Why Is “iOS Only” Still A Thing?

Why Is “iOS Only” Still A Thing?

If you are currently reading this on your mobile phone, there’s a good chance you’re using an Android. Google’s ubiquitous mobile OS has surged ahead of Apple in the Australian smartphone market and is now the best-selling mobile platform on the planet. However, there are still plenty of manufacturers and software developers that are reluctant to wet their toes in the Android marketplace. What gives?

Over the past few years, whenever an iOS application has been officially launched in Australia, the first question from the media is invariably the same: “When is it coming to Android?” More often than not, the response has been vague and non-committal with Android users often forced to wait more than a year. It’s not just start-ups that are guilty of this either: even Australia’s leading banks and TV networks have been guilty of tardy conversions.

Thankfully, the Android software landscape has begun to improve in recent times. Since 2012, SkyDrive Cloud Storage, the Channel Ten app, ANZ goMoney, VLC, Nike+ Running and the Hungry Jack’s Discount App have all arrived to the Android party (albeit fashionably late). And that’s just scratching the surface.

Simultaneous platform releases are also becoming more common, but they’re still far from the norm. Usually, a company will blame the delayed release on Android’s longer testing process, which sounds a bit “too hard basket” to us. While its true the many shapes and sizes of Android devices make it harder to develop for, why not just concentrate on a handful of the most popular models? Surely that’s a better solution than holding off for a year or more?

In today’s day and age, we feel there’s no excuse for treating Android users like second-class citizens; especially when it comes to large corporations. What do you guys think?


  • Well that’s just silly. If you develop for iOS, whether by preference, training, or your own market assessment, you’re under no obligation to develop for something else.

    That’s not treating anyone like ‘second-class citizens’. Citizenship doesn’t connote a requirement that other people make something you happen to want. If you want it, and it’s not being made, make it yourself, pay for a contractor to do it for you, or wait. They’re your options. There are no rights here.

    There’s one exception to this, and that’s public goods. The ATO (for example) is clearly under an obligation to make their software available for multiple platforms so as to reach as many taxpayers as possible. Not that they heed this, but they bloody well should

    • your not under an obligation no, but as a business you should be trying to please the largest percentage of your customer base as you can, and these days a very large amount of people are using android, obviously if you determine that 90% of your customer base are using ios and only 5% android then you’ve got no issues, but in most cases these days those numbers are not even close to the real world split anymore and by supporting ios only your alienating a large group of potential customers, not good for any business.

      • But that’s begging the question of what your ‘customer base’ is. If you’re (for whatever reason) an iOS developer then your customer base is iOS users, and won’t be alienated by your not developing an Android app. App Store disbursements to date make it crystal clear that the iOS user base is more than sufficient to build a business on. Android isn’t a requirement, any more than expanding to Sydney is necessary for a small Brisbane business.

        But the burden of the article we’re commenting on is that developers somehow ‘ought’ to develop for Android, which is nonsense, other than for government departments.

        • ah i see now, i dont think the article is talking to developers as such, i think its aimed at the companies hiring the devs, this article is more about brand building apps like the hungry jacks one then it is about a developers own apps like angry birds etc. ios only developers (are silly) but dont have to put out an android app but if a big company like hungry jacks decide to do one, in this current day, need to make both

          • That’s fair enough.

            I’d love to see some emphasis on platforms supported by government departments’ software. Companies might be shooting themselves in the foot by not casting as wide a net as they can, but government is being downright unjust by denying access to anyone not using their favoured platforms. The worst example I know of is the ATO, with its multi-year Windows-only scumbaggery (apparently to be expanded to OS X, but not Linux, for 2013).

          • The article’s beef is with large companies, not indies. I added a line to the final sentence to better reflect this. Cheers.

          • If you dish it out to a portion of Android users and not all – then your article will just whinge about why all Android platforms aren’t treated fairly.
            Noone likes disclaimers, it’s far easier for a company to say “YES, this works with Android” rather than “Oh yeah, it works with this, and this… but not that, oh it’s works on this too, and some of these, but no not that.”
            Still logical that there’s a set amount of devices to consider with Apple and that those apps are released first, targeting a large market share.

