The Android vs iOS paradox facing startups

By May 21, 2014Apple, Mobile

Benedict Evans wrote an interesting yesterday about Android fragmentation (tl:dr 75% of devices that hit the Play Store run Android 4.x meaning Google has reduced the impact of fragmentation, additionally they’ve sidestepped the issue for their own services by moving them out of the OS and into a software layer that can be updated over the air). However, the point I want to bring out is his list of the issues startups should consider as they choose whether to develop first for iOS or for Android:

  • Apple’s homogeneity means things behave in predictable ways reducing development costs
  • Android has a much larger addressable market – people who can afford $50 devices up to $600 rather than just $600
  • Anything on the bleeding edge won’t work predictably on many Android devices
  • There are more early adopters on Android than iOS

As Benedict notes, this leaves developers facing the paradox that the open platform is harder to hack and forces startup CEOs to make the trade off between keeping dev costs and time to market down on the one hand and reaching more early adopters and a larger market on the other.

Most startups we see opt to go iPhone first because that allows them to maximise the speed and efficiency of learning.

I love my Android phone and I’ve always thought that as Android gains market share over iOS more startups would start to develop first for Android and I would stop having to wait months for new apps to come my way. I’m now thinking my wait will continue.

  • Keshav Malani

    The post came at a very appropriate time for me. I recently had to make the call for the mobile development for Powr of You. I actually wanted to go with Android first (even considered only to save on costs) but the developers urged me to not do so. They said there are so many variations and little things that vary among devices (even beyond OSes) that it takes forever. They said it’s better to work on iOS first and build something you like because not nearly as many tweaks needed. Once that is done, you will have a stable base to refer back to during Android development.

    I wonder if this is also because the iOS interfaces is quite standard…very few companies break out of the traditional buttons at the bottom of the screen, etc.

  • It’s also because the software on all iPhones is the same. No OEM skins, carrier modifications, and varying device specs by region.

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  • Keshav Malani

    Yeah…it’s funny that the skin lock is something I don’t like about the iPhone but is an asset to developers.

  • Gareth Thomas

    Meh, its a non-issue, build using HTML5 and don’t worry: