Why Do App Developers Release iPhone Versions First?

Even though there are still significantly more smartphones running some version of the Android operating system, it’s not uncommon to see developers come out with an app for iPhone users weeks or months before they release anything for Android. What’s up with that?

Nick Pavis, founder of mobile game developer MunkyFun gives The Gameological Society two reasons why his company and others tend to go with an iOS version first.

Logistically, explains Pavis, it’s just less complicated to develop for iOS because the number of devices running Apple’s mobile operating system are very few, especially when compared to the vast multitude of Android phones and tablets.

“There is a certain ease of getting a single, ‘Okay, this works, and this is ready to go’ product on iOS,” he says.

The other reason Pavis gives priority to iOS apps is related to distribution:

[T]he iTunes App Store for the longest time, and even currently, is the place to be for getting your product out there. Getting it marketed. It’s the one place to go for iOS products. And I feel that the Android Market has been a little fragmented, though that seems to be converging as well. I think everyone was saying, “Android’s coming, Android’s coming. They’re gonna get it right, they’re gonna get it right.” It is, almost.

What’s Your Line? [Gameological.com]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. BrownLeopard says:

    Our company is releasing both of our major apps on Android first, iOS later. We’d rather sit down and work out the challenges of a massively fragmented OS rather than take the easy route out.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      You’re the man now, dog!

      Because doing two things in one order instead of the other is taking the easy route out.

      I think the real reason apps come out on iOS first is because iOS users are more willing to pay for apps.

      • DarthCoven says:

        Has a study/report been done on this claim? As an Android user for two years I have spent close to $100 on apps and games so far and I’d love to see how other users are using their Play accounts.

        • pot_roast says:

          Yes, it has.

          http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/gigaom/big-tech/apple_ios_users_buy_more_apps_and_pay_more_for_them.html

          This has been going on for a while now.

          And still the Android world tries to deny that there’s fragmentation..

          • DarthCoven says:

            I spend a lot of time on Android developer and user forums. I have come across very few people who claim that fragmentation isn’t a problem. Even the head writers of Android Central confirm that fragmentation is one of Android’s downfall.

            This report is from summer of 2011. I wonder if these statistics still hold up, now that Android has secured a 51% market share of activated handsets in the US. The Android Market has also seen a lot of improvement, notably a few changes in layout and the re-branding as “Play”, with movies, music and books integrated into one central market.

          • zippy says:

            I know a few developers of mobile apps, and it is undeniably true that fragmentation is a major issue in developing for Android. That being said, I think it is also true that at least some of the difference in how much the average user of an iPhone/Android phone was willing to spend on apps is due to the fact that for a long time, you could get an Android phone free (with contract), but you had to pay for the iPhone. Since you can now get an iPhone free (the 3GS currently), that statistic may even out more. Many of these phones are going to teenagers for whom the parent doesn’t care if they get a smartphone or a dumb flip phone as long as it is free, but the teens don’t have the disposable income to be spending a lot on apps. Although for my kids, when the relatives ask what they want for their birthday/Christmas, they always quickly answer “iTunes gift card!” Back when all they had was iPods, that went to music, now they buy apps too. I haven’t seen any gift cards for Google Play in the stores, perhaps they’re there, but they definitely don’t have the same penetration as iTunes gift cards.

          • homehome says:

            Who doubts there is fragmentation? I don’t know any android user who claims that. And to me it doesn’t annoy me enough for it to be a problem, but i would eventually like ics, but it’s definitely not a priority of mine.

    • Tombo says:

      I’m developing my first app by typing exclusively with my toes, even though I have 10 perfectly working fingers and thumbs. I don’t want to take the easy way out.

  2. scoutermac says:

    Apple has stated over and over. “We are a hardware company, not a software company.” This is their one advantage to being a “hardware” company rather than a “software” company. They can have more control and quality control.

  3. Ekopy says:

    Far easier to develop for iOS with the tools provided than it is to develop for Android. Plus it’s been proven time and time again that iOS is more profitable to have your app on than Android anyway.

  4. BMR777 says:

    I wonder if part of it has to do with the fact that Apple is more strict about what they let into their App Store vs Android. I’ve heard cases where developers will invest $100,000 in developing their app, only to be rejected into the App Store by Apple. Maybe they’re biting the big bullet first while they have capital, rather than starting with Android and hoping not to be rejected by the App Store?

  5. giax says:

    Because iPhone users don’t mind paying those 99 cents for an app they like.
    And coding for iPhone is easier, and iPhone/iOS devices don’t usually have years old OS on them.

  6. sagodjur says:

    I was going to say (insert iPhone user comment here about how Android users are cheap) but everyone already beat me to it.

  7. umbriago says:

    Because Apple users go nuts over a new app the way cats and dogs sniff each other’s butts. They chatter endlessly and then the rest of the adult world gets an android version.

    Short answer: free advertising.

    • Andy says:

      Yeah. So how are you liking the Android versions of the Infinity Blade games, which got plenty of that “endless chatter” and have generated upwards of $30 million in sales on the App Store?

      What’s that? No Android versions? Huh. Go figure. I guess “adults” are fine with just Angry Birds, right?

