The mobile app market is enormous, with over 6 billion smartphone users worldwide. Yet it keeps growing, and the number of users is expected to reach 7 billion by 2024. According to Statista, over 2.5 million mobile apps are in the Play Store and almost 5 million in the App Store. iOS and Android are the most popular mobile operating systems (OSs). Whether one trumps the other is often a contested topic. Android holds the majority of the market share. Yet, iOS provides a higher Return on Investment (ROI). But that is the tip of the iceberg. When deciding to launch your mobile app in one, the other, or both, there are many things to consider.
In this article, we'll review the development differences between these two mobile OSs. Further, we'll review the pros and cons of each platform. But first, let's look at iOS and Android mobile app development basics.
Here, we’ll review the language and tools used for iOS mobile app development. Also, we'll cover some tips on how to learn to develop in iOS.
iOS development applies the Swift programming language. Swift is an open-source general-purpose programming language launched by Apple in 2014. This language incorporates Objective-C, Python, Rust, and Ruby features. It’s worth noting that, in the beginning, iOS apps used Objective-C. Thus, you may come across some old apps developed with it.
Yes, Swift does share some similarities with Python. Both languages have comments, Unicode strings, and similar conditional statements. Moreover, a semicolon is not required to finish statements in either language.
When developing iOS mobile apps, you don’t need many tools. A Mac computer with the latest version of the Xcode IDE will suffice. But we recommend you have an iPhone or iPad to test your app. We’ll look at this more deeply in the section on learning iOS development.
Xcode is Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE). Xcode serves as the graphical interface for Apple development for both iOS and macOS. This IDE includes everything you need to develop, test, and distribute your app. Its features include the iOS software development kit (SDK), compilers, and frameworks.
To develop an iOS mobile app, you will need to use Xcode. This IDE has the downside of only running on macOS, but there are a few workarounds. You can rent Mac in the cloud, use a cross-platform tool, or use a virtual machine.
There are different ways in which you can learn iOS development. You can take courses, attend a coding bootcamp or learn independently. No matter which one you choose, the essential knowledge you'll need to learn is how a Mac computer works. Further, you should know the iOS design principles, guidelines, and iOS technologies. Mainly, it encompasses Swift and Xcode, as well as several mobile dev courses. If bootcamps are more your thing, you'll find a list of great ones in this article. If you prefer to learn independently, Apple offers excellent books to get you started. AppCoda and Design+Code also offer great learning resources.
Like iOS, we’ll review the language and tools for Android mobile app development. Also, we’ll go over some tips to learn to develop in Android.
Up to 2019, Java was the default language for Android mobile apps. In 2017, Google introduced Kotlin as an alternative language. Two years after, it promoted it to default. Java is an object-oriented programming language released in 1995 by Sun Microsystems. Nowadays, it's owned by Oracle. We'll take a look at Kotlin below.
Kotlin is a cross-platform, general-purpose language designed by JetBrains in 2011. The programming language is interoperable with Java. Also, it's able to call Java libraries. Kotlin is more concise and type-safe than Java. The language also offers smart-casting and higher-order functions.
Yes, you can add C++ (and C) to your Android development project. Yet, you'll need to use the Android Native Development Kit (NDK).
For Android dev, a computer and Android Studio are the essential tools you’ll need. You should also have at least one Android device to test your app. What's more, you might need several to ensure your app works well for all or most users. This testing process has two. That's due to the many Android OS versions on the market. On the other, these devices have a variety of sizes and resolutions. Knowing your way around Java, Kotlin, and Android Studio should be the top priority. We’ll look at this more deeply in the section on learning Android development.
Android’s official IDE is Android Studio. Google built the tool on top of the IntelliJ IDE. Android Studio offers support for the most popular Android SDKs. Further, it includes code completion and code debuggers. Unlike iOS, there is more than one option on IDEs for Android development.
Definitely! As Android is open-source, a macOS Android Studio bundle is available (as well as one for Linux). Y
Just like with iOS, there are different ways in which you can learn Android development. As we've mentioned, you can take a mobile dev course, attend coding bootcamps or learn independently. Whatever you do, you should learn Java, Kotlin, XML, and the various Android SDKs. Further, ensure to know how to use Android Studio and Material Design. You can find mobile dev courses, tutorials, and bootcamps. If you learn better on your own, Google offers some Android basics.
