5 Major Differences Between iOS and Android App Development
Find out development cost, design, markets, monetization models and ROI expectation differences for iOS and Android apps.
When choosing between Android or iOS development, software engineers are often puzzled. Both systems, despite having architectural similarities, still have different development and maintenance approaches.
Two systems are different from one another not just on the development level but even in terms of design and marketing strategy.
In this post, we’ll cover the differences between iOS and Android. We will thoroughly evaluate the risks of choosing either OS and calculate the price of a sample app. By the end of the post, you will know if iOS or Android is a better fit your project.
Differences in Development
The biggest dissimilarities between Android development vs iOS development are the technical ones. Platforms have different programming languages, testing approaches, and so on. The most common differences in iOS and Android app development on the technical side go as follows:
iOS vs Android programming use different technology stacks. The first one heavily relies on Java or Kotlin as an alternative, while the second one has a proprietary language designed for app development - Swift. As Swift hasn’t been in the spotlight for that long, old school iOS developers tend to rely on Objective-C as the main programming language.
Which stack is faster and easier to master? Most mobile app developers find an iOS app easier to create than the Android one. Coding in Swift requires less time than getting around Java, the language has high readability.
In the future, however, as Kotlin develops further, the tables may turn once again. The language is considered a soon-to-be Java replacement - it’s intuitive, modern, and easy to read.
Programming languages used for iOS development have a shorter learning curve than those for Android and are, thus, easier to master.
Another major difference between iOS and Android development lies in the integrated environment.
Android developers used to rely on the Eclipse - a third-party development utility originating from the IBM codebase as native tools for Android development were not out at that time. In 2013, Google released Android Studio, a proprietary tool that expanded the range of available features. This integrated development environment has cross-platform support, high readability, a wide range of development and debugging features.
iOS developers, on the other hand, rely on the proprietary XCode tool. The Apple-backed solution provides a variety of bug fixing tools, supports the entire range of iOS devices, and is easy to get around.
Which IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is better?
Comparing Android Studio and XCode, most developers vote in favor of the first IDE. The issues software engineers have with XCode are, namely:
- time-consuming refactoring, and
- inability to run a few simulators simultaneously.
The development environment has gaps in terms of documentation - you will have to search all over the web to know how to use some of its features.
To that end, Android studio is more stable, not as time-consuming, has robust documentation. When it comes to layout builders, XCode is clearly superior, enjoyable to use, and has a wider range of available features.
All things considered, Android Studio wins over XCode by a noticeable margin.
System-specific design differences
Both designed for mobile app development, iOS and Android share the founding principles of software design. Due to the fact that both touch and a stylus don’t have a 100% clicking precision, the smallest clickable areas are 44px for iOS and 48px for Android.
The main difference between iOS and Android design philosophies lies in navigation and architecture organization.
Android apps are developed using partition - a coding team will have to break the app down to fragments and activities. An activity is equivalent to one app screen - in case a developer has a project with multiple screens, he’ll end up managing dozens of activities.
Each activity contains fragments - parts of a user interface often used to navigate between activities, enter a value, open a new app screen.
iOS application architecture relies on view controllers. There are a few types of such used for app development - page view, tab, split view controllers, and so on. A view controller can control an entire screen or one of its parts.
There are several ways to manage controllers - a developer can write them in code or organize images in a storyboard and store it as an XML file. This way, the development pace increases while the risk of errors reduces.
The iOS architecture is more manageable and not so error-prone as that of Android apps. By system design, an iOS app is easier to develop.
When it comes to iOS vs Android app development complexity, Android loses by big numbers. It has a lot to with device fragmentation - while Apple releases a limited range of devices - thus, there’s a small range of screen dimensions to account for, it’s not the case with Android. There are dozens of screen styles based on the screen size, density, and the version of the OS.
Apart from having to adjust the graphics to the whole range of devices, a developer will have to use dozens of device simulators during testing to ensure the app is displayed equally for all users. As a result, both testing and development require countless reviews and iterations, are resource- and time-consuming.
By development complexity, iOS is easier to handle.
According to StatCounter, Android is dominating the market share. Where iOS holds only 16% of worldwide smartphone users, Android devices are popular among over 80% of the population. When it comes to market share by regions, here’s what the statistics have to say:
- US - 52.59% - iOS, 46.98% - Android;
- Europe - 22.23% - iOS, 72.71% - Android;
- Asia - 13.85% - iOS, 83.09% - Android;
Even a common misconception about the iPhone-dominated America didn’t prove to be all that true - the margin of difference between the market shares of Android vs iPhone development is fairly small.
In case a developer aims at the worldwide audience, choosing Android is the best alternative.
Is There Any Way to Dominate Both Platforms?
In order to cash out on both Android and iOS markets, developers often go for creating a single cross-platform app instead of two native products. While such an approach seems a jack-all-trades, developers should be conscious of all the pros and cons of cross-platform solution.