    • NOS says:

      ummmm What Android version?

      “OH SNAP!”

    • elangomatt says:

      The iPhone users like to use the exclusive apps as one of the reasons they can’t live without their iPhone, then get all pissed off when the app is finally release for Android. Instagram is case and point.

  8. Out For Delivery says:

    Oh, the Android market is only “a little fragmented”? The Android market is a complete mess, which is why 10% of the apps you want actually exist, work well, and receive ongoing patches/support on it.

    iOS is much easier to code for because there is only 1 phone you care about with a clear upgrade path. When the new Android version is released, very few Android phones can actually use it because of all the changes. This is very hard on developers who can only keep track of so many APIs and resolutions and button layouts.

    On top of that, Apple doesn’t let carriers mess with the software inside of the iPhone (or any iOS device). You’ve never seen any pre-installed junk on your iPhone for a reason. Android, on the other hand, lets carriers do whatever they want, including handicapping the entire operating system for marketing purposes.

    Apple is a hardware company that cares about the software on its devices almost as much as the hardware itself.

    Google is a software company that has turned a good idea into a complete mess and couldn’t care less about what is running on your phone or if it works.

  9. esc27 says:

    Conspiracy theory: Apple is more likely to approve and provide favorable exposure to apps that are exclusive to its platform.

  10. Mark702 says:

    It’s because iphone users are more likely to spend money. Android users are frugal, which is why they’re using Android phones in the first place, and would likely try finding a free version of the app their looking for. An iphone users already showed a willingness to pay a premium for the phone, and will have no problem spending wantonly on apps for their special device that will be outdated in a year or two.

    Then there’s the cheapskates like me who still have a $20 prepay flip phone. We don’t pay or use any apps.

    • pythonspam says:

      “Android users are frugal, which is why they’re using Android phones in the first place..”

      I disagree (said the Android user (phone and tablet with different android versions from different manufacturers)).

      Many people may use Android because it is cheaper, but I also use Android because of the increased functionality (on even unrooted devices) and (soon) market saturation. I can plug a usb hard drive, an HDMI output, and an SD card into my tablet for media storage, file transfer, and media viewing.

      • Mark702 says:

        That makes sense. I’d consider it to be frugal though, to pick a device that’s not only cheaper, but has more functionality, as you said.

  11. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    My understanding is that it’s also a lot easier to port from iOS to Android than the other way around.

  12. Silverhawk says:

    I was going to make a snarky comment about how we’re still waiting for the Consumerist Tipster app on Android, but I see it was released last December. Did Consumerist forget to publicize it?

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.consumerist.tipster

    I would install it, but I’m wondering why it needs to read phone identity.

    • MikeVx says:

      I can’t even consider if it’s worth installing, it’s not installable on my phone. There is definitely fragmentation in the Android ecosystem, and marginal programmers will opt for the lazy solution of skipping some devices because writing software that can adjust to variable requirements is apparently too hard. Yes, I’m annoyed.

  13. xamarshahx says:

    M
    O
    N
    E
    Y
    Developers make more money in the Apple App Store then the Android App Store. Majority of professionals prefer iPhones, my healthcare company told us not to even worry about developing for Android for now since the majority of the staff has a Blackberry or iPhone.

  14. Burzmali says:

    I’m an iOS developer, and I tested both iOS and Android apps for the past couple of years before I got my current job. The guy is right: the small range of iOS device specs makes it a much more attractive platform than Android. In my past position, we tested an app for a big client on a range of 40+ Android devices. The app worked with minimal issue on about half of them. After a couple of months of testing and development rounds, it worked on all but 9 of them. Every time they got it to work on a device, it would have a problem on another device that it had previously been fine on. Developing for Android is like developing for PC in the old days. Developing for iOS is like developing for a console.

  15. absherlock says:

    Okay, Apple users may spend more money on apps, but what about apps that are designed to be free?

    If a company is creating an app that makes it easier to use/access/sell their product and they’re planning on making it available for free to the public, does it make more sense to release the “easier to make” iOS app first and make the Android folks wait (and feel left out) or to wait until they’re both complete and release them at the same time (thereby making the Apple folks wait longer than necessary)?

  16. shthar says:

    Gee, Ida no.

    Why do they release games on PC first?

  17. viriiman says:

    The way your comment is formatted, all I can think of is Count de Monet (from History of the World Part I).

  18. WB987 says:

    It’s because, as it stands today in the US, the average spend for an iOS user is 10 times that of an Android user, and I’m sure the software companies have metrics that show where all the ‘whales’ are and they’re likely on iOS.

  19. JonBoy470 says:

    I have a friend who is a mobile apps developer. He explained it thusly:

    Apple provides software support (i.e. current version of iOS) to every device they’ve sold in the last three years. Displays have been upgraded to higher resolution by quadrupling the number of pixels; that makes scaling of graphics trivial (i.e. your app looks decent on every device). Every iOS device has the same button layout. You can reach 300+ million users by targeting, like, 8 different devices, which represents EVERY device Apple has launched since 2009. The App Store makes it trivial to browse for and purchase apps, which drives users to actually do so…

    By comparison, with Android, there are a bazillion different devices, none of which, individually, sells nearly the number of units that Apple’s devices do. Each runs a customized version of the base Android OS. Hardware OEM’s and carriers (rather than Google) handle OS updates and upgrades, and typically orphan a device within months of its launch. A sizable majority of all Android devices EVER SOLD are not running, and will never run, the current version of Android. And yet they will remain in service, and not be replaced, because their owners are still under contract and not yet eligible for upgrade.

