Develop iOS or Android App First?

It’s true, by offering both and iOS app and an Android app, virtually the entire market will be within reach. Other operating systems have tried and faded, leaving the true leaders to swallow the attention and pockets of consumers around the globe. In fact, by leaving out a either the iOS or Android platform, a company’s ability to reach consumers is dramatically diminished. That’s not cool, though, it isn’t the end of the world.

There’s more to the story…

iOS apps and Android apps must be developed by iOS developer and Android developers, and this takes time, money, and great planning. Time and money, in particular, are often tremendously valuable at the early stages of app production. For this reason, it is a common practice to develop for one platform first and delay production of the second. It also happens in the app big leagues — Instagram.

Aside from the financial and time reasons for focusing on a single mobile platform at the beginning is the benefit of a more narrow concentration of resources. If everyone is tuned into a single product, it will likely be better. As they say, “A jack of all trades is master of none.”

Man using a mobile app on an iPhone

This isn’t solely true within the developer’s company, as it extends to a circular pattern that also involves the user-base. The 1.0 build is developed by the company and distributed to users. Users use the app, react to it, and then, the company studies the reaction. Ideally, the company reacts and releases a new version in response to the reaction, thus, continuing the circle. This is the ideal development cycle; it’s user-focused development.

It is a whole lot easier to utilize a circular, user-focused development cycle if only a single platform is being maintained. Changes can be quickly applied and delivered to continue the circle. Sure, by only choosing a single platform, the market decreases massively; however, releasing an app that does not meet the users’ needs as well as it otherwise could will decrease the market at an even greater level.

Then, once the app is a product that users love, and the demand is at it’s peak, the time is perfect to release on the other platform.

Which first, iOS or Android?

Android proudly owns a market share that ranges from 80–90%, and that has remained consistent for quite a while. That’s a pretty compelling advantage, and sometimes, it should be the basis of a decision. There is more to the story, however.

Users on Apple’s App Store are more inclined to pay than those on Google Play.

This is pretty important, as companies tend to develop and release apps for the purpose of making money. The funny part is that the figures are extremely skewed toward iOS in financial terms.

  • There are twice as many downloads on Google Play than the App Store.
  • There is twice as much revenue from apps on the App Store than on Google Play.
  • This means that apps earn an average of four times more on the App Store than on Google Play.

For this reason, ignoring Android’s incredible market share, iOS is usually chosen as the starting platform for new apps. The money matters.

So, how normal is this?

Releasing on a single platform, iOS or Android first, is a pretty standard practice. We have some clients that feel strongly about waiting for both builds to be on the same level prior to release, and their reasoning is usually based on plans for a grand release. This can work, but the delay to market can be risky. Usually, it’s iOS first; however, clients in the Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America markets may prefer Android first if their chief market will be their own region. Android’s domination in these areas is outrageous.

No matter the approach and development cycle chosen by a company, we work carefully to ensure that all potential advantages and disadvantages are communicated and discussed. The goal is, after all, to succeed — quickly.

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About Matt Maher

In addition to being a seasoned native mobile developer for both iOS and Android, Matt is an enthusiastic early adopter of Google's Flutter. Simply, Matt builds products and brings them to market.
  • Atlanta, GA