App Development: A Comparison of Android and iOS

A comparison of Android or iOS

The ownership of mobile devices has crossed beyond limits making the question of which platform is ideal for app development more pertinent. According to latest report by Pew Research Center, 92% of the US adults own a cellphone. Smartphone numbers still swing between 60-70%. This posits a necessity for any company that intends to earn profit and build an audience: Go Mobile! The foremost question, for the app development team, in such a scenario is: Which platform must we use? In this piece, we will focus on the Android version 4.0.3 to 4.4 which covers over 60% on the Developers dashboard of Google Android.  The two platforms- Android and iOS will be compared on the following basis: programming languages, development tool-box, design ideologies, device fragmentation, documentation, and simulators.


Programming languages: Android is programmed on Java while iOS is formulated on Objective-C. Apart from being a lower level and aged version, Objective-C is also hard to learn. If you compare the amount of code involved for doing a certain task in the two platforms, the sum would be way higher in iOS than Android. Moreover, Java programmers have access to data structures more progressive than those available to Objective-C users. For this reason, Android defeats iOS with regard to programming language.


Development tool-box: Eclipse, coupled with Android Development Toolkit personalized by Google was used to produce apps previously. Now, Android Studio is used. iOS uses Xcode for development of apps. While developing on either is free-of-cost, you will need to pay over $99 to Apple once you begin deployment and distribution of the apps onto devices. An overall understanding demand Android scores over and above iOS for charging integral last steps of the process.

Let us look at the app-development grounds in more detail. Android Studio has the capacity to point out error (through highlighting) spontaneously while Xcode requires a strict construction period. Hardware or emulators can be used for debugging in both the cases. Covering each factor of their structure will surpass the scope of this article. It would suffice to point out that while the Android Studio has greater flexibility (of choice), both of them offer at-par GUI design equipment.


Design Ideologies: Desktop monitors and mobile screens provide different scale of spaces for presenting an app. When it comes to Android and iOS with regard to designing apps, they share certain design norms. These include the status of styluses which do not possess to-the-dot accuracy (like in the case of a mouse pointer) and also, the minimum clickable limit on iOS is 44 pixels, while on Android, it is 48 pixels. The infrastructure of the screen on Android and iOS has a common feature of having a clickable rectangular area view.

A series of view controllers regulate the organization and navigation on iOS. These include split view controllers, tab controllers, navigation controllers and page view controllers. A view controller executes the function of regulating the whole screen or a certain region of it through coding or the story-board. Using a story-board, it is possible to manage images/diagrams and stock them as XML files. Initially, individual pages were built as nibs using these XML files. However, this method has been replaced by the story-board for quite some time now. Those who wish to program the entire pages can opt for coding without the use of XML files or story-board, but this is generally a cumbersome and fallible task.

Akin to the view controllers of iOS is the partitioning function of Android. You can divide the apps into certain fragments and activities. Activities are parallel to the screen. In case you use many screens, then multiple activities will be displayed but only one of them will be active at a point of time. Every activity has fragment (s) which can be used to pop up another screen (for entering a value and returning to the previous screen). XML files are used more extensively by Android, than iOS. These are stored in app package files (*.apk format). iOS ranks higher than Android in case of its design ideology due to the presence of higher choice (story-board or XML or coding) and higher quality of its visual designing.


Device fragmentation: Device fragmentation measures the number of diverse handsets which embody these two platforms in the market.  iOS is a close-knit platform, which implies that Apple has complete control over the device and software. They lay out stringent regulation on how the software and hardware correlate with one another. There are only about 20 types of Apple mobile machines while the Android population runs into thousands. It is easier to also receive a system update while using Apple. In June 2015, Craig Federighi (SVP of software engineering at Apple) announced that 83% of their mobile users have the latest version of OS working on the iPhone while only about 12% of Android phone users are running the then-latest version Lollipop. This is because Apple can make the system update accessible to its users immediately, since it has complete regulation of the hardware and the software. However, with Android, the landscape is more fragmented since Google permits the hardware manufacturers to use its software. The Nexus mobile devices are always the first to receive the system update. Thus, which handset you own will determine when you receive a software update. iOS wins over Android in the category of device fragmentation.


Documentation: iOS and Android are documented adequately. iOS has the upper hand of putting forward a detailed guide to its system with explanation of notions like View Controllers. However, one could put the across-the-board character of Google docs to question this claim. Regarding documentation, both the platforms score equally.


Simulators: Since Apple has a limited set of models, they only put forward a single simulator which can be summoned for particular model. On the other hand, with Android, you need to choose the operating system version, screen size and then have it custom made for your requirement. Moreover, Arm’s simulator has been found to be extremely dull and slow (if it isn’t run on the Intel hardware emulator). Pertaining to simulators as well, iOS fares better than Android.


The Verdict

Which is the ideal platform to develop your app? While determining which platform to select, other factors like market share, app revenue and technicality of upgrading are also taken into account. Android clearly has a greater market share while the app revenue is higher for iOS. iOS is also easier to upgrade. However, in case of development, Android is a smoother platform to build on while iOS users face a progression-breaker in case they do not upgrade. Those who use iPhone 4 today can witness the removal of apps (from the App Store) which haven’t upgraded their version within 6 to 9 months of the system update. Thus, depending upon choice of the developer, the ideal platform could swing either way.

Certain programmers believe that iOS is ideal for those companies which are not firmly established in the sector of app development and do not have a long time period or resources for the development and testing. Those companies which have time-span and resources (human and financial) to encounter the long-drawn testing can pick up Android as their platform and even orient towards reigning the app market.

Do share your experiences on Android and iOS with us. To know more about Suyati’s mobile app development capabilities, please send an email to

Author : Sahana Rajan Date : 28 Dec 2015