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How to build an app for iOS and Android

Most founders know they need an app to increase their revenue and growth. What they’re not sure of is whether to target the Android or iOS market. Both mobile operating systems dominate the app industry, with Android apps making up 71% and iOS 28.5% of the market share.

Despite Android enjoying a sizable portion, you wouldn’t want to forgo the iOS segment when building an app. That's because iOS apps generally generate more in-app revenue than Android apps. In 2022, the global consumer spending from Apple App Store stands at $85.1 billion, almost twice Google Playstore’s $47.9 billion.

Rather, it’s better to focus on both marketplaces by choosing app development for iOS and Android. I’m Artem Mysik, Head of Engineering at Uptech. Over the years, I’ve helped startups develop and release apps for both Android and iOS app platforms.

In this article, I’ll show:

  • Different types of apps you can develop for iOS and Android users
  • Pros and cons of native and cross-platform development for iOS and Android apps
  • A step-by-step guide to developing apps for iOS and Android

Let’s start.

Different Approaches to App Development

There are several ways to create an app for iOS and Android. Each uses a distinct mobile tech stack and development method to create apps that work on both platforms.

Native apps

A native app can only run on its respective operating system. These apps are developed exclusively for either iOS or Android using specific programming languages and software technologies. For example, we use Kotlin to build Android apps and Swift for iOS development.

Progressive web apps (PWAs)

PWAs are web applications that provide a native app-like experience on mobile phones. Instead of developing separate apps, developers write a single codebase that works on web browsers, iOS and Android.

Cross-platform apps

Cross-platform apps are mobile apps that can be installed on both iOS and Android. Like PWAs, developers create only a single codebase. However, cross-platform apps cannot be accessed from browsers. Developers use tech stacks like React Native and Flutter to build apps that run on both iPhone and Android.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are similar to PWAs. They are developed with advanced web technologies to work on multiple platforms. One thing that separates hybrid apps is they are wrapped in native containers. This allows the app to access certain native platform capabilities.

We won’t explore all the apps I mentioned. Instead, we'll focus on native and cross-platform apps in this article.

Android vs. iOS App Development Comparison

Understandably, some startups have limited resources to market their apps to both segments. If that’s the case, which platform should you focus on?

Android, which boasts the largest user base, is not as dominant as iOS in developed economies. For example, iOS edges Android users in the Oceania and America regions by a slight margin.

Users in countries like the US, UK, and Australia use iPhones because of their stronger purchasing power. Therefore, iOS users are more likely to spend on in-app purchases, a point to consider when learning how to create an app for iPhone.

Meanwhile, you must consider various monetization methods, such as ads, if you target Android users. That said, in-app spending from both platforms is on the rise, particularly after the global pandemic.

To decide which platform to start with, let's examine the pros and cons of app development for iOS and Android.

how to build an app for iOS and Android

Pros And Cons Of Android App Development

Consider these advantages and disadvantages when you learn how to make an app for Android.

Pros of Android app development

Android is an open-source operating system. Because of that, it has support from a global developer community. Any developers knowledgeable of the platform can contribute to improving the Android ecosystem. On top of that, you can also hire Android developers easily because of the platform’s popularity.

If you develop Android apps, you can get the programming tools for your developers at no cost. Google, which owns Android, bundles all the software development kits needed in Android Studio.

Another advantage that Android offers is the quick approval time when submitting your app to PlayStore. It takes only a few hours to list your app.

Cons of Android app development

Despite the easy access to development tools and talent, there are some drawbacks when building with Android. It takes longer to code in Java and Kotlin, the programming language for Android development, than coding in Apple Swift.

Besides programming complexity, security is also a concern for Android apps. While Google has made tremendous improvements to secure the operating system, Android is still not as secure as iOS. So, you must learn how to make Android apps more secure.

Pros and cons of iOS development

iOS apps are known for their beautiful visuals and immersive experience. Before you learn how to make an app for iPhone, consider the following.

Pros of iOS app development

Building an iOS app is faster. Developers program in Swift, a language that allows them to write fewer lines of code. Testing iOS apps is also less extensive as they are only installed on Apple devices. You don’t need to test for different resolutions, screen sizes, and hardware compatibility you do for Android apps.

Unlike Android, iOS is a closed operating system, with Apple keeping tight control over how apps interact with platform resources. This means that apps running on iOS are generally more stable and secure than their Android counterparts.

Apple also makes it easier to create apps that promise an engaging user experience. It provides an extensive human interface guideline, which developers can refer to when designing buttons, icons, and other interactive elements.

