Android and iOS account for over 99.6% of the mobile market which means that companies looking into developing a mobile app, need to decide which platform is best for their brand.

The ideal approach to mobile app development would be to create both Android and iOS apps from the get-go to reach the widest user base possible. However, this isn’t always feasible, for a number of reasons ranging from timeframe to budget, to resource constraints, etc.

Sometimes, given time and development cost limitations, some companies need to choose one platform to develop first. However, there are many variables that extend beyond cost. For some companies, Android may be the better choice, but for others, it might be iOS. How do you choose if Android or iOS is the right platform to begin with? We’ve put together this comparative guide to help you decide whether iOS or Android (or a combination) is the right choice for your brand.

This post is going to present you with the information you need to help make that decision. To start off, let’s look at the stats:

The number of mobile apps in the market has hit new heights. As of right now, there are over 2.2 million apps in the App Store while Android users are able to choose over 2.8 million apps in the Google Play Store.

According to a 2017 App Annie study, both iOS and Android downloads grew by 15% year-over-year to reach nearly $25 billion worldwide. This only includes new downloads, and excludes re-installs or downloads from prior quarters.

A study by Gartner found in the last half of 2016, 87.8% of smartphones sold worldwide were Android which is 3.1% higher than what it was one year ago. iOS’s market share, on the other hand, is at 11.5%. This growth dominates other platforms significantly as Windows only accounted for 0.4% of all smartphones sold, for example.

Although Android still dominates the global market share, iOS devices have achieved a year-on-year-growth across most countries aside from Germany and China. Apple manages to maintain a strong user base in well established and affluent markets.

It’s clear that competition is heavy for both iOS and Android, meaning there is no clear distinction on which platform is easier to succeed on. We’ve outlined 5 considerations that will help you choose the platform that best aligns with your business objectives.

iOS App Development vs. Android App Development

1. Demographics

First, you’ll need to understand who your audience is by analyzing demographics. iOS users are typically a little younger and the majority live in North America and Western Europe. They spend more money on in-app purchases and typically download business, education, and lifestyle apps from the App Store.

While iOS users occupy a smaller share of the global market, they have higher incomes, and have higher app engagement rates as they spend an average of 4x longer in-app than Android users. These are key demographic characteristics you should be analyzing when choosing between iOS and Android.

If you’re targeting a global market, Android gets a lot more app downloads. In Q3 2015, worldwide downloads on the Google Play Store were 90% higher than the App Store. App Annie says this rise is due to the growth of inexpensive smartphones in markets like India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

If your audience mainly lives in South America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, you may want to consider building your app for Android. These users are a lot more aware of price-quality ratio and download apps ranging from tools to entertainment to communication categories. Additionally, they prefer in-app ads.

The bottom line: Android holds the largest global platform share, however, this market share comes mostly from developing countries and lower income areas.

2. Profitability & Monetization Models

From a revenue standpoint, it’s evident which platform outperforms the other. It’s a well-known fact that iOS apps make more money. The App Store generates about 80% more revenue than the Google Play Store. In fact, Flurry recently found that Android apps generate only 24% of the revenue generated by iOS.

Even though Apple has fewer users, the App Store brings in much more revenue, which proves that iOS users spend more money on apps than Android users.

Despite iOS’s significant lead in revenue, the Google Play Store consumer spend increased in Q1 2017, showing a strong growth of 40% year-over-year.

Why is there a huge revenue gap between the two platforms? Apple is known for providing developers with greater opportunity to profit from their apps, especially with app monetization models. iOS has a higher number of paid apps and in-app purchases, whereas Android has a higher volume of advertising-based apps. We’ve written at length about choosing a monetization strategy that fits your business objectives. This is crucial because your monetization strategy will help inform which platform will be the best fit for your app.

The bottom line: Android has a greater percentage of ad-supported apps while iOS relies mainly on purchases.

3. Timeline

Another consideration you need to keep in mind is timeline. How fast do you want to get your app to the market? Keep in mind that longer development time results in higher cost. Generally, it typically takes longer for Android app development compared to iOS app development as a result of longer release cycles and Android device fragmentation.

Building an app that is compatible with all kinds of Android devices takes clearly takes more time although this isn’t always the case. There are thousands of Android devices which have a variety of screen sizes and OS versions running. Since Apple creates all the hardware and software, there are fewer devices developers will have to build for.

Keep in mind that this is not always true. It depends on the complexity of the UI/animations. With every release of a new Android SDK, it generally gets easier for developers to handle. You should be cognizant of the fact that Android needs a little more time. On the contrary, iOS takes longer to release so when you estimate your release process and when your app needs to be completed by, iOS typically has a more aggressive deadline due to the longer release period. Developers also play a significant role in development timeline so make sure your developers have the expertise needed for your mobile project.

The bottom line: It may take more time to make your app responsive for Android than iOS because you have more devices running on more versions.

4. Release & Approval

As our developers can attest, Android is the favorite when it comes to the release and approval process. For iOS, the release and approval process is typically between 2-3 weeks, and even longer, if the app is rejected. Android apps typically take a day or two to get approved and updates can be pushed within a matter of hours.

For Android, it’s a little more user-friendly in the fact that you just make a certificate, make sure you have the right keys in place for push, and other services the app uses. Then upload to the Google Play Store, and usually within a few hours if it gets accepted and you can release.

The bottom line: The Google Play Store submission is less expensive and less strict when it comes to publishing.

5. Cost Of Development

The cost of mobile app development comes down to the scope and complexity of the project; the larger and more complex a project is, the more it is going to cost. There is nothing inherent to iOS or Android development that makes one more expensive than the other.

That said, if you are aiming to cover a large number of devices and OS versions on Android, apps will require more time and resources, and thus incur higher costs. If the scope is more aligned with supporting an equal number of devices and OS versions on iOS and Android, the cost of development will be similar. There is really no clear answer to which platform is cheaper to develop for. It really comes down to features.

The bottom line: The more time it takes to develop an app, the more it will cost.

How To Find The Right Developers

Many developers specialize in either one platform or the other. At Clearbridge Mobile, we have the expertise to built world-class iOS and Android mobile apps. End-to-end app development is a complicated, multi-faceted process from concepting, architecture planning, design, development, testing, to release. If your app is going to be successful, you need to partner with the right vendor. Ensure that your developers are experienced enough to take on your iOS and/or Android mobile app.

Making The Decision

Five years ago, Android only had a market share of 21.5%. Since then, a lot has changed. With iOS bringing in more revenue, and Android dominating market share, it’s hard to determine which platform is the right choice.

Ultimately, your decision to build for iOS or Android first is going to come down to what works for your business. You should look at:

  • The type of app you are building
  • Monetization model (paid download, in-app purchasing, etc.)
  • The market you’re aiming for (North America, global, etc.)
  • User demographics
  • Project timeframe and budget

For example, if your target user is North American, higher income, and you plan to monetize from in-app purchases, you likely want to go with iOS first. If you’re aiming for a broader, global market and plan to monetize through advertising, Android may be the better bet. It comes down to looking at the market and user demographics and choosing the option that best fits your business.

The Bottom line: Android has gained a lot of traction in the last few years as companies are seeing the value of focusing on both platforms, and not just iOS alone. Now, they’re both extremely successful which is why it’s smart to invest in both iOS and Android app development.