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.

March 30, 2021

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:

Programming languages

iOS vs Android programming use different technology stacks. The first one has the Swift proprietary language designed for app development while the second one heavily relies on Java or Kotlin as an alternative.

Which stack is faster and easier to master? Most mobile app developers find an iOS app is easier to create than the Android one. Coding in Swift requires less time than getting around Java since this 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. 

Development environment

Another major difference between  iOS and Android development lies in the integrated environment.

Android developers utilize Android Studio, a proprietary tool introduced by Google in 2013 and sporting an expanded 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?

Exploring the differences between Android Studio and XCode, you won’t decide which is definitely better than the other: both have their pros and cons.

Android Studio helps quickly generate multiple versions of your app for various devices and offers a flexible Gradle-based build system. Xcode, on the other hand, has a decent source editor and assistant editor. But that’s only if want to touch the surface.

Developers make personal preferences based on their individual habits and likings. Those who prefer XCode like it for easy setup, but bigger projects make the IDE too complicated. And Android Studio fans like it for an advanced code editor and layout designer, though sometimes it consumes too much memory.

However, you can rarely find developers specializing both in Android and iOS development. So once the platform choice is made, most of them don’t have a need to compare the above-mentioned IDEs.

Having these things considered, Android Studio and XCode are both good enough; their differences shouldn’t be a reason for preferring one platform over another.

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.

Development complexity

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. 

Market share

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:

A market share diagram of iOS and Android in USA, Europe, and Asia

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:

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:

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

Here are the Android and iOS developers’ rates for US and Eastern Europe according to the same source. 

The app development team rate for iOS and Android in North America and Eastern Europe

By multiplying team hourly rate by the number of working hours we get the total cost for iOS and Android app development correspondingly.

A total cost diagram of different complexity apps for different platforms

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.

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. 

There's no definite rule as to which navigation bar placement is superior in terms of user experience. 

Widget support

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. 

Device fragmentation

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.  

Distribution models

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. 

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. 

Categorization systems

Both Google and Apple do their best to help users not only navigate through apps according to their categories, but also find new potentially interesting titles. In the Play Market, you can find apps and games organized into groups like Recommended, Spotlight, or even Offline. In the App Store, there’s more to editorial content, so the apps and games might get highlighted by appearing on the main screen as a part of a listicle or an exclusive material.

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. 

App security

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.

However, it might take a couple of days for Apple to approve your app, while with Google you’ll wait only for a few hours. Although in both cases the app is reviewed manually, Apple has so many requirements and peculiarities regarding submitted apps that most probably you will initially spend quite a lot of time getting to know them and adopting your code. 

By security, iOS raises the bar to a higher level than Android. By approval time, Google still works faster than Apple.

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): 

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:

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.

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