9 Differences Between iOS and Android App Development

Updated 10 Jul 2023

12 Min




We live in times when no one can imagine the life without gadgets. WhatsAPP, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., all these things make our lifestyle. Every day hundreds or even thousands of new applications emerge on the market, but which platform to choose to make them successful. I guess it goes without saying that iOS and Android are the most popular mobile operating systems around the globe (go check if you're a kind of nonbeliever). Both have their fans and haters among users, but there is one more side whose opinion should be taken into consideration. Guess who? Right, great creators in the shade. So what is the difference between iOS and Android mobile app development service? Here, we will try to answer this question from a developer's point of view. Have a nice reading!

Difference #1 (which is about coding)

I think we should start with the base. And the base is a programming language which is used for an app creation. You might have heard in passing something about Java and Objective-C. I'm mentioning them because these two languages are used nowadays to create applications you're used to seeing on your device: the first one is associated with Android programming and the second one is associated with iOS applications. A few years ago, one could have said that Java was much easier to study and apply than the old and punishing Objective-C, so you need to write nearly twice as much code to get the same result. It is true to a great extent however, some developers consider it a much cleaner language.

See how to choose the best Node.js framework. Read How to Choose the Best Node.js framework

In fact, there is one more language which is involved in creating iOS apps and this has recently become open source. It's called Swift. This guy is almost on a par with Java if it comes to the ease of learning and deployment. To be specific, if earlier, knowing Java could open the doors to development for other operating systems, such as Windows and Linux; today, with Swift's becoming open source and supporting Linux tools, it's possible to widen your opportunities as a developer. Maybe one day we will see Swift as a means of programming for Android.

Difference #2 (which is about integrated development environment)

android and ios apps ide

Android and iOS IDE

Now, after we've seen into programming languages, let's be consistent and proceed to mobile app development tools.

What's integrated development environment? I'm sure you've heard of Visual Basic, Microsoft Visual Studio, Delphi, NetBeans, etc. Yes, those all are called IDEs. In plain language IDE is a place where you can apply programming language knowledge and start creating. There are two development tools suggested by Google and Apple nowadays. Those are a relatively newborn Android Studio and XCode of the latest version. Previously, Android application development was performed in Eclipse IDE using Android Development Toolkit, but the company decided to replace it with the Studio, explaining this by the convenience of use. Sorry for wandering off the point, but there is one sameness between those two: they are both free!

Let's dive deeper and consider both environments. Since Google decided to switch to Android Studio with IntelliJ IDEA, many developers remarked improvements in the development process. Although, some folks among developers complained that they weren't warned about the transition beforehand. BUT a detailed instruction on migration from Eclipse ADT to the new IDE caused no problems when switching over. You can easily find the detailed information on the new Android developer tool on the company's official site. I could only say that the list of features is impressive.

Apple stays a bit old-fashioned and just continues to release new versions of XCode. Now it's XCode 7, correct me if I'm wrong because progress never stops. The company claims that they have updated Swift, which positively affects the coding process. The new user interface testing feature is also worth mentioning because it makes it possible to record an app in action. What's more, it itself can design tests for your application. On their site, Apple states that now each and every one can create and run an app right on his/her device with XCode and Swift since program membership isn't required. We will discuss this and other innovations later in the article.

Difference #3 (which is about operating systems)

Although Google has switched over to the more efficient environment, Android Studio is still the least mature mobile app development tool among other IDEs. According to Strategy Analytics, Android Studio is lacking in all 5 areas. Those are:

  • languages 
  • platforms 
  • testing 
  • editor 
  • gaming.

It was scored only 13, whereas XCode got 22 in total.

If you're new to IT or just missed something, then you need to know that the developer who strives to build iOS apps must have a computer that runs Mac, and only Mac! Unfortunately, there is no other way yet. In the meantime, you can develop Android applications on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I guess it's no secret to everyone that Mac OS is more expensive compared to Windows, and, thank God, there are still a few kind programmers in the world and you can get any Linux OS for as much as zero, which, let's agree, will be more attractive for a self-employed developer.

