What to Build First: An Android or iOS App?

Four and a half billion people. That’s the global digital population in April 2019 according to  Statista.com of which almost 3 billion active mobile social users. This is a market you can’t ignore.

If you still don’t have a mobile app for your business, then it’s high time to get one. But which platform should you focus on for your project?  iOS or Android development; the battle is ongoing and probably will never conclude.

If you look at the global mobile app market, the numbers are staggering:

 State of Mobile 2019 market report

[Source: App Annie]

Many companies struggle to decide what platform they should use to develop their app. There are many factors to consider; while apps developed on the iOS platform consistently earns more revenue compared to Android, Android has a much larger global market share. However there is more to the story, and we need to dig deeper to understand what is better iOS or Android.


One of the first questions you should ask is who is your target audience and where do they live?

The primary consideration is where your first app adopters will be located. If your customers are outside of the U.S., Europe, or Australasia, it’s possible that Android should be your first priority as it dominates sales volumes of smartphones in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Knowing this will help you prioritize your development requirements and possibly save some money in the meantime as well.

When looking at the worldwide statistics for sales, Android has a clear lead over iOS in terms of market share. Android currently holds the largest global platform share with around 75% which mostly comes from developing countries and lower income areas compared to iOS’s 23% from developer nations.


Demographics tells us a lot about Android and iOS users


Demographics tells us a lot about Android and iOS users. This is where we need to start the discussion.

iOS users are typically younger, with a higher level of education, greater engagement and earn more money, so they spend more per app. Amusingly, iPhone users were also found to be vainer — taking 12 selfies every day, which is five more than Android users take.

Android users are less extroverted than iPhone users, and they are perceived to have greater levels of honesty and humility. In a survey, by Slickdeals, Android users were reported as self-admittedly the more frugal in their spending habits, with Android users being 25 percent more likely to strongly agree that they think they are a frugal person, and being 19 percent more likely to say they look for deals and discounts “often.”

iPhone Users
37% more likely to have a graduate degree
29% more likely to be older women (35+)
14% more likely to be extroverted
67% more likely to make over $200K and enjoy spending it
More likely to be in Media/Marketing/Business
39% more likely to be high-maintenance
50% more likely to have visited more than 5 countries

Android Users
80% more likely to have only a high school diploma
More likely to be younger men (34 and younger)
12% more likely to be introverted
24% more likely to earn $100K or less
More likely to be in IT/Energy/Utilities
12% more likely to be pet lovers
71% more likely to have never traveled abroad

Users approach to technology

The second point to consider would be the adoption of new technology.  According to a poll conducted by Hunch.com, iOS users are more likely to be early adopters.

On the other side of the spectrum, Android users seem to be late adopters which means they are less likely to own mobile devices that will allow apps to utilise rich new technology and features to deliver an improved user experience and functionality.

Given the fragmentation of handheld mobile devices running Android as an operating system, the issue becomes even more compound.

Revenue Models

Another factor one needs to consider when deciding on the platform is app monetisation.  The capability of a mobile app to generate profit (if that is your business goal) depends on a number of things, including the platform on which it has been created. If you are thinking that just because Android has a bigger market share it also generates larger revenue, you should think again.

According to a report from Sensor Tower, the App Store earned nearly 93% more than Google Play in quarter 3 of 2018, the largest gap since at least 2014.

The firm states that approximately 66% of the $18.2 billion in mobile app revenue generated in Q3 2018 came from Apple’s App Store. The store made $12 billion in the quarter, up 23.3% from the $9.7 billion it made during the same period last year.


If app monetisation is one of your goals, there are some key platform differences to be aware of.

  • Android users tend to be less willing to pay for apps than iOS users, so free apps with in-app ads are more common.
  • While Android has a higher percentage of ad-supported apps, the iOS development platform relies predominantly on purchases.
  • Apple users are more likely to make in-app purchases and spend more on them.
  • Apple users are more likely to pay for apps, except in one category — utility apps. Android outperforms when it comes to utility apps.
  • Shopping apps generate the most revenue.
The takeaway: If you want to monetize your app without ads, whether through subscriptions, freemium models, or in-app purchases, then Apple may be your best bet. The same applies to e-commerce apps.

Development Speed and Complexity

Getting your app fast to market is always a primary concern when building the app.

