Lesson Twelve

Should you clone your app?

Apple and Android dominate the smartphone market, owning over 90 percent of the industry.

To take advantage of this fact, many companies that already have an app based on one platform look to make it work across both Apple and Android devices. But this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and taking shortcuts to do so can have serious consequences.

Duplicating the functionality and look of your app on another platform is often called creating an app clone.

You might expect that creating a replica of an app you’re already built would be less expensive than creating an entirely new one, but there are differences in design and functionality between platforms like Apple and Android that complicate the process.

For example, here’s a look at how Airbnb built their original mobile app for iPhone.

Airbnb iPhone app creation process

Airbnb is a company that helps you book a place to stay almost anywhere in the world through their website and mobile apps. With customers and renters in over 190 countries, Airbnb members use a variety of mobile devices—not just iPhone or Android.

After the iPhone app was created, Airbnb looked to duplicate a similar experience on Android devices to reach the part of their customer base that primarily used Android.

According to the developers that worked on the Airbnb Android app, it took 5 months to complete the Android app even though most of the features and design elements from the iPhone app were replicated.

Fred Melin, one of the project’s lead developers noted that a core challenge of building the Android app was preparing for the multiple screen sizes on Android devices,

“A big technical challenge in developing an Android app based on an iOS one is getting an iOS design that will lay-out on different sized screens.”

As Audrey Troutt, an iOS and Android developer at mobile marketing company Artisan Mobile explains,

“Don’t assume that because something works in your iOS app that it will work on the Android platform.”

Making a clone of an existing app isn’t a simple process. With all the different design and functionality considerations across platforms how you choose to build out these elements will have a major impact on how your users feel about your app.

If you don’t take into consideration platform and device differences and decide to build a direct clone just to save money, there’s a good chance that all of the hard work you put into the design and build of your original app will go to waste and you’ll be left with users who are unhappy and unengaged with your product. When it comes to cloning an app, what you save in budget you lose in quality.

Focusing your app clone on a few core features, rather than trying to build a direct replica, can make the process easier, but don’t assume that cloning an app is as easy as “copy and paste.”