Mobile Apps in 2022: should you still start with iOS?



 

Mobile Apps in 2022: should you still start with iOS?


Every time I’m involved in a new mobile project the same old question pops up: should we start with Android or iOS? 

The technical pros and cons are known (device range, OS fragmentation, UX, code), as well as the possibility to use a cross-platform tech like Flutter or React Native, but the development effort is only one part of the decision. The other part is business needs. 

Starting with the right operating system means you focus and prioritize your efforts: user experience, QA, user acquisition, and basically means you start with the users that will bring the highest value to the business. 


So, which one’s first: iOS or Android? 

Many people will tell you to start with iOS because iPhone users are great “early adopters”. 

They like to try out new services, they “brag” about trendy & shiny apps that are only available on their precious iPhones (remember Clubhouse and Fortnite?), and they are used to paying for services others get for free. 

While all of this is basically true… I’m not sure it’s enough to justify a decision to start with iOS so I’ll try to add some more concrete reasons. 


But first - an important note:

Choosing between Android and iOS is emotional (something like a Messi vs. Ronaldo thing), so it needs to be done gently without insulting anyone, especially not the development team that is probably using Android because it’s so open and customizable… 


1. Geography:  

Let’s refresh our memory with numbers that haven’t changed much over the years: 

Android runs 70% of smartphones while iOS mobile market share is only 29% (source), but that’s worldwide. 

  • If you look at the US, you’ll find that the iOS market share is 60%
  • The UK? Pretty close with 54% iOS (vs. 45% Android). 
  • What about Japan? iOS rules with a pretty dramatic 67%
  • India on the other hand? Whopping 95% Android
  • What about China? 78% Android

So although starting with Android will result in a much bigger potential market worldwide - if your startup starts with the US (like most startups do) you're probably going to do better with iOS.  


2. User income

There are various surveys indicating that iPhone users earn a higher income than Android users. 

This is not because Android is for the poor or something, but because of the enormous range of devices running Android, allowing rich people to buy high-end Samsung Galaxy phones for $1,000, while not-so-rich people can still get a decent Android smartphone for only $100. 

If you understand the huge difference between those two types of users ($1,000 vs. $100 smartphone users) and their different spending habits - you realize that the Android users community (70% of the mobile market) is too diversified to be treated as one coherent segment. If you're after those high-end smartphone users - it's going to be a much much smaller group than the entire Android users community.  

This leads me to the most important bullet in this post: 


3. Users willingness to pay: 

iOS users are suckers! Which is actually great for business! Let’s back it up with some numbers: 

Non-gaming app revenue: 

  • iOS: $24.7 billion
  • Android: $6.7 billion
  • Conclusion: 30% of mobile users (iOS) are responsible for 80% of the total app revenue worldwide. 

App subscription revenue: 

  • iOS: $10.3 billion
  • Android: $2.7 billion
  • Conclusion: again, 30% of users (iOS) are responsible for 80% of the total app subscriptions revenue worldwide. (Source)


So basically, you're telling me that 30% of the users (iOS) are generating 80% of the total app revenue, while 70% of users (Android) are only generating 20% of the total revenue, and somehow there are still companies out there, trying to fish those paying Android users in an ocean of non-paying users, is that right? 

If this doesn’t make sense to you it’s because it doesn’t make sense. 


So basically, 30% of the users (iOS) are generating 80% of the total app revenue, while 70% of users (Android) are only generating 20% of the total revenue, and there are still companies out there, trying to fish those paying Android users in an ocean of non-paying users.


The hard truth about mobile apps is that if your product involves payments of any kind - your chances of converting users to pay are much much higher with the iOS suckers users that are happy to pay for good products.


4. Business Model: 

If by now you think I’m totally biased towards iOS - you’re probably right, I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want my products to succeed commercially, so I try not to blend my personal preferences with business decisions. 

Going with Android first can still be the right decision in various use cases: 

  • For example, if you’re creating a free product that depends on the number of users, volumes, interactions etc. - Android might be the right way to start. 
  • The same goes for free products that are designed to profit from ads. 
  • If your product is planned to operate in areas where the majority of users use Android - that's a no-brainer of course. 
  • Or (and this one is my favorite) - maybe you’re building a utility of some sort. iOS has a lot of limitations while Android is open, and Android users really love utility, performance, productivity, and anti-virus apps, and basically anything that can fix the damage caused by some of their other apps... 


5. Engagement: 

If you’re developing a B2C product your success depends on conversion rates (from downloads to real usage) and retention rates (users coming back to use your product).

Both of those metrics tend to be higher for iOS users. 

According to Business of Apps, App Store page view to install conversion rate is 33.7% while Google Play's conversion rate is 26.4%. 

According to a survey by Slickdeals, iOS users spend 04:54 hours per day on their phone, whereas Android users spend 03:42 hours. 

A recent retention report by AppsFlyer shows that iOS apps enjoy a higher retention rate compared to Android apps. As an example, after 30 days, iOS apps get an average retention rate of 4.13% while Android apps are down to 2.59%. 

If you understand retention rate well, you probably understand the huge impact of such a small difference. If you don't - check out my guide for using retention rates to analyze the success of your business.


Conclusion

Android allows you to reach a broader and more diversified audience, and get a higher number of downloads, but if your product involves payments, and if hard-activated users are what business needs - I believe iOS users are the ones you should be chasing first. 

Apple’s users are usually more engaged, loyal, and open to spending their money (and time) on apps they like. 

That’s why many startups still start with iOS and should continue to do so. 


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