Are you developing a mobile application? Are you debating between developing your app for iPhone or Android? If so, and you can only build for one mobile platform, there are a number of factors to consider. After having led the rollout of a variety of iOS and Android apps (and mobile and responsive websites) here are the three factors we consider the most important when deciding which device to develop your mobile app for:
- Which mobile operations system does your target market/customer use?
- The ease of development and the required mobile device capabilities
- The App Store submissions process
Let’s dive into these factors a little more:
Which mobile operations system does your target market/customer use?
As with any business, if you are developing a mobile app, you have to know and cater to your target audience. Different user demographics have adopted different preferences for Android or iOS, so take that preference into account. Here are some stats on smartphone usage from the International Data Corporation presented by The Washington Post. The most interesting is that:
“In the second quarter of 2012, Android (Google Inc.) had 104.8 million units and a percent share of 68.1, a rise from its 46.9 percent in the previous year. By comparison, iOS (Apple Inc.’s iPhone) had just 26 million units and 16.9 percent share, a fall from its 18.8 percent share in 2011.”
As you can see, Android is not only dominating the global smartphone market, but their market share has grown by 22.2% in just one year.
The ease of development and capabilities
As they are now, iOS and Android have very similar features and functionality. Since they are so alike, features and functionality probably shouldn’t have much impact on your decision. However, a key development question arises from these similarities: How easy is to access that functionality? Android development information and APIs are well documented and Java based. Because Java is a common programming language with a large adoption base, it is relatively easy for non-mobile developers to pick up. iOS, on the other hand, uses Apple’s Objective-C Language. This is a high end development language based on C and C++, which is great for experienced engineers, but can be challenging for less experienced engineers to adopt.
From a testing standpoint, Android has more operating system device combinations. This means that although the Android testing tools are good, testing can be more involved and take longer than on iOS. With iOS, Apple has tight control over the OS / hardware interaction, and consequently has been able to limit the possible testing permutations.
The App Store submissions process
While submissions to the Android store (Google Play) are easy and usually accepted the same business day, iOS app submissions can be a challenge, to say the least. Initial submissions can take more than few weeks and there is no predictability to the submission timeline, which can be stressful and problematic when you’re managing a major launch campaign. For added confusion, rules on submission also seem to be interpreted differently depending on the reviewer. There are other issues with the iOS process; for example, if your app is being reviewed during an iOS upgrade, you cannot submit until you test on the new version, even if you submitted before the upgrade…which restarts the submission clock.
There are, of course, many other criteria you can consider when choosing between iOS or Android, but hopefully these three will help you decide. If you have to choose, go for both.