Everyone knows the three major operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone (which recently overtook the struggling Symbian OS). Developing an app that is compatible with each operating system can be time-consuming, even with development tools.
App developers who are just starting out may not have the time to optimize for each OS, so they have to make an important decision regarding which mobile OS to begin developing for first. Each of the top 3 operating systems has their draws and drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look:
- The Android OS supports the well-known Java language.
- Android is an open-source platform which allows developers to use third-party tools to optimize their apps. Access to the source code also helps developers integrate their apps easily into the Android ecosystem.
- The Android OS has the largest market share in the world in the mobile industry. Over 70% of smartphone users are using an Android device.
- Emerging markets like India, China, Brazil, and Africa are embracing the more accessible Android phones.
- Android’s main app store, the Google Play Store, benefits from Google’s dominance in the search sphere. Google’s search algorithm easily directs users to the best apps depending on their search queries.
- To publish in the Android ecosystem, developers only have to pay $25 USD.
- The open source nature of Android also allows a lot of malware to slip into the system. Malware is a big problem with Android.
- The open source nature of Android also allows any phone manufacturer to make an Android phone. This gave birth to another big Android problem: hardware and software fragmentation. Not all Android users are using the same phones or the same OS versions.
- Revenue from Android is significantly lower than on iOS.
- iOS supports the Objective-C programming language, which is easily learned by C or C++ programmers
- iOS is a closed OS, which makes it much more secure and less prone to malware
- iOS users are much more willing to spend money than their Android or Windows counterparts. Revenues from iOS are always significantly higher especially from pay-per-download apps, in-app purchases, and advertisements
- Tight control by Apple encourages users to have the newest phone and OS version. Developers can release the newest version of their app without alienating users who have older software or hardware
- Apple is one of the most recognized brands in the world. Its users are incredibly loyal.
- The closed ecosystem discourages using third-party tools for app optimization.
- Publishing on the Apple App Store will cost a developer $100 USD.
- Publishing on the App Store also requires a strict review process which is notorious for taking a long time to complete. Arbitrary refusals also seem to be common.
- iOS has been losing some marketshare to Android, especially outside of the United States.
- Windows Phone runs on Windows, a platform familiar to most developers.
- Windows Phone has a growing user base, especially in Western Europe. Emerging markets (as well as first-time smartphone buyers) also embrace the mid-range smartphones.
- Less competition in the app store; Users are pretty desperate for good apps.
- Windows has been trying to lure developers for months, so they must be offering some great perks for publishing on their store.
- Windows Phone’s marketshare is in a distant third to Android and iOS.
- Developers have reported poor technical support with Windows while developing an app.
The bottom line:
Android is a powerhouse operating system that continues to grow, but it is difficult to monetize. iOS helps developers make big bucks from their app, but doesn’t allow developers a lot of freedom. Windows Phone is a viable alternative if it continues to gain marketshare, but Windows still has to work out some kinks.