IOS vs Android: Which Should You Build Your Mobile App on First

Now that you have finally decided it’s time to build a mobile app, there are some decisions that need to be made.

One of those decisions is choosing which operating system you’re going to launch on.

You have to decide between the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

It’s not an easy choice.


Well, for starters, Android and iOS app users behave differently.

So if you launch on the wrong platform, you could be neglecting your primary target audience.

If only there were a solution that didn’t force you to choose.

Spoiler alert – there is.

But we’ll get to that later.

For now, we’ll operate under the assumption that you’re building a native app.

In this case, you’ll have to pick between Apple and Android. But iOS and Android app development are very different.

Here’s why.

The code for native apps doesn’t work on both platforms.

If you want to have an app that’s available in both stores, you’ll need to develop two different ones from scratch in order to meet the requirements for each operations system.

It’s a long and expensive process.

Trust me, I know from experience.

But with experience also comes knowledge.

I’m here to share expertise with you so that you can make an informed decision before you dive head first into the wrong operating system.

I’ll even show you a way that allows you to launch on both platforms simultaneously.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, I’ll break down all of the factors that you need to consider before you finalize a decision between iOS and Android apps.

Feature sets

The features are related to the basic functions of your app.

What exactly is the purpose of your app?

The answer to this question will depend on the code that gets written for development.

Apple – iOS App Development

Apple is restricted to a closed ecosystem.

A closed ecosystem means that Apple regulates entrance to use their platform.

All of the content is restricted to specific iOS devices that are supported by that ecosystem.

This means that iOS developers must use Apple’s features, and there are a lot of them.

The advantage to developing your app on a closed ecosystem like Apple’s means that there’s more control and stability.

But with that said, there will be more restrictions for the developer.

From the user perspective, purchasing a device that operates on a closed ecosystem means that it will have a higher price point.

So in general, Apple devices are more expensive than Android devices.

This gives you some more insight about the user, but we’ll get into that in greater detail shortly.

Android App Development

Android operates on an open source ecosystem. This makes it easier for Android developers to build an Android app.

This allows for tons of modifications as well as lots of functionality.

Open source platforms are less secure.

So sometimes updates get blocked by mobile network operators.

Android has an open platform to encourage developer innovation.

You can get Android’s source code for free and port it to your app’s hardware.

This means you won’t have to jump through as many hoops to develop your app on the Android system because there are less restrictions.

How to make money

The purpose of every mobile application is to make money, right?

If that’s not your primary goal, you’ll probably need to reevaluate your decision to build an app in the first place.

So how do you plan to make money?

Here are a few of the most common business models.

  • Subscriptions
  • In-app purchases
  • Advertisements
  • Pay per download

Depending on which strategy (or strategies) you decide to implement can impact your decision for developing on Apple or Android.


If you’re going to charge users to download your app, you should develop on Apple first.

Take a look at the distribution of free vs. paid apps between Apple and Android.

As you can see from the graph, there is a clear difference between the two platforms.

So if you’re going to charge for downloads, the Apple App Store is the place to do it.

That’s because those users are used to seeing more paid apps and less free apps when they’re searching for something to download.

Whereas Android users don’t see as many apps that require payment to download.

So if they see yours, they’ll probably consider just finding another one that has similar functions and is offered for free.

Just know that if you’re going to charge Apple users to download your app, it’s going to be an expensive strategy.

You’ll have a much higher customer acquisition cost than if you offered it for free.

But with that in mind, you’ll also make more money all at once.

Your users will be more engaged as well.

If they’re willing to pay for it, that means they probably won’t abandon it.


If you’re going to make money off of advertisements and in-app purchases, then you should build on Android first.

Just don’t expect your in-app purchases to be too significant.

You’re going to get less money per purchase, but that’s spread over way more people.

Android users dominate the market share.

I’ll show you some more specific numbers when we talk about the different types of people using your app in a little bit.

The advantage of releasing your app for free on the Android platform is that you’ll be able to get more downloads.

But your users may not be as engaged since they’re not investing anything into the download.

So the key to this strategy is coming up with a way to get money from people who use the app the most.

Charge for app upgrades and premium services to enhance their experience.

Release cycles

Here’s something that developers don’t always think about right away when they’re trying to figure out which platform is better for their business.

You’ve got to consider which software version your users are using within their respective platforms.

Obviously, your app needs to be written in code that’s compatible for with the most up to date software versions.

But there’s a major difference between Apple and Android devices here.


The majority of Apple users are running their device on the most current version.

In fact, 95% of Apple users have one of the two latest operating systems installed on their devices.

This makes programming and development easier because you can estimate what your app is going to be able to do.

You’ll just need to be prepared to come up with more updates to optimize the user experience based on the software they’re using.

But for the most part, you won’t need to worry about software from a few years ago.


Android users are not all up to date on the most current operating platform.

Since these users are all over the place, you might have to develop for older versions that are out of date

Oreo and Nougat are the two most recent versions of the Android software.

