For many developers who are beginning a new project, the first question they ask is, “Should we design this first for Android or iOS?” Some developers think this is a no brainer. With Android holding 88% of the smartphone market, it seems like it is an obvious choice. While for others, iOS has always been where their main focus has been.

Whether you are an iOS app development company, android app development company, or you are working on mobile app ideas and want to know where to put yourself, it’s important to know the differences between the two operating systems. In this article, we hope to explore pros and cons of working with either so that you can make the right decision for your app or mobile project.

Environment

While some developers still prefer to write code with text files and command lines, most choose to work within an IDE, or integrated development environment, for increased productivity. IDEs present a single program in which all development can be done, so let’s take a look at the different IDEs for both iOS and Android.

Android

Android’s IDE used to be known as Eclipse, but it was so clunky and slow that they have replaced it with something called Android Studio. Android app designers program in Java, and while there is a good amount of functionality with this IDE, it is definitely not for beginners. Operating within both iOS and Android’s IDE requires lots of experience in coding language and understanding the quirks of both programs.

iOS

iOS’s IDE is known as Xcode, and it works with iOS SDK. While Xcode supports many different programming languages, most iOS app developers use Swift because it was created specifically by Apple for iOS and OS X. It is based on Objective-C, but has been reported to be more concise and less prone to errors. Xcode can also be used with the original Objective-C, Java, or Python.

The tough part about Xcode is that it isn’t always straightforward and could stand to benefit from a plainer layout. The other barrier of entry for many app developers and app development companies is that you need to have a Mac in order to run Xcode. In theory, this makes sense, but the need to buy a relatively powerful Mac and an iPhone or iPad to begin working on a project can be an expensive endeavor.

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Design Guidelines

On a fundamental level, both Google and Apple want to have consistency across both platforms for any app that they put in their stores. In the eyes of these companies (and the general public), there shouldn’t be a noticeable difference in the functionality of apps depending on whether they run on Android or iOS.

However, if you program something for one OS and try to transfer it to another, you still will have to make some significant changes before you can publish your project. Even though the rhetoric for cross-platform functionality is there, it just doesn’t translate to the actual design guidelines of each system since they are still created in different programming languages.

In order to prevent you from falling into this common trap, let’s take a look at the differences in design guidelines for both.

Android

Android has much clearer guidelines than iOS, having given Android app designers Material Design as a sort of rulebook for designing apps within their system. Not to go into too much detail, but the idea behind this and their design principles is to treat UI elements as if they were made from physical material, specifically paper. By this same line of thinking, Android designers use cues like shadows, animations, and the Z axis to communicate how the user should interact with their app.

iOS

Apple has less clearly defined design guidelines for their app developers, but it generally involves the use of negative space, large images, and lots of translucent elements. Because of this, iOS presents as flatter, which can be a pro or con depending on who you are.

For Android app designers, Google has provided much clearer guidelines. However this can often lead them to do more work than iOS developers since they have more rules to follow. One benefit that they do have is that Android devices have a built in ‘back’ button, while iOS requires a separate button within the app (usually found in the upper left-hand corner).

Publishing and Profits

No matter how much we may talk about the differences in UI and UX design when it comes to Android vs. iOS, the fact remains that unless your app or project that you are developing makes you a return, none of it matters. Not only do Google and Apple have much different ways of doing things when it comes to design, they also have highly varying ideas about exactly who and what will be put out on their stores and how those behind it will make money.

Android

Google has what they call the “Play Store” for distributing and publishing apps. For many app developers, Android’s system is far superior in terms of what you can do with it. All manners of customization – apps, floating apps, and more features – are available to Android app development companies that would simply not be possible in iOS.

Google also has far fewer restrictions than Apple when it comes to publishing your app and putting it on the market. After signing up, uploading your APK, and paying your one-time cost of $25 dollars, you are all set to go. This simple process is all that stands between you and people downloading your app. Pretty cool, right?

Unfortunately, it may not be as cool as you think. As you can see from these graphs, iOS dominates the revenue side of the business.

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Keep in mind that almost 9 out of every 10 smartphones runs on Android, but it seems that Apple users are simply happier to spend money on the apps in their store compared to the countless free apps available on the Play Store.

These numbers are not something to breeze over, since 75% of all app revenue goes to iOS apps, you definitely need to consider this as you think about how you are going to monetize your project.

iOS

For app developers and app development companies hoping to publish their app on the App store, know that while iOS won’t reject your app, Apple certainly can and will. Apple has a very clear idea of what kind of apps they want in their store and unless you meet their requirements, it can be difficult to get your work out there.

Consider the differences in getting your app approved. While Android has the simple 3 step process that we went over, Apple requires a recurring annual fee of $99 to submit your app and have it be tested by real-life people. This can often take a couple of days (compared to Android’s couple of hours) and your app might still be rejected.

To be fair, this level of clearance for entering the app store protects Apple from any possible legal ramifications of unchecked apps while also filtering out any offensive or otherwise low-brow apps from entering their store. But, many developers have found their apps being rejected for any number of random reasons. Just know that if you are hoping to have your app up quickly, you should build in a week or two for edits and fixes in case it gets rejected.

Now as far as profits go, the App Store quite simply dominates the Play Store in terms of revenue generated. There are a lot of different reasons for putting out an app onto either of these stores, but if you are hoping to make money from it, iOS should clearly be your first choice.

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So, which one should we choose?

There have been numerous different takes over the last few years on which OS is better, which has better usability, functionality, UI/UX design, etc. but in the end what it comes down to is simply “Which one should we choose? As an app developer (or app development company), how should we delegate our resources?”

To this, we say, both. As you have seen, Android and iOS have lots of different features that work well for different circumstances. If you need your app up quickly, Android is your best bet, whereas if you want to make money, Apple should probably be the way to go. Sure, iOS has fewer guidelines when you are developing the app, but actually getting it published can be a nightmare. Whereas Android has far more guidelines, thus requiring more work on the part of the developers, but once it’s done you will be able to get downloads within a few hours.

In the end, unless you are completely strapped for cash or time, you are going to want to have an app in both the Play Store and the App Store. For any company hoping to have a wide market share while still turning a profit, you will need to build an app in both iOS and Android’s systems. However, now that you understand the advantages to using one over the other, keep them in mind while developing your app and use them to your advantage.

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