June 14, 2022
Android versus iOS is one of the most famous debates in tech history. There are passionate supporters of both platforms, but the question we’ll be discussing today is a slight variant of the original - should you build your mobile app on Android or iOS first?
Let’s face it. If you have an idea for a mobile app, there’s a good chance you want it on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. Android and iOS each have a significant chunk of the mobile space, so it makes sense to cover as much ground as possible.
We’re going to assume that you are either working alone or with a small team of developers with finite resources (time and money).
Never underestimate the value of experience. If you want to develop a mobile game and you’ve been building iOS games your entire career and you’re fluent in Apple’s gaming features (Game Kit, Game Center, ARKit, etc.), it probably makes sense to start with iOS.
Having significant prior experience in one platform will automatically draw you into starting with that platform, and often it makes sense to start there. You’ll be saving months of time learning new programming languages, frameworks, and dev environments, and you’ll be getting feedback/users for your app faster.
Remember, you can always learn Android while your iOS app is collecting valuable user data in the App Store (and vice versa).
An app is useless without users. You are building something valuable for a particular audience, so you’ll probably want to understand them first.
In general, iOS users have more expensive devices (iOS devices tend to cost more than Android ones), and they have more spending power. They also tend to be a bit younger and are more likely to have higher education degrees.
Android users, on the other hand, cover a much more global presence. They can be found everywhere in up-and-coming markets such as Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
So if your app is catered towards young urban professionals (e.g. a professional networking app), you may have more success with iOS users. On the other hand, if your app thrives on a global user base (e.g. language learning app), Android may be the way to go.
Many apps have a wide audience for both platforms, and it may be unrealistically difficult to figure out which platform is more advantageous, or it simply may not matter. In that case, you can simply defer to other criteria to make your decision. Don’t spend a crazy amount of time over-analyzing your potential user base when you have no users - real feedback is always better than hypothetical analysis.
If you’re looking to directly monetize your app (paid apps, in-app purchases/microtransactions, subscriptions), you should be aware that iOS apps tend to make more money overall. Apple users are more likely to make in-app purchases, pay for apps, and purchase subscriptions.
Android revenue, however, is quickly growing. Although the Google Play Store is seen as the direct competitor to Apple’s App Store, there are several other large Android app stores (Samsung, Huawei, Amazon just to name a few) that are aggressively pushing their own Android ecosystems. Combined with the Play Store, these Android app stores are expected to overtake Apple in terms of revenue.
There are also usage-based monetization options such as ads. With such a huge global network of users, Android apps can perform very well in the ads space, and with Apple taking a more privacy-centric approach to its user data, more advertisers are jumping ship to Android.
The above points are only some of the many considerations when it comes to choosing whether to build an Android or iOS app first. There are also many technical nuances that could be relevant to your application (security vs. flexibility, operating system versions, etc.) that can be entire articles on their own. There is no universally ‘right’ answer when it comes to building for Android versus iOS first - it depends on your application and your audience.
Whichever platform you choose, as long as your app delivers value it’s very likely users on the opposite platform will demand a version of your app. When this happens, just know that this is a great problem to have and you are one step closer to achieving product-market fit.