Which is the better choice when building an app: iOS or Android?
When you're building an app, the first decision you need to make is whether to develop for iOS or Android, or both.
"Although Android is usually easier to start out with, it does require more of a time investment further down the line. Conversely, for iOS, it's harder to get your app on to the App Store, but once there, it's generally more maintainable in the long run," says Louis Terblanche, a developer with a keen eye for app development at leading software powerhouse BBD.
The simple truth is that neither is better than the other. With experience in app development across many different industries, BBD has identified five key factors on whether to build an enterprise app for Android or iOS: your audience, project timeline, start-up costs, app performance, and updates and security. It is the consideration of these key factors which ultimately makes the decision for you.
It has traditionally been seen as risky to build an app for both iOS and Android simultaneously as it allows for less flexibility and lower overall performance. However, software company Xamarin (the godfather of "develop once, deploy everywhere") has been working actively to write code once and generate apps for both systems, which is something we are very excited about.
Says Terblanche: "To counteract the risk that currently exists, many developers initially opt to build an app for one operating system (OS) and then launch on the other once the first version of the app is established and successful."
So, how do you decide on which OS to initially build your app? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide:
1. Your audience
BBD's decisions are guided by its client's requirements. That's why audience's daily use is a huge contributing factor in deciding on an OS. Depending on your app complexity, your target audience may sway. "For instance, if you are building a banking app, your biggest target audience will probably be on Android, purely because Android's range of products span so widely, and on average, Android has a 71.9%^1 market share, as reported by Global Stats," Terblanche adds.
Another factor to consider is that many enterprises buy mobile devices for their users to lock down. It then depends on the client, their requirements, budget, whether the app is released to the public or locked down, and what device they generally use. These must all be weighed up before deciding on which OS to start with.
2. Project timeline
Time sensitivity plays a big role in the Android vs iOS debate.
Android allows for a quick release of your app. "You don't need any specific hardware to build servers or provisioning profiles to start developing. You simply create a new app, put it in release mode, sign it with a regular distribution certificate, push it to the store and after a small review and quality check from Google, you're good to go." It's that easy to get your app out.
iOS is usually a slightly longer process, as you are required to send your app to Apple to test. "Their submission requirements are very specific and often, if not followed to the tee, your app will be rejected," Terblanche warns. The process to get your app live on the App Store usually takes more than a month, on average.
Even though it's easier to launch your Android app, it can be harder to maintain your app across all the different Android platforms, resulting in frequent crash notifications.
iOS is not shy of any challenges; one in particular is that it needs to be tested against a proper environment, meaning you cannot mimic a database. iOS also requires a fully fledged database or live server to work on.
In summary, it is harder to get an iOS app on to the App Store, but once it works, it works throughout. Whereas with Android, it is easier to create, but usually the process comes to a halt with device-dependent attention needed.
3. Start-up costs
Android may have a lower start-up cost but can get more expensive when testing farms are needed further down the road. "On top of that, a new Android or manufacture device release might cause issues and you will need dedicated resources, increasing your expenditure," advises Terblanche.
iOS requires expensive physical hardware as well as a software-specific developer's licence to begin, causing your turnover to not be as instantaneous. A benefit of this is your final output quality. Terblanche explains: "iOS is only available on Apple devices and because of this, the hardware offered on each model is very similar. Simply put, when you compile your code and your app works on a particular iPhone, it will most often work throughout the range."
4. App performance and updates
Performance on iOS is fast. Their operating system is specifically designed for their hardware. Android's API is built on so many layers and for various hardware, it simply cannot produce the same speed.
Apple's OS offers consistent and timely software updates and security patches. If you want the same experience on Android, you need to buy one of Google's Pixel phones.
According to Global Stats' most recent March report, almost 80%^2 of all iOS devices are now running the latest version. By contrast, a very small percentage are running the latest Android 9.0 Pie. Only 18.33% are running Android 8.1 Oreo, with 18.83% on Android 8.0 Oreo. The other 62% are running Android 7.1 Nougat or older.^3
As a custom software development company, BBD has a responsibility to protect the sensitive, personal and corporate data provided by the client and customer base. Protecting information is not only good business, but the law.
With this in mind, the main difference between iOS and Android with regard to security is how they are regulated. iOS has a closed system, which helps to minimise security risks by enforcing rules on its developers to encrypt your information. Android developers only recently have been required to encrypt some of your data, but can get away with being lazy, causing your information to be slightly less protected.
Terblanche says iOS has set the quality bar high and is highly respected by its users as they reject anything that does not match their requirements. Google, the mastermind behind Android, "uses your data to provide you with a better artificial intelligence experience".
Terblanche concludes that both Android and iOS offer feature-packed platforms with far more similarities than differences and can heartily recommend either. "Weigh up your pros and cons, but ultimately, the choice as to which OS to start with lies with your project requirements."
1. StatCounter Global Stats. (2019). Mobile & Tablet Operating System Market Share Worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats. [online] Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/mobile-tablet/worldwide/#monthly-201803-201903
2. StatCounter Global Stats. (2019). Mobile iOS Version Market Share Worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats. [online] Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/ios-version-market-share/mobile/worldwide/#monthly-201803-201903
3. StatCounter Global Stats. (2019). Mobile & Tablet Android Version Market Share Worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats. [online] Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/android-version-market-share/mobile-tablet/worldwide/#monthly-201803-201903