By 2018, less than 0.01% of mobile apps will...
In 2013, Android devices were used by 52% of US smartphone holders. Two years later, Android’s market share grew up to 65.6%. Judging by the numbers (as well as the number of mobile apps available on Google Play!), it may be true to say there’s no reason to start with iOS application development. You want to launch a successful mobile app and cannot choose the right platform? Here are a few things to consider.
Why iOS-first application development still makes sense?
By 2019, 81.1% of all smartphones sold to end users will run on Android. Yet, the Android business is a hard one. With HTC and LG heading for bankruptcy and free apps topping Google Play charts, the App Store remains an attractive destination for vendors.
Market stats are surely important. But it’s even more important to understand what platform your target audience sticks to.
- Fragmentation. With iOS, there’s a limited set of devices to test against. Also, 80% of Apple lovers adopt the latest version of the operating system within a year after its release. Thus, app developers can easily fix bugs and maintain great user experience;
- Language. Native iOS applications are written in Objective-C and Swift. The languages might seem bulky at first, but (unlike Java) they have blocks and categories. And although Objective-C is sometimes criticized for excessive verbosity, Android development requires 38% more coding;
- UX Design. Apple’s default visual elements like pop-up menus and message templates look great as they are. You can easily create a simple interface using the Interface Builder tool. Once again, the choice of screen sizes is limited to current iPhones and iPads. With Android, you have 19 smartphone manufacturers and an endless list of devices. Android Studio’s drag-and-drop editor is easy to use, and the icon pack is great, too; but most Android developers end up writing layouts in XML (which reads “more work & time spent on each project”);
- Revenues. Although iPhone sales are expected to fall by 8% (for the first time in history!), Apple is all about profit. We’re not comparing iOS revenues to those of Android: the App Store still earns 75% more than Google Play. You can also measure the lines of iOS/Android code and the hours spent on a project. You’ll find out Android development is 30% more expensive. In case you’re a startup and want to make the most of your modest budget, it’s safer to develop an iOS application.
Comparing iOS to Android: 3 reasons to choose the latter
- Android keeps getting better. Last year, over 1 billion Android devices were running on 10+ versions of the operating system, including outdated KitKat and Jelly Bean. Google is currently trying to enable access to Android’s multiple updates and cool features via Play Services. The company also revised developer guidelines. Nexus 5 & 6 are scheduled for a 2016 release. We’ve got Google smartwatches. Marshmallow 6.0 is gradually making its way to our smartphones. The whole Android ecosystem has undergone considerable changes, and (thanks to open source & open access policy!) third-party developers can make it even better;
- Easy publishing. All you have to do is sign up your app via Eclipse Wizard. Once you get the Android application package file, you can upload it on Google Play and make the app available worldwide in mere hours;
- Google Play returns to China. In terms of iOS downloads, the country has already outperformed USA. Yet, the market is dominated by third-party app stores. If you want to distribute your mobile software in China, you have to partner with a major publisher like Kebam or submit your app to 10 different agents. Quite a nightmare actually. But here comes the change! In 2015, Google announced plans to re-launch Google Play in the country. Straightforward & transparent distribution will surely bring more Android developers to the market.
Why Android-first is not happening
Instagram arrived on Google Play only after the app had generated 30 million iOS users. It took Rovio almost a year to transfer Angry Birds to Android. The world’s leading vendors follow the iOS-first mobile app development trend. And here’s why.
In 2012, Dave Feldman and Gummi Hafsteinsson (Emu founders) decided to develop a messenger with a built-in assistant. They chose Android for several reasons:
- iOS messenger development requires a separate communication channel. With Android, you simply replace the default messaging app with your own software;
- Top grossing iOS applications are games. Almost 100% of Androiders make use of communication apps;
- Press and Flipboard proved you can build a great app on Android.
Emu was launched in 2013 – to generally positive reviews. IT experts were particularly impressed by the decision to go Android-first. In several months, the company released the iOS version of Emu and …pulled the Android app off Google Play.
According to Feldman, the major problems with Android were:
- The relatively small adoption of latest software (Emu wouldn’t run on Android 4.0, so the target audience was smaller than expected);
- Fragmentation (a large quantity of bugs and inability to discover them);
- Inconsistent documentation (in 2016, Google docs are as good as Apple’s).
iOS certainly has several advantages. But Android has changed. We’ve got a plethora of Google devices, a brand-new OS, Gradle project automation tool, Material Design UI tool and improved developer guidelines. If Google moves away from Java and revise database management APIs, it can easily outperform Apple.
Slick iOS or sweet Android, that is the question. And the answer depends on several factors, including the whereabouts of your target audience, preferred app monetization strategy and the platform’s most popular app categories. Provided you address a reliable vendor (who will conduct a comprehensive marketing research prior to app development), your project is doomed to success, no matter which operating system you choose.