Android or iOS - Which Platform Should I Develop For?

Posted by Davzo Inc

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“Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn't know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can't imagine your life without it.” - Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Mr. Cook said that about Apple’s philosophy toward product development, but it’s just as applicable to app development itself. Apps are products, after all, just as much as the phones and tablets they run on. Apps need to be thoroughly engineered and well designed.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” - Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO

Steve Jobs hated the idea that “design” was just exterior veneer and polish. He would have said that “design” is about what’s underneath, not just the inner workings of your software but the details of your idea, and the plan you lay out to build that idea into an full fledged product. You might want to hurry and put your product out on every platform and device all at once, but that’s not good design - each new platform will bring different development issues and possible bugs. It’s best to pick a single platform and perfect your product there first, then branch out into porting your app to other platforms.

You’ve probably heard of Instagram, even if you don’t use it. While it’s now available on almost any mobile device, Instagram started in 2010 as an iPhone exclusive. The app grew for two years, and had over 30 million users before Instagram ever released an Android version of its service. While many would-be users complained about this delay, Instagram’s developers wanted to make sure their user experience was perfect before working on porting it.

Two years is a long time, but the lesson is that the best time to port your app is as soon as you have perfected your user experience on a single platform. Fruit Ninja - a game about slicing fruit before it hits the ground, a crucial skill for the hungry ninja - released its Android port only six months after its initial iOS release in April of 2010.

“Every startup should address a real and demonstrated need in the world - if you build a solution to a problem lots of people have, it's so easy to sell your product to the world.” - Kevin Systrom, Instagram developer and CEO

You might be wondering why both of the apps mentioned above made their initial launch on Apple’s iOS. Keep in mind...

The choice is really between Apple and Android

While there are alternative mobile OS’ on the market, such as Windows Phone and Blackberry, the Big Two account for over 90% of the smartphone market share.

Apple has a high market share in North America and Europe: While the Android operating system enjoys widespread use in Africa, South America and much of the developing world, iOS maintains a high market share in the western world.

Apple makes developers more money: While Android might be winning at simple market share, Apple has a secure hold on the profit share - iOS apps make 85% more money for developers. According to a recent article, though Apple represents a mere 20% of the smartphone market, they bring in 92% of its profit.

Apple users are loyal: Apple users have a reputation as loyal consumers, replacing their Apple products with new Apple products. Overheard at a coffee shop: “Once you go Mac, you don’t go back.”

Apple users are more likely to spend money: Apple users bought a more expensive product to begin with, which tends to indicate a certain level of disposable income and spending power. If you want hard numbers, Apple generates 45% more per user than Google makes from Android. iOS users have also been judged 10% likelier to make an in-app purchase, 15% more likely to visit online retail sites and 23% more likely to make purchases using their phones.

iOS will cost you less to develop for: Granted, most of the costs for simple development are the same between iOS and Android - hardware and licensing fees and so on. The real secret cost comes in the testing process toward the end of the development cycle. Android apps must run on a vast range of devices, tablets and phones from dozens of different manufacturers, and the tests and debugging required to achieve this can add weeks to development time and put you deep over budget. On the other hand, iOS is designed to run on only a small range of devices created to a single set of standards by a central manufacturer, and is therefore a much more stable platform to develop for.

It should be obvious by now that your first move should be to develop a solid product experience on iOS before moving on to other platforms. No one is saying “stay away from Android forever”, of course, but if you can perfect your app for the iOS audience first, you’ll be rewarded with money, experience, and buzz that will help you on your way to making releases for Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and beyond.

“Don't worry that you can't seem to come up with sure billion dollar winners at first. Just do projects for yourself for fun. You'll get better and better.” - Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder.

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