Although Android apps are mostly developed in Java (preferred by most app developers) and related languages, while iOS apps, on the other hand, are normally developed in Apple’s Objective-C language, it still can take 2-3 times longer for Android app development vs. iOS app development.

Why? It has to do with the system release cycles and something known as Android fragmentation.

Simply put, Android runs on a huge number of devices, that come in all shapes and sizes as well as with huge differences in performance level and screen sizes. Because of the limited type and number of devices, iOS development is easier as compared to the development of Android apps.

Add to this the fact that there are lots of active versions of this operating system at the same time. To build an app that is compatible with all of these devices is quite a challenging and complex task. Thus, it’s crucial to consider timeframes before you outsource app development.

The differences in SDK’s, IDE’s and API’s is another conversation by itself.

Release & Approval Cycles

iPhone users upgrade a lot more often than Android users.

For example, over 76% of all iOS users have adopted the latest version of iOS 12.3. Pie for Android was released in August 2018, and currently, a little over 10% of all users have adopted it.

Because Android is locked down by telecom carriers and Original equipment manufacturer or OEM’s, releasing new updates to Android becomes more difficult resulting in the adoption of the latest OS versions being usually slower than with iOS.

For developers, there is a benefit to being able to focus on supporting the newest versions of an operating system. With iOS higher adoption rates, developers can stop supporting older versions and devices sooner, reduce testing, incorporate newer API’s and reduce their development cycle times. If only about 10% of the users have adopted it, then the developer has to support older devices, do more testing and this way increase the development cycle time.

As most app developers can attest, Android is the favourite when it comes to the release and approval process. Why? Because with iOS, the release and approval process is typically between 2-3 weeks, and even longer, if the app is rejected. Android apps typically take a day or two to get approved and updates can be pushed within a matter of hours.

The bottom line: The Google Play Store submission is less expensive and less strict when it comes to publishing.

Pros and Cons

Evaluating all pros and cons for Android app development and iOS app development is another factor that can help you define which OS to be the first. Here is a brief overview of the key advantages and disadvantages of both from a development and marketing perspective:

Android Pros

  • Wider international coverage, including emerging markets.
  • Simpler to launch with Android; guidelines provided are easier to follow, rather than strict requirements from Apple.
  • Getting your app on Google Play is less time consuming.
  • No restrictions imposed on alpha or beta app launch when writing apps for Android.
  • With Android you are able to submit your app to Google Play and Amazon.
  • Various hardware integration and customization possibilities.
  • Deeper market penetration
Android Cons
  • Development and testing usually take a lot of time due to the large number of Android versions and devices.
  • It’s impossible to target all device users at once and tailor the app to all screen sizes.
  • New app features are only supported by newer OS versions.
  • 2-3 higher the development cost
  • High device fragmentation
iOS Pros
  • The iOS platform offers a quicker and more stable development process.
  • iOS users are more likely to purchase apps as well as make in-app purchases.
  • Standardised UI makes interface development less time consuming.
  • The audience is more valuable
  • Tools are more advanced and stable
  • Provides more publicity and press opportunities
  • Many influencers on iOS
iOS Cons
  • Apple’s approval takes a lot of time (7 days on average).
  • With so many restrictions imposed, it is difficult to customize an app.
  • No possibility to release a beta app since only fully-functional apps are accepted.
  • Fewer opportunities to stand out from the pack because of app standardization.
  • Smaller overall install base

Choosing your app development platform: iOS of Android

There are many aspects to consider when choosing a platform for app development.

By now you may have guessed that in general, from a financial standpoint as well as a time perspective iOS is a better choice, but from a market penetration stance Android is better.

The Bottom line: both Android and iOS are extremely successful which is why it’s smart to invest in both iOS and Android app development.

But ultimately, your decision to build for iOS or Android first is going to come down to what works for your business:

  • The type of app you are building
  • Monetization model
  • The market you’re aiming
  • User demographics
  • Project timeframe and budget
If your company is a start-up and your capital is limited, then iOS is the best place to begin because not only is it cheaper iOS also brings influencers and PR with it. Chances are, you’ll get much more clicks for your app built on iOS.

If your audience is mostly located in emerging markets, then it makes sense to start with Android since they tend to visit app stores more often.