Taking time to write about development

Companies who release iOS apps before Android are frustrating

This is one problem that has just started affecting me recently. I’m starting to find that a lot of companies these days when releasing Mobile Apps are coming out with their iOS version weeks sometimes months before their Android version.

Case in point. The recent success of Grand Theft Auto V is known to all, and those people who played the game (myself included) also know about the iFruit mobile app. While most people found it to be pretty pointless (looking after Chop the dog. Really?) it did include a nice feature to get yourself a custom number plate for your cars. Like most things online, the number plates were first in first served. Better download that app quick smart then right? Wrong! While the iOS version for the iPhone and iPad was released quick smart the Android app didn’t see the light of day until October 28th. A staggering 1 month and 11 days after the game was released. So much for that number plate…

Case in point number two. Recently in New Zealand the major satellite TV provider Sky announced that it’s customers can now watch Live and OnDemand TV on their phones and tablets. Heck yeah, I can finally watch the cricket on my commute every afternoon. Can you see where this is going? It’s currently only available on iOS and they have said for Android users to keep their eyes out for an Android version on ‘selected devices’ sometime in the New Year (so… only a month or so late).

As a person who uses Android (Tablet + Phone) this frustrates me to no end! Not only me but a lot of people. A simple google search shows the frustration of the hundreds of GTA users and looking on the SkyTV facebook page shows 11 out of the 30 comments (on the announcement of Sky GO) complaining about the lack of an Android App!

It also doesn’t make viable sense to the company. According to recent stats (Q3 2013) Android made up a staggering 81% of devices shipped. Compared to the 12.9% of iOS. That’s 4 out of every 5 devices! I will admit here however that Apple is still making the most money. In fact in the same time frame – (Q3 2013) – Apple made more money than all of it’s competitors combined by taking in 56% of the profits. So yes, if the company was to be releasing a paid version of the app, then it might make more sense to go for an Apple release first. But they’re not paid apps. They’re free!!

So if this post was to fall into the lap of the decision maker of X company, then please would you consider either:

a) Creating and releasing the Android app first in order to make the most of the many many users.
b) How about working on both and releasing them at the same time!

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment!

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There has been some good discussions on this topic (mainly over at /r/Android) and I think the two main points that have come up are:

  1. Because there are so many Android devices running so many different versions of the OS + custom ROMs means that development time and testing is far more time consuming and resource intensive.
  2. Even with 81% of devices shipped Android doesn’t touch iOS in terms of revenue generated.

These points are both valid and explain why those companies that release a lot of revenue gathering apps (ie that is their business model) choose to go for iOS first.

However, I think the point I’m trying to get across is a lot of companies are only ever going to release a single app, with the intention of putting it on both operating systems, and with a price tag of $0. With that in mind does it still make sense to focus primarily on iOS over Android?

PS. after writing this yesterday I got an email from Fly Buys (New Zealands largest loyalty program) with the good news that they now have an app… for iPhone.

Right now, the Fly Buys app only works on iPhones. But for you Android users, keep an eye out for the release of our Android version. Click here to tell us your email address so we can let you know when


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11 thoughts on “Companies who release iOS apps before Android are frustrating

  • Herdnerfer says:

    You forget that that 81% market share is spread across literally 100s of devices with different processors, different GPUs different ram amounts, etc. programming an app to support as many as possible (because you’ll never get them all compatible) is a monumental undertaking.

    The money made from the first release on iOS pays for that Android development.

    • Jamie says:

      You make a valid point. And I guess when it comes to free apps companies are probably less likely to want to go through the entire process.

      Having said that, if they are intending to release an android version anyway, knowing full-well iOS sales will pay for it, then there is no reason why they still can’t be released at the same time.

    • IB says:

      This just isn’t a valid reason. It is barely any extra work to support a very wide range of android devices when written properly. You make 2 or 3 builds; phone, 7ish inch tablet (we actually use the same layouts for 7inch and phone for most of our apps as android handles the scaling very well) and 10ish inch tablet. The way fragments work actually means you can reuse more code between phone and tablet than you can on iOS.

      Most apps outside games will not have to worry about GPU/ram issues, perhaps a little extra work to ensure overdraw isn’t killing performance on older devices (which comes down to properly writing apps in the first place, becomes second nature very quickly to understand the view hierarchy).

