Android Apps vs. iOS Apps – Which is the best mobile app
Mobile Growth

Android Apps vs. iOS Apps – Which is the best mobile app

author

Buse Kanal

If you count the number of apps in Google Play (3.2 million) and the App Store (2.1 million), we calculate one hundred Android for every sixty-five iOS apps. You may conclude it’s a runaway. Not so fast! Consider that there’s only one Apple, whereas Android covers 1300 brands. Indeed, Samsung leads the Android charge with 37.5% of the latter segment at the last count. So, if you shift positions and look at the comparison through a brand viewfinder, there’s no doubt that Apple is the single largest app generator. As a result, looking at quantity only muddies the water. Thus, it warrants a deeper dive to expand our evaluation.

When the internet entered our lives, websites asserted themselves as our mainstream search option, apps being no exception. However, that’s changed dramatically, looking at stats ending 2020. Consider the following:   

The above isn’t surprising considering the 230 billion app downloads in 2021. Moreover, mobile app spending across Android and iOS touched $133 billion in the same year. In an Ericsson report, the company estimates that every mobile user spends around $21 annually on apps.

One may get the impression that the mobile app revolution rests on the shoulders of consumers, but that isn’t the case. Although the following dates back four years (i.e., 2018), the implications are staggering.

  • Business use of mobile apps jumped by 98%, according to Salesforce.
  • Banking and FinTech app downloads (as only one business segment) recorded 3.4 billion downloads – up 75% from 2016 (i.e., over two years).

CEOs resoundingly agree that apps are significantly helping them in calculating crucial metrics, geolocation, push notifications, imaging/camera security, and more. Startups, SMBs, and enterprises alike have entered the app arena in two significant ways:

  1. Developing them as part and parcel of the brands they’re selling.
  2. Buying existing apps to bolster their strategic performance.

Looking at it this way, websites these days are marketing tools more than anything else. Of course, we don’t want to diminish their importance because they integrate to support initiatives in the app environment. Still, the shift in emphasis is undeniable: It signifies that underestimating the massive app influence is a grave business error. 

Having highlighted the impact of apps on customer lifestyles and business decisions, any company considering app development must decide if they want to be in:

  • The Android camp.
  • The iOS circle.
  • Or both. 

Addressing this crossroad depends on your target market definition, understanding the tech stack of each platform, the estimated cost, and the time it will take from end to end. This article will provide valuable insights into all these considerations to support your presentations to stakeholders.

A. Tech Stack and the app development platform decision.

Technologies are the roots of every app development, but they vary depending on the platform:

a. Android developed apps

Java, C++, and Kotlin programming languages are the go-to resources for Android app developers. Additionally, advanced Google development tools, in combination, provide:

  • The developers with a defined range of pre-build Android components (i.e., Android Jetpack).
  • A functional platform in the Android arena (i.e., Firebase).
  • An Android Studio-connected development kit (Android SDK). 

b. iOS developed apps

The one tremendous difference between the two platforms is that Android’s operating system centers on open-source code, whereas iOS is just the opposite (i.e., closed source code). Furthermore, the latter is exclusive to Apple devices, relying on entirely different technology options. As a result, iOS developers also depend on:

  • A software development kit connected to the Cocoa Touch UI framework (iOS SDK). Also, the latter’s benefits converge on providing graphical elements, user interface controls, and more. 
  • The platform’s standard integrated development environment (IDE provided by XCode).
  • Swift Playgrounds as a development environment tool for Swift.
  • TestFlight, to provide online installation and testing guidelines. Aside from its testing properties, the latter is instrumental in collecting valuable feedback before deciding to release apps for public consumption. 

c. Android developed app advantages in the Google Play Store.

  • The open-source system generates significantly more features for Android than iOS applications.
  • The Google design guidelines are extensive and easy to follow, making the development of user interfaces intuitive and attractively functional.
  • The technologies embrace a broad device range for app development, including Android smartphones, wearables, TVs, and in-car systems (to mention a few).
  • The publishing process (only a few hours) is relatively seamless on Google Play compared to the App store. Indeed, this is the bright side of fragmentation.
  • You can expect both platforms to get active once annually on operating system updates. However, Android has an advantage because it takes a few hours (compared to an iOS fortnight) to republish your product roadmap and business. 

d. Android developed app disadvantages.

