Android vs iOS : Opportunity for startups to port Apps 1

On this blog, we periodically review opportunities for startups. One such opportunity is to find innovative, low-cost ways to port Apps from Android to iOS (and the other way around).

A while ago, we reviewed opportunities in the  Smartphone race to the bottom:  Startups are leveraging the outsourced manufacturing facilities – How to Build Your Own Smartphone – for $70 – to innovate in design while sourcing actual production. Technology companies in the developing markets are constrained by lower bandwidth and price sensitive consumers. This has spurred innovation and tech giants and startups are  designing two speed, Lite and Regular mobile apps for the markets in developing economies like India, China and Brazil.

Android vs iOS: The practical challenge

A new analysis of app prices from market research firm Canalys indicates that Android apps are 2.5-times more expensive than iOS apps on average. By gathering the current costs of all the top 100 apps on both platforms, Canalys felt confident enough to decree Android users are paying “dramatically higher” prices for apps.  (link). Other analysts point to a similar theme – that android development is 20-50% more than iOS application development (link). Entrepreneurs with limited budget may consider one as a ‘leading’ platform to develop the App and may invest in the other platform when they find the users.

In the battle for digital mind-share, mobile App developers plan to invest their limited budgets to develop Apps in software on platforms that reach the maximum number of users. iOS and Android operating systems account for a combined global market share of 99.6%. By some accounts, the competition between Apple and Google’s mobile platforms comes down to a “two-horse race.” However, developers don’t care about the “horse race” or winners, but want to make sure the applications they develop are available to the majority of their users.

This decision weighs heavily on App developers since they work with limited budgets. If you were a small startup or an entrepreneur, would you consider developing the app for iOS or for Android, or both?

Are Apps in India predominantly Android based?

Our editors reviewed a number of Apps in India, the emerging mobile market. A new and innovative application from the Indian government, called DigiLocker aims to make ‘paperless’ a reality for several government services. For example, one can authenticate one’s unique identity (Aadhar) or even store authenticated government documents like Driving license and Motor Vehicle registration details instead carrying paper copies in a wallet.

However the challenge for some users is that the DigiLocker service is currently available on Android only and not for iPhone users. The government’s website indicates that they may make it available for iOS users soon.

Apps developed by local entrepreneurs in India also seem to follow a similar pattern: For example, medsparsh, a Bangalore based startup that offers doctor visits and phone conversations with medical specialists allows users to “Book an appointment from the palm of your hand and we will take care of you. (Android only)


Android Apps are more expensive to develop, but more common ?

Reading thus far, one is bound to wonder about the in-congruence here : Android Apps are more expensive to develop, but more common in developing markets like India. However, the real driver is the dominance of Android that holds a share of 82.18 percent of mobile operating system market in India.



The hidden opportunity: porting Android to iOS

India is the world’s third-largest smartphone market, following China and the US. Out of the 30.7 million units shipped during Q2 2016, Strategy Analytics believes that 29.8 million of them (or an impressive 97%) run on Google’s Android. This data, however, masks the fact that Apple is not sitting idle. As per recent estimates, Apple India sales rose 17% to $1.8 billion in 2016-17 (link).

While it is likely that App developers will continue to focus on Android platform, user demand for apps to run on iOS will also continue to grow. It is currently not easy or inexpensive to migrate Apps designed for Android to iOS (or the other way around). Developers who can take such designs and work on cheaper and faster ways of migrating them are going to find a steady market !

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