The mobile app dilemma: Android or Apple?

By ​Christie Houser

August 18, 2015

Android versus Apple: it’s the freedom of the Wild West versus the security of the gated garden. Android users love the ability to customize every aspect of their device and access millions of apps whose developers are uninhibited by a lengthy approval system. The tradeoff of course is apps that sometimes don’t live up to their description, or don’t work at all. Apple on the other hand exercises complete control over both the hardware and the software of their devices. The result is a carefully curated application ecosystem that just works. The tradeoff is a lengthy approval process that can greatly hamper app agility and updates.

No matter what platform your users select, they hold in their hands a device that lets them customize everything. It becomes their calendar, clock, camera, wallet, and primary shopping portal. Their mobile devices are the dashboards to your customers’ lives. So how do you ensure your brand’s app is included on your customers first or second page—and not forgotten about or deleted?

Hold on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can talk about how to keep your customers engaged with your app, you need to build it. So, how do  you choose a platform? Should you pick iOS, Android, or both? Everyone has an opinion about which is best and why, but this is your business we're talking about. The decision of which mobile app platform to support can have a major impact on your company's success. You don't need opinions here, you need facts.

So what are the facts? To start, let’s look at your audience. The total number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to surpass 2 billion in 2016. This should be pretty exciting news, as that’s a huge potential audience for your app. So how does this huge number break down?

Android has the decided edge in user base share with 79% of the worldwide mobile market.  By comparison, iOS makes up only 14.2% of all users. Clearly there are a lot more Android users in the world. More users means more people exposed to your app, and more potential customers, right?

Wait, not so fast.

A large user base is great, but what are those users actually doing, or not doing, with those devices? According to Business Insider, users on Android devices are not making as many purchases as users on iOS.

During the 2014 holiday season, iOS users spent 24.3% more per purchase than Android users. iOS users also accounted for 34% of the total online traffic during the holidays, more than doubling their Android counterparts. This means that while there were fewer iOS users, they accounted for a greater percentage of holiday traffic and conversions. You know you want your app in the hands of the customers doing the most purchasing. It looks like for now, most of those customers are holding iPhones and iPads.

Not such an easy decision, is it?

Perhaps the best decision here is to not choose one or the other, but do both. Instead of alienating either group of customers, why not push updates to each platform?

Once you choose a side, or choose both, it’s time to build your app and iterate to keep your users interested. Want to find out how the best retail brands are pushing mobile engagement? Check out our recently released report, Retail Mobile Apps: There’s a guide for that. To make the guide, we downloaded 50+ shopping apps, tested them out, and pulled out our favorite examples.

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So how do you handle the great Android vs. Apple divide? Do you have a mobile app that's been successful with both Android and Apple users? Have an idea for how to personalize that app for either user base? Let us know; we'd love to hear about it.

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Christie is a former Tech Writer and Editor for Monetate. When she isn't writing, you can find her guarding a net at the local hockey rink, playing video games entirely too close to the TV, or wondering how much longer she'll have to wait to see the Flyers win a Stanley Cup.

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