It is a mobile OS war that has been raging for years. Largely a two-player contest, with Google Android and Apple iOS vying for top honours, other opponents do in fact exist – Blackberry, for instance, or the Windows Phone – but their combined market share doesn’t come anywhere near the top two.
You will, of course, no doubt be very much aware of this, and, as such, if you are currently developing an app then the choice of platforms that you will probably be considering will be iOS or Android. Both of these players are of course extremely popular, but they do go about things in different ways. Understanding these differences will give you a better idea of which market you should aim for with your app. Of course, you may be considering building for both, but this will be very expensive, and so it might be worth just opting for one or the other in the first instance to get a feel for the market and to see if your app really has the legs that you thought it would.
The iPhone has historically dominated the market in terms of both sales and market share. But, since about 2012, Android phones have given the industry giant a little run for its money, nabbing 48% of market share back then. Today, Android is the true juggernaut of the smartphone battle, commanding 83.6% global market share according to Strategy Analytics.
This of course has a lot to do with the varying price of Android phones, which cater for both ends of the market, whereas if you want an iOS device then you always have to pay for it (see table below from pcworld.com).
Combined, iOS and Android control 96.4% of the market share, so if you’re building an app, then you really need to build it for one of these two platforms first if you want to see any meaningful ROI at all from it.
So, which one to pick? When the time comes to make a commitment to one of these platforms, then it’s best to be fully acquainted with all the facts that you can, and this starts with understanding how these platforms differ so you can choose the one that is right for you and your app.
This is probably the biggest differentiator between the two. At it’s core, the respective operating systems will have a major impact on how people use the device, as they dictate the phone’s overall functionality.
With iPhones, the user interface (UI) is practically identical on all of its available models. iOS is indeed known for its clean and sleek interface, and, if you’re just starting out in the app development game then this may well be an important factor to consider, for when it comes to Android, the interface can be vastly varied indeed, so you won’t always know precisely what you are building for.
Android is designed so the manufacturer that is releasing the device can modify it. Indeed, these modifications can vary greatly, and can completely change the look, feel and interface of an Android phone. So, that’s something to be aware of right off the bat.
Again, Apple likes to keep things as close to home as it possibly can, and when it comes to the distribution of your app the same thing applies also. Whilst Android have several distribution channels available through which users can download applications, Apple restrict users to the Apple Store only for iOS apps.
Part of this is down to quality control. Apple is a stickler for quality, and so likes to have full control over what apps are made available on its platform. Google, on the other hand, are less stringent about quality, and, as such, almost anything and everything can be made available for Android. So, this is definitely something to consider if you plan on building for iOS – it must past Apple’s vigorous testing phase for absolute quality even before you are permitted entry into the app store. So, if you’re going for Apple, it has to be great.
Do Your Research
When it comes to making this most weighty of decisions, it will pay to do your research first. What sort of app are you building? Is this the sort of thing that is more popular on Android or iOS?
Another thing to consider is your tablet plans. Although Android clearly dominates the world of mobile operating systems, tablets do not fare the same. iPad is the clear winner in this market, and so, if you are planning on making a tablet experience for your app, then perhaps iOS is the way to go in the first instance.
The other thing that you of course need to consider is the expertise of your developers. Although you may of course have to be taking the decision to outsource a lot of the build of your app anyway, it will be a good idea to talk to your existing team to see what they are most familiar with in the first instance, and indeed what they prefer themselves – enthusiasm often drives results.
Android is definitely the friendlier platform for the cash-strapped appreneur. Android is based on open-source software, which makes the barrier for entry quite low. It also means that you can utilize crowd-created plugins and frameworks. This may well be to your particular advantage if you are building a game. You won’t have to build your own game framework from scratch on Android, since you can instead make use of something like AndEngine.
Either way, whichever platform route you plan to go down first, you should always consult your business model and consider how you are planning on making money from your app. There are no hard and fast right answers as to which platform is right, rather that you will have to consider the platform on an app-by-app basis. Both platforms have their advantages, and both their pitfalls too, so do your research before you start, and that will ultimately determine your decision.