iOS vs Android App: What to Choose When Building Your First Mobile App

In case you’re in for the exciting journey of building your native app with a tight budget, there comes a moment you have to choose a platform to start with. Creating a quality app comes with the inevitable choices you have to make. iOS vs Android: What are the cons and pros?

In this article, we cover the major business aspects of each platform. Even if you can afford to build an app on both platforms from the get-go, this is a good opportunity to review all the latest developments, benefits, and costs for each.

Brief introduction to iOS and Android

The Apple devices continue to be very popular among users with over 900 million iPhones circulating around the world. This wide reach is one of the main reasons businesses strive to publish their app in the Apple Store. 

All iPhone devices are run on iOS. It should be pointed out that iOS can be considered a special mobile operating system that stands out from the rest since both its software and hardware are under Apple’s control. This results in a unique tight integration of front end and back end components. 

There are over 2.5 billion Android devices active in the world. Despite the fact that there are more Android users than iOS users, the platforms are steady leaders and competitors for years. Over 3000 apps appear in the Google Play Store every day. When developing an app, app owners strive to publish it in both stores to maximize the app’s reach.  

Programming languages

iPhone apps are all written in either Swift or Objective-C programming languages. Swift was the programming language invented by Apple in 2014. Objective-C is much older and considered to the standard among developers. It’s more common to see the Objective-C legacy code, but Swift is catching up. 

Android apps are primarily written in Kotlin programming language. Java is an older language, however Kotlin is easier to work with. Moreover, Kotlin is Google’s preferred language of choice, but it’s not widely used outside of Android Studio. 

When you scout an outsourcing development team, make sure the teams have professionals familiar with these 4 main languages. Especially, if you are hoping to build a quality native app for one of the platforms.

Development costs

The prices for IOS and Android development slightly differ. However, before we move on to the cost comparison of iOS vs Android, let’s outline the factors that influence both platforms:

  • who builds your app (in-house team vs outsourcing company)
  • how your app is built (technologies and programming languages)
  • what you want your app to do (app functionality)

Depending on the factors listed above the app development costs may range anywhere between $10,000 to $100,000+. The more complicated your app is in terms of features and integrations, the more expensive it will be to make. When you look to outsource the development work, make sure you find a team that can do quality work for less without sacrificing quality. North American teams charge more, you can find more affordable services in Eastern Europe and South Asia. 

Here are ballpark numbers for average costs associated with iOS and Android:

Average cost to develop an iOS app is about $30,000.

Average cost to develop an Android app is about $24,000.

To dive deeper into the aspects of app development cost, read our article here.

mobile and web app development

Fees associated with publishing in stores

In order to publish your app in the App Store, you need to create a developer account with Apple. You have to pay $99 USD per year, and the price stays the same regardless of whether your app is free or paid. For enterprises that want to create a proprietary app to distribute among their employees, the price is higher—you have to pay $299 USD annually. One of the reassuring things is that Apple is very serious about supporting its customers with online resources for managing new and published apps. There is a comprehensive tool, iTunes Connect, and an extensive set of documentation.

Don’t forget that Apple also takes a certain percentage of revenue when users in your app make a transaction or complete an In-App Purchase. As of now, it is 30%, so, for instance, if someone makes a transaction or an in-app purchase in the app for $5, as an app creator you get a profit of $3.50. Subscription commission decreases to 15% after one year. So from that $5 transaction, you’ll get to keep $4.25.

To register a Google Play Developer account, you have to pay a one-time fee of $25 USD. You basically get a lifetime access to it after paying once. In this matter, the Google policy is more favorable compared to Apply yearly renewal payments.

When it comes to the commission on in-app transactions, Google Play does not differ from App Store. It is a 30% standard commission on in-app purchases of digital goods (sales of physical products are exempt). Subscription commission decreases to 15% after one year. So, if a user spends $5 on a purchase within the app, the developer gets $3.50 and then $4.25 after the first year. 

Support & Maintenance costs

After publishing your app on the Google Play and Apple App Store, you still need to do a lot of work to increase the popularity of your app. The app’s DAU (Daily Active Users), MAU (Monthly Active Users) and Retention metrics have to be closely monitored. The more users come into your app, the more support and maintenance has to be done to keep them happy.

It’s better to budget for the app maintenance costs early. Typically, in the first year of app publishing, the app maintenance costs may be significantly higher. In most cases, they can amount to 50% of the total development cost, however, they will decrease to 20-25% each year after that.

If you decide to develop your app for both platforms simultaneously, —as a native Android and iOS app—your app maintenance costs could increase since you’ll basically need to support two apps.

It’s hard to give a specific number, but usually, app owners spend anywhere from $200 to $500 a month to keep the iOS or Android app functioning perfectly.

Once your app is on a good track and the first year’s needs are satisfied, it’s common to budget 20% of the cost of initial development for yearly maintenance costs. For example, If your initial development costs are $100,000, you can easily expect to spend about $20,000 per year to maintain your app.

