We’ve all heard about iOS being the first and foremost target of most software owners and developers. The reasons may be different, for example, high opportunities of app monetization. Yet Android dominates worldwide in numbers, and can hardly be called something second to iOS. These two are completely different mobile platforms with completely different philosophies and approaches to software development.
1. Android is an open-source platform, based on Linux kernel, which boasts a multitude of devices. They are not limited to smartphones and tablets. Android can run TV sets, cameras, smartwatches (and wearable tech in general), laptops, and even refrigerators. As opposed to iOS, which runs a very limited set of consumer devices, Android has a broader range of possible use. It’s an open platform for innovative apps, some of which would be clearly restricted by Apple’s guidelines.
2. Android is truly open in every sense of the word: it works with a number of instruction set architectures (such as ARM, x86, MIPS), and can be tailored and forked to specific needs and tasks. There are such firmware replacements for Android devices as CyanogenMod, and such forked Android versions as Fire OS. This one is produced by Amazon for their popular Kindle Fire tablet line. Owners of these tablets are a specific audience, and Amazon provides them with a separate application store. There are many ways of getting Android apps on a device, other alternative stores (e.g. Samsung Apps or GetJar), and other facts stating the openness of the platform.
3. More about Android customization: this can be done for specialized tasks that, for example, can disable certain native device functions to make the device securely serve one peculiar task. This is neither easy nor cheap, but Android makes it possible.
4. Although the main programming language for Android is Java, Android allows to use the code written in C and C++. This means that millions of lines of code written and tested before by numerous developers, can be used for Android apps.
5. The downside to this nature of Android begins with the diversity of devices. Manufacturers are enabled to build mobile devices with different performance capabilities, specs in general, as well as screen sizes and resolutions. What does it lead to? This is called fragmentation of devices and versions.
6. While Apple’s iOS device range is limited to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Android runs thousands of gadget models, which provide completely different experience. Cheap Android devices tend to have limited resources, and both main flaws of weak performance and low-resolution screens. User experience on high-end Androids differs drastically. Depending on the devices a software owner wants to build for, there is much work for designers: adjusting UI for different screen sizes and resolutions. As a result, it takes more time to create an Android app.
7. Android version updates are tasty for users, especially for the fact that now Android gets at least as tasty as iOS. For developers, there is a line of API levels and old versions (e.g. Gingerbread) still occupying a large share of the market. This fragmentation adds problems for developers who start building for Android, while experienced ones pay due attention to interface development. Then it goes back to the choice of the software owner: target devices and versions.
8. Android is also differently implemented by device manufacturers in order to suit their hardware and their own branded apps. This must be taken into account when making an app compatible with the interface of Android (for example, with HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz).
One more thing to remember is that Android tends to change rapidly. It’s not that you should avoid building apps for it; it’s on the contrary. Just keep in mind that you must pay attention to maintenance, and the task of finding the right audience is much harder than that on iOS. Android is just different: it’s more widespread worldwide than iOS, but it’s generally considered to be harder to monetize, since there are more free apps available for Android, while people got used to it. Android can also take more time in development (mainly because of the abovementioned fragmentation), but it opens many opportunities for startups. That’s why it’s worthwhile to find a contractor who is able to set the optimal path of your Android project