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 mobile application development: 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.
Android development: pros and cons
Advantages of developing for Android
One of the distinctive benefits of developing for Android is the fact that Google provides an extensive knowledge library for different levels of Android developers, as well as interactive materials, and useful training programs. This means that any issue can be tackled by studying the available resources.
Android has created a more inclusive environment and presents fewer limitations compared to iOS. Android apps can run smoothly on Android phones and all other Android devices. This flexibility allows you to spend fewer development resources and achieve a wider reach.
Ecosystem of devices
Because Android apps are flexible, they extend to an array of Android devices. You can develop the functionality for smartwatches, VR headsets, TV, Android Auto, and several other platforms.
Drawbacks of Android development
The fact that you can develop for many different Android platforms presents its challenges. Quality assurance testing in this case becomes quite difficult. It’s well known that Android users don’t update as often as iOS users, so developers usually work on eliminating bugs and fixing what’s not working for older OS versions.
Traditionally, it takes longer to develop for Android for reasons we already listed above. That causes the costs to be higher to account for longer development and additional quality assurance work.
Less paying users
Android users tend to spend less on an app, both in terms of time and money. Free apps are very popular among Android users and they usually don’t opt for buying subscriptions and paying for additional functionality.
Possible security issues
Since Android is in its essence an open-source platform, it provides opportunities for fraudsters to attack the system.
iOS development: pros and cons
The advantages of iOS development
As a rule, iOS mobile apps perform really well. The platform is fast and reliable. It’s difficult to come to the finish line with an iOS app that has a lot of bugs.
One of the main benefits is that when you develop for IOS, you target the family of operating systems and devices, so your app can reach even more users.
Apple is famous for its iconic designs. With iOS, developers have detailed guidelines for the user interface creation which saves time and effort.
Drawbacks of building for iOS
To successfully build a native iOS app, developers have to use specific software. It’s called XCode and it only runs on Mac. This means you need to own a Mac to develop for iOS phones.
We discuss this later in the article, but we will say now that the Apple App Store is more strict and demanding compared to Google Play. Your app has to be not only compliant with all the rules and specifications, it should also be attractive, relevant, useful, and high-quality.
There are certain restrictions that iOS puts forward so you can’t customize the interface according to your specific needs. You also need to be careful if you want to build features that require the use of third-party software.
Stack of technologies
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 the 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.
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.
Let’s look at the ballpark numbers for average costs associated with iOS and Android:
The average cost to develop an iOS app is about $30,000.
The 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.
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 lifetime access to it after paying once. In this matter, the Google policy is more favorable compared to Apple’s 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. You have to closely monitor the app’s DAU (Daily Active Users), MAU (Monthly Active Users), and Retention metrics. The more users come into your app, the more support and maintenance you have to provide 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.
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 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 get 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.
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.
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 that 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.
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.
If you’d like to build a product and want to discuss our approach in person, reach out by filling out the form. We are happy to dive into your project idea and provide our help. If you’re interested in the topics of mobile app development, check out our article How Much Money Do I Need To Build My App? and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
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 on 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.