Difference #4 (which is about design)

Here, I've picked the most obvious differences between iOS and Android app development in terms of design. First of all, because that's a topic which requires a separate article to be written. So in my opinion, those basic differences are as follows:

  • General style: previously Apple applied the style where icons, buttons, etc. were close to real, but now the company prefers more plain and minimalistic design. Google acts contrariwise. With their new conception, called Material Design, they aspire to delicacy and naturalness. So for your application to look more native, you need to study the guidelines of both approaches. 
  • Back button/function: previously Android used a physical button on their devices. With the introduction of the action bar, you can find the left pointing arrow there. You need to consider this fact when developing a mobile application. Also, this button has to appear throughout the whole application in the navigation bar if it comes to iOS app design. 
  • Title: the title in Android applications is normally placed at the top left of the screen, whereas iOS app's title will be centered. 
  • Navigation: this is thought to be the biggest point of difference between Android and iOS. Android uses a drawer menu as a navigation pattern, whereas iOS' pattern is a tab bar. The first one can be very obstructive as it appears as a paper sheet occupying a lot of space on a display. 
  • Buttons style: in Material Design, there are two types of buttons: floating action buttons and flat buttons. The first ones can be used only on backgrounds or cards, because of the heaviness of their drop shadow. Using them in popups or alerts may create unwanted layering. Alerts and popups are the perfect places for the second type of buttons, as they go without shadows and bounding elements. They usually are all in uppercase. iOS requires all the applications to be simple in style. So the buttons shouldn't throw a shadow or be massive and embossed. Here, the primary buttons should have a fill color, when the secondary ones should be 'empty'. Unlike Android button style, iOS button letters are just capitalized. 
  • Icons styles: you need to know that there are two distinct styles for each platform. In short, Android icons have thick strokes, whereas iOS icons are much thinner. You need to comply with this rule whatever you do - use free icon patterns, pay for them to a designer, or create them on your own. 

The best Android app development trends in 2017. See 5 hot Android development trends in 2017

Difference #5 (which is about entrance fees)

I regret to say, but, unlike the situation with IDEs, you need to pay some money to upload your app to a digital distribution platform. The difference is that in the case of Google Play Store you need to pay a 25-dollar fee to be registered as a developer. But Apple requires more, so for your applications to see the world you need to pay as much as $99. Getting back to our previous point, you need to have $25 and a PC to start to develop for Android, and $99 and not-so-cheap Mac to develop mobile apps for iOS.

Difference #6 (which is about app review)

In summer 2015, Apple ceased it's separate developer programs for iOS and Mac which had required buying two separate licenses to publish mobile and desktop applications across company's distribution platforms. It now has a combined Apple Developer Program instead. Along with this, Apple also abolished the requirement to register as a developer to test a beta version of a product. Thus, if you're an interested user, you don't have to pay $99 to try an app at the stage of the beta version. Here arises a reasonable question: how?

So, if you're familiarized with the iOS application development workflow, then you know that it's broken down into three stages:

  • first, you enroll in the Apple Developer Program 
  • next, you create your app 
  • then you try to distribute it. 

At the stage of distribution, there are some interesting moments now. You can suggest a beta version of your application for testing by different users on different devices. Now a third person can test an app for free! Devices, on which the testing is performed, just have to be registered in the Member Center.

The company explained that it wanted as many people as possible, who previously was outraged by the fee, to join in a colorful world of Apple. I guess it's a good move, Apple, because, to my knowledge, Google has given the same opportunity for years. It was by far the most attractive thing for Android developers since they could be aware of bugs and crashes as soon as possible by getting feedback from users.

After this improvement made by Apple guys, the companies have leveled the score. The next step is to submit your app to the review.