Cons of iOS development

Apple’s tight control over every aspect of development can be quite restrictive. For example, the rigid design guidelines limit creativity and innovation, making it harder to create an app that stands out from the rest.

Moreover, it takes days for Apple to publish your app on the AppStore. Apple is also stricter when reviewing your app against design, content, technical and other requirements. In simpler words, you will more likely face rejection when publishing on the Apple App Store compared to Google Play Store.

Both Android and iOS apps have their respective pros and cons. But whichever platform you choose to focus on, it’s important to learn how they differ in design, tech stack, programming languages, and other factors.

iOS and Android app development

How to Develop an App For iOS and Android: 10 Key Steps

To learn how to build an app for iOS and Android, you need a guideline to improve its success rate. I share the process that our team uses to create engaging single- and multiplatform apps.

how to build an app for iOS and Android

Step 1: Perform Market Research and Competitor Analysis

Before your developer starts coding, spend time learning what competing apps offer to their audience. You can download similar apps and test them out. Check out how the apps function, their features, UI/UX and in-app experience in general. Also, take note of how your competitors market their apps on the App Store and Play Store.

More importantly, check out the ratings and reviews that users left. That’s where you find opportunity gaps you can capitalize on to differentiate your app. For example, if users feel that it takes too many steps to top up the digital wallet for a fintech app, you can improvise that in your app. We at Uptech call it product discovery stage and it's one of the services we provide to our clients.

Step 2: Plan and Prototype

After establishing a unique selling proposition, decide which features to include in the app. We don’t recommend adding all features in the initial release. Rather, it’s better to build a minimum viable product. An MVP lets you test the market quickly and affordably.

So, spend time brainstorming features that are most impactful and less costly to build. Then, create a customer journey map to visualize how users interact with your app. Use wireframes to connect important screens and content together. Doing so also sets a foundation for developers to build the app later.

Throughout this stage, I suggest securing feedback from your target audience. Otherwise, you might build an app that users don’t find useful. Instead of letting assumptions guide your effort, you can create simple prototypes and let users test them. These prototypes don’t necessarily need to be functional apps. A simple mockup consisting of several screens is often enough to gain valuable feedback.

In fact, Uptech involves the end users in our product ideation process. That’s how we consistently help our clients achieve product-market fits.

Step 3: Select the Right Development Approach

Once you have validated the app features, decide which type of app you want to build — native, cross-platform, or PWA. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here. Rather, your choice depends on your business goals, marketing strategy, and target audience.

As mentioned, native apps are great if you want to build apps that take full advantage of iOS or Android’s hardware capabilities. They let you develop apps that deliver impressive performance and user experience. The downside is that you need to hire more developers, which increases your software development costs.

Meanwhile, cross-platform apps and PWAs are more affordable. Choose PWA if you’re targeting web and mobile users. Otherwise, a cross-platform app is the best option to reduce development and maintenance costs. The best thing is that you don’t have to build and test the same code twice.

Step 4: Choose the Tech Stack

Depending on your choice, you’ll need a different tech stack to develop apps for iOS and Android.

  • If you’re building iOS apps, Swift and Objective-C are the available options. Objective-C is a programming language for building MacOS and iOS apps, but it’s harder to learn. Meanwhile, Swift is a modern and simpler language that iOS developers prefer.
  • For Android apps, developers program in either Java or Kotlin. Java is a popular language for app and web development. Kotlin is a relatively new language that is easier to read and more efficient. Besides programming languages, you’ll also need other Android frameworks to improve graphics, system performance, and other platform capabilities.
  • To create apps that work on both Android and iPhone, you need tech stacks like React Native and Flutter. React Native is a software framework for building cross-platform apps with access to native capabilities. Meanwhile, Flutter lets developers create beautiful apps for the web, mobile, and desktop from a single codebase.

Step 5: Assemble your team

Once you’ve decided on the type of app to build, you’ll need to set up a team. Besides hiring a developer, you also need a UI/UX designer, project manager, QA engineer, and other specialists to build the app successfully.

Some startups choose to hire in-house, but most prefer to outsource so they can be more flexible with their budgets. For example, startups from developed economies outsource their app development to enjoy lower costs and quality deliverables.

Step 6: Design UI and UX 

Creating an app that appeals to both iOS and Android users requires a strong focus on UI/UX elements. Your app must maintain a consistent appearance, interaction, and experience across both platforms. Choosing fitting icons, buttons, and typographies is only part of UI/UX best practices.

