for iOS apps. But these can get back at you as the marketplace can reject your app due to inappropriate content, private APIs, or any other guideline violations. Besides, the App Store reviews all app updates, app bundles, in-app purchases, and in-app events as a part of its meticulous review process.

iOS vs. Android Development Comparison: Who Wins the Battle?

According to Statista, Android has the edge over iOS by the number of users. As of 2022, the Android operating system holds 71% of the market share, while iOS accounts for around 28% of the mobile market. 

market share.png
Source: Statista

However, market dominance isn’t the only factor that enters the equation when choosing between Android and iOS development. Next, we’ll review the main differentiating factors for iOS and Android app development.

Future prospects

On a high level, global spending on mobile apps is poised for gradual growth. According to Sensor Tower, mobile users are projected to spend $233 billion by 2026 on in-app purchases, compared with $133 billion in 2021. 

The App Store is expected to rake in more revenue with a projected $161 billion at an annual growth rate of 13.7%. Google Play will account for less profit of $72 billion with close to 9% annual growth by 2026. Both platforms will benefit from non-games consumer spending. 

worldwide user spending.png

When it comes to downloads, the distribution is different. Google Play will contribute 143 billion downloads, while the App Store will reach 38 billion by 2026. Therefore, you can gain from any platform, provided that your business model can help you tap into the advantages of a specific platform.

worldwide downloads.png

Revenue

The monetization potential also differs in iOS vs. Android development. While Android excels at market share, iOS users tend to bring in more considerable revenue. According to Sensor Tower, consumers spent more on subscription-based app downloads from the App Store than on Google Play. 

global consumer spending.png

The revenue from the top 100 non-game subscription apps on the App Store increased by 31% year-over-year (YOY) to $13.5 billion in 2021 from $10.3 billion. On Google marketplace, subscription apps account for $4.8 billion of revenue.

Therefore, if your main revenue stream is based on a free download with in-app purchases, iOS will give you more opportunities to make a profit. But remember that both Google and Apple charge a 30% fee for in-app purchases.

Related: How Much Money Can You Earn With an App?

Target audience

Mobile solutions should be built with the end users in mind. Therefore, the demographics and geography of your target audience is the fundamental criterion when choosing your platform. Research your existing and potential customers, find out who uses your competitors’ apps, and draw up a preliminary target user profile to develop a thorough understanding of your end user.

If you're looking to reach a global audience, Android is probably your best bet, as most countries favor Android over iOS. In addition, according to BIG THINK, up-and-coming regions like Asia prefer Android over iOS, as well.

At the same time, North America, Australia, and northern Europe prefer Apple devices over Android. In the US, the iPhone user base overtakes Android to pass 50% share of US smartphones. Therefore, if you’re targeting the American market, iOS is your best bet.

mobile os market share.png

Budget and time for development

The development timeline can also be a deal breaker when developing for either iOS or Android. However, in our experience, the development speed is roughly the same in both cases. 

However, the timeline can vary based on your application's complexity, compatibility goals, and feature set. For instance, an Android project may take longer due to the operating system release cycles, Android fragmentation, and device-specific issues. 

Specifically, resource-intensive Android development can also be more expensive compared with iOS, provided you’re developing for a wide range of devices. But it helps to keep in mind that costs and time depend on your unique project needs.

Related: How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App?

Post-launch maintenance

After the release, your application will need a regular maintenance regimen to keep up its performance. Based on our experience, the Android platform is more likely to cause maintenance challenges due to the variety of manufacturers.  

The iOS ecosystem is more consistent as it has the same hardware and operating system manufacturer. This, in turn, leads to balanced quality results, as the manufacturer has complete control over all parts of the iOS platform.

Desired features  

The set of core features, design flexibility, and overall freedom for creativity are also among the main criteria when developing for Android vs. iOS. As Android is open-source, it allows for granular customization capabilities, while on iOS, it’s far more time-intensive to go beyond uniform design elements. 

Besides a swath of hardware and manufacturers, Android ushers in a larger variety of features compared to Apple. For example, your Android app can include multiple payment methods, while iOS payment gateways are limited to Apple Pay. 

While the iOS operating system is under the complete dominion of the Apple ecosystem, Android allows you to go Google-free. Thus, you can replace default firmware with a custom ROM to create your version of Android and add unique features that are off-limits in stock Android.

Publishing on the app store

Although Google Play has high demands for freshly-baked applications, app publishers have higher odds of getting their applications approved. The App Store tends to reject more applications straight out the gate for the sake of higher privacy and app quality. 

In 2020, the App Store rejected around a million new apps and an additional million app updates, with the most common faux pas being undocumented features or copied software. As a result, Apple's review process is often criticized for being biased and non-transparent. 

In response to the growing frustration, Apple has made its submission process faster and more straightforward. According to Apple, 73% of prospective apps submitted by developers to the platform are now reviewed within 24 hours. Also, iOS developers now have direct access to Apple experts via Ask Apple.

To enter either app store, you need to purchase a developer license. While the Play Store’s license is a one-time $25, Apple’s Developer Program annual fee is $99 and is charged annually. 

Related: Why Google and Apple May Remove Your App and How to Deal With That? [+Free Pre-Publish Checklist]

User engagement

As for user engagement with in-app content, the average time spent on mobile has broken through the four-hour-a-day barrier in both markets. According to Data.ai, U.S. data consumers spend around four and a half hours daily on their Android phones. This SimpleTexting report suggests a similar average number of hours spent on iOS devices per day (4.65 hours, to be exact).

Therefore, both platforms suggest an equal potential for meaningful user interaction. Further, both will allow you to use the average user hours spent to translate your application's value.

So, Which to Choose First: Android vs. iOS Development?

The Android vs. iOS app development dilemma boils down to a well-defined understanding of your project. Your app’s target audience, budget, monetization potential, and desired customization level contribute to your platform decision. 

Here, Android application development is the ideal choice when:

  • You want to reach a wider audience;
  • You need a high level of design customization and unique features;
  • You want to speed up the app’s rollout.

You should consider iOS mobile app development when:

  • The majority of your target users are located in wealthier regions, like Northern Europe, North America, or Australia;
  • You have chosen a premium monetization model and/or intend to include in-app purchases;
  • You prefer a sleek yet predictable design.

In any case, we recommend making this important choice with your unique project needs in mind. Moreover, it’s always much easier to start with just one platform to test the waters and collect actionable feedback to further iterate on your application. 

If you’re looking for a trusted app development partner, Orangesoft is ready to solve your project’s challenges. Reach out to us, and we can help you enter the right market with the right solution.

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