Now that we’ve covered the iOS and Android basics let’s examine their differences.
As we’ve seen above, native iOS mobile apps get developed using Swift. Meanwhile, Android ones apply Java or Kotlin. The different languages make a difference in productivity and cross-platform development. iOS requires less coding so that projects can complete faster. Meanwhile, unlike Swift, Java is used for mobile and web app development.
Here we have Xcode for iOS and Android Studio for Android. Both IDEs have their pros and cons. Android Studio includes background compilation to help highlight errors and high readability. Moreover, it has a wide range of debugging tools. On the downside, it is not light or weighted, and its emulator is slow. Meanwhile, Xcode is easy to set up and has an excellent source code editor that is easy to set up. Also, it includes a variety of bug-fixing tools. Its drawbacks include no pull request assistance. Besides, there's the fact that there's a smaller online community to turn to for help.
It's easier to estimate how long it will take to create a mobile app after considering a specific project. Yet, Android development tends to take longer, by 30-40%. This is due to code complexity and device variety. Cost is also challenging to estimate, but Android apps tend to be more expensive. This also concerns the wide variety of devices needing more resources. As a result, developers can adapt to different screen sizes and OS versions.
With limited screen sizes and resolutions, iOS can have a cohesive design strategy. This strategy goes throughout all devices. In this context, Apple carefully curates aesthetics for its User Interface. Meanwhile, due to device fragmentation and variety, Android requires more flexibility. There are also differences in User Interfaces and navigation to take into account. Differences include the placement and color of navigation bars and menus. Further, they contemplate how pop-up notifications and the back button work.
According to StatCounter, Android holds almost 72% of the market share worldwide. Meanwhile, iOS has a bit over 27%. It’s also worth noting that, in the US, iOS holds the majority, with 55% of the market share. As we’ll see below, these figures don’t necessarily correspond to the money mobile apps in each OS bring in.
iOS apps mostly make money by selling the apps themselves. Yet, Android mobile apps turn to ad monetization. But both iOS and Android apps have solid in-app purchasing systems. As we’ve seen, there are fewer iOS users. Yet, they tend to be older, generally have higher annual incomes, and spend more time on their phones. This leads us to the fact that, when it comes to revenue, iOS brought in 63% of the $133B that mobile apps amassed in 2021.
We’ve reviewed the main differences between iOS and Android mobile app development. Now it’s time to review each OS's clear strengths and weaknesses.
iOS mobile app development is more likely to stay on track on time and within budget.
This OS offers a robust security system for protecting user data.
iOS users are more inclined to spend money. Whether by buying or subscribing to apps or through in-app purchases.
The approval process is more complex for iOS. Mobile apps usually take longer to get approval and are even more prone to rejection.
Apple demands mobile app creators follow their interface guidelines. Thus, there is little room for creativity. Also, making your app stand out from the rest is more challenging.
Android has over 2.8B active users in over 190 countries. Yes, its device fragmentation has its drawbacks. But, it also means that most people can find an Android device to fit their needs and budget.
Since Android is open-source, there are endless customization possibilities for experienced developers. But, this flexibility can also mean more time spent on ideation. Also, it carries more chances for mistakes to crop up.
It usually takes no more than two days for Android apps to get approval in the Play Store. Publishing is both fast and straightforward in comparison.
App performance may vary across Android devices. Also, testing or adapting your app to a wide range of mobile devices can prove costly.
Android users expect apps to be free and are less likely to spend money on them.
Developing your app for iOS or Android will depend on many factors. For instance, the type of app, your target audience, and your team's skill set. Also, it would be best if you considered your preferred monetization strategy. We can't say either platform is better; they have specific strengths and weaknesses.
Your app should be available to the most significant number of people possible. In that case, you could create a mobile app for iOS and Android. What's more, you can decide to go cross-platform to save costs. We hope this article has given you a comprehensive overview! Not only what iOS and Android mobile app development entail. Also, about the differences between the two.