          • Up-front cost doesn’t scale down with bigger studios, and return on investment simply isn’t there in the same capacity for Android stores.

            I personally target Android only but then profit isn’t my primary motivation or Android would be a distinct afterthought behind Apple’s store. Cross-platform options exist but if you know how to target one platform there still needs to be the incentive to reskill in equivalent cross-platform product(s) and you have far fewer actual device profiles to consider in the iOS ecosystem.

            The only thing worse than someone not using your app or playing your game is someone badmouthing it over a shitty experience on a device you didn’t specifically have in mind and dissuading others from using it.

            Either has its merits, but it would be a snowy day in hell before I wasted my time on the jokes which are Windows or Blackberry app stores.

    • I’m sensing an apple fan boy.
      Your argument is basically saying that if you want the apps in the app store, than buy an iphone. Well if OSX users want to use e-tax, why not just by a copy of windows or a windows PC? “Its a government department and should cater for everyone…” It does cater for everyone, you don’t have to do your tax online, lodge it by mail.

      Why is the ATO “obligated” to spend money on a program for OSX? By your contradictory logic, there are alternatives to do your tax so “make it yourself, pay for a contractor to do it for you, or wait.”

      To clarify, I believe that e-tax should be on OSX and Linux. Why not use a web based solution instead? But I also believe that developers of brand name apps or those who become popular should support multiplatforms.

      • I don’t think the parent post is asking the ATO to put special effort into supporting OS X. In fact, producing a web based version of E-Tax like you suggest would also be a way of “making their software available for multiple platforms so as to reach as many taxpayers as possible”.

        Government organisations are in a special position though, since in cases like this they are spending tax payer money on software that is ostensibly for the benefit of everyone but in reality benefits a subset of the community.

        The ATO does have a provision where you can claim the cost of a Windows license as a tax deduction if you purchase it purely to use E-Tax, but that means less tax money for the government and more for one particular private company. That doesn’t sound very satisfying either, and I wonder how much money this would amount to if everyone who could claim this deduction did so. Perhaps enough to make a multi-platform solution look more reasonable?

      • I’d prefer a web based etax but realistically I don’t think the average person is ready for it. ATO-themed phishing and fraud is bad enough without encouraging everyone to go through a web site to lodge all their most personal financial information.

  • Because Android is like a “My first iPhone” type OS, right? It only got the ability to make phone calls in version 4, Cream Cake Soda!

    In all seriousness, I wonder if it’s still a perceived fragmentation issue with Android (despite there being two iPhone screen sizes and two iPad screen sizes to develop for), or if it’s a “haven’t got enough time” because developing and getting an iOS app in the store is like pulling teeth (based on what I’ve heard).

    Or the department that handled the management of the app project just use iPhones and expects that everyone else does too?

    • I can’t speak for the corporate sector, but in the indie dev world I know, everyone who’s made an Android app has only done one, and then gone right back to iOS. Android users just seem less willing to part with money for apps, and indies can’t afford to make them for free.

      There are some exceptions, eg. Shifty Jelly apparently make more money from their Android version of Pocket Casts than the iOS one. Perhaps this is specific to their market segment (being maybe crowded on iOS). Or maybe it’s changing. But, by and large for Indies, Android hasn’t been worth the expense so far.

      • And I wonder if people still think this, and continue on the same beaten track, avoiding Android because of piracy or lack of sale concerns. There are people who have made (what I assume is) a tidy sum on Android. People like the developer behind Tasker comes to mind, who has between 100,000-500,000 installs (according to Google). At $6 a pop (roughly, from recollection, $2 when it’s on sale), that’s a few years’ worth of income.

