April 29, 2015
You all know how I feel about the Android platform: it’s something I constantly think of, this battle between iOS and Android. But I recently started to wonder about this issue on more of a macro level.
Why do developers choose to build on iOS or Android first? It might be an obvious answer for some of you, but for those of us who don’t know how to code or build apps of our own, it’s an intriguing question.
I decided to reach out to developers and see what they thought about this question. I figured that a majority would talk about building iOS first, and I wasn’t wrong. But at the same time, a lot of the answers I got were, quite honestly, fresh and unexpected in a lot of ways.
Here’s what 25 developers have to say about building for Android or iOS first:
Michael Ripa, CIO of AppHive, the makers of Bevy Social: “We decided to go with Android first because we wanted to learn and explore what our users would like. We had a vision, but an untested product. Android development allowed for a very short development to test lifecycle. We could get the beta version of the app in the hands of users within hours. We could even deploy into the Google Play store within a few hours as well.
However, I would advise that for a tested product, with a heavy USA user base, it might be prudent to launch in the Apple store without much delay behind the Android version. While the Apple review process is still very slow, usually weeks, it does now allow for beta version testing to be released relatively quickly – aka a few hours to a few days. In summary, I would still encourage startups with fresh ideas to go the Android route first. However, Apple deployment should be addressed as soon as your minimal viable product is ready and has been tested.”
Shawn Holland, cofounder ChefTap: “I chose to develop for Android first for two major reasons. First, our app clips recipes from any website and will import all of the recipes on a Pinterest board. Because Android allows apps to run processes in the background, I was able to let people to do other things on their device while the recipe clipping went on in the background.
Second, the Play Store doesn’t have a review process which allowed us to iterate quickly and take chances on functionality and design knowing that if screwed up on something, we could have an update out in a matter of hours if necessary. We took what we learned from the Android app and used it to develop the iOS version which is in beta now. The iOS version is distinctly different from the competition because we started out with a blank slate on Android and focused on solving a specific problem on a platform that is much less constrained from a development standpoint.”
Nick O’Neil, iOS developer at Launch Apps: “We do mostly contract iOS design, development, and some of our own apps. We always develop on iOS first because the software and APIs provided by Apple make it easiest for us to develop a quality product in the least amount of time. Android may be easy to develop on for those familiar with Java but it’s harder to get the details right, i.e. smooth scrolling and similar.”
Collin Hartigan, iOS developer: “I decided to build for iOS first for one main reason above all others: iOS apps have the potential to make money. Most developers like the iOS ecosystem, but the headache of getting an app approved by apple is a big drawback. However, I know at the end of the day I’ll be able to potentially sell my app on the store for money or use in-app purchases at some point in the app.
The upward potential of an app in the environment is much greater. Customers have such a high level of trust with Apple they are willing to spend, sometimes large, sums of money on apps. This potential, even if never realized, is enough to encourage that as a first launch environment.”
Jenel Myers, iOS developer at First Derm: “I choose to develop iOS first because it is nice not worrying about app functionality across hundreds of different devices, screen sizes, and
operating system versions like you do with Android. I prefer the development environment of Xcode (iOS) over Eclipse (Android): I think it’s faster to get setup and easier to emulate devices. I have also been an iPhone user since the 3G so I’ve just been used to it, even before I learned how to code.”
Alejandro Narancio, Android and iOS developer: “I usually prefer to make the apps on iOS first. I read a few stats that show iOS users are more comfortable buying applications over Android users. Also, on Android there is no guarantee which hardware your users have which makes testing harder.”
Derek Clark, CEO 30 South: “I am an iOS first developer for several different reasons. While Android has more market share, the iPhone has more of the high end market share. iPhone owners generally have more disposable income and are more willing to spend money on apps. The revenue numbers support this, as iOS apps still bring in more revenue despite having significantly less total market share.”
Steven Palomino, mobile developer at Speak Creative: “The biggest reasons I prefer to develop for iOS over Android fall into two main categories: time and money. It’s no mystery that iOS users spend more than Android users. A simple Google search yields hundreds of articles confirming that Android users just don’t want to pay for apps. Because Android users don’t pay as often as iOS users do, there is a higher number of pirated copies of apps being used. iOS users would also rather download free apps, but are more willing to dish out the cash for apps they find useful.
Second, and perhaps more important to the developer, is fragmentation. Android supports thousands and thousands of devices. Android is also infamous for the majority, over 90 percent, of their devices running older versions of their API. On the other hand, Apple has only put out 10 phones since introducing the iPhone with only 5 different resolutions and has 81 percent of those devices running the latest version of iOS. When you look at these numbers, it’s not hard to tell why many startups spending money to develop an app choose to save time by developing for iOS first.”