      To be honest, I’m having much more issues supporting 3 versions of iOS with 3 different screen sizes than supporting 2 versions of Android (API 10 and 15) and 2 different device sizes. Fragmentation is a giant myth living on by people reading blog posts only.

      • Esed says:

        I was about to say the same in the same words. Android fragmentation is not an issue, it is feature when you start to deeper understand how Android works.

      • Larpus says:

        Except that it is!

        Sure, you can easily support a handful of more common devices (and make it just decent on another handful or less but still common devices) and the marketshare is huge.

        But there lies a gigantic problem: if, say, you manage to support 90% (a completely ridiculous number that will take a lot of time, testing and resources) of android devices with marvelous perfection, that still leaves 10% android users out….10% of that 81% marketshare in absolute numbers?

        And now consider that unhappy customers are much more likely to comment and give you a rating than happy ones and suddenly that 10% of non-covered devices (which, remember, is a ridiculously optimistic on surreal levels number) becomes incredibly scary for a new company and can, indeed, completely sink an app and a company due to bad reviews which will crush any free app business model.

        iOS on the other hand, is more or less standard, even if not all devices can roll the latest version, most of them can run the previous one (at this point in time 6.1), features are largely shared, meaning that it’s perfectly doable to have one code fits all and only worry about UI optimization.

        Also, the devices themselves are more standardized regarding performance (two androids rocking the same OS can vary wildly in performance due to RAM, GPU and CPU, two iDevices are unlikely to be THAT different), so you can trust your app will at least run decently and, even if it doesn’t, iDevice owners are more likely to accept their devices’ old age and lack of power (because they KNOW and iPad 2 is old and an iPod Touch is less powerful than a same-age iPhone), whereas android owners might be completely oblivious to their devices’ tech specs and how they compare to the top-dogs.

      • Dan says:


        Can the same not be said for such things as web browsers (IE in particular) and OS (Windows XP). A lot of web/software developers these days no longer support older versions of both. Basically now it’s tough luck if you’re running such old software.

        Likewise with certain apps. I have two phones (one for work), one of which is unable to download plenty of apps because it’s running Android 2.2. I get what your saying in terms of two phones running the same OS but having different specs but again, if the phone doesn’t meet the specs then tough luck.

      • IB says:


        You’re just wrong there sorry buddy. You don’t have to individually support different devices. Working within the android framework does 99% of the work. The company I own writes rapidly deployed, event specific apps. It means we have many thousands of installs across a lot of devices. Just because I haven’t specifically tested it on Sony Xperia, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to run properly. In fact, I could say with full certainty that our apps would run correctly on one because it is developed properly. It would take some pretty big changes to the OS by the manufacture to break the core features of the SDK. We haven’t had a single report from a client saying they couldn’t run our apps/had device specific problems. There is persisting myth amongst the uninformed that each android device needs to be individually catered for. While we test on a host of devices, it’s very, very rare we ever come across something which works differently on devices which isn’t stemming from a coding fault on our end.

        As I said, I have to deal with iphone 4/iPhone 5 or iOS 5/6/7 much more than I have to deal with android api version. Animations and scheduling of async tasks are about the only time we check api version in our android development.

        I also think people don’t really know Google release support frameworks which back port certain features to older api levels. It makes a good bunch of stuff non dependant on Android version.

        There are heaps of benefits for developing for both iOS and android. Plenty of stuff each one does better than the other, but fragmentation and “supporting hundreds of devices” on androis isn’t the issue people think it is. Seems to live on through people repeating what they’ve heard.

    • Dudu Maroja says:

      Android SDK has a pretty good system for testing your app..

      and you just need a good optimized app that can run on lower devices.. the newer devices will run it ok!

  • Bernd Final says:

    Android has a marketshare of 81% among all users but the problem is that iOS has a marketshare of ~99% among the decision makers in those companies. Ever seen a boss with an HTC One/GS4? Nope

    • Brian says:

      My firm’s CEO is a huge Android fan. He’s had a Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Note and Note II all in the last couple years and is talking about upgrading again to a Note III (and asked me if I knew of any other good large-screen phones). Android covers a full spectrum of users, not just geeks and people on budgets.

    • IB says:

      Of the four partners in my company, 2 HTC ones, an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5. Far way off 99%

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