        If you’re after paid apps, quality will always win. I lean towards free options, because I can test the waters now, instead of buying, trying, refunding and starting again, but when no other product does what I’m after, the paid always wins. Tasker (again) is a great example. I’ve tried a few other apps that do what Tasker does, but Tasker keeps winning, hands down, so I paid full price for it, and would gladly buy several copies to give out to friends if I could, and if they were to have a use for it.

        • people still think it because its still, unfortunately, true, whilst its not really piracy thats the cause anymore the numbers, very recent numbers, show that ios users are still parting with more money and viewing more ads, its not as dire as everyone still makes it out to be though, theres money to be made its just not on the level of ios

          • Exactly. And it’s not that indies chase iOS to get rich, it’s that the risk of making nothing is too high on Android. Of the devs I know who have made Android apps, not one has made enough to sustain a business. The only one I know who made several good Android apps ended up having to get a job to pay the bills. He ended up learning the iOS stack, ported his apps over, and has now been able to go full time indie again.

          • Spot on, and that’s why I personally avoided Android
            Also I have no time to learn the Android platform right now, but I want to someday

      • I must admit as an android user for the last 4 years, I’ve only bought 2 apps. Grand Theft Auto III & Vice City. Wouldn’t exactly call R* an Indie dev. So I can understand iOs devs not considering the droid market viable…

  • As an IOS dev I could easily use Phonegap to make apps for both. The problem is that the fragmentation of device sizes makes controlling user experience is very difficult. That I found the returns on number of Android users expecting free content made it difficult to want to code anything.

  • pretty much all down to potential profit, ios still makes more money from ads or direct app payments then android, android is rising but apple still rules that domain, so anyone considering a direct-for-profit” app will go ios first.

    however those who are creating, brand boosting indirect profit apps should be developing for both at the same time, no excuses anymore.

    • That’s a fair argument for games/utilities etc, but a terrible argument for service apps like those mentioned in the article.
      There’s no reason to expect that Android users are less likely to use the Hungry Jacks Discount app for example.

      • thats exactly my point, as i said in the second paragraph, brand boosting apps like the hungry jacks on should be developed for both and, ill add now, with the same feature set

  • Or you could just develop for window phone and not have to deal with multiple models at all and have your app work on the largest ecosystem with the PC, Laptop, Hybrid, Tablet, TV, Xbox and the fastest growing mobile system.

  • While its true the many shapes and sizes of Android devices make it harder to develop for, why not just concentrate on a handful of the most popular models? Surely that’s a better solution than holding off for a year or more? When was the last time you saw people actually read the bit of an app saying it only supports xxx devices and then not leave one star mouth foaming reviews about how it doesn’t work on their yyy device?

    • Variable display size is not a unique problem though. Any developer worth their pay already has experience, or at least knowledge, in how to deal with different display sizes. It’s an essential skill in HTML5 and web development, and desktop OS developers have been dealing with it for the whole life of their products. iOS really is the odd one out in giving two (now three) fixed display sizes, and it’s little surprise that that has encouraged bad UI design.

      • The bigger issue though is on-device testing. An Android developer needs to invest in many more devices for testing than iOS demands. It’s not an insuperable problem, but it is a strike on the negative side of the balance sheet when assessing Android. Apple’s control of both software and hardware has good and bad points, but it does make life simpler for the developer in some ways.

        • The Android device emulator should handle most display issues and can give you an idea of performance. It’s true that you can’t test for every Android device out there, but then that’s not a unique problem either (PC has dealt with that forever).

          I agree that a standardised platform is simple for developers, I just don’t think it’s the right approach, nor viable moving forward. Apple has already muddied the supposedly pristine waters in that respect when it launched the iPad, and later the Stretch iPhone. I see very little reason to hold on to a standardised display any more, the cat is already out of the bag.

      • Not to mention that Android makes supporting multiple screen sizes and resolutions in the one app dead simple. I keep hearing this catch-cry on the internet that it’s just too hard, but as someone who has developed for Android as part of my job, I can tell you that claim simply isn’t true. Maybe what they mean by “hard” is “time consuming”, which it can be if you need different layouts (depends on what your app does), but you still need different layouts to create a good UI on iOS anyway.