Pros of cross-platform apps:
- Reduced development costs as opposed to building separate native apps;
- Speed increase;
- Reusable code;
- Unified interface for both platforms;
- Higher audience reach.
On the other hand, cross-platform product will lack in terms of flexibility and rich features compared to a native app.
Cons of cross-platform apps:
- User experience limitations;
- More complex code design;
- Longer wait time for bringing new features to the market;
- Maintenance challenges.
Cost of Creating Mobile Apps: iOS vs Android
There’s a common opinion around the web that iOS apps are more expensive than the Android ones. To check if this is true or false, we calculated the cost of Android app development vs iOS app development. Here’s an average number of hours needed to develop a basic, medium, and complex mobile app according to Cleveroad:
- Basic app - 300 hours;
- Medium complexity app - 600 hours;
- Complex app - 800 hours.
Here are the Android and iOS developers’ rates for US and Eastern Europe according to the same source.
By multiplying team hourly rate by the number of working hours we get the total cost for iOS and Android app development correspondingly.
When it comes to budgeting, the difference comes with Android OS - that's because developers will need more resources to adapt app to a different screen sizes, which is not that big issue in case of iOS app development.
App Design Differences
Android app development vs iOS is determined by design guideline systems that determine the look and feel of apps. While designing for Android, you’ll have to adhere to Material Design, the iOS’ developer guide book will be the Human Interface Guidelines.
For Apple, the content of the app has priority over design. As a result, clarity and the broad use of white space are advisable. The most common tools used by UI designers are shadows and gradients. All in all, the application’s design should convey a feeling of depth and be multi-layered.
Android designs come from real-world inspiration. As a result, color and motion are two defining factors. Android designers usually operate with a broader range of tools - light, motions, color changes.
Needless to say, it’s up to a designer to choose a look-and-feel for the app. However, there are certain system-specific differences that influence the design of iOS and Android apps.
Three buttons vs one
While it might not seem like a significant detail, Android devices have three buttons - back, overview, and home whereas Apple smartphones only have the home button. As a result, iOS developers need to ensure there’s a way within an app to return to a previous screen. For Android developers, such a feature is optional. However, starting with Android 9.0., iOS-style gesture navigations will be adopted as well. In the future, it’s likely that 3-button devices will be replaced with one "gesture-operated" button altogether.
While Android devices can soon remove buttons altogether and create one on-screen home buttons, there’s no denying that the functionality of iOS button is more extensive - it can do a Siri call, scan fingerprints, and so on. Many iPhone users are quite fond of the tactical sensations provided by the button as well. iOS takes the win on this one.
Navigation bar placement
The navigation bar placement is a noteworthy detail. On iOS devices, it’s centered while, on Android phones, the bar is aligned to the left. App developers usually use the navigation bar to write the name of the screen.
Android devices extensively support widgets on its home screen (except for the lock screen). iOS is fairly new to the trend of widgets - as a result, it provides limited widget support. A user will only be able to access widgets in the Notification Center.
By widget support, Android devices win over iOS as they have fully adopted the feature and use its benefits much more extensively.
We have already covered the implications of Android device fragmentation when it comes to testing and development. As a result, designers have to withhold from creating detailed application interfaces as they will be extremely slow on low-end Android devices. The difference in screen dimensions makes setting proportions and layout elements optimization more challenging and time-consuming as well.
Device fragmentation makes designing for Android a pain in the neck. That’s why the interface of an Android app will cost more and take a longer while to make compared to iOS designs.
Google Play Market vs App Store
The interfaces of Google Play Market and App Store are similar - both have a home page with application listings, filters that help users to navigate and search for apps. The app description page has similar layouts - there's a text description, a gallery, a block with app ratings and user reviews, and a download button that allows users to download an application.
Apart from releasing apps for public download, iOS offers developers an enterprise distribution model. This way, companies can distribute tools between the team’s employees or a selected group of individuals. You will be able to distribute apps under a private license and get access to a whole set of beta-testing tools, advanced development and testing utilities.
In case you want to create an iOS apps for education, there’s a dedicated iOS University program to help college or school administration securely introduce an application to the curriculum.
Android, on the other hand, has more than Google Play to offer for app distribution. A developer can also release an app on Amazon App Store - a marketplace for Android applications that has been running since 2011 and is available in over 200 countries. Its user base is almost as impressive as that of Google Play - as a result, a develop can attract more potential users.
Android app distribution models provide developers with an opportunity to reach out to a wider public audience. iOS, on the other hand, has convenient developer programs for releasing proprietary technologies.
Revenue per platform
According to the report issued by App Annie, India and China will be dominant forces in app downloads and spend in the next 5 years - both regions are currently dominated by Android.