  • The dark side of fragmentation: With Android devices covering over one thousand diverse brands, screen sizes and resolutions are off the charts. It represents a significant development challenge adjusting app features to fit the entire range.
  • The device variability mentioned above plays into testing as well, requiring developers to spend much more time on this aspect of the development process.
  • Time in the app development world is money. The longer the development cycle takes, the more it costs. Fragmentation and testing impact the process described above by expending time, thus signifying that Android app development is relatively more expensive than iOS. Of course, much depends on app complexity, so assume an oranges to oranges comparison.

e. iOS developed app advantages

  • Despite around 50% more Android apps in circulation (see the introduction above), the App Store accounted for about 87.3% more in consumer spending than the Google Play platform, consistent with the historical trend (a reading by Sensor Tower in 2021). It’s a gigantic one-up for iOS that speaks for itself.
  • Contrary to the Android challenge of differentiated devices across more than a thousand brands, we’re talking here about only those in the Apple camp. Therefore, there are fewer screen sizes and resolution issues to concern one.
  • Apple platform delivers a sophisticated design guide for the app user interface, which developers resoundingly applaud as a valuable time-saver.

f. iOS developed app disadvantages.

  • The App Store’s review guideline for launching apps is severely strict. As a result, your iOS app can run into security, content, and performance headwinds on real-life testing, thus creating unforeseen delays.
  • iOS, on the feature side, is more restrictive than Android, thus limiting the level of customization developers can leverage.
  • You can expect both platforms to get active once annually on operating system updates. However, iOS is at a disadvantage because it takes fourteen days (compared to Android several hours) to republish your product roadmap and business.

App Development

B. Android vs. iOS App Development: Is there a winner?

Let’s look at the question from different angles: your mobile application target market, you should consider the following factors:

1. Device reachability and the revenue metric.

In a nutshell: There are around 5 billion mobile users globally, with Android-centric brands holding a nearly 75% market share, against Apple users taking up the remaining 25%. So, Android developers device-wise reach three mobile owners for every Apple user. As intimated in the introduction, it goes further, showing that Android users enjoy an app pool through Google Play that’s one-and-half times the size of Apple’s (refer above.) 

Metrics like this seem overwhelmingly in Android’s favor. Then comes the fireball launched inside the Apple camp, and it bears repeating here (also see above under iOS advantages):

The App Store accounted for around 87.3% more in consumer spending than Android on the Google Play platform, consistent with the historical trend.” 

So, from a revenue perspective, we see an upside-down picture where the platform, with only 25% of total global devices working for Apple developers, with one-third fewer apps than Android in circulation, trounces the latter in dollar terms. There are some groundbreaking conclusions arising from this, namely:

  1. From an engagement perspective, it’s no contest. Apple wins, hands down.
  2. Seeing that P&L accounts and bottom lines focus on net revenues, it appears that omitting iOS from your development framework is a cardinal error.
    • So, in other words, is the App store an absolute must, and the only decision is going for a cross-app strategy or not?
    • Not necessarily. Lower down, we’ll show that, although compelling revenue factors present a convincing argument for iOS development, there are many “think-again” exceptions when demographic analysis kicks in.
    • It means that developers who regard dual-platform development as the only other option after committing to iOS as a given should surely re-evaluate their positions after reading all the ups and downs posed by this article below.

2. Let’s look at demographics to help our decision.

a. The Android User Demographic Profile looks something like this:

  • Users are not typically college graduates, with around 80% at high school graduate level.
  • They’re predominantly males, thirty-four years or younger.
    • Employed primarily in IT, energy, or utilities.
    • With close to 25% earning less than $100,000 annually.
    • Mostly US-bound, with over 70% never traveling overseas.
  • Over 87% of them display extroverted personalities.

b. The Typical iOS User Profile couldn’t be more different:

  • Over 37% have earned a college degree.
  • Nearly 30% of the user base are women over thirty-five.
  • A startling 86% of Apple device owners are essentially introverted:
    • With over two-thirds earning $200,000 plus annually.
    • Spending more freely than Android fans.
    • Working mainly in media companies and marketing departments. 
  • Around 50% have traveled abroad to five countries or more.

Thus, putting device numbers and revenues aside, the demographics indicate that it’s a case of “horses for courses,” and many issues arise that make an argument for “Apple-only” or “Android-only” apps.  