Less than 20% of users are operating on these systems.

This makes your development process more complicated since you have to accommodate such a wide range of versions.

Tablet usages

When people think about building mobile applications, they immediately think of cell phones.

But you’ve got to take tablets into consideration as well.

Look at how tablet ownership has been trending.

Over a stretch of five years in the United States, we saw a 42% increase in tablets owned.

That number is continuing to rise.

So you need to keep tablets in mind when you’re developing your app.


Most people like to use iPads because they are user friendly.

These tablets are sleek and easy to use.

They are a popular choice for young children as well as older generations.

The users who use Apple tablets will watch movies, play games, or spend time doing other fun activities.


On the other hand, people who own Android tablets are more technical.

They may be using these devices to work on a project or own one because they use it for their job.

Overall, Apple tablets seem to dominate Android.

You may even see some people who have an Android phone but use an iPad tablet.

But iPhone users are much more loyal to Apple’s tablets and other devices.

You’re way less likely to see an iPhone user with an Android tablet than an Android smartphone user with an iPad.

Enterprise adoption

Remember when Blackberry used to dominate the workplace market?

It seemed like everyone wearing a suit and holding a briefcase had a Blackberry in their hand as well.

But those days are over.


Apple devices are known to be more secure.

We discussed this earlier when we talked about their closed ecosystem.

That’s why you’ll see major corporations like IBM partnering with Apple for their corporate devices.

But with increased security comes fewer features.


Since Android is open source, it’s less secure.

But with that said, there are way more devices and even more features.

Apple users have to get an iPhone or iPad to access your mobile app.

While there may be different versions of those devices, you can’t compare that to the number of devices that operate on the Android platform.

That’s probably another reason why Android dominates the global market share.

Why there are two platforms

To avoid any confusion, let’s start with the basics.

Apple devices run on iOS software and Google devices run on Android’s operating system.

On a global scale, Android dominates the market share.

But in the United States, it’s closer to an even split.

Apple users access the mobile store through their iPhones and iPads.

While Android users have more options with phones like the Google Pixel, HTC, Samsung Galaxy, as well as more phones and various tablets.

The variety of devices may explain why Android has more users across the world.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your development and launch strategy.

It all comes down to the primary function of your app and your company’s target market.

Mobile apps are a business.

This statement holds true whether you’re building a new app from scratch or launching one to improve your existing company.

But running a business, or in this case, a mobile app, means you’ve got to have a marketing strategy.

It’s much easier for those of you who already have a business with an existing customer base.

Look to those customers to tell you which operating system they prefer.

If you’ve never built an app before I know what you may be thinking.

Why can’t I just develop both?

Well, in theory, you can. But it’s going to cost you a lot of money.

If you’ve got a minimum of a few hundred thousand dollars to spare and up to a year of time to invest, you can probably build two native apps at the same time.

But for everyone else out there you’ll have to choose between Apple, Android, or the third (and probably most reasonable) option.

When to develop for Apple first

You’ve got to find some common connections between your customers and the behavior of Apple users.

So do some research.

For example, men spend more money on Apple products than women.

The graph shows that there is a significant difference between the two genders in this category.

Does that mean you should develop your app for Apple first if your company’s primary target market is men?

Not necessarily.

I included this graphic for a reason because it’s a perfect example of misleading information.

While the research may be interesting, it doesn’t necessarily translate to your marketing strategy.

I do lots of consulting with companies and see this mistake all the time.

Someone on their marketing team comes across something like this and starts making assumptions.

Don’t jump to conclusions.

This research just says that men spend more on Apple products. It doesn’t say that more men have Apple devices than women.

In reality, it’s the opposite.

There’s a greater chance of a woman having an iPhone than a man.

But 5% isn’t enough of a significant difference to develop your marketing strategy around.

Plus, this doesn’t account for tablets.

You need to dig deeper.

What about annual income?

On average, users who have an Apple device make 40% more each year than Android users.

So if you’ve got a company that targets a wealthier demographic, the iOS platform may be a better place for you to start.

In addition to their economic status, Apple users also:

  • Have more engagement
  • Spend more money per app
  • Have higher educational degrees

These are some valuable pieces of information that you can use to your advantage when making this decision.

Here’s something else to consider.

95% of Apple mobile users are running their devices on iOS 10 or iOS 11, which are the two latest software versions.

You want to make sure that your app is running smoothly and fully optimized at all times.

So iOS development isn’t a bad idea for your company if you have the ability to make constant updates for your app in order to keep up with Apple’s latest software requirements.

When else is the best to develop your app for Apple first?

If you have lots of time and money.

Despite everything else we’ve just covered about iOS users and how their behavior is related to your company, that’s the reality of the situation.

Developing an app for Apple is expensive.

It’s also going to take a really long time complete the process.

Once it’s built and your app finally launches, it will continue to cost you lots of money.

Regular maintenance isn’t cheap either.