Brett Neely, former Apple employee, current Apple investor: “When Apple released the iPhone SDK in 2008, I had already been working with the Objective-C programming language for several years. Developing for iOS was very easy to explore. I bought some iOS programming books, but I already had enough knowledge to get started. Nowadays, I only need to consult API documentation. If I had found significant stumbling blocks with iOS, I could’ve made the decision to switch to another platform such as Android.
But it was on Android where I had concerns: a wide variety of devices to support, with a wide variety of quality. Some developers chose to support Android due to its market share; I chose to stay with iOS because I perceive it as a superior overall experience. However, iOS app developers still face challenges with the unpredictability of the App Store review process. Users benefit in that no apps or updates appear in the App Store until Apple reviews it, but developers have little to no control on how long it takes or how stringently Apple will enforce its rules.”
Ian Carrigan, Lead Developer for the mobile team at Course Hero: “First we looked at our existing mobile traffic and over 50 percent of it is from iOS devices. Then we conducted a survey with a subset of our users and there was a higher demand among them for an iOS application, which is how we decided to move forward with iOS over Android first.
Additionally, from a development standpoint it is easier to focus on iOS because of the limited array of devices, hardware, and operating systems versions you need to worry about. The upgrade rate for iOS users is quite high, so the need to support out-of-date devices drops off considerably. Also, I’ve found the development tools for creating an app to be much better for iOS. The Android simulator that allows you to test the app on your desktop or laptop is extremely slow and clunky. For Course Hero and for our app, it just made sense to focus on iOS first, but that doesn’t mean we won’t eventually create a version for Android as well.”
Keith Brisson, founder of Wealth.ai: “On the technical side, development for iOS has been easier than Android for several reasons. First off, the tooling has historically been superior. Developers spend hours each day working with the software and the quality of these tools has a dramatic effect on the programmer’s productivity and psychology. A substandard tool can easily drive a programmer crazy. For instance, it is generally much easier to test iOS apps than Android apps in a simulator on the programmer’s computer because the simulator is much faster and feature-complete for iOS.
Also on the technical side, the iOS platform has a more mature development community. There are great programmers on both sides, but by virtue of iOS starting off as a larger platform, more resources were created for iOS than Android. That’s made it easier to learn and get started there. Google’s documentation for Android is fairly good now, but historically it was worse.”
Matt Powers, CTO and Android developer at Applico: “If I am a developer and someone else has figured out how to make money on the platform, then I am more interested in the tech then the platform war. I will gravitate towards what I feel comfortable with and what I enjoy programming in. If I have to figure out the business model and how to make money, well nine times out of ten I am going to develop something on iOS because, quite frankly, Android has cultivated an ecosystem where free stuff is not the exception but the norm.”
Matthew Burns, founder of indie developer Choo Parr Productions: “I would still choose iOS first. First of all it is still, to me, more user friendly and intuitive for a developer. In iOS you can set a launch time for your game in iTunes Connect. This means you can submit your app in advance and have it approved, but not released. It is a great option for a developer to be able to set a launch date and then proceed to do PR with promo codes. Android does not even have promo codes.
Personally, it was nerve racking to have an established launch date and then trying to estimate when to submit your game to Android. I was told it would take from a couple of hours to a day for the game to be approve. In the end I submitted it a couple of days before my launch date to make sure. The game ended up on The Google Play Store two days before the date I set for my iOS version release.”
Ashu Desai, mobile app developer and cofounder of Make School: “We currently only teach iOS at Make School, not Android because many companies choose an iOS first strategy. The three main reasons are: the iOS user base is less fragmented than the Android one, most users run the latest version of iOS, and there are also fewer different devices that support iOS. It all brings down development cost significantly. And also iOS users spend more than Android users.”
Jared Brown, CTO and cofounder of Sherish: “iOS first because the iPhone has fewer permutations to develop for. There are only 3 screen sizes, 95 percent of the users are on the latest or second latest OS, and hardware features are nearly identical: in other words, it is a very homogenous platform. Therefore the go-to-market time is less and it’s easier to provide customer support for the same reasons. It will also cost less to develop the iOS version most of the time because of this.”
Ryan Salmons, CTO of Buddytruk: “There were a number of factors that led to developing iOS first. iOS users tend to be a younger and more affluent user base with higher expectations on app performance. We felt that this would be a good gauge for building a quality product that early adopters would approve of. In terms of development, Apple has strict development requirements to ensure that you are pushing a sound mobile application.