  • First, there’s no overstating how crucial it is to know everything about your target market. 
  • Second, the demographics displayed above are the tip of a massive demographic information iceberg. 
  • Third, these reflections show us there’s  no point wasting time on a platform if the demographics don’t suit your app’s appeal. For example: 
  • The Android-only strategy makes ultimate sense if your app is a war game zoning in on the “between twenty and thirty male population,” offering less intellectually challenging features.
  • On the other hand, Apple-only aligns seamlessly with a “wordle-type” puzzle app appealing to career women over forty with a college degree.

We could provide many more examples, but we’re sure you get the picture. However, suppose the game app developer cited in the example above added a version that also connects with graduate males in the same age category. In that case, a cross-platform approach is a ticket to success.

In summary,  focus on your users’ specific demographic and behavioral characterizations. Market segmentation should drive your decision on which platform most suits your app or determines that both do.

c. A Relook at Development and Testing: 

Under the Tech Stack subheading above (advantages and disadvantages of the two platforms), we covered almost all the development and testing differences in detail. They boil down to several verticals, some favoring iOS and others boosting the Android proposition. Please review the same to refresh your memory. 

We can add that Android emerges at a higher development expense and process time than Apple in all three complexity categories, with the following Android benchmarks as follows:

  • Basic app development –  A cost of around $15k and process time of two to three months.
  • Medium app development complexity – Expenditure in the region of $30K, taking three months to develop.
  • Complex app development complexity  – Anything from $50,000 to $300,000 and half a year to twelve months to complete.

However, we want to emphasize that, in our view, development aspects are secondary in the bigger scheme of considerations. For example, it seems logical a developer wouldn’t select the Android platform just because it’s more feature-flexible if, say, the targeted users are predominantly in the iOS arena. Similarly, why choose Apple because there’s less screen size and resolution complexity if your app is a game for school-leaving young adults. 

Your counter-argument may be that all the in-house skills favor iOS, in which case we suggest (a) Hiring Android skills or (b) Shifting your app features to appeal to an Apple audience. In short, the customer dictates your direction, not your comfort zone. Look outward at your audience’s emotions, pain points, and wants. Resist looking inward at your own.

3. Revenue Models

This one aligns closely with demographic considerations. Specific market segments prefer apps where it’s mostly for free, and the app monetizes with ad support (i.e., predominantly Android consumers). Conversely, most iOS users have little resistance to in-app purchases alongside free downloads (and even some paid downloads). The iOS model is the dominant revenue generator, as we have shown above repeatedly. Nonetheless, it goes directly to user emotions and behavior. Both should be front and center of your platform selection. 

Conclusion 

There’s not much more to say on guiding one’s decision in the Android or iOS direction. We’ve drawn the dividing lines, throwing the deciding factors into the segmentation arena – meaning demographic and behavior evaluation. These converge on how you believe your audience will respond to your value proposition. In many cases, iOS users won’t, while Android users will, and vice versa. In a significant number of circumstances, both are viable options. Much depends on your app capitalization, which means you frequently must prioritize, even if it means postponing possible alternatives. We believe this article shows you which foot to put forward first to progress along an ROI-centric path.

Fill in gaps by talking to ShyftUp – a leading global User Acquisition Agency. They’ll help you decide on your iOS and Android strategies for your app portfolio. ShyftUp focuses on two primary services:

  1.  App Store Optimization (ASO) – unleashing the power of organic user growth by creating boosted visibility on the app stores
  2.  Paid User Acquisition – to help you grow your user base by converting your paid marketing budget into real users, thus revenue. ShyftUp specializes in Apple Search Ads and Google UAC channels.

[sc_fs_multi_faq headline-0=”h2″ question-0=”What is a cross-mobile application app?” answer-0=”It’s an app that can work on both iOS and Android platforms for multiple devices. ” image-0=”” headline-1=”h2″ question-1=”Is cross-mobile application app development the way to go?” answer-1=”It depends on your budget, but more vitally, your target market. Some major apps like Instagram go this route, but other fringe-like apps select one platform or another with great success, ” image-1=”” headline-2=”h2″ question-2=”What are the most critical considerations in deciding whether to go on one platform, the other, or both?” answer-2=”Your budget tells you how much development latitude you have. If it’s constrained, making the best decision should start with letting your audience dictate. Go with the platform the latter prefers and responds to the best. Moreover, take the revenue model that works for them into this analysis. That way, you’ll surely get your ducks in a row. ” image-2=”” count=”3″ html=”true” css_class=””]

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