Plus you’ll need to pay for third party subscriptions, server space, and other hidden expenses associated with development and maintenance.

Large corporations can afford this, but these costs aren’t reasonable for the average person.

When to develop for Android first

As we just discussed, there are definitely some circumstances where it makes sense to develop on the iOS platform first.

Well, the same holds true for Android.

While statistically speaking, Apple users may have more money and higher education, Android users just completely dominate global web traffic from mobile devices.

So the chances are higher that you can find your target market somewhere within this group.

But saying that you can’t go wrong by developing on Android first would be an overstatement.

As I said earlier, the split between Android and Apple is closer to 50/50 in the United States.

So if you have an American business and you’re building an app to enhance the customer experience, Android won’t always be the clear winner.

But here’s a scenario when it will be.

Do you plan on using push notifications to keep users engaged?

It’s a great strategy to drive sales and increase ROI.

3.48% of Android users open push notifications, while only 1.77% of push notifications get opened on Apple devices.

Android users are also more likely to opt-in to receive additional notifications.

So if this is part of your marketing strategy when it comes to targeting users after they’ve already downloaded the app, I’d lean towards starting with Android.

Here’s something else to consider when it comes to your marketing strategy.

Before you can entice users with push notifications, you’ll need to get them to download your app in the first place.

What’s your budget for cost per install (CPI)?

Well, the average CPI for Android is nearly half the cost of iOS apps.

So not only will you have a larger audience to reach, but it’s cheaper to get those people to download your app as well.

But those downloads won’t necessarily translate to money, depending on your business.

Android users are less likely to make an in-app purchase than Apple users.

So that’s not good news for ecommerce apps or for those of you who plan to offer paid apps.

However, if you have a great strategy set in place for mobile ads, developing on Android first could benefit you.

That’s the leading source of revenue for the Android platform.

Due to the points that we just talked about, it’s more expensive for you to develop a long term customer relationship on Android.

But even though that cost is higher, you have a better chance of getting more long term customers, simply because there are so much more Android users out there.

Remember earlier when we talked about how Apple users stay up to date on their operating software?

Well, here’s how Google stacks up.

Less than 20% of Android devices are running on Nougat and Oreo, which are the two latest operating systems that were released.

You will obviously still need to make changes and improvements to your app after it launches.

But you won’t need to do this in order to keep up with new regulations based on the most recent Android operating system.

You’ll just need to make sure that your app is compatible with older versions of the Android software as well.

It’s also easier for your app to get approved on the Google Play Store.

Basically, it’s a quick process that just makes sure you’re not violating any of the policies.

The approval process is automated and mainly focuses on violations such as spyware, malware, copyright infringement, and sexual content.

It’s a much more lenient approval compared to the iOS App Store.

Similar to Apple, if you’re going to develop on Android first, you need lots of time and money.

Actually, you’ll need even more money.

The Android development process costs 30% more than Apple.

It takes a long time too.

So if you’re in a financial position where you can afford to tie up the majority of your funds in development for the next year, go ahead.

But this isn’t realistic for all startups and small businesses.

There’s a third way: hybrid app

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of having to choose between Apple or Android development, building a hybrid app is the solution.

Hybrid development allows you to develop on both operating systems at the same time.

They get built using HTML5 and JavaScript on the web.

One of the best parts of a hybrid app is that it doesn’t require any complicated coding skills.

Anyone can do it.

Since you can build these without code, it’s not necessary to hire an app developer.

This cuts down on costs tremendously.

It also significantly speeds up the process.

You won’t need to wait a year to launch your app like you would through native development.

It’s all about finding the right platform to customize your hybrid app on the web.

I know that I’m a little biased, but I highly recommend BuildFire’s system.

Look at how affordable the pricing options are.

Now compare these numbers to the quotes you got from various app developer agencies.

There’s really no comparison.

What you pay for a month using BuildFire would barely cover an hour of work from a developer.

Cross platform apps are ideal for people who don’t want to choose between iOS and Android.

You can launch your app on both operating systems simultaneously without having to build two separate apps.

It’s also the best option for people who can’t reasonably afford native development costs and want their app available for users to download as fast as possible.

Final Thoughts on Android and iOS Development

So, which is the best operating system to build on first?

It depends.

There are certain scenarios that favor Apple, like if you’re targeting an American audience with higher education and a substantial annual income.

But there are circumstances where Android development makes more sense too.

Like if your target market is global and you’re planning to drive sales through ads instead of in-app purchases.

Both of these platforms have one thing in common. Mobile app development isn’t always easy.

It’s going to take a long time to develop your app, and it’s going to cost a ton of money.

Not everyone has unlimited time and funds.

That’s why hybrid apps are the solution.

Services like BuildFire can help you build your app without worrying about the operating system.

It’s less expensive, faster to build, and easier to maintain.

This will help you focus on the user experience and get more customers on both the iOS and Android platforms.

Will you develop on Apple, Android, or decide to build both simultaneously with hybrid development?