Additionally, when developing for iOS, the number of devices that you have to encompass is a fraction of the Android market. Apple does a great job in maintaining a fixed system of devices, which makes it easier on the development end of things. Last, but not least, developing on iOS was more familiar to our developers. We felt it was very important to utilize our developers’ strengths and put them in a comfortable situation for our initial app release.”
William Noto, heynay: “We developed our app heynay on iOS first because the first thing it needed was a catalogue of rental listings. Heynay, being a marketplace for people to rent one another’s stuff faces the classic chicken or egg problem of any online marketplace. Buyers come when sellers are already there. Sellers come when buyers are already there. Since it is free to list we believe that sellers will come and list despite the lack of buyers. We also assume sellers are more likely to use iPhones since iPhones are the more expensive, more prestigious option. ‘Sellers’ in our case are people who own extra stuff that they don’t need. Thus iOS first.”
AJ Weinzettel, iOS developer: “I develop for iOS first and then consider Android after an iOS launch. First off, I am biased towards iOS because I enjoy the look, feel, ease, and ecosystem of iOS over Android. Taking my biased point of view out of the picture though, and looking at the landscape of iOS over Android from a developer standpoint, here are my reasons.
I greatly appreciate the approval process, as much of a pain in rear it is at times. I enjoy the fact I have to keep my apps up to date with the latest devices and architect the devices support. This ensures the end user is also up to date which makes coding easier. Not to mention that end user support is much easier for an iOS device because the number of devices and iOS versions is way more consistent and smaller than the number of possibilities for an Android end user.
I also know that when Apple opens up a new SDK it will be a great opportunity for developers. Apple will bring in developers to help them, reach out to them and if Apple enjoys an app they will feature and promote on a grander scale than Google will with Android.”
Michael Smith, CEO of Raster: “As a mobile development firm, we develop hundreds of apps per year. When we advise our clients on which platform to develop for first, we first consider their business model and target users. While it is a fact that it is far easier to monetize iOS users, there are circumstances where achieving a large user base takes priority.
In this case, there is a far larger audience using Android phones. With that said, monetization is most often the overarching business goal and, therefore iOS is most often developed first: iOS users are simply more willing to spend money on in-app-purchases (IAP) than Android users are. The other side benefit to iOS first is that it’s easier to test because of less device fragmentation.”
Wendell Adams, CEO AB Mobile Apps: “For us deciding to iOS or Android first really comes down to several variables. If someone has a limited budget and is looking for a fast ROI then iOS is built first as it is easier and the monetization is far greater. If someone is looking to promote a product or something where downloads matter then Android is first.
However in the case where budget does not matter and speed to market does, this is most often the case, Android is usually first as you wait for Apple to review the app. When you have a campaign lined up though then usually Apple is published first as you want to wait for Apple’s approval before you push Android.
In the end though, more often than not serious developers use Apple first and template volume based use Android. Apple is more familiar, easier to build for, better monetization, and has less bugs but it is harder to get noticed. With android you can build something quick and get a lot of downloads however the countless problems with the system result in an endless stream of bugs you will always be working on fixing.”
Dave Todaro, President and COO of Ascendle: “Android has long eclipsed iOS worldwide, but has recently overtaken iOS domestically as well. The problem is you can no longer choose one. You need to develop for both at the same time.”
Kenny Chapman, Android developer at Applico: “I think you have to look at the market for your app. If you see an opening on one platform and not the other I would say go there first. With Periscope and Meerkat both only on iOS right now, there is an opening to be first to market on Android.”
Yiannis Varelas, CTO of Sunshine: “Developers shouldn’t choose platforms. Platforms should be chosen based on the company needs. If the product you are building requires technology that is not supported or is better supported from one platform, then you go with this first because you will be able to deliver it. Another important factor is your target audience and what platform this audience is using. If your audience is using iOS then you go iOS first. Given that the product you want to build can be implemented on this platform.”
Derek Brameyer, lead software engineer on the Android team at WillowTree: “I hate the idea of picking between Android and iOS. For nearly any application, the correct decision is to build for both. In the United States, both platforms share a huge and nearly equal user base, with strong proponents and naysayers. Between the two, there is no “better” platform, but there are certainly scenarios where you might consider one over the other.”
Jonathan Caras, CTO of Glide: “Developers should look at a combination of the engineering needs, market, and audience and use some of the following rationale for deciding whether to develop on iOS or Android first. Here are some rules of thumb to help guide your decision. First, for projects that are more technically challenging iOS is the obvious first choice. Second, for projects that are less refined and are less sensitive to a more varied hardware environment Android may make more sense depending on the target user profile.”
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