The decisions you make for your MVP can impact the direction (and success) of your company. One of the most important decisions is what platform to launch your app on. Of course, you’re not limited to a single platform. But because developing for each platform comes with separate costs, you don’t want to launch on more than you need to. In this article, we’ll explore why this decision is so strategic and how to make the best choice for your product.
Why It Matters Which Platforms You Choose
You have three primary platform choices for launching your app: the web, iOS, and Android. Each has its own set of pros and cons, and each has its own characteristics that may make it more or less attractive depending on the nature of your product. The biggest differences relate to cost, user demographics, and security. Because each of these factors could have a significant impact on your success, it’s important to understand how each could affect your business.
(What about cross-platform development? We’ll cover cross-platform vs. native development and why we recommend developing natively in an upcoming post.)
Here’s what you need to know about each option.
Launching on the Web
The web is the OG of platforms, and it still has many characteristics that make it more attractive than mobile platforms for launching an app.
One of the primary advantages is that you can reach anyone and everyone on the web. While Apple and Android device users follow different demographic profiles, everyone can access the web via their device, regardless of what OS it’s built on.
Another big advantage of development for the web is that it’s significantly less expensive than developing for iOS or Android. When you build for the web, you’re simply building a website. Even if it requires a complex back-end, your app will be cheaper to build as a responsive website than a mobile app.
Although the web has these two advantages, it does have limitations. A responsive website won’t be able to automatically integrate with the smartphone’s native functionality, such as the calendar, the camera, and GPS. If your app is designed to help users with tasks that involve smartphone functionality, you’ll probably need to build a mobile app.
Launching on Android
Currently, Android and Apple are just about even when it comes to market share. In the U.S., Android holds 51.8% of market share compared to Apple’s 47.4% (as of Q3 2019).
Although both Android and Apple are similar in the number of users, there is an important demographic difference: Android users tend to be more cost-conscious than iPhone users.
Because Android is based on an open-source environment, it allows programmers greater flexibility. Developers can plug in pre-built modules, cutting the cost of development. Android also has fewer regulations on apps built for it, which can also lower the cost compared to an app built for iOS.
Android’s open-source environment also means that apps can be less stable and secure. If you choose to launch on Android, you’ll want to be sure you’re using a developer with experience in security for this platform.
Additionally, it’s more difficult to provide a good user experience on Android, since there are over 5,000 different devices made by several manufacturers, each with slightly different screen sizes. Developers typically only do user testing on the most common.
Launching on iOS
Although Apple has a slightly smaller number of users, it has some distinct advantages to offer startups launching an app.
iPhone users, as a group, are willing to spend more money than Android users are. This is no surprise, since Apple devices are more expensive, and its users are often more willing to lay down cash to have the latest version.
Apple’s regulations and control over the platform architecture create more limitations. For this reason, development costs can be higher. That said, the platform offers greater predictability and a more organized structure.
There are only about 20 different Apple devices compared to the 5,000+ for Android, so it’s easier to ensure a good user experience. Also, iPhone users tend to keep their iOS updated, reducing glitches due to old versions.
Factors to Consider When Deciding What Platform to Launch Your App On
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a platform to launch on. What’s best for one company will not be ideal for another. Asking yourself a few questions should help you narrow down the options.
- What’s your budget? If the amount of money you have available to invest is small, you’ll want to choose a web-based app if possible.
- Will your app use smartphone functionality such as making calls, using GPS, accessing photos, etc.? If so, you will probably need to develop a mobile app — either iPhone or Android.
- Do your target users tend to be at the lower-middle or upper-middle income level? What are their spending habits? If your users are cost-conscious, a web-based app or Android app is probably the best choice. If they are willing to spend more or demand a high-quality experience, iPhone may be your best bet.
- Do you need maximum flexibility when it comes to development? If you can’t work within the confines of iOS, Android may be a better choice.
- Do you want to more easily ensure security without having to maintain a developer experienced in security for Android? Launching on iPhone may help you breathe easier.
When it comes down to the final decision of what platform to launch your app on, only you know what platform is best for your app and your users.
Unsure which platform to choose? We help clients think through this and other important issues in our SolutionLab workshop? Get in touch, and we’ll schedule your call.