Generally, Android app marketplaces have surpassed iOS by sales - having said that, the App Store is expected to remain the most lucrative single store all the way up to 2021. The marketplace is expected to generate over $60 billion in gross consumer spend in the next 5 years.
In a nutshell, Android is a promising operating system to choose as a long-term investment. In terms of immediate revenue, iOS still has the lead.
In Google Play Market, the description is more prominent than in App Store. There’s a ‘Read more’ button that allows users with small-screen devices to read through the entire text. In the AppStore, the description is located below the gallery, in Google Play Market, it’s placed above.
In case the contents of the app are more important than the gallery, a developer can benefit more from an emphasis on description, not gallery in the app marketplace. For such products, Google Play would be more convenient than App Store.
The gallery is a highly important factor for iOS users. While Android users pay a fair amount of attention to the description of the app, Apple device owners are likely to never read the description - instead, they will scroll through the entire gallery. In iOS, the gallery is located above the description. For Android, it’s vice versa.
Images are catchier and easier to notice than app description. That’s why the interface of App Store, with the emphasis on the gallery rather than text, is a better choice than that of Google Play.
Number of free/paid apps hosted
Due to the fact that iOS main user base is located in the US, the audience is more willing to pay for a mobile app. Android, on the contrary, dominates in the markets where paid content is not thought of as a norm. When it comes to revenue percentage a developer has to share with Apple and Google respectively, both have a standard 30%-fee.
If you expect an app user to pay right before downloading your product, AppStore users will be more engaged than Google Play visitors.
The filter system of Google Play Market used to be more advanced than that of App Store. Lately, Apple has adopted a similar navigation system as that of its main competitor. Both marketplaces allow users to browse app listings by categories - entertainment, education, business, and so on.
As both platforms offer robust navigation systems, it’s a draw between Google Play and App Store.
Friendliness to developers
App Store is stricter in terms of app moderation - thus, there’s a risk that your app will never be published. Google Play, on the other hand, is much less demanding when it comes to quality assurance. As a result, there’s a tougher crowd for app creators to stand out from but the development is practically risk-free.
As a rule, Google Play is more developer-friendly than AppStore as it takes less time to approve an app and is not as strict during reviews.
Due to the complex process of application uploading and moderation, App Store is a safer source of apps than Google Play. There’s less risk to get tricked by a malware distributor. In case your app passed the App Store moderation, you can be fairly confident in its security.
By security, iOS raises the bar to a higher level than Android.
Monetization and Return on Investment
Last but not least, app monetization is another matter worth consideration when choosing between Android and iOS. There are three main ways to get profit from running a mobile app - in-app purchases, a paid application and ad-based model. And here's a brief break down of all three approaches and their performance characteristics according to Appromoters (for both iOS and Android):
- In-app purchases. Android apps lead in terms of the number of purchases with 22% against 17%. However, the average cost of a transaction is higher for iOS - $30, for Android $10.
- Paid applications. iOS is a leader in terms of releasing paid apps straight to the application marketplace. Out of all iOS game apps, 11% are paid. For Android, the value is 7%.
- Ad-based monetization. Most iOS apps don’t use ads - the percentage of non-gaming apps that do is only 22%. Android apps, on the other hand, are ad-heavy. 63% of Android apps have implemented advertising SDKs.
Overall, iOS apps prove to have a higher return on investment than Android apps.
A few months ago, Google Play came up with a new way to drive monetization forth. Using the ‘Rewarded Products’ feature, developers will be able to increase the app’s revenue by having visitors watch sponsored videos in exchange for in-game currency. It takes nothing but a few clicks to add a rewarded product to an app - a developer can do it using the Google Play Billing Library.
On Google Play, a subscription-based payment model is available as well. This is highly convenient for on-demand music and video streaming apps. The list of subscription features includes:
- flexible billing;
- free trial;
- ranging subscription plans;
- grace periods.
For App Store, a subscription model is active as well - developers can enable both auto-renewable and non-renewable subscriptions. Both platforms take 15% of a developer’s revenue instead of a standard 30% commission common for other monetization models. This decision leads mobile app enthusiasts to believe that in-app subscriptions will surpass other monetization models by 2021.
Making a choice between iOS and Android application development is not easy as both come with advantages and drawbacks.
Calculating the amount of time and workforce needed to create apps for either OS as well as calculating maintenance risks is crucial for the project’s success.
In a nutshell, in case you don’t feel limited in budget and aim at narrow premium segments, iOS is a better choice. In case you want to test out the application market, aim at the worldwide audience, or are bootstrapped in the budget, prefer going with Android.
Developing an app on your own is challenging - that’s why it’s better to have a professional team to rely on. At Ego CMS, we have created dozens of mobile apps (both iOS and Android) for business, entertainment, and other purposes. In our portfolio, you’ll see both small-scale projects for SMEs and ambitious apps for global companies.
Looking forward to discussing your project?
Contact our team - we’ll be happy to help you out.