If you’re here, your company is probably planning on developing a mobile app and deciding whether to start with iOS or Android or both.
There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision, and you’re not alone in wondering. At Big Fish, we have this “iOS versus Android” conversation with many of our customers.
Depending on who will use your app, one platform may be all you ever need. But, if you have a more diverse and wide-spread user base, you’ll benefit from your app being available to both iOS and Android users.
So where do you start?
For projects that are not a good fit for cross-platform app development, we recommend picking one platform to start with and developing for the second platform later. You’ll have lessons learned and feedback from users that can be applied to your next app.
That said, in 2022, cross-platform technology is mature and stable enough that it’s a viable option for many app development projects.
With a cross-platform app, you have one source code base that can be deployed to both platforms.
With that food for thought out of the way, let’s dive into the topic of this article.
Four Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Start with an iOS App or an Android App
1. Who will use your app and what type of smartphone they have.
It seems like an obvious factor, but there are nuances to this.
If you’re in contact with the people who will use your app (such as your employees or customers) it can be pretty easy to find out whether they skew towards iOS or Android via a simple survey. In this case you’ll usually develop first for the majority.
That said, when the app is being used by your employees, it sometimes makes sense to provide them with a work phone or tablet and develop for one platform only. The cost and resource savings of developing, supporting and maintaining one app, could make up for the cost of the devices.
If you’re a healthcare company processing PHI via the app, you’ll reduce risks of a HIPAA violation if you provide work specific smartphones.
And if you’re a field service company where the phones will suffer wear and tear or use a lot of data, your crew will probably be reluctant to use their personal smartphone anyway.
If your app will be used by the general public, you won’t know what type of smartphone they have. In this case you’ll need to make an educated guess based on which has the largest market share (see factor #3 below).
And, of course a reminder, if your app will be used by the general public, cross-platform app development can be a cost-effective and excellent solution.
2. Consider how and where your app will be used.
Knowing how your app will be used is sometimes enough to steer you towards one platform or the other.
Apps used to enter a lot of data
For example, if the app will be used in a doctor’s office by employees or patients entering information, consider a tablet app so those using it will have a larger screen to work with. And once you’re in the tablet space we always recommend iPad – you have a trusted brand, frequent security updates, reliability, speed and ease of use all going for you.
Field Service apps
If the app will be used in mixed weather conditions where it may be dropped, such as for a field service company, we recommend considering rugged Android phones and sticking to one platform only.
Apps used by customers on-the-go
For apps being used by your customers on-the-go, this is another case where developing for the market majority makes sense – or a cross-platform app.
3. Which brand, iOS or Android, has the largest market share?
If your app will be used by the general public, knowing which smartphone brand has the largest market share may be your deciding factor.
iOS is More Popular in the United States
As of April 2022, in the United States, iOS has a 58% market share and Android has a 42% market share. This number has remained pretty stable over the last few years, as you can see in the chart below.
Not all Android phones are compatible with apps
Keep in mind that we don’t know how many of these Android users have smartphones versus non-smartphones (ex. flip phones) and only smartphones are compatible with apps.
That considered, the number of prospective Android users of your app is lower than it appears.
Android is More Popular Worldwide
Worldwide, the numbers are very different. As of April 2022, Android holds the largest market share in the mobile operating system space at 72% worldwide. This figure also includes non-smartphones.
Here is a good look at why Android is more popular globally and it may help skew your decision if you’re launching your app in an emerging or otherwise global market.
iOS Has Other Benefits – Such as Ease and Timeline
In addition to being the smartphone brand with the largest market share in the United States, developing an iOS app has another benefit. At any given time there are only a handful of iPhones on the market.
Android, on the other hand, is found on thousands of different smartphones, made by many manufacturers (ex. Samsung, LG, Motorola). Designing and developing an Android app to be compatible with so many devices is more complicated and can be more time consuming. It’s another good reason to start with iOS.
4. Consider demographic data as well.
Simply saying “iOS is more popular in the United States” doesn’t give you the entire picture. If your app has a niche demographic it is prudent to consider the data for your specific target market as much as you can find.
This is tricky though. Demographic data around iOS versus Android is limited and not always current. But, here are some snapshots to give you an idea:
- iPhone owners have a higher household income than Android owners. This study has the same finding.
- iPhone owners are 15% more likely to visit retail sites on their phone
- Physicians are overwhelmingly Apple fans – 85% of doximity users
- iPad is the dominant tablet platform among practicing physicians
- Android users surveyed spend half as much ($51/month) as iOS users ($101/month) on tech-related purchases
- More food for thought – are Android users less tech savvy than iPhone users?
Ready to talk to an app development company?
Is your company planning on having an iOS or Android app developed? At Big Fish we have expertise in native iOS development, native Android development and cross-platform app development. We’d love to discuss your project and help you make this important decision. Start the conversation with our team today.