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iOS or Android for my startup?

Web & Mobile

Joshua Davidson wrote this article


You’re thinking about making your first mobile application for your startup. That’s awesome. But if you haven’t resolved what is arguably one of the biggest questions and obstacles in your young startup life — should you focus on iOS or Android first —  the time to address that is now. Let us help you make this decision, or at the very least, help your decision-making process a good deal.

First off, let me just say that we at Chop Dawg typically recommend new app entrepreneurs to focus on one platform at a time, not both.

Even if you have the funding to do so, we would like to give you the heartfelt recommendation of “don’t do it.” Now, there are some exceptions to this rule (but that is for a different post altogether). For the 90% of you who are reading this, even if you have the funding to go with both platforms, why should you?

Let’s break this down first. For those who aren’t aware, iOS (iPhones and iPads) and Android have completely different design languages. For the purpose of keeping things simple, iOS is based on the design language created in iOS 7, matured through iOS 8, and is still going strong today. Google also pushed its own design language a few years ago through Android L (which we are big fans of). Both are great. Both have their own experiences that native users to these respected platforms will expect.

Yes, you can replicate some of the experiences on both platforms, and yes you should maintain the same branding consistencies on both platforms. But no — you should not use the same user interface on both operating systems. That is quantity. Not quality.

You also need to look at the coding language side of things. We are often asked by non-technical entrepreneurs how much they can save by starting on one platform and then port it over…

The answer is that you can’t. Outside of some backend items (databases, administrator items), the entire application should be coded for their respected platforms. iOS is all about Objective-C and Swift. Android is all about Java. For those who are not technical, think of it in this way; one platform you need to understand Portuguese, while the other you need to understand German. Perhaps somewhere in there might be a few similar words or syllables — but come on, you don’t see many German-speaking towns in Portugal, do you?

All of the sudden it should make sense what you’re going to face trying to build for both platforms — you’re looking at their own respective costs. Hell, for a few of you as mentioned earlier, that might not be an issue. It is about being a smart entrepreneur though. Let’s discuss why.

See, the product that you cannot wait to enter the market, the product that you swear to us (yes swear) is going to be a big hit to your users based on a few features, is not necessarily going to be a hit. Well, guess what? Features that you expect may get used may not get used at all. That isn’t a bad thing. At the same time, some features that you will quickly learn are being interpreted differently than you ever imagined — and boy, are you going to be excited to pivot those items.

Basically, you need to expect things you never expected. And if you’re a smart entrepreneur, you are going to do what the best of the best do — you’ll pivot your plan accordingly (note that pivot here does not mean changing your idea but adjusting your product functionalities based on what you learn!).

Why is this important? Simply enough — you will be learning from your audience regarding what you need to do to make your product better.

This means if you need to tweak your existing mobile app which happens to be on both platforms, you’re investing more money into TWO APPLICATIONS rather than one, which is a major blow for smaller startups with limited funds. The biggest reason, though, is that instead of taking the time to learn one platform and getting the user experience right you now have two different ecosystems to work with, trying to correct/adjust for your user base instead of mastering just one.

Think about that for a minute. Lower risk. Higher reward. Less investment. Yes, it may take a bit more time — but first impressions are everything. It is so easy to delete a mobile app and never download it again. Do you want to gamble all of that because you’re too impatient? Again, for a select few products — you need to be on more than one ecosystem at launch, but for the most of you, truly ask yourself, do you have the funding or the idea that this needs to be done that way? Odds are your answer is no.

This circles us back to the core question here now that we have determined you should only focus on one platform to start — well, which one?

The best short-term answer for you is iOS. Many will tell you Android is the way to go, and although it isn’t a bad platform whatsoever, iOS will make sense for those first-time entrepreneurs who are trying to enter the mobile market.

First comes down to costs. iOS is a bit more affordable to develop on, has an easier design language to lay a proper foundation on and it’s also a bit quicker to build on. These are huge for a bootstrapped or angel-funded startups. iOS also has a huge perk – you’re building directly for the iPhone (we will ignore iPads for now). With Android, you’re juggling a very fragmented market. How many different Android devices can you list offhand? HTC? Samsung? Motorola? LG? How many different phones through each brand? Your user interface costs are going to be much higher to account for all of those different phones. Your development is going to take longer and there will be significantly more time spent testing.

That’s rough stuff for a new startup. Not impossible, not even the worst obstacle you’ll ever face — but an obstacle not needed for getting to market when you should be focusing on getting up as quickly as possible at the smallest amount of costs needed, right?

Of course, we should add that iOS is slowly losing that fragmented market chart.

iPhone X, 8, 7, 6 Plus. iPhone 6. 5S. The 5 still hasn’t died yet. These phones have different specs and screens, especially the iPhone X. A few years back, you dealt with one and one only. Still though, you’re dealing with one phone and an ecosystem built around being as accommodating as possible to developers. It’s still much less of a bear to tackle than Android since you have one manufacturer that plays by its one set of rules.

Now you do have one exception to iOS ruling supreme here. For those who truly want to take advantages of a mobile operating system and truly do some customizable things, good luck doing that on iOS. iOS started to open up once iOS 8 came out (hello Touch ID, third-party keyboards, widgets and dynamic notifications) but Android will literally let you do just about anything you can imagine. This is dependent on the idea, but for those rare instances, Android may be the only logical choice (but in those situations, why would you even be asking yourself iOS or Android in the first place – isn’t the answer obvious?).

Lastly — on the product side of things, we have found iOS applications to not only be more successful when entering a market for the first time but as well have found that our clients (and studies have shown) that it’s easier to monetize your products and encourage paying customers on iOS vs Android. After all, being an entrepreneur is about solving a problem and earning revenue for doing so. You don’t want to be investing $100,000.00 into your startup and never see a dollar of it again. That isn’t what being an entrepreneur is all about, is it?

No matter which platform you decide to proceed forward with — ensure your product is built for the native experiences that iOS and Android users are going to come to expect.

Different gestures and different styles are expected when it comes to each operating system. Start studying iOS styles, Android L styles — if you’re going to go into these ecosystems, you should be dead-set on taking advantage of these platforms to their fullest capabilities. We’re in a special time with these operating systems where the phones we are building for can support some of the most incredible mobile app concepts. Above all though, we as far as it goes for 2018, lean towards iOS as what you should focus your initial product to be introduced on.

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There are over 7 comments. on this article. Join in on the discussion!
  • james said:

    So awesome comparing it like Portuguese to German! Good reads on here. Keep up the great work guys!

    • Kyle Palmer said:

      Completely agree. That was an awesome comparison. Big fan of the content Chop Dawg is starting to share. Hoping for more in the future!

  • Stepan said:

    Although Android makes less profits in sales it still is the greatest ads platform. So you would typically start with iOS if you want to sell. However you would start with Android if your startup benefits from ads. It may me a good idea to let 3d party developers bring your startup to Android or vice versa. There are companies like who has already had experience in such tasks and knows how to meet all the challenges.

  • sibusiso said:

    What a great article this is, very much informative this, as I’m also looking to build my first App, and I’ve been asking myself this, surely I’m gonna take ur advice. Thanks

  • mmathieum said:

    I would add that with iOS, you have to go through the Apple App Store approval process so it might slow you down if you have to wait days/weeks between every app update whereas Android apps can be updated in hours as frequently as you want/need on Google Play (or you can even publish the APK file yourself).

  • Jen said:

    This is a good comparison of IOS and Android. Good thoughts to keep mind if you’re developing for them or even buying their products.

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