Mobile app developers are often faced with a critical choice. The endgame for any successful app is availability on both major platforms, Android and iOS. However, quite often neither the development nor release of a new app takes place simultaneously across both platforms. Sometimes one platform gets an app faster, and sometimes even much faster. It begs the question of which platform to develop an app for, first? Why do some companies or independent developers choose to work on one platform over the other?
Why Release iOS First?
Likelihood of Purchases. This is major. Although Android has a larger worldwide market share, from a profit-taking standpoint, that does not tell the whole story. As it turns out, iOS users are far more likely in the aggregate to pay money for an app they like. This consumer behavior is reflected in the numbers for the first quarter of 2014 for both major app stores, with the iOS App Store generating an astonishing 85% more revenue from purchases than the Google Play Store, despite the Google Play Store netting almost 50% more overall downloads.
Less Competition in the Marketplace. Profitable app development is a twofold challenge of trying to make an app a user likes or needs, while also making the app unique in its functionality or user experience, and therefore something a customer would want to buy. The relative ease with which a developer can release an app in the Google Play Store also means that there is a large assortment of free, redundant, or open source apps in that particular store that may all be trying to accomplish the same thing the same way, each vying for a download from all the same Android users. This can make standing out in the crowd and monetizing any one app a significant challenge. However, that is not the culture of the iOS App Store, where Apple’s stringent requirements for app release tend to weed out competition and give established app developers a significant advantage.
Why Release Android First?
Market Share. Android devices such as smartphones and tablets have an estimated 78% market share, worldwide, compared to less than 18% for iOS. If the goal is to create a new app with the largest potential customer base possible, then a developer can do no worse than Android.
Familiarity. Because Android devices are so ubiquitous, and the Android platform is relatively easy to work on, Android enjoys major support from the hobbyist and open source development communities. These people spend their idle hours tweaking and improving existing apps, or writing their own apps from the ground up. Sometimes, they do it to fulfill a need, and sometimes they do it because it is their passion. When the time comes to profit from that passion by releasing products in the Google Play Store, Android developers often already have a wealth of data to draw from.
Freedom. Apple maintains an infamously tight stranglehold on what apps make it into the iOS App Store. Developers must submit their iOS app for approval, and then wait days and sometimes even weeks before Apple either accepts or rejects the app. If the app is rejected, even for the slightest reason, then it must be modified according to Apple’s whims, and resubmitted for approval, taking even longer. In the Android world, there is no such process. Rather, Google maintains detailed workflow documents and other materials intended to aid developers in releasing concise, bug-free apps consistent with their best practices. The difference in approaches is striking: “If your app is not great, you cannot release it at all” versus “Here is what you should do if you want to release a great app.”
Ideally, mobile app developers will release apps for both Android and iOS in order to reach the largest number of potential customers. However, when one platform receives an app before the other, there are often very logical justifications for it, ranging from things like financial considerations to sheer convenience. Hopefully, this article has provided a useful and cursory glimpse at some of the myriad reasons why an app makes an appearance on either platform first.