    You have a wide mix of Android versions running on a cornucopia of divergent, custom hardware. Ignoring CPU and graphics chip differences, you have myriad different screen resolutions that don’t scale well to one another, and different button layouts. As an example, the HTC Status (the Android phone that looks like a BlackBerry with a Facebook button) has a screen that’s turned sideways (like a TV). Many Android apps designed for a portrait screen (iPhone form-factor) show up sideways on the Status, and you’re hosed because you can’t make them turn the right way. Many apps have letterboxing or crappy looking graphics scaling, depending on the screen resolution of your device.

    And then you have to get the app into whatever Google calls the Android Market this week, along with the Amazon store, and a direct download link for people who need to sideload their devices…

    In short, Android is a nightmare to develop for. iOS may be a smaller market, in absolute terms, but it can be reached at much lower cost, with a much lower level of effort. With a userbase that, statistically, tends to be more tech savvy, spendy, and influential towards family, friends and associates (i.e. potential future customers) and that’s what makes it so profitable. Software developers are just going where the money is…

    • psm321 says:

      I am curious about the statistically more tech savvy bit… are there studies on that? (All the tech-savvy people I know prefer Android…)

  20. HeCareth says:

    I can tell most people on here really do not understand the Android platform or user. So just a few things from a Android user.

    1, Android users are not frugal. This statement is basically the reason people call Apple iPhone users snobs because they feel their device is some status symbol. The top tier Android phones cost as much or more than an iPhone, so how exactly is that considered cheap? People choose Android for the same reason they choose PC’s, choice and customization.

    2. Yes I agree it is much more profitable to have your device on iOS because the App has to go through iTunes. Android phones out the box allow you to install apps from unknown sources , so if you can find on the web you are good and golden. The other issues is that developers want to port their iPhone App directly into Android and complain when it does not look right. Android apps are developed different so it just serves you right to develop it from the ground up. Google has released ICS App development guidelines which is making more and more apps uniform in look and feel, and these apps not only work on ICS 4.0 they work on vrsion 2.1 and up.

    3. Lets be honest, the top 90% of Apps that everyone wants and uses have very well developed Apps on both platforms. So in the end it really does not matter. What is hilarious is that Kasier Permanente Insurance one of the largest healthcare providers in California released a mobile app for members about 4 months ago…to this day, still no iPhone app.

    4. Apple users are not more Tech Savvy. Really? Apple, Microsoft and every other Non Android users consistently call Android users a bunch of nerds with their “overly complex” devices. Apple is known for a simple, yet elegant design and platform which is easy to use, but offers less features and advanced functionality. Come one now there is a reason Jail Breaking your iphone is not huge within the Apple community…as a whole they are not as tech savy as Android users.

    5. This whole fragmentation argument. Its for the birds, because Android users don’t care. Majority of Android users don’t know what version their phone is running because the majority of Apps they use work just fine with no OS upgrade. I have friends running 2.1 using the latest and greatest evernote, twitter, slacker, pandora, and other apps with no issues. In Apples case yes that iPhone 3GS that you are trying to tun iOS5..how is that working for you?

    Hey iPhones are great and are designed for a specific market segment. And yes in general they probably do have better quality apps. However this is 2012 not 2009 and that gap on App quality is closing fast. People are not slowing down on purchasing Android devices, and the separation between Android and iOS market share keeps getting wider, Android at 51% Apple at 29%. In the end developers are going to have to develop for Andorid because at 51% market share users will just find a different App, not move to iPhone.

  21. Tombo says:

    I am a moderately successful mobile app developer (I can’t live off it, but it’s some nice spending money). When I think of mobile apps, I don’t think of iPhone or Android phone, I think of iOS and Android(OS). When you take that into the picture, you have two groups of customers:

    1. iPhone Customers
    2. iPad Customers

    Most people purchase my apps on the iPhone, but I get a non-insignificant amount of sales on the iPad too. If you take the entire iOS ecosystem into consideration, and sales numbers over time of both phones and tablets, iOS is by far ahead. Not only that, iPad sales are booming, and a lot of people have those devices in their hand. They’ve committed to it for at least a year or three.

    Some other reasons also apply, like cost of development, QA, etc. I also think when Windows Phone 8 comes out, it will erode significantly more of the Android market share than the iOS market share on both phones and tablets.

    I’m too small to take big risks like spending months porting an app to Android, especially if I see iOS doing nothing but grow, and Android stagnate or even shrink (see new reports of Q1 Kindle Fire sales).

    I’m sure some people differ in opinion and that’s fine, but my business, my decision, and I’m comfortable with the path I’m currently taking regarding iOS vs. Android looking at the entire ecosystem.