Lesson Nine

Should you build an iOS app or Android app?

When you have a great idea, it can be tempting to shoot out of the gate and build an app for every device that exists – iPad, iPhone, Android, desktop, laptop, the list goes on.

However, in most cases, it’s usually a good idea to start building for one platform first, not multiple.

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Instagram

Instagram, a popular photo sharing app started on iPhone in 2010. The app took off and grew to over 30 million users in 2 years.

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Although Instagram showed immediate promise, the company took almost two years to release an Android version. There could have been a few reasons why this was the case but one reason seemed to be because Instagram wanted to nail the experience on one platform first.

Two years before they released an app for Android, Instagram highlighted on their website,

“We are currently working on making the iPhone experience as solid as possible. Only then will we consider other platforms, but currently we have nothing to announce.”
Instagram FAQs 2010

Getting started

Building a quality app that works well on just one device is challenging enough. Trying to build an app for iPhone while simultaneously building for every Android and tablet device adds an additional layer of complexity.

If you don’t have a product out in the market yet, you’re likely still learning or tweaking the features and design that will create your app’s experience. In this case, it will likely save you time and money to start building for one platform first while you’re still figuring things out. You won’t end up having to make big changes across multiple devices which can be costly.

Build for one platform, one device first. Get that right, then expand to other platforms and devices.

Choosing between Android or Apple iOS

If you’re starting with one platform, it’s likely you’re deciding between Android and Apple iOS. The two companies account for over 90% of the smartphone market share.

Although Android currently dominates market share at over 80% (while Apple iOS sits at about 15%), Apple iOS dominates the profit share, generating 85% more revenue for app makers than Android.

In addition, Apple users are more loyal than Android users, meaning Apple users tend to stay with Apple rather than switching to a different operating system.

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To help make the choice between Android and iOS, here’s a few of the main factors to consider:

Should you build an Android or iOS app?

1. If your market is Asia, Africa or South America

Advantage: Android

While Apple focuses on the premium smartphone market and customers with higher income, Android is aiming for massive adoption. For instance, Android has a large advantage compared to Apple in emerging markets (i.e. Asia, Africa, South America)

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2. If you plan on making money through in-app purchases or charging for your app directly

Advantage: Apple

For in-app purchases, Apple generates 45% more revenue per user than Google does from Android. Also, iOS users are 10% more likely to make in-app purchases than Android users.

3. Type of app: if you’re making a retail app

Advantage: Apple

iPhone users more likely to make purchases on their phones

  • 23% Apple iPhone
  • 17% Android

iPhone users are 15% more likely to visit online retail sites

4. Type of app: if you’re making a paid app or app with in-app purchases

Advantage: Apple

The spending power of Apple users is almost five times higher than Android users. This is why mobile app developers tend to focus more on building for iOS first.

5. Cost

Advantage:Apple

Whether you start building for Android or Apple iOS mobile devices, the cost will be relatively similar. In some cases however, the cost to design the same app can be higher for Android devices due to a larger number of devices you’ll need to design for compared to Apple.

Both Android and Apple have their advantages and disadvantages. Android allows you to reach a broader audience but Apple’s audience is more engaged and loyal.

Hopefully, reviewing the factors above and applying them to your idea, will help you decide which platform is best for you to start with.


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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4