Should you build an iOS or Android app – or both?

Two people on their phones

By Dennis Benjamin

So you have a great idea for an app. What do you do next?

One of the most important decisions to make at this early stage is determining which mobile platform you should develop on. Although the platform wars are basically over, the question still remains: iOS or Android?

With 1.6 million apps in Google Play and 1.5 million in Apple’s App Store, the competition is intense. Understanding which platform best fits your needs is a crucial step in the mobile app development process and can have a big impact on the future success of your idea. Here are several important things to consider before making your choice.

User demographics

Determining which mobile platform is best for you means first and foremost figuring out who will use your app and where they will be located. Android has by far a larger global market share, however, it is starting to lose ground to iOS in some areas of the world, including Australia. For a snapshot of the most recent data, Kantar World Panel has created a global smartphone market share map.

Apple typically appeals to a more affluent customer base, particularly younger people between the ages of 18 and 34. Android users tend to be older, from lower-income areas or from developing nations.

It is important to note, these are only a generalisation of worldwide mobile users, and each region should be analysed on its own accord. For a more specific insight, Deloitte has released a report on Australia’s mobile device usage.


Historically, iOS apps have earned more than Android apps. However, Android apps have recently earned more from ads. Alternatively, Apple’s App Store has a higher percentage of paid apps and shows a greater return from in-app purchases. Apple users also traditionally make more purchases online.

A relevant method for determining monetisation is to examine which categories your idea fits into on each app store. From there, research download counts, revenue streams and the prices set by any comparable apps. Of course, finding competitor stats is not always easy. Services like App Annie can help, as can their annual app monetisation report.

Remember too that if your app is free to users then which platform makes more money has less applicability.

Development speed and publishing updates

The time it takes to develop an app and make it publicly available is another factor to consider, especially with highly competitive markets or time sensitive products. While every app is different it is always a good idea to discuss with your app developer how long your concept will take to build on iOS or Android.

Once your app is completed, take into account how quickly you will need to publish the app and how often you plan to update it.

Apple’s approval process can take longer to publish an app in the App Store – usually a few days to a week. The same goes for any updates made to an existing iOS app.

Android apps have a faster turnaround. Both the initial release and future updates usually happen same day and often multiple updates can be applied in a single day.

Market penetration

The way in which other companies, industries and services use mobile could have a huge impact on the success of an app. For example, when Porsche released its new in-car communication system the company decided to have it work exclusively with Apple because research showed the majority of their customers used iOS devices. In other words, Android users hoping to use this feature in their new Porsche were out of luck.

It is important to understand the ways your audience will use your app and how it will relate to other aspects of their lives. This, along with understanding your app idea’s demographics, revenue streams and time constraints, can bring into focus which mobile operating system is right for you.

When to develop an iOS app first

If you are offering a paid app, rely on in-app purchases or live in the retail space then iOS will typically show a greater return. Apple is most likely the way to go If your users are wealthy or located in large urban areas.

When to develop an Android app first

Android is probably a better choice if your app relies on ads, is on a tight schedule or you need a quick turnaround on potential changes. Android is also probably your best bet if your idea appeals to users with a middle to low-income or are located in rural areas.

When to develop both

If you want to reach the widest audience possible as soon as possible and are confident in how well your app will perform, building on iOS and Android simultaneously could be a viable option.

Startups and those on tighter budgets often don’t have this luxury, so this is usually reserved for larger, more well-established companies. Once they’ve perfected a single app experience and worked out all the kinks, transitioning to a second platform is easier and this puts the business in a better position to succeed more quickly.

Do you want to know more about which mobile platform best suits your app idea? Feel free to to us to discuss finding the right fit for your needs.

Dennis Benjamin is the founder and chief executive of mobile apps specialists  AppsWiz and the Informatel Group. He is an expert in the areas of mobile trends, mobile apps, apps for businesses, entrepreneurship, and startups.

This piece was originally published on SmartCompany. 

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