So you’re thinking of developing a mobile app, huh? Where to start? Android? iOS? Windows? BlackBerry? I think it’s safe to assume that most developers will forego the latter and focus on Android and iOS, especially if they are interested in generating revenue. So how to decide between starting with Android or iOS? Really, the decision is easy – for as plethora of reasons.
Let’s start with money. The best place to make a profit is on iOS. Generally speaking, Apple is usually viewed by start-ups as the ideal platform to design for due to its larger and more affluent customer base. Even though Android has a commanding lead in market share (84.7% compared to 11.7% for iOS) and downloads that are 60% higher than iOS, revenue is still 60% higher on the iTunes App Store! Maybe you’re scratching your head, asking “how can this be?” Well, allow me to explain. There are three main reasons for this “fuzzy math.” First, iOS devices are generally more expensive and appeal to higher income consumers – those more likely to spend more money on apps and in-app purchases. Secondly, iOS doesn’t have much market share in developing countries like Android does – and Android has been slow to adopt carrier billing, which means users can’t even purchase apps if they wanted to! Furthermore, while Apple forces users to put in their credit card information, it is merely an option for Android users. Lastly, iOS is a “closed” system, making it much harder to pirate apps, which is, unfortunately, pretty common with Android apps, thereby creating a negative revenue stream. Take a look at this chart for easy reference:
So, money is important, but it’s not everything, right? There are other reasons why one might choose iOS over Android. For example, Apple iOS developers spend most of their time coding. Android developers? They use the bulk of their time testing and debugging their code, according to an Evans Data report. Why? It’s due to Android fragmentation, which forces developers to spend more time testing disparate hardware, a problem no other mobile platform has. Given that there are over 1,600 devices in the Android SDK, it's not surprising Android developers must spend an inordinate amount of time testing and debugging. Even though Apple does have higher standards when it comes to app design, iOS is in fact considerably easier to develop for. Conversely, Android’s current development tool is currently an unwieldy piece of software named Eclipse.
This might lead you to ask, “Why bother developing on Android at all??” It’s fragmented, involves a more difficult platform, requires a lot of debugging and doesn’t make all that much money. One reason might be that Android apps can be downloaded from a number of different stores such as Google Play, the Amazon App Store, or any number of independent app stores. Having multiple places to download Android apps can be great for the consumer because they have a choice. The downside? It creates inconsistency between rankings and reviews, the number one thing customers look at when they go to download an app.
With all that being said, with Android’s massive user base and its rapid adoption in developing countries, it can be a great start, especially for a beginner or amateur – it’s much easier to get your apps published on Android than with iOS because Android’s review process is much less stringent than Apple’s.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re just getting started and/or not looking to make a profit from your awesome apps, I would recommend trying both and drawing your own conclusions – in fact, please post your comments here! For those who are more experienced and are looking to turn your tech savvy skills into a monthly paycheck, it seem iOS is the way to go.