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The two most popular mobile operating systems in the world are Android and iOS. They’re also locked in a never-ending battle for user adoption, market share, app store downloads, and developer support.

As an app developer or marketer, it’s essential to understand the nuances between these two platforms so you can make educated choices about your apps and marketing strategy.

If you’ve used Android and iOS devices extensively, you might think it’s as simple as Apple users like their iPhones more than Google users like their Androids. However, this only covers some of what you need to know about these two operating systems.

There are many differences between them on multiple levels – from the user experience to security practices – that have implications for developers and users of mobile apps alike.

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What Is Android?

what is android
Android phone display

Android is a mobile operating system (OS) created by Google that is installed on smartphones, tablets, and other devices. These devices then have access to the Android app ecosystem. Android devices can run a wide variety of apps, including apps written with languages and tools other than Java.

Apps written with Java but compiled to run on a non-Java virtual machine (such as the ART VM) and apps written specifically for Android using the Android application programming interface (API). Let’s cover a few key points about the history and current state of Android app development.

In 2008, the first Android phone was made available when the iPhone OS was already three years old. In terms of popularity and overall market share, Android has always trailed Apple. When the iPhone X was released in 2017, Android had a few operating systems that were more than two years old.

Google attempted to keep up with Apple’s annual re-designs, but many people choose to stay with the OS they already have — especially if they are still paying a hefty monthly phone bill.

How Are Android and iOS Different?

Android and iOS theme display

Even though the two have a lot in common. They also have significant differences impacting their users, developers, and the apps they create. Here’s a breakdown of the crucial distinctions you must understand when deciding which platform to focus on or which app store to publish.

The experience of using each platform: Android and iOS have radically different interfaces and user experiences. Android is based on a “home screen” design, while iOS is based on a “desktop” model with apps that have been “miniaturized” to run on a handheld device.

The number of apps available in each app store: Both are massive, but Apple’s App Store still has around 50% more apps than Google Play.

The potential number of users of each platform: If you’re looking for the largest possible audience of people who will download and use your app, Android has a clear advantage.

Where to Install Apps?

app store
App store/Play store for android and iOS

Android users can install apps from the Google Play store, while iPhone users can only install apps from the Apple App Store. That is one of the key differences between the two platforms, and it significantly impacts developers. Installing apps on each platform is also very different, so keep these differences in mind when developing your mobile app.

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User Experience Differences

user experiences on ios and android
Users using Android or iOS

Android and iOS users have different expectations and preferences when using apps on their mobile devices. How they interact with their smartphones dramatically impacts the apps they download and use most often. On Android, users are 52% more likely to use banking apps. That is because Android phones are often used in an open environment (like at home or work), so security is paramount.

When it comes to social media apps, iPhone users are more likely to use them. It is expected because iPhone users are more likely to use their devices in public places (such as restaurants or bars) where privacy concerns them.

Device capabilities and limitations

devices offers fingerprint sensor
Devices’ fingerprint authentication capabilities and restrictions

Each device has unique hardware and software capabilities. For example, iPhones have a device-based fingerprint sensor. That allows users to unlock their phones with a single fingerprint and use fingerprint authentication on other apps.

Android phones do not have a device-based fingerprint sensor, but a few Android-based devices have a fingerprint sensor built into the screen. However, most Android-based devices do not have a fingerprint sensor, nor is it a standard operating system feature.

Security Practices Differences

mobile operating system security
Security Practices for mobile operating system

App developers can access more information on Android devices than on devices running iOS. That is due to the “sandboxed” design of iOS, which prevents apps from accessing data that belongs to other apps. On Android, apps can access data stored by other apps (such as contacts, calendar events, or photos). Developers can also prompt Android users to log in with a username and password. They can also encourage iOS users to log in with their Apple ID, which is rare.

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Marketing strategies

android and ios marketing strategy
Rules and marketing strategies

The two app stores have different rules and marketing strategies. For example, Google Play does not allow apps that attempt to install other apps, collect data from user phones, or contain malicious code. However, the App Store’s review process is less stringent. As a result, some apps in the App Store include malicious code or other issues that do not appear in Google Play.

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Bottom line

Android and iOS are the world’s leading mobile operating systems, but each has unique features and benefits. The best strategy for your app or business may be targeting Android and iOS users. To successfully target both populations, you must mobile-first design your app. Keep these platform differences in mind as you develop and test your app, and make sure you’re optimizing your app for each OS’s strengths.