Business Strategy · Mobile Platforms

iOS vs Android first: What makes iOS first a valid strategy for mobile app companies?

Ioannis MSc IT professional

January 25th, 2017

The pattern for most mobile app startups appears to be to release an app on iOS first then release an Android version. Later, they may release on other platforms like windows and blackberry. Some examples I can think of right now are Simple, Mailbox and Robinhood.

Since Android has a much larger market share than iOS, it seems like it would make more sense to launch there first. (84.7% vs 11.7%) What then is the technical or business reason for companies to use this iOS first strategy?

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Kevin Brown Experienced IT Professional

Last updated on January 26th, 2017

@Jens_Straten makes a good point about the strategy being dated, and @Lion_Burger makes a good point about simultaneous development. According to what is driving the strategy, it may still be a valid one.

Unity makes a product that will allow for simultaneous development on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. I have not compared the React Native product Lion_Burger mentioned and Unity products to give an opinion on them. I am aware they are out there.

Sometimes new ideas come from new developers that may not be familiar with multi-platform development tools. The idea may be coming from someone who is primarily familiar with developing for a particular OS.

Rolf Bertram iOS App Designer

January 25th, 2017

iOS is in my experience by far the easiest platform to develop for. TestFlight provides you with crash reports from beta-testers. On Android the number of different devices to test on is much larger, and it has far more technical challenges for developers. In Unity forums some developers reported sales of their App on Android to be only 10% of iOS sales, but they got 10 times more problem reports from Android users.

Diego Machado CEO & Co-Founder at TowerHouseStudio

January 25th, 2017

Hi Ioannis, In my opinion, it is best to release on Android first, mainly because you can release faster for Android, while for iOS the release times are much longer.

By releasing for Android at the beginning, you can get user's feedback and adapt sooner. Then, once the app is more stable, you can deploy to iOS, remember that each deploy in the App Store can take one week!


Billy Ku

January 25th, 2017

iOS users are a different demographic than Android users. Some believe iOS users overall are wealthier and are bigger/better spenders than Android users so that's why they start with iOS.

Kevin Brown Experienced IT Professional

Last updated on January 26th, 2017

It is nice to get your app in the hands of a lot of users, but, usually you are developing the app to make money on it. iOS may only have 12% of the users (will take your word on that) but what percent of in-app purchases do they have?

Another consideration, as some have stated, is development time. A much higher percent of iOS users are on the latest version of iOS and there are a few very similar hardware configurations. The advantage of a closed system like iOS has is that it is closed. The platforms are a few very similar kinds of hardware and a limited software configurations to address leading to a more consistent environment in which to deploy to deploy an app.

While the user may give-up a little in flexibility, the application developer gains in a simpler set of environmental contingencies in which to develop and deliver an app. In other words, fewer hardware configurations and software outliers to address in testing means faster application delivery times.

A more realistic way to look at this may be to look at the percentage of market on iOS 10 vs the percentage of the market on the most popular version of android vs. the percent on the next most popular version of android and so on. Then to look at the share of the application spend that version of OS (iOS or Android) represents.

Alternatively, it could just be good marketing on Apples part to get app businesses to develop for iOS first. --Let us know what the numbers say-- :)

Lion Burger Native Full Stack Consultant

January 26th, 2017

Unity is better aimed at games and React Native is better aimed at other types of apps. Additionally, Unity does not provide native UI nor traditional HTML5 apps. Games usually do not care about UI (native or HTML5), as they render their own UI whether it's 2D or 3D.

Both are not suitable for heavy processing done outside native code, however, Unity provides an infrastructure for game related processing.

Rob Kerr Mobile Software Engineer - Development Team Leader

Last updated on January 25th, 2017

To me it's all about who your target customers are--and more importantly who your revenue-generating customers are likely to be.

Keep in mind the market share number you're using is a global number. If your target customer is global--especially in emerging markets almost completely dominated by Android-- Android may make a lot of sense. If your initial market is the US--iOS may make more sense, since the market share of iOS is much higher here than the global share number would suggest.

Also keep in mind other stats--like customer spend on each platform. I don't track this monthly, but historically iOS customers are more likely to purchase apps and related services than Android customers. Not judging's just a measurable/measured fact.

But mostly, it's about who your customer is. For one application we developed and manage for an enterprise customer, we deliver in responsive web/mobile, and users can choose any device they want to use. In the US, 95% of users choose to access the application with iPhone or iPad. Android is the remaining. For our Korean users, it's the exact inverse. Europe is about 60% iOS/40% Android. 80% of users are in the US, so if this client wanted to transition to a native app (many users desire this), and our client could only afford one platform at a time--of course I'd recommend iOS first, and Android in Phase 2.

You also mentioned technical reasons. There have been studies of relative development time required for native Android vs. iOS...I believe usually iOS requires fewer development hours than Android. I don't have hard numbers, but by personal experience, Android has challenges owing to its device diversity, need to support many versions of the OS, etc. I honestly wouldn't consider this a big reason to choose an initial platform--but there have been studies around this.

Jens Straten Entrepreneur with German Ingenuity

January 25th, 2017

I think the iOS first strategy is outdated. It was used by companies before cross-platform development (iOS, Android and others) tools like Corona hit the market.

The main idea behind the iOS first strategy is the claim that Apple users spend more money on in-app purchases (or applications). I tried to find a report backing up this claim, but the most recent one I could find is from 2015 and so I am not sure if this is still valid.

Furthermore, I believe the profit model has somewhat changed in the past few years and so we see more and more free apps trying to make money by displaying in-app advertisements. Once again, I cannot find any recent reports documenting the success of this approach.

On thing is sure: You will make more money if you release your money on all available platforms instead of just one. This is especially true if you can lower development costs by using a cross-platform development tool.

Hope this helps!

Panos Ex-many things, loves to over-reach

Last updated on January 25th, 2017

I think the two main reasons usually offered are (1) iOS development costs are a bit lower (probably itself an early-adoption legacy) and (2) average spend per user is higher for iOS than Android users (makes sense given the profile of iPhone owners).

Being at the cusp of the dilemma myself for a project, I wouldn't be surprised if a close third reason may be what the founders themselves use and are familiar with.

I would guess if the app is not significantly dependent on network effects and therefore does not require a high rate of adoption within its target audience, the relative market share of each OS is irrelevant. In other words, whether your target audience is 200m users or 900m users is not going to be a limiting factor for your business at early stages of development. Cost of development and user spend through will be a consideration.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

January 25th, 2017

iOS has a higher income demographic so it depends if you want spend or tonnage.