Monetization: Paying users

According to Business of Apps, iOS is still the leader when it comes to revenue generation for app developers: “This is partly due to iPhone being more popular in regions with high income, such as Japan and the United States, which also tend to spend more on apps.” Apple is also present in China, one of the biggest markets in terms of potential, while the Google Play store is banned there. 

Both platforms attract paying users, but if you bet on the in-app purchases to earn from your app, then iOS is your priority and a winner in the iOS vs Android debate. 

Security: Which platform is more secure?

The security aspect is one of the most important for companies and users. Every year, the number of mobile app fraud cases increases, exposing users to malware and phishing. In particular, the surge in fraud is connected to the rising amount of transactions via mobile apps, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

monetization ios android

Apple is famous for being very strict when it comes to apps they admit to the App Store. Moreover, iPhone users usually report a lower number of cases detailing external threats. iOS provides strong protection from viruses and malware, thus making it a great choice for the app development.

When it comes to Android, security risks grow since there are more Android users and Android offers its open-source OS. These factors give hackers the tools to target Android systems and create malware that can potentially do a lot of harm. However, if Android users regularly update their OS and stay away from downloading suspicious apps, the risks significantly decrease. 

Free promotion options

The App Store has a bunch of perks for app developers. The most popular, innovative, quality apps have a chance to be featured in many categories Apple comes up with. For example, categories like “Game of the day” or “App of the day” feature one app every day, while categories like “Our favorites” or “Lifehack” feature several apps when you enter each of the categories. This gives an opportunity to get free advertising and installs. It cannot compare to organic installs from search but can give apps a very good boost and help improve their overall rating and visibility. Your app can be noticed simply for being a quality app with worldwide localization or you can send a request yourself via the form. Make sure you prepare a really good application that will persuade Apple editors to feature your app. Your app story has to be inspiring and differ from the description on your app page. An additional bonus point can be the app’s compatibility with Apple Watch. 

ios vs android featuring
Source: Apple Store

Google Play also gives opportunities for apps to be featured. The Google team selects apps manually, but you can send a request as well. Your app has to have a 3.9+ rating and good metrics (small % of app uninstalls and bugs). If your app gets into Features in one of the categories, the app’s install number can increase up to 30,000 installs per week. An interesting difference from Apple here is that you have to provide horizontal screenshots for your app. 

google play featuring
Source: Google Play store

OS updates: impact on business

Here Android is fairly behind iOS when it comes to updates. For example, Apple’s iOS 14 is available for all iPhones and iPhone users get a new OS update the same day the new phone users receive it. It doesn’t matter whether you have an iPhone 12 or iPhone 6S, you’ll be able to get the latest update and enjoy the new features. 

Meanwhile, Android releases significant OS updates for newer phones only. And even then there is a good chance users will have to wait up to six months after the release is out. In terms of security, Google makes sure to release specific updates against malware, but the real platform updates are rare and not available for every phone. It looks like the changes for the better are coming soon, but even so, most users with older phones won’t be able to benefit. In that matter, iOS with its consistent updates available for all devices is years ahead of Android. 

Final thoughts 

In order to create an app that will become a success, you need to do a lot of groundwork before any development starts. Knowing your audience and what gap in the market you are going to fill is instrumental to the app’s long-term success. We hope this little iOS vs Android article helped you get some ideas about the costs and benefits of both platforms. If you are curious about the app development costs information in more detail, read our article here.

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Mini-FAQ

How much does it cost to develop an iOS app?

We estimate each project cost individually. The cost depends on many factors, including technologies used, app features, and functionality. The starting numbers for simple apps are usually $15,000+. If you prepare the more detailed requirements, the faster we calculate the final cost that depends on how complex or custom your app needs to be.

Why do people sometimes call the iPhone iOS?

These are not interchangeable terms. iPhone stands for the actual hardware smartphone while iOS simply means “i Operating System”. App has a history of adding the prefix “i” to all their products—iTunes, iPod, iPad and iPhone. The operating system iOS for iPhones is not an exception.

Do I need an iPhone to create apps?

No, but if you target iPhone users it’s better to use it at some point in the process. There is a program Xcode that has an iPhone Simulator, which shows how your app looks like and functions in an iPhone. However, it’s much easier to test your app in a real iPhone rather than only rely on the Simulator on your computer’s monitor. Experienced development teams always test apps on an actual device.

Note: Xcode only runs on Mac OS X.

My app idea is already present in the Store. What can I do?

There are many apps in the App Store and Google Play, but it doesn’t mean they’re all good and their ideas cannot be improved. For each app, there is a competing app. 

However, you have to remember that if there are no app ideas like yours at all in the store, that could be a red flag. Perhaps, there is no real need for it in the market. Always validate your app idea by doing research—define the problem the app should solve and the value it has for users.

Can you also design my app?

Yes, we are a full-cycle design & development agency. We apply a design-driven approach to build modern apps and websites. Our team has a strong mix of design and development professionals.