Many coding students are understandably interested in learning mobile app development. But the mobile device market is split between Android and iOS, so how do you know which platform to focus on building apps for?
In this post, you’ll discover the key differences between Android and iOS development from both a technical standpoint and career outlook. We’ll compare the various programming languages and development environments used to build mobile apps for each platform. We’ll also cover the average salaries and differences in demand for Android and iOS developers.
Read on to discover which mobile platform you should specialize in first.
Key Differences Between Android vs. iOS
- The Android operating system is open source, while iOS is part of Apple’s closed ecosystem
- Android development is great for building apps that target a global audience
- iOS development is great for delivering apps to the US and European markets
- Android developers use Android Studio to build apps using Java or Kotlin
- iOS developers use Xcode to build apps using Objective-C or Swift
- Both Android and iOS developers earn an average salary around $109k
- Many consider Android to be slightly harder to build apps for than iOS
- There’s a strong career outlook for mobile app development in general
Pros & Cons to Android Development
Android is the most widely used mobile operating system, with over 3 billion active Android devices worldwide. In fact, Android currently controls around 72% of the mobile operating system market globally. That means there is a much larger user base and a lot of potential Android development jobs available.
Java is one of the major languages for Android development, but it’s also widely used in web development and general software development roles. This makes learning Java a very practical language even if you choose to pursue programming roles outside mobile development. It’s also much easier to transition into Android development if you already know Java from a previous software role.
The Android market is fragmented across many different device manufacturers and operating system versions, making it more challenging to build apps. Developers need to ensure compatibility by testing their apps on as many of these different devices as possible. That makes it harder to not only build apps for the entire Android market, but it’s also more difficult to maintain them over time.
Android users generally spend less money on apps in the Google Play Store, in part because it’s more popular in regions with less disposable income like India or Latin America. This could limit the revenue of some Android apps, and in turn, the potential salary for developers.
Pros & Cons to iOS Development
iOS apps are generally easier to develop than Android. This is in part due to Apple’s strict control over the devices that run its operating system, which limits the amount of work necessary to make iOS apps compatible with the entire Apple market.
Even though iOS has a smaller market share, apps published to Apple’s App Store are generally more profitable. Apple products are more popular in higher-income regions like the United States and Europe, so its user base often spends more on apps. This could have a positive impact on the potential salaries of iOS development jobs.
Swift is a relatively easy programming language to learn, but it’s also not used outside of the Apple ecosystem. This means that iOS development is a slightly less transferable skill to other software roles than Android.
Apple’s closed ecosystem also has very strict quality expectations for app approvals, which can make launching and updating iOS apps more difficult. The review process for publishing an app to the App Store can be a significant hurdle for many development teams.
In this section, we’ll discuss the main technical differences between Android and iOS development. This will include the programming languages supported, the development environments used, and how building mobile apps for each platform vary in complexity.
The Android platform supports Java and Kotlin. Originally only Java was supported, but Google eventually announced the Kotlin programming language created by JetBrains would become the preferred language for Android development. Today over 60% of Android developers use Kotlin as their primary language for building Android apps.
The Apple ecosystem supports Objective-C and Swift for native apps. Since Apple introduced Swift in 2014, however, adoption has grown steadily. In fact, a survey of developers familiar with these two languages revealed that 76% only know Swift, 11% only know Objective-C, and 13% know both.
Each platform has a specialized integrated development environment (IDE) that’s designed to make it easier to write, compile, test, and debug code. Mobile developers will need to learn how to use the IDE associated with either the Android or iOS platform to build applications.
- Android Studio — which is based off of the popular IntelliJ IDE — is the official IDE for Android development. Google designed the IDE specifically for building apps for its Android operating system.
- Similarly, Xcode is Apple’s IDE and one of the main tools for iOS development. The IDE is built for developing, testing, and deploying apps across all Apple platforms, including iOS, macOS, watchOS, and more.
Many aspiring mobile app developers ask the question: which platform is easier to learn?
In general, Android apps are more difficult to build because the platform is supported by a large variety of devices from different manufacturers while Apple limits iOS support to just a few standardized devices. It’s more challenging to build an app that’s compatible with Android’s broader open source ecosystem.
However, the Apple’s App Store generally has stricter rules and quality standards, leading to a longer and more difficult review process. This makes building and launching iOS apps within Apple’s closed ecosystem challenging as well.
Now that we’ve discussed the technical differences between the two mobile platforms, let’s take a look at what careers in Android and iOS development look like. We’ll cover the various job opportunities, how salaries might differ, and which is in more demand.
There are a number of different job opportunities for individuals with Android or iOS development experience. Mobile developers can work in-house for companies of nearly any size — from a small startup to a large enterprise — and across nearly every industry as well. Another option is to work for a mobile app development agency that builds Android or iOS apps for its clients.
Many people also learn Android or iOS development to work for themselves. They might have a mobile app idea and decide to learn enough development skills to build and publish it themselves. Some experienced mobile developers also choose to work as an independent freelancer and help others build apps.
According to Indeed, the average salary for both an Android developer and an iOS developer is around $109k. However, salaries can vary dramatically based on level of development experience, job location, type of role, and other factors.
For example, research shows the average salary for Android ranges from $68k as an entry level developer to $116k for experienced developers in the United States. The average US salary for an iOS developer is $69k at an entry level role to $123k as a more experienced developer. In addition, mobile developers for both platforms earn the highest salaries in the United States, followed by Australia and the United Kingdom.
Android and iOS developers are both in high demand, and this is likely to increase as mobile usage continues to grow. Apple has a slightly larger market share in the United States, so there are potentially more iOS development roles to choose from at American companies. At the same time, Android has a larger overall market share globally and potentially more jobs worldwide.
Which Should You Learn First?
Aspiring developers should learn the mobile platform they’re most interested in first. If you like Apple and its products, learning iOS development might be the better choice. But if you like Google, Android, or open source software in general, then you may want to start with Android development.
Since Android and iOS use different programming languages, tools, architectures, and more, learning to develop apps on one platform doesn’t necessarily make it easier to learn the other afterward. That’s why many developers choose to specialize in one mobile platform or the other for their entire career.
Alternatively, after learning to build native applications for either Android or iOS, mobile developers might decide to learn a cross-platform or hybrid framework like React Native or Flutter. These platforms enable development teams to build mobile applications that run on both Android and iOS operating systems using a single codebase.
Kickstart Your Career With Treehouse
The mobile app industry continues to grow, so both Android and iOS development have a strong future. Learning to create apps for either mobile platform is a great way to break into the tech industry and launch a successful software career.
Treehouse offers several Techdegrees and dozens of Tracks for learning to code. These courses can help you learn the basics of programming through to the advanced skills necessary to begin your career as a software developer.
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