It’s a perennial question asked by businesses and app developers everywhere: which app platform should you be focusing your efforts on?
This is especially true if your preference is to launch on one first and test the waters before committing to a second platform.
If you choose a development team with skills across different platforms, they should be able to provide recommendations based on factors such as capabilities, timeline and budget, but beware that if you’re looking to an individual developer, they probably have their own specialty or preference which they lean toward.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus largely on iOS (Apple) or Android platforms. These are the two with the largest market share and those which most customers are going to expect to be able to use.
The latest reports on platform market share from IDC break it down as per the table below:
Android is clearly the most dominant market right now, but let’s break down some of the factors you should look at when making a decision to choose an app platform:
Your Target Audience
The target audience for your app should always be the first place to start, certainly ahead of factors such as budget. If you’re building an enterprise app aimed at company executives and found most of them were still using BlackBerries, it would be no use to you building on Android!
This is a task you should complete prior to building any app; create detailed personas for your target audience. Figure out their pain points and their preferences in terms of features and usability. As closely as you possibly can, include demographic, psychographic and geographic information which help you to hone in on that target audience.
While as we indicated, you might find BlackBerry use is still predominant if you’re targeting a niche group of executives, iOS and Android are the clear mass-market leaders. Comscore looked further into the differences between Apple and Android audiences, which include:
- iPhone users tend to be more affluent.
- iPhone users are more likely to make purchases using their phones (significant if you’re creating an e-commerce app, for example).
- Android tends to have a bigger audience across categories, but iPhone users tend to be more deeply engaged.
- Geographic differences; for example, Android is more prominent in Asia and Latin America, while young professionals in the USA, China and Western Europe tend to prefer iOS.
The short of it? You need to be clear on where most of your users are going to be before committing to one platform over another.
Preferred Revenue Model
The app platform you choose will also play a key deciding role in any revenue you generate. This means that part of your decision should also come down to your overall goals for the app. Perhaps revenue isn’t a concern at all and it’s all about reach and brand engagement, in which case, refer back to whichever platform is going to give you the best reach for your target audience.
Studies show that it is still more common on Android to have ad-supported apps, whereas iOS users tend to be more willing to pay (and pay a little more) for good apps. According to a recent App Annie report, while Google Play shows more downloads by a large margin, iOS extended its revenue over Google by a further 10 percentage points as compared to the previous study. iOS apps are bringing in approximately twice the revenue for half the number of downloads.
Customer loyalty to those platforms is another consideration when you’re looking at revenue. Most people assume that it is Apple who enjoys greater customer loyalty, however, an Ericsson study found that in fact, user loyalty for Android sits around 82% for most of the year, whereas for iOS it’s 73%. When a new iPhone is released, they found that more Android users will jump ship.
Overall, there doesn’t really seem to be a significant difference in customer loyalty between platforms so, again, look to the one which best serves your target market and revenue needs.
If you’re developing an enterprise level app, it is iOS which has enjoyed better penetration of that market, overtaking a former preference for BlackBerry.
Galen Gruman outlined four barriers to enterprise adoption of Android, including:
- Encryption is slow and not enabled by default.
- There is a malware risk.
- No permissions management tool for users.
- Core apps work inconsistently across different devices.
The piracy issue is quite a big concern for Android and not just with enterprises. Android apps are pirated relatively easily and can even be installed on devices via circuitous routes that don’t involve having to go through Google Play. On the other hand, all downloads of iOS apps must be validated by the Apple App Store first.
Overall, iOS has developed a reputation among enterprise as a more secure option for them. This along with Apple’s longer association with enterprise, including the iOS Developer Enterprise Program has made them a platform of choice. That’s not to say Android should be ruled out — they too have brought in programs to support enterprise, with the addition of Lollipop a couple of years ago.
Features and Release Cycles
Compared to iOS, Android is an open-source platform which allows developers easier access to customize apps according to the needs of the business. This means that certain apps may only be able to operate on Android, depending on the features involved.
Another consideration here is that iOS has a rigorous submission policy for apps, especially when compared to the relatively easy-going Google Play guidelines. This means that it may take more time and more focus on UX to get your iOS app approved in comparison to an Android app.
As for release cycles, studies have shown that huge numbers of Android users are slow to adopt a new operating system, meaning developers need to devote more time to supporting old versions of their apps. Nearly 72% of Android users were running an OS that is more than 2 years old, compared to 92% of iOS users running an OS that is 16 months old or less.
Advantages vs. Disadvantages
From all of the above information you will surmise that each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. The tables below summarise what some of those key factors are:
You only need to develop for a limited range of devices.
High expectations of UX may make the design process time-consuming.
iOS apps tend to bring in higher average monthly revenue
Market share is smaller than Android so you’re going to need to plan on lower download numbers.
Easier and quicker to develop, and there are a range of tools for developers. This means development costs can be lower than for Android.
Much stricter app submission rules than Android mean that you may have to wait longer for your app to be approved by Apple for release.
iOS has developed a good reputation among enterprises for being a secure platform.
Less flexibility in terms of development.
From a global perspective, Android enjoys much larger market share. This is great if your app is intended for mass-market.
There is a much larger range of devices your app will need to be compatible with.
Adoption over a range of geographic locations and devices means that you can more easily enter lucrative up-and-coming markets, such as in Asia.
On average, Android apps take two to three times more time to develop than iOS. For businesses, this will mean a greater development cost and longer wait to put a viable product out.
Open source platform means that developers have more flexibility in terms of the features they can build in. Some apps may only work on Android for this reason
Android’s open nature has spawned a large number of pirate apps as well as malware attacks.
The Android platform supports a higher number of ad-supported apps which are downloaded for free by users.
Android users tend to be less willing to pay for apps and app revenue is on average much lower than iOS.
Which Platform Is for You?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding to go with one app platform over another, but one of the absolute keys is your target audience.
You need to be where your target demographic is, which means the market share of the individual platform may well be a secondary consideration.
Besides that, your choice will come down to factors such as your budget, timeline for development and preference for features. Talk to your developer about your needs and they should be able to help point you in the right direction.
Do you need an app designed for one or multiple platforms? Talk to Koombea today about how we can bring your app to life.