Although there are certain architectural similarities between the iOS and Android development, both systems have different maintenance and development approaches. Their marketing strategies and design processes also differ.
When creating an app, one of the main things to decide is the platform it will be developed for. Most apps are published on both mobile platforms, iOS and Android, but some developers focus on one platform first before expanding to the other.
The guide below will highlight the iOS vs Android native development differences. We also evaluate the platforms’ target audiences and distribution processes.
Possibly the most obvious iOS vs Android development difference is the programming language. It’s the ”language” app developers use to build an app’s backend, define its structure and logic, and create an interface for users to interact with.
iOS developers can choose between Swift and Objective-C. While Objective-C is the older coding language, Apple introduced Swift in 2014 as a more user-friendly alternative for app development. Many developers prefer Swift because of its superior memory handling and performance. It’s also speedier and easier to use than Objective-C.
However, that doesn’t mean Objective-C cannot be used in iOS mobile application development. It’s a stable programming language with a widespread community, which helps developers find support and resources. But its complex syntax and steep learning curve often deter new developers.
Android developers also have a choice between two programming languages: Java and Kotlin. Java has been the go-to for app development since the beginning of the 2000s. So, there’s a large developer community around the language, making it easier for new developers to find help.
Java is also known for its robust security. That’s why most enterprise-grade app development is done in Java. However, drawbacks include its verbose code and limitations.
That’s where Kotlin comes in as an alternative. Although it works on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), it removes many of Java’s limitations. For example, a common issue in Java is the null pointer. But Kotlin eliminates that by making null pointer exceptions a compile-time error rather than a runtime error. As a result, there are fewer crashes.
Since Java and Kotlin are 100% compatible, developers can use the same libraries for both programming languages. An important thing to remember here is that this seamless language transition is only for Android apps and not for iOS mobile application development.
The next difference in Android development vs iOS development is the choice of development environments. To simplify it, the integrated development environment (IDE) is where developers write, test, and debug their code. Think of it as a workspace. It’s to coding what MS Word and Google Docs are to writing.
Xcode is the IDE for iOS development. The Interface Builder is its most coveted feature. Its drag-and-drop editor allows developers to build user interfaces (UIs) without writing extensive code.
Plus, it has SwiftUI preview tools that show developers the user interface on a device or simulator in real time. In addition, Xcode’s debugger is an excellent tool for finding and fixing errors.
The IDE also has some development tools for the pre-development process. For example, the Simulator allows rapid testing and app prototyping. Similarly, Instruments lets you analyze your application and investigate the use of system resources.
XCode also has a feature called Create ML, which helps developers integrate machine learning models into their applications. Finally, you can use the Accessibility Inspector to check for inaccessible areas in your app.
On the other hand, Android developers use Android Studio as their primary IDE. Some of its notable features are:
A common difference mobile app developers have to tackle is the design philosophy of the two operating systems. iOS follows a more minimalistic approach, while Android is known for its customizability.
On iOS, developers have to follow strict design guidelines set by Apple. These guidelines ensure consistency and ease of use for the users. Also, developers can access a limited set of design components, giving their apps a unified look and feel.
Developers creating apps for the Apple Play Store must follow what Apple calls its ”human interface” guidelines. These rules are for everything from app icons and spatial relationships to user feedback and colors.
For example, Apple recommends developers to ”embrace simplicity” when designing icons. The guidelines also suggest using a design that works well for most platforms to make it ”feel at home on each.”
The ultimate result of this unified approach to design is that iOS apps tend to follow a similar pattern. The consistency makes the user experience more familiar across applications.
Anyone who has used an Android device knows that the apps can look and feel very different. Android gives developers the freedom to customize their apps in a way that iOS does not.
Unlike iOS, Android uses Material Design as its design language. It lays the foundation for interactive, motion, and visual design across devices and platforms. Some common UX design elements in Material Design include:
The Apple App Store and Google Play are the two main stores where users can download apps for their devices. The Apple App Store is exclusively for iOS devices, which are Apple products. Google Play is not exclusively for Google or Samsung users. Instead, any mobile phone that runs Android can access the Google Play store. That means Motorola, One Plus, and other mobile phone users also download apps from the Google Play Store.
As for the distribution models, iOS apps are primarily distributed through the App Store. Apple also offers an enterprise distribution model. Companies can create in-house apps for their employees and distribute them internally.
On the contrary, Android apps are not limited to the Google Play Store. Android mobile app developers can host their apps on multiple stores, including Amazon Appstore and Samsung Galaxy Apps.
An iOS vs Android development comparison isn’t complete without talking about the audience for each platform. The audience insights will help you decide between developing for Android vs iOS.
Android has a more extensive user base globally, with approximately 81% market share towards the end of 2023. That’s much higher than iOS, which accounted for about 16% of the market share. Such a stark difference between the two makes sense since Android users access 3.55 million apps, while iOS users can only choose between 1.6 million apps.
However, a larger user base doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue per user. Since Android phones are often in the lower price range, Android users tend to spend less on apps than iOS users. In contrast, iOS users are more likely to make in-app purchases and spend on premium apps since they are usually high-income, upper-middle-class individuals.
Android is the right platform for app development if your target audience mainly has lower disposable incomes. Account for different screen sizes and resolutions, too, since Android devices come in various sizes.
Conversely, opt for iOS app development for a more affluent and premium user base. Also, stick to iOS development if you have a limited budget. Since there are fewer iOS devices in the market, there’s less app maintenance and shorter development time, resulting in lower development costs.
In the realm of mobile app development, cross-platform development has emerged as a game-changer, effectively bridging the gap between iOS and Android platforms. This approach allows developers to write code once and deploy it across multiple platforms, significantly streamlining the development process. Two of the most prominent frameworks in cross-platform development are React Native and Flutter.
In summary, cross-platform development, especially with frameworks like React Native and Flutter, offers a strategic approach to mobile app development. It aligns with the goals of reaching a broader audience, optimizing resources, and maintaining consistency across platforms, making it a compelling choice for many app development projects.
From app design to launch, software developers have to account for the Android vs iOS development requirements at every step. Then, there’s also the matter of catering to each platform’s target audience.
At Flatirons, we provide custom mobile app development services, specializing in cross-platform development. We have extensive expertise in both iOS and Android development, spanning design principles, target audience requirements, app distribution, programming languages, and IDEs. We take your mobile applications from ideation to completion, considering user feedback throughout the process.
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