There is no problem for a developer to get through this challenge because Google isn't as strict as Apple. It usually takes a day or two for your application to pass the examination. So you can enjoy seeing your masterpiece (I hope it really is) on Google Play Store the next day after you submitted it. Apple App Store is more severe in this respect. They can test and examine your baby-application for up to 3 weeks! The good thing about it is that in case your application is successfully done with the examination, it is almost perfect. But it's very important to consider this time when you're at the stage of planning because this is what depends on other people, not on you or your firm. It can take up to 3 weeks for the first examination, then, if they reject, you will need some time to fix mistakes and try again. In the worst-case scenario, they can reject an app again and the whole cycle should be repeated. But let's think positively, and imagine that your application is already on a store. What's next?

Difference #7 (which is about distribution platforms)

After your app is successfully uploaded to the platform, the next interesting story begins.

Android developers think that Google Play Store is more flexible because users can download apps within a few hours, whereas on Apple App Store, it's possible to download fresh versions of a product in a period of several weeks. What does an Android developer benefit from? Getting feedback from users, you can update an application every two hours, whilst iOS users have to wait for two weeks for developers to fix problems. At this point, we need to recall what I said earlier. Thanks to strict and pitiless Apple's rules, it's very unlikely that the application deployed to Apple Store will be riddled with bugs. So Google Play Store is as flexible as it's review.

Difference #8 (which is about market share)

android and ios apps market share

Market share of iOS and Android 

Unfortunately, we can only refer to the previous year's data, but I think it will be sufficient for now. According to IDC, Google is several steps ahead of other vendors in a number of sales, with 82.8% market share in the second quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, Apple mobile devices shipments were much lower in 2015Q2, having just 13,9% market share. It can be explained by devices prices set by each company. It's a generally known fact that Apple's devices are aimed at richer and more affluent buyers, whereas Android is thought to be a more democratic brand with a line of low-cost devices. But it is worthwhile to say that compared to 2015Q2 in 2015Q1 Android saw the sales decline, which can be connected to the release of Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Both are thought to be premium class phones. Thankfully, other brands, like ZTE, Huawei, and Xiaomi, didn't let the worst happen.

Taking into account the abovesaid, Android seems to be a promising market for developers who want their applications to win popularity. But let's not forget that this was the world statistics. In the case of the USA, figures will be different because Americans tend to buy Apple production. So before getting to a new application, you'd better study a target audience and their preferences. If your target is the States, then an iOS application can be beneficial.

Difference #9 (which is about profitability)

Despite the fact that Android wins in terms of sales, it doesn't mean that the company will make a huge profit out of Android OS users. The sales figures are explainable. Google has been making strong inroads upon the new markets, like Indonesia, Vietnam and India while Apple has been doing the same in China. It means that Asian app economy has a great impact on both Apple Store and Google Play. Taking into account that the aforementioned countries are thought to be developing ones, except for China, it is obvious that users aren't going to spend huge money on apps. App Annie, an analytic company which kindly provided the report, advises Google to concentrate on old and more moneyed markets, like the USA and Europe because they still contribute a lot to the company's revenue.

Nobody can explain why, but according to DAU-UP, which is a well-known gaming company, by the end of 2014, an average revenue per user for Android games fixedly increased. If at the beginning of the year is was just 20% of what Apple had, at the end of the year Android got as much as 65%. Although, Android had such great results, Apple users still spend and download more. Who knows, maybe you or your company will break fresh ground with a new application tomorrow, and Google will hit the jackpot.

What iOS development trends are hot in 2017? Find out it in our article 9 Growing iOS Development Trends Of 2017

We tried to reveal the difference between iOS and Android app development. I assume that those were the basic ones of them. At first, in this conclusion, I wanted to say that both platforms need strong app developers, but in fact, both parties, iOS users and Android users in need of cool, well-designed, and useful applications for different purposes. Being one of them I beg you, guys, do your best to make us happy. If you don't know which way to choose, Android or iOS development, try both!

By the way, we will be pleased to hear your opinion regarding differences in case we missed something. Thanks for your attention, see you soon!

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About author

Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics

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