Is iOS-first development the right strategy?

Cassie Wilson

Cassie Wilson

iOS Developer

  • iOS
  • Android

Within the application development community in Australia there has been a long held belief that the majority of mobile users in Australia are using iOS. Many clients will typically focus on an iOS version of their application based on this assumption. This results in much of the design and testing effort disproportionally favouring iOS over Android. The common refrain goes “Our users will be mostly on iOS so let’s focus on them.” Surprisingly this might not actually be the case.

What do the numbers say?

Percentage Market Share of Smart Phone Sales for Australia [1]

Percentage Market Share of Smart Phone Sales for Australia [1]

From the graph it is obvious that Android has been consistently capturing a larger percentage of new phone sales. In fact the only time that iOS has outsold Android in the last 4 years has been for a two month period when the iPhone 6 was release in 2014.

% Market Share of Sales for USA 3 M/E April 2016 [1]

% Market Share of Sales for USA 3 M/E April 2016 [1]

% Market Share of Sales for Spain 3 M/E April 2016 [1]

% Market Share of Sales for Spain 3 M/E April 2016 [1]

The above data is looking just at Australia, however these sort of numbers can be compared to other western markets such as the US or UK. The difference between iOS and Android is even more pronounced in some parts of the world. For example Spain’s sales are heavily dominated by Android smartphones.

What does this mean?

From the market share data alone we cannot reach any strong conclusions relating to primary platform selection. However luckily we also have some data around the number of downloads and revenue for each platform.

App Annie Indexed Downloads Q1 2016 [2]

App Annie Indexed Downloads Q1 2016 [2]

App Annie Indexed Revenue Q1 2016 [2]

App Annie Indexed Revenue Q1 2016 [2]

Taking these three graphs together we start to see a more complete picture. There is a larger number of Android devices. Which leads to a larger number of App downloads on Android. However users in the iOS ecosystem are more willing to spend money through the App store.

The ideal for developing a new Application is to develop for both platforms at once, and releasing simultaneously. However if you have limited budget, or want to roll out more slowly we can reach a rudimentary strategy based on these graphs:

  • If you are a service or subscription based application looking to reach the largest number of users to get them into your ecosystem, then going with an Android first approach might be the way to go.

  • However if you are a paid application, or rely on in app revenue as your main revenue stream, then an iOS first approach is likely better for you.

Choosing a strategy gets more complicated when you take into account things like:

  • Current user base: if you have a web offering, which platforms are you seeing the most traffic/conversions from?

  • Target market: do you have demographic data that could give you an indication as to which platform your target market predominantly use?

  • Launch strategy: do you want to soft launch to a smaller market and iterate? Or hit the market with a fanfare? etc.

  • Use cases for your application: are you relying on platform specific technologies (Apple Pay, NFC, etc.)?

  • And so many more!

Is an iOS first development strategy right for your app?

That’s where specific research and industry knowledge comes into play. Each application and organisation is different and needs the love and attention of professional research and planning. Coarse statistics like those shown in the graphs above can be useful for general trends but it is the more specific data where the true insights can be found. Always do your research!

Appendix

[1] http://www.kantarworldpanel.com/global/smartphone-os-market-share/

[2] http://files.appannie.com.s3.amazonaws.com/reports/App-Annie-Index-Market-Q1-2016-EN.pdf