        • Yep. Most platforms have tools to handle varying display areas. In Android, especially if you work in vectors instead of bitmaps and screen-space relative coordinates for everything, it will usually work fine.

  • Tim Cook yesterday said something along the lines of that there are more purchases made on the iPad that the entire android ecosystem.

    iOS users seem more willing to spend money so that’s where the money goes.

    • I’d take anything Tim Cook says with a grain of salt. he’s still hanging in there on Jobs’ success – but lets be honest, he’s a muppet

  • The future is developing for publish platforms that allow you to simultaneously release to multiple platforms. One example I can think of is OpenText Wave which allows you to develop one then publish to IOS, Android, Blackberry and Symbian simultaneously.

    If I am not mistaken SAP has something similar. And whilst this is not really for indie developers for organisations like the AFL who develop there 20 or so apps for each AFL team it is a great way to cut development costs.

    • That’s basically the direction cross-platform software is going, and it’s mostly adopting HTML5, CSS3 and high speed Javascript. It’s easy because there’s already a web browser on nearly every platform imaginable, and processing can be done entirely server-side so it’s suitable for thin clients and mobile devices. Properly designed, even response time can be almost unnoticeable.

      Aside from that, Java works on most platforms, and contrary to naysayers, it can closely match the performance and security of native programs.

    • It isn’t, really. Of companies for whom software is not their main product, which this article is about (eg. Hungry Jacks, Nike, etc.), cross-platform desktop development is fairly standard, and that’s even in a market that is 93% dominated by one platform.

  • Reason it happened – Jobs’ clever use of psychology manipulated people into thinking his closed ‘white’ ecosystem was preferable, mirroring the social tensions in society. He didn’t do this for altruistic reasons either, of course he monetised the heck out of it, destroying the recorded music and film distribution industries along the way. All that’s left is the tawdry world of ‘apps’. Who really cares if one platform has a slightly better navigation/shopping/browsing app than the other. We’ve lost a lot more than we’ve gained. Thanks Steve.

  • Because of Objective-C, fanboyism & laziness.

    If they bothered to learn any one of a multitude of cross platform tools like Xamarin, Unity, PhoneGap or Titanium, it wouldn’t be a thing.

  • Android users are treated as second class citizens because they are. They’re significantly less monetizable. Also Android’s device fragmentation makes it much more expensive to develop for.

    • That’s an excuse. Fragmentation doesn’t make it more expensive to develop for, it just requires programmers who know what they’re doing. Every platform except iOS has fragmentation, the solutions to that problem are mature.

  • Andriod may have sold more phones but doesn’t Apple still have the largest database of credit cards on file? Build for where the money is a sure thing

  • Typically poor lifehacker article. I’m no developer but plenty have said fragmentation makes it a much more difficult process to develop for Android.

  • lol yeah hard done by android. lets not forget windows phone which supports all the latest standards and doesnt want you to be locked into some dead end ecosystem like apples useles icloud or androids pathetic interface.

  • Depending on the application and what phone features you need to get access to, I would develop using HTML5/JavaScript/PhoneGap first. I just release an app done in spare time in 6 months on both android and iphone and using phonegap I can build windows, blackberry and others. All with one code base. I found the android process much easier 2 days to get my app in store were as it took 1 and 1/2 weeks for apple.

  • Couldn’t it be a few factors working together? Namely:
    1. Apple is perceived as premium, and most brands would like to borrow some of that prestige.
    2. The platform is standardised because the hardware specs are too. Apple also spend a lot of time and effort making it an easy platform to get into as a developer.
    3. Google simply aren’t making Android as easy to get into for developers, and as it’s an open source platform it’s unlikely to be ever standardised.
    4. Apple only release new products once or twice a year. A new Android based device comes out every few days. This damages the brand and makes it seem more unstable and ‘flash in the pan’, since a new version with another candy-themed name will be along soon enough.
    For the record, I was given an iPhone for work, but have an Android phone too, rooted cyanogenMod.

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