While on-screen elements improve the app’s aesthetic values, it’s equally important to pay attention to usefulness. Your app should, first and foremost, solve the user’s problem efficiently. If it takes users too much effort to navigate around the app, you risk a high churn rate.

On the same note, remember to make your app accessible to all audiences, including specially-abled ones. Where necessary, include features like:

  • assistive touch
  • voice-over
  • captions to improve app accessibility.

We make UI/UX design a priority because we know how in-app elements and consistency can shape brand perception. From the first interaction to achieving their goals, we work closely with the target audience to craft a seamless app experience.

Step 7: Develop Backend Side

Unless you’re building an offline app, you’ll need to create backend services to handle business logic, process data, validate user logins, and more. Creating backend applications involves database management, API integration, and security updates.

Building, integrating, and maintaining backend services require entirely different skill sets. To create scalable and robust backend services, you need to hire developers familiar with tech stacks like Ruby, Python, and Node JS.

iOs and Android app development

Step 8: Perform Software Testing

Never release an app until it’s adequately tested. Otherwise, you risk producing a dysfunctional app and getting scores of unhappy customers. Rather, make app testing a priority in the entire app development process. This way, you can identify and resolve bugs, discrepancies and vulnerabilities at the earliest opportunity.

There are various tests you can perform to ensure app stability and functionality. For example:

  • Unit test, which focuses on individual functions within the app
  • Integration test, which ensures different components and 3-rd party services are working cohesively together
  • System test, performed to ensure the app meets both functional and non-functional requirements
  • Acceptance test is the final test to confirm that the app meets business and user requirements

Remember to test the app on both Android and IOS to ensure it performs consistently on both platforms.

Step 9: Prepare for App Store Submission and Collect User Feedback

Once you’ve made final changes to the app, prepare for release. Submit the app along with screenshots, descriptions, and ratings. While waiting for approval, you can market your app and optimize the app’s product page for better visibility. Usually, it takes a couple of weeks for Apple to revert to the submission status while hours for Google Play Store.

After your apps have gone live, keep track of user feedback and reviews on the marketplace. Be on alert to resolve bugs that crept into the production release. Also, take note of feature requests, discussions, and comments on social media. They help you prepare for subsequent revisions.

Step 10: Maintain and Continuously Improve the App

Lastly, keep your app operational and adjust to evolving trends. User sentiments can change quickly. So, it’s crucial to implement feature updates and integrate new technologies to remain relevant in the market. For example, we integrated generative AI technologies to add more value to Plai, an HR assistant web app.

3 Best Practices for iOS App Development

Apple prioritizes user experience above all else and will reject apps even for the slightest non-compliance. Try these tips to comply with Apple’s requirements and get your apps approved.

Use the recommended tech stack

While Apple doesn’t restrict the development technologies you can use, it’s better to stay with its recommendations. For example, XCode is Apple’s official Integrated Development Environment that lets you create iOS apps with the iOS SDK libraries. Likewise, using frameworks like SwiftUI and UIKits is better than creating visual elements from scratch.

Follow Apple’s Human Interface Guideline

If your app doesn’t adhere to the HIG, it will most likely be rejected. The HIG specifies how iOS apps should be designed, ensuring consistent and pleasant experience across devices. So, read through the HIG and design your app accordingly.

Adhere to App Store rules

Apple is very strict in enforcing its App review guidelines to regulate app quality in its marketplace. Be clear about what’s allowed and not allowed before designing the app. Otherwise, your developers face unnecessary reworks and resubmissions.

3 Best Practices for Android App Development

Google is more lenient when approving apps in the Play Store, but developers must address security and lackluster user experience. These tips can help you create secure, intuitive, and engaging Android apps.

Choose development tools wisely

Developers are spoilt for choice when it comes to Android tech stacks. Android has a large open-source community, offering hundreds of frameworks, libraries, and tools to choose from. Familiarize yourself with the resources. And use tools that accelerate development, provide more features, or enable better collaboration.

Prioritize UI/UX design

Google might approve apps with sub-par user experience, but that doesn’t mean you should lower your standard. Rather, apply UI/UX best practices or find a developer specializing in creating intuitive apps. You can refer to Android’s Design Guideline for style, layout, content, behaviors, and other design recommendations.

Strengthen app security

Android apps are generally more vulnerable to threats than iOS apps because of the former’s open-source nature. Hackers can analyze the operating system and explore ways to compromise Android apps. Therefore, it’s crucial to protect data stored on the device and in the database. For example, encrypting sensitive data and validating the recipient can reduce the risk of data breach.

