iOS before Android: Targeting Apple Devices First Makes Sense

When planning out a mobile strategy, many of our clients ask us which platform they should target first — iOS or Android?

While the answer often depends on the client’s unique situation, there are some general guidelines that can help us determine what will work best for the client, and meeting their business goals.

It’s smart to publish one, then another

As we’ve lined out in our lean app development post, it makes sense to launch a version of your app, gather feedback, then review and iterate. This is easiest to do with an MVP, and often — even easier when you’re only doing it on one platform.

As is inevitable with the scope of most projects — things change along the way as well. Stakeholder preferences can influence mid-project design changes, market shifts can require an operational pivot, user preferences can change from development step to step, etc. When things change along the way — why spend either time or money making the same changes twice?

You’d be amazed at what you can learn from launching an app “into the wild” that even the best of user testing and Beta feedback can offer. Unless you’re on a tight timeline, save yourself the trouble and try out your app on one platform first.

iOS is less complex to test

Due mainly to the limited set of devices — which in turn, means predictable hardware performance, screen sizes, and capabilities — it is far less complex to build and test apps for iOS than on Android. With regards to software, iOS has an operating system adoption rate in the mid-to-high 90s; meaning about 92–96% of users upgrade to the latest available operating system. This alone narrows the gap of scenarios to test against.

However, Android hardware features far more permutations — and as a result, different scenarios to look out for. It’s not unusual for us to find bugs or visual issues across even a few different devices when performing internal testing.

Visual bugs are thankfully not a common occurrence. In most cases (the numbers say 85% or so) — Android users are using a so-called “normal-sized, high-density” screen. However, that still leaves 15% that can be using any combination of screen sizes and densities. However, the bigger your market reach — the more likely you’ll be having to test on those 15% of outlier combinations.

iOS apps make more money

It’s long been said that “developers make more money on iOS.” While Android generally attracts a comparatively higher volume of downloads, iOS generates a higher revenue.

There are many potential reasons why iOS users spend more, but per the linked article above, it primarily has to do with:

  1. A higher up-front device cost suggests higher levels of disposable/discretionary income available for things like (in-)app purchases.
  2. A higher market share in “first-world” regions like North America with available funds for #1
  3. With regards to those regions in #2, a higher instance of credit cards, combined with the lack of carrier billing in other regions

Any way you cut it — iOS users will earn you more dollars per download than Android.

Don’t lose sight of where your users are

In the end, it’s important to not only look at the statistics and numbers across both platforms — but to remember where your users are and cater to them.

In North America, app early adoption is vastly dependent on iOS users — but in other parts of the world, Apple devices are far less common.

We always recommend taking a look at your website’s traffic as a good gauge of where your audience is (you are using analytics, right?). We often see parallels between a website and app’s traffic behaviours — where it becomes reliable to predict where you’ll see user acquisition for your app.

In North America for example — Apple owns a big chunk (~50%) of the the smartphone market. While in Western Europe, it’s below 30%. Depending on which region you’re targeting, that swing can make a big difference in the addressable market.

Either way — be smart about it.

Whether you decide to launch on iOS or Android first, be sure you’re making the decision and subsequent investment — based on the needs of your business. It’s easy to get caught up in personal preference — or bias — in deciding where to launch your app first. After all, if you’re rocking a shiny new iPhone — you won’t be able to play with your new Android app.

Be strategic. Be smart. And have fun building your app!

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