iOS First Mobile Application Development Trend

Android dominates the global smartphone market with 84.1% and 2.2 billion apps available on Google Play. Why do most vendors prefer to launch an iOS application first?

Smartphone Market Share by OS

  • Apple is all about revenues. In 2015, Google Play saw 100% more downloads than the App Store – and generated 75% less revenue. That’s the primary reason why many popular apps (including Camera+, Infinity Blade, Alto’s Adventure and Day One) were launched on iOS first or even exclusively. According to the sales figures published by Google in 2013, the company registered over 1 billion active users and paid $ 5 billion to Android developers over the course of 12 months. Apple had half as many users (470 million), but made $ 10 billion in a single year. That’s hardly surprising, considering the fact Android is more popular in the emerging markets (with limited access to credit cards and lower incomes);
  • Developing apps for Android is more expensive. Dave Feldman, the very man who managed TechCrunch and Yahoo design teams and created his own Emu messenger, claims developing Android apps typically costs 2-3 times more than building an iOS application – and there are several reasons for this. First, it’s the medium developer hourly rates ($ 150 and $ 168 for iOS and Android, respectively). Second, it is smartphone manufacturers’ reluctance to upgrade their devices to the latest Android version (as of now, the 2013 KitKat dominates the market with 32.5%, so developers need to polish app performance on multiple versions of the operating system).Finally, it is huge testing expenses brought by fragmentation. In case you’re a startup (and pressed for money), going Android-first can consume a lion’s share of your initial budget and leave you broke;
  • iPhone users pay for apps and make in-app purchases. The spending power of iPhone owners is 5 times higher than that of dedicated Androiders – mostly because of Apple’s high-end nature (iPhones are at least 200% more expensive than most Android smartphones). They also make 23% of all mobile payment transactions and are 15% more likely to access an online store from mobile. Although Google wins when it comes to user engagement (18% more app sessions per month) and advertising (Android users click on ads more often – and there’s no ad blocking on the operating system), Apple has a loyal fanbase and higher retention rate over a 30 day period. In October 2014, iOS-powered devices accounted for 78% of all mobile sales on Cyber Monday. If you consider launching a paid app or going freemium, iOS is just what the doctor ordered;
  • Build once, run anywhere. With the launch of the 4th Gen Apple TV, your app business is no longer limited to crafting software for smartphones and iPads. Many applications that were popular on iOS (including Alto’s Adventure and FlightBoard) were ported to the TV App Store and found similar success. tvOS uses the same tech stack as iOS (Objective-C, Swift), so no major rework is required. This year, Apple TV is expected to ship 24 million units worldwide; why not reach your target audience through a totally new customer acquisition channel?
  • Better overall user experience. Apple is well-known for its strict UI/UX policy. There’s still no web browsing on Apple TV (although the feature would certainly bring more developers on board). The company also enables iOS 9+ users to download and install ad blocking solutions. These limitations may alienate some third-party developers, but surely improve user experience. In fact, 62% of iPhone owners are “highly satisfied” with their smartphones and spend 26 minutes more on their devices than the average Androider. iPhones are also less vulnerable to malware since their owners quickly upgrade to the latest version of the operating system (and it means you can easily roll out app updates, cutting support for the iOS versions that are no longer in use).

We’re not encouraging you to put out an iOS app and call it a day; after all, Google controls almost 85% of the global smartphone market. Guess what we’re driving at? Unless you run Procter & Gamble, we strongly advise you to go iOS, choose the most appropriate app monetization strategy, fix bugs, learn from your mistakes and port your (hopefully) successful app to Android.

Here’s an inspiring story for you.

The Instagram Case

The photo-sharing obsession began six years ago when Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom (the latter has no formal programming training) were struck with an idea to make mobile photographs “fast, simple and beautiful”. And that was just what users wanted. At the time, over 20% of US population had smartphones. Although technology made photography available to anyone, mobile pictures often looked blurry and unprofessional.

Launched on October 30, 2010, Instagram’s pilot version contained 11 filters and enabled users to share photographs on social media. Krieger and Systrom also reduced image size to only 60 kb to decrease upload time.

Instagram was released as a free app and generated 25 thousand downloads in 24 hours. By the end of 2011, Instagram had 10 million active users; however, it wasn’t available on Google Play until April 3, 2012.

Prior to the release Instagram published a statement saying they were trying to make the iPhone experience “as solid as possible; only then we will consider other platforms”. In April 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $ 1 billion.

The lesson to be learned here is: stick to one platform until you deliver great user experience – and make some cash.


Let’ do a quick roundup, shall we?

  • Although iOS users are more willing to pay for content, Android is certainly a force to reckon with. Google has gone the extra mile to compose comprehensive documentation for software developers and introduced the human-assisted app approval process to keep malware out of the store. One day Android-first may become one of the biggest mobile application design & development trend (but today is not the day);
  • A forward-thinking vendor would never build an app for one OS and neglect the other; if you’re pressed for money (and most startups are!), you should probably go iOS-first and move to Android later (but it really depends on your app’s functionality & content – and the operating system your target audience sticks to).
  • With the growing popularity of HTML5 and JavaScript frameworks, you might feel a strong temptation to build a cross-platform solution. However, if a mobile app is your core business (like Instagram), it is better to build a native app from scratch. In case you’re going to incorporate a mobile app in your complex marketing strategy, there’s no use to spend time & money on building a native app for every major operating system;
  • Also, you shouldn’t treat your mobile website as a mobile app. In a world where 61% of users will abandon a website if it’s loading slowly or freezes amidst an online transaction, having a responsive website is a must;
  • You need a strong reason to take place on someone’s home screen and consume storage; does your app solve any particular problem? What makes it special? If you’re able to answer these questions, it’s time to address a reliable developer and start building your first iOS application.