Challenges of Developing Apps for iOS and Android

Native apps run exclusively on iOS and Android and deliver the best performance. However, startups build cross-platform apps to reach a wider audience at a lower cost. Both approaches aren’t without challenges. Here are some possible obstacles to be mindful of.

how to build an app for iOS and Android

Ensuring user experience consistency

Both Android and iOS are unique operating systems with their respective architectures. Turning high-level codes into apps that produce a consistent experience on both OSs is challenging. Furthermore, developers might over-optimize the app with cross-platform tools at the expense of design consistency. This will result in greatly varying experiences for iPhone and Android users.

Accessing platform-specific features

When creating cross-platform apps, developers might find it challenging to access device-specific hardware such as sensors and platform APIs. Such limitations can restrict the app’s functionality and the value it offers users. Recent improvements in cross-platform development tools help developers bridge cross-platform code with native functionalities.

Requiring different skill sets

Developing for iOS and Android requires proficiency in cross-platform tools or native tech stack frameworks, such as Swift, Kotlin, and React Native. Not all developers are trained in native and cross-platform development. Those who previously wrote in Swift, Java, or Kotlin must familiarize themselves with the cross-platform tech stack.

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app for iOS and Android?

The price to build an app targeting both platforms varies but generally falls between $100,000 to $250,000. The figure drops to $50,000 for apps targeting a single platform. Apps that run on Android and iPhone take more time to design, build and test. Therefore, their cost falls on the high side. That said, the exact fee you pay to create an Android, iOS, or cross-platform app depends on several factors.

App complexity

Depending on your requirements, developers might spend more hours working on the app, which results in a higher cost. For example, a simple social media app that runs on iOS and Android might cost $130,000. However, a complex food delivery app like UberEats will cost $150,000 or more.

UI/UX requirements

All apps need UI/UX design to a certain extent, but some require more effort to deliver consistent and immersive experiences. For example, designers spend more time acquiring user feedback, creating user journey maps, designing wireframes, and more for complex healthcare apps.

Developer’s location

Developers based in expensive cities tend to charge a higher rate because of their cost of living. Conversely, outsourcing your app development to offshore developers in developing economies will reduce your costs. For example, you pay at least $100 per hour when hiring a Flutter developer from the US but only $50 per hour from Ukraine.

how to build an app for iOS and Android

Wrapping Up

When you develop iOS and Android apps, remember to consider user feedback throughout the entire process. Doing so allows you to create an app that users love, regardless of the platform. Also, prioritize UI/UX and test your apps thoroughly to ensure a successful launch.

Don’t neglect one platform for the other unless you have strong reasons to do so. Android users far outnumber iPhone users, but the latter spent more on in-app purchases. However, it’s more difficult to list your app on the App Store than on the Play Store.

I’ve shared how native and cross-platform development differs yet allows you to create apps that work on Android and iOS. In some cases, building a native app is better because it lets you fully leverage the platform’s capabilities. Otherwise, cross-platform apps can help you reduce costs, simplify development, and accelerate time to market.

Talk to our team to learn more about developing iOS and Android apps.

FAQs

How can I develop an app for both Android and iOS?

You can use cross-platform tech stacks like React Native and Flutter to build apps that work on both platforms. These tools let you create a single codebase, which can be compiled into an app that works on both Android and iOS.

Is it better to develop an app for iOS or Android first?

It depends on your target audience, monetization strategies, and business goals. If you want to reach out to a broader global audience, it’s better to start with the Android segment. However, iPhone users tend to spend more for in-app purchases, which translates into higher revenue per user. You can also target both segments concurrently by developing cross-platform apps.

Which language is used for iOS and Android app development?

iOS developers use Swift and Objective-C, while Android developers program with Kotlin and Java. To build a single codebase for both operating systems, they use frameworks like React Native and Flutter.

What are the key differences between iOS and Android app development?

Developing apps on both platforms differ in tech stacks, app complexities, and approval requirements. Android apps are generally harder to build because they need to be compatible with dozens of devices. Meanwhile, iOS apps are simpler because they’re limited to Apple devices. However, publishing Android apps is faster. Meanwhile, iOS apps are subject to Apple’s stringent checks and longer approval time.

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app for iOS and Android?

It costs between $100,000 and $250,000, depending on factors like app complexity, UI/UX requirements, and hiring models. The more time developers spend on planning, designing, development, and testing, the higher the cost is.

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