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Whether you are developing a free or monetized mobile application the first stage of development will be to create a minimum viable product (MVP). One of the important first-stage decisions you will need to make is whether to develop on iOS or Android first. There is much that goes into this decision, and your decision will vary depending on your product, target audience, and test location. Here is what you need to know to help make an informed decision.

Make Your Decision Based On Your MVP

MVP example

Your long-term goal may be to develop on both Android and iOS, but from a time and cost standpoint—it is simply more efficient to begin with one. Begin by outlining the minimum needs for viability, which includes one not two. In addition, follow the key feature guidelines of an MVP as shared by Techopedia:

  1. It provides enough value that people are willing to use it and/or buy it after its launch;
  2. It demonstrates sufficient future benefit to retain these early adopters; and
  3. It provides a feedback loop that helps to guide ongoing development.

Keep this definition in mind with every decision you make. This will help you from getting distracted by your long-term and end-stage goals.

Define Your Demographic

MVP demographics

If you haven’t yet clearly defined your demographic now is the time. Focus on the age group, interests, geographic location, and current device adoption rate. It is far too broad to focus on the overall global demographic, to which Android beats iOS by a landslide. However, this can vary greatly by country or region. According to IDC.com, Android holds an impressive 85% of the market share, with iOS at just over 14%. That might make it appear as though Android app development is the surefire way to go, but you must dig a bit deeper.

If you look at North America and the UK, iOS dominates the market—while Android dominates in Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. So, you must take your geographic launch into consideration. Aside from the continent, country, and region you will be testing first—you must consider that iOS users in most countries are 5 times or likely to download apps, and represents 45% of the paid app and in-app purchases. This speaks to the financial demographic you are targeting. In many cases, Android technology is less expensive up front.  However, this does not ring true across the board. Due to the diversity of overall mobile technology, Android market share in many Asian countries is so high that developing Android first may be the best way to reach your desired market.

If you are developing an app for internal use, such as an employee scheduling app, you will certainly need to develop both apps back-to-back. Start by sending out a survey to determine user adoption for your beta test area and select the operating system with the higher saturation as your initial app.

Don’t Forget Your MVP Is A Test

Even if budget is not an option, you want to make responsible spending decisions. By identifying who and where your ideal customer is, and which operating system they prefer—you will save a significant amount of money working out the bugs by launching your apps one at a time. As the bugs are worked out, you implement changes based on consumer feedback, and as you add on a few more of the features on your long-term product or service selection—you can launch your second app confident in its ability to wow your customers.

Check Out The Competition

Your app might be unique, but you must check out the competition. This is helpful in determining your MVP, ongoing features, and what customers want—but also in helping you understand which similar and/or industry apps have the most downloads. If your app is for highly localized use, this is even more important. For example, an app to help you find health restaurants in a limited service area. For regional or global apps, check out the competition in prime service areas. This will help you to determine where to launch first, and in whether you should move forward with Android or iOS app development for your MVP phase.

The Challenge With Cross Platform App Development

A simple solution to the “which app to develop first” question may be to design a native or cross platform app that works on both Android and iOS, and other operating systems—but it’s not that simple. Yes, some companies have great success with this method of mobile app development, but it may not be the right fit for you. Whether speaking of native or cross platform, you will be somewhat limited to performance limitations. Depending on the type of app and the advanced features and functions you require, this may not be a feasible solution. For example, if you need an app that will automate high-level functions or utilize machine learning, cross platform will likely fall short of your needs. Even gaming apps have some usability issues when designed on cross platform. However, if your app is fairly simple cross platform may be the way to go. Speak to your app developer about both your MVP and long-term goals to determine if a custom built-app is a better fit. Respect their advice, or your low performing app may fail—or you may find yourself starting from scratch in either iOS or Android.

Make a Decision

There is no one-size-fits-all solutions for mobile app development. As a general rule, go with the operating system most popular with your demographic, and in your test area—paying close attention to what system your competition or industry has the most downloads with. Work out the bugs, and then develop your second app. Consider cross platform only if a tenured developer is confident that your features and functions will not run into multi-platform performance issues.

ilya lipovich
Ilya Lipovich
Founder at

Ilya is a founder of a software development company Cider, which specializes in mobile, web development and Salesforce integrations. He  has over 20 years  of enterprise management with Finance and Operations background. At Cider he is building a team of software visionaries with a goal of helping western developers in releasing products at the lowest cost and in the shortest amount of time.