The Android or iOS battle has been going on for years. But as mobile dominates every industry, choosing the right platform is more important than ever. Businesses need to think more strategically about which platform will serve them best. And this article should help you make an initial decision.

Like many questions we get asked about app development, the answer to this one varies greatly. For example, an early-stage start-up with no existing app needs to reach the largest number of users. In this case, the app needs to be developed on a platform where the majority of the target audience sit. Whereas an enterprise may have control over the platform their workforce uses. Which means the platform is directed by IT resources.

The number of scenarios where the question of Android or iOS comes up is endless. So how do you know which platform to start with?

Android or iOS for the Enterprise

Since the rise and fall of the Blackberry, iOS has been welcomed into the workplace with open arms. It’s often seen as the more secure option due to it’s ‘locked-down’ operating system. But, with the rise of enterprise mobility came the rise of MDM providers. Who have created more secure tools for managing apps within the workplace. And as Android provide much cheaper devices, many companies who supply handsets have moved to Android.

Choosing the right platform for Enterprise app development will rely on existing processes. Whether you supply your workforce with devices or you follow a BYOD policy. If your IT department is providing the devices your choice will be in conjunction with that. Whereas if you have a BYOD policy, you’ll be in a very similar place to the consumer app market.

Android or iOS for the Consumer Market

To get a sensible return on investment from consumer apps you ideally need to look at both platforms. Which then leads to the question of which one to build first.

Demographics – Android has the largest global platform share, and the widest audience. There’s also evidence to say that iOS users have higher income and higher retention rates. Up until today, we could easily distinguish between app users. However as more high-end Android phones enter the market the lines blur. 2017 saw more devices entering the market to compete directly with Apple devices. Including the Google Pixel Samsung Galaxy. These devices offer like-for-like to the iPhone, and are seeing a sharp increase in adoption. Making it much harder to segment users.

Revenue Models – If you’re looking to monetize your app you must consider the revenue models on each platform. Both platforms take a cut of app sales, but iOS also have a strict pricing tier that you must follow. There’s significant data to show that iOS apps historically earn more revenue than Android apps. This does vary between industries and types of apps. As well as how you look to monetise your app.

OS Release Cycles – Android relies heavily on carriers and OEMs to update to the newest operating Systems. Whereas 95% of iOS users are on the latest two versions. This means on iOS you can focus on supporting the latest OS. Reducing both testing and development cycle times. Whereas on Android you will have to ensure support for much older versions.

Android or iOS for App Features

Because Android is open source developers have much deeper access into the OS. Compared to iOS where features can be quite limited and locked-down. We often say that if there is a specific feature you want in your app, check to see if it’s available through iOS first. It’s much easier to take an iOS app and create it for Android than the other way. The last thing you want to do is build an app with killer features that can’t be re-created on the second platform.

When to develop on Android first:

Android has the largest global share, but this is only useful if your target audience is on Android. This could be a likely option for an enterprise looking to provide an app through a BYOD policy. Providing the majority of user’s own Android devices. If your business model relies on in app advertising then Android might be your best choice too. Typically, apps with adverts are more accepted on Android and perform better than those on iOS.

When to develop on iOS first:

For consumer apps, we tend to recommend building for iOS first. Mainly due to the restrictions on feature development. It’s also likely that your target audience, whole or part, are going to be on iOS. If your app has in-app purchases or regular spending (i.e. a subscription) then consider iOS too. Studies show that iOS users tend to spend more on apps than Android. Resulting in higher average per-app earnings despite the smaller global market share.

When to develop for both platforms:

Developing your app on both Android and iOS from the get go requires more resources and more budget. When developing a new app, it tends to go through a series of iterations before we see a finished product. Meaning changes will need to be made to both apps simultaneously. If launch requires both platforms, and budget isn’t a problem, then this could be the right option. But, if there is no need to build them simultaneously we would recommend focusing on one platform first.

When to develop for the second platform:

Offering your app on both platforms is essential for growth. But knowing when to move to the next platform is also important. Once the app has proved your offering and you’re happy with the UX then consider a second platform. You can apply everything you’ve learnt from the first app. Saving time and money on the second platform.

But before anything…

We’ve covered a number of different bases above which should help your decision. But the most important question you should be asking yourself is what platform are your users on? The success of any app, consumer or Enterprise, relies on user interactions. Thus, putting their requirements at the core of any decision will ensure you’re following the right path.

What to watch next:
Our MD and app expert Paul Jarrett explains whether to choose iOS or Android in this video.