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Why do Android apps cost more to develop than iPhone apps?

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There are so many Android phones on the market compared to iPhones, so why do Android apps cost developers more to create? The answer is simple that Android apps are harder work.

Unlike the iPhone, Android isn’t just one thing; devices are made by many different companies, many are running out-of-date operating systems, and there are hundreds of variations in size, shape and quality of the hardware. iPhones just don’t have those problems.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop for Android, it just means that you need to be prepared for the additional work it can entail. Here are a few things to consider when you’re embarking on developing Android, or cross-platform apps:

Android is a fragmented market

When you’re developing an app for iPhone, you’re only (currently) developing for 3 distinct devices. The iPhone 3, 4 (or 4S), and 5.

With Android, things become a little more complicated. Over a year ago (May 2012), OpenSignalMaps estimated that there were almost 4,000 different Android devices on the market. Not only this, but many of these devices have different screen resolutions, meaning that apps need to be able to stretch, scale and squash themselves into thousands of different shapes for them to be usable across the board.

When you combine this with the knowledge that these devices aren’t running the same version of the operating system, the problem starts to increase. The two most popular versions only make up 75% of the devices surveyed – leaving a massive 25% that are using out-of-date techniques to run apps.

Now, this isn’t an impossible task to overcome, especially if you’re using the flexible positioning tools to layout your apps – but it does mean that you’ll need to spend more time with Android to make it work.

Not all devices are made equal

Since there are many different companies making Android devices, at different prices, the hardware itself has variations in what functionality works (and what doesn’t) across devices. For example, some phones simply don’t do GPS very well, which can leave users frustrated and confused at the experience not going as smoothly as expected.

Again, these reliability issues can be overcome by testing the app on lots of different phones, and ironing out the creases – it just takes time.

Android devices need (a lot) more testing

All of the additional challenges that face Android phones just mean one thing – more testing. It simply takes more hours (or days) of testing your app to see if it looks right, works properly and is a smooth experience for users on a wide variety of phones.

Our Advice: Start with iPhone

We don’t recommend ignoring Android, because so many people have Android devices. But, you’ll need to make some decisions about how many devices and operating system versions you’re willing to support. If you want to avoid painful mistakes, you should be testing your apps on a variety of devices, running a variety of operating system versions. Though, if you can get your app running smoothly on iPhone, you’ll be in a much better position to start the Android work.

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Author: Jo Reid

Jo is the Sales and Marketing Director of Calvium, and offers expertise in mobile experience design, location and context aware applications.

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