Launching First on iOS Doesn't Make Sense

I've noticed that virtually every big new app launches first on iOS. Then, often due to push from customers, it drops a PWA and at some future point an Android app (usually inferior to the iOS one).

This approach doesn't make sense because Android holds 75% of the world market.
So, maybe we need drill down further. When they launch most apps like Clubhouse go after the North America and Western Europe. So, maybe the users in those regions are primarily iOS users.
Sort of... not really:

  • USA: iOS/Android: ~57/43
  • Canada: iOS/Android: 50/50
  • Germany: iOS/Android: 28/72
  • UK: iOS/Android: 45/55

Based on this data, a new app should launch on Android first because most users worldwide and by country use that platform.

Maybe the decision is based not on geography but socio-economic status. If most influencers, VCs, and entrepreneurs use iOS and you want to gain traction with them, you'd launch with them. I don't know if this is the case and I couldn't find any stats to support it. If that's the case, though, wouldn't this make most new popular apps elitist?

What do you think?

https://www.statista.com/statistics/272698/global-market-share-held-by-mobile-operating-systems-since-2009/#:~:text=Android maintained its position as,of the global market share.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/ios-more-popular-in-japan-and-us-android-dominates-in-china-and-india#:~:text=According to Statista%2C Android enjoyed,holds a mere 13 percent.&text=Statistics from StatCounter show that,market in the United States.

  1. 18

    iOS users are twice as likely to spend on in-app purchases.

  2. 4

    I don't agree. People tend to get more traction on iOS first especially for paid apps. I work mostly in Android. There is something to be said about the hype iOS users can build vs Android. Now if you are targeting a country like India then going Android first absolutely makes sense.

  3. 4

    The choice of where to launch is less about how many devices/users you can reach, and more about which users are willing to spend money to support your product.

    There's a lot of research out there you can find but here are a couple of examples.

    1st half of 2020 - the amount of money spent in Apple's App store about 2x Google Play.

    Here's another article that breaks it down by even more categories. If you look at subscription apps, the spend on iOS is closer to 3-4x more than Google Play.

    1. 1

      Thank you, @acantarero. This is very helpful.

  4. 3

    You have to keep in mind that one thing is the number of users and another thing could be:

    • how much revenue does each platform generate (iOS kicks ass here)
    • how many users are left on Android when you exclude shitty low-end devices
    • how easy/complicated it is to develop for each platform. This should be quite similar in theory from a coding point of view, but from an HW perspective, Android has its wild fragmentation...
    • in the US the iOS-Android market share gap isn’t that big
    1. 1

      That's an interesting point about the fragmentation. You bring some valid arguments. Thank you for sharing.

  5. 3

    wouldn't this make most new popular apps elitist?


    If you look at app income many generate more revenue with iOS vs 100?times the users on android
    iOS users tend to be fine with paying upfront for the app where android users trend to free users or in-app purchases
    iOS users pay more, you can literally put the same thing in both stores charge more in iOS and get the same conversations or better

    I'm not an iOS person, don't like limited distributions like that technical divide or geolocation one when it's forced or any of that

    I think there is an element that is a different platform/group of people even if it had 100% identical capabilities like a social network or any community site it can be the same technically yet so different in how the people interact

    Also you know the old talk about how wasted silicon valley is by mainly building things for silicon valley

    1. 1

      Very good point - it's almost like some startups build products for VCs. I'm thinking Superhuman and even Clubhouse. It almost seems both apps are built to appeal to VCs and other founders.

  6. 2

    A lot of people have mentioned the data around iOS users being more willing to spend money on and in apps, but there's another aspect that can make iOS-first the right call for some apps.

    That USA-centric aspect is: many influential people use iOS. If you are planning to raise money, the investment community will be deciding based on your iOS experience (if you don't have one, they can't use it at all!). If you need to reach business/tech influencers, for better or worse , much of the gravity there is on the iOS side (at least in the USA). In the US, Android just doesn't have the cachet and is popularly seen as an off-brand or "cheaper" alternative to the iPhone you would buy if you had the money*.

    The 57/43 split doesn't give you the entire picture. It's probably more like 70/30 or 80/20 among the types of people who you likely want on your app in the early days.

    Look at the people who use Clubhouse heavily. Most of those people use iOS as their main mobile OS. If you build for Android first, you can pretty much assume none of those people can even demo your app without finding someone else to let them install it.

    This is definitely country-specific and there are a ton of generalizations here, but it is a big factor in why US-based startups start with iOS.

    • There are huge generalizations here! But this is my observation of people's perceptions and reasons for choosing Android in the US. The situation is obviously very different in other parts of the world.
    1. 1

      That's a good point - they build for the investors they are going to pitch, not necessarily the biggest customer base. A very insightful comment. Thank you.

  7. 2

    If that's the case, though, wouldn't this make most new popular apps elitist?

    If you're a startup or an indie, you take whatever advantage you can get.

    Along with the points that others make around consumers let me also shed some light into the development part.

    It's easier to develop a high quality app with less resources on iOS. Payment infrastructure, development tools, iOS framework and much more... have a nice 'out of the box' experience. You get so much for free because Apple has put real effort into its ecosystem.

    With that said, Android has been closing the gap year by year and i believe it's only going to get better.

    So, if you take into account customers willing to pay and the development then it's a no brainer.

    1. 1

      I didn't know this and I appreciate you sharing this insight. I hadn't considered this.

  8. 2

    You must consider some other things like operating system version adoption, hardware fragmentation, piracy, willingness to spent money to purchase app or to make in-app purchases. iOS beats android if you will put all those things together. Correct me if I’m wrong: new iOS versions reaches adoption rates at 80-90% just several days after release. When new Android version can reach single digit % after even much longer time counted in months. Hardware - by this I mean, variety of devices with different memory, processing power, screen sizes etc etc - if you look at Android platform there is no way to count them all and consider during app design… Piracy - I didn’t research for today’s data, but remember some time ago ridiculous high piracy on Android platform like exceeding 90%. I remember one of the game dev studios published information that only 5% their game on Android were paid. Was it about 'monument valley' ?
    Piracy is a reason why some studios release games on consoles first and sometime after on pc. The same story. Willingness to purchase app in appstore is much higher vs googleplay. Today iOS smartphones are much more expensive relatively compared to first iPhone in 2007/2008. You buy it and you show to all people around : yes, I can afford it. :) Majority of android market is on opposite side - price sensitive market , with customers looking for budget smartphone. You expect more money to spend from which group ?

  9. 2

    Another frequently mentioned reason for launching on iOS first is iOS users are high-value customers more willing to pay for apps and content, as opposed to the more price-sensitive Android users.

    But if even Google has an iOS-first or iOS-only strategy, why shouldn't third-party developers?

    The bottom line is launching high-profile apps on Android first may be a low-hanging fruit to get some buzz.

    1. 1

      That may be... I just wonder if you see a big lag between launching on iOS and Android whether that causes some animosity among the Android customers. For example, I'm not likely to join Clubhouse when it comes to Android because I already have Spaces. Had they launched on Android faster, I might have felt differently.

      1. 1

        On Android we're so used to the lags we find them inevitable, so I guess the decision on whether to use a ported app is largely based on its merits.

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