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Android vs. iOS User Behavior: How Does it Impact Mobile App Development?


Anyone who is thinking about mobile app development needs to be thinking about who their target user is. Delivering a successful app is about more than building a piece of software; the most successful apps are focused on solving a problem for a set of users. To build a useful solution that is valuable to a particular group of people, you need to understand those people at a granular level.


Interestingly enough, looking at a user’s choice in a smartphone can provide a lot of insight into their behavior, habits, and personality. Whether someone chooses Apple or Android, their choice can inform you – to a certain extent – about what types of apps they’re likely to download, as well as their willingness to pay for apps and make in-app purchases. It’s important to leverage these insights to help you make an informed decision about which platform to build for, but will also help you understand the different contexts that affect your app between each operating system (OS).


This post will examine the basic differences between Android and iOS devices, the people who use them, the fluctuation of key success metrics between each OS, and the impact these factors have on how your app is received by two, very unique user groups.

The Current Mobile OS Market


Android and iOS account for 99.6% of the mobile market, which means brands who are looking to develop an app will have to consider each or both of these platforms.


By the end of 2017, Google Play had more than 3.5 million apps available for download, and the iOS App Store had more than 2 million published apps, respectively. Those figures are steadily growing moving through 2018.


Smartphones take the largest share of global digital minutes, specifically, apps account for 80% of total mobile time. Users are downloading mobile apps at an incredible rate. Google Play downloads exceeded 19.2 billion in Q1 2018, and iOS downloads exceeded 8.2 billion.


Consumer spend is also increasing. In Q1 2018, consumer spend in Google Play increased by 25%, and consumer spend in iOS saw 20% year-over-year growth. Typically, iOS users are more willing to spend money for apps, and iOS apps make 75% more money than their Android counterparts; however, Google Play is narrowing the global consumer spend gap with iOS. Currently, the two operating systems have the smallest percentage difference in consumer spend since 2016.


When it comes to choosing a development platform, it’s necessary to understand how each market operates. Consider the overall purpose of the application and the ways in which you intend your users to interact with the product. If your primary goal is user acquisition, Android may be your first choice. On the other hand, if generating revenue is the focus of your product, then iOS may be the more lucrative platform.


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Differences in Device Capabilities

Another aspect to keep in mind is each user sees their smartphone in a very personal way. There are a few central differences between Android and iOS that directly impact user experience, and influence the reasons a user might choose either device.


For example, Apple has very firm regulations for app submissions, push notifications, and timeframes for system updates. Apple users are typically loyal advocates for the consistent experience they receive across multiple iOS devices, and the simplicity of updates as they come along. An iOS user prefers their smartphone to be straightforward and intuitive.


In contrast, Android apps and app descriptions can be submitted and updated freely. The Android experience is very customizable and speaks to a particular type of user.


If you were to ask users of each OS, they will likely give you a specific answer about what they want from their devices. Apple users are likely to vouch for consistency and uncomplicated nature of iOS and Android users will swear to the freedom and customizability their device allows.


Source: USwitch

User Demographics Between Platforms

In terms of market share, Android currently holds the largest platform share, occupying nearly two-thirds of the market, and holding a prominent position in lower income areas and developing nations. iOS users, however, typically have larger incomes and more education in comparison. Additionally, iOS users typically exhibit higher levels of in-app engagement and spend more money on apps than Android users.


According to a poll of nearly 16,000 smartphone users, iOS users are 67% more likely to have an annual household income of $200k or more, whereas Android users are 24% more likely to have an annual household income of $50k to $100K. Similarly, iOS users are 37% more likely to have a graduate degree compared to Android users who are 80% more likely to have only a high school diploma.


When making the decision between Android and iOS, market research factors like income, location, and education cannot be overlooked. These demographic insights can have a direct impact on engagement actions like in-app purchases and pay for subscriptions which should be considered in planning your monetization strategy and business model. These demographic differences also have influence over which types of apps a user is likely to download altogether.


How much does personality affect our choice in smartphones? There are subtle differences.


Interestingly enough, Android users tend to be more introverted compared to iOS users who identify as extroverts. iOS users prefer to spend money and say they’re comfortable in leadership roles. In contrast, Android users exhibit greater levels of honesty and humility and say they are more comfortable as followers.


Personality differences may not have a major impact when it comes to deciding which platform to use for your app, but they can provide a little insight into what types of apps they prefer to use. It’s important to focus on the goal of the app and user intent.


In-App Engagement, Acquisition, and Retention Measurement

Android and iOS users engage with mobile content differently. iPhone owners have been categorized as “power users,” and are more likely to engage with apps in every leading content category. So while Apple users tend to engage with more types of content, Android has a greater number of media users in each category.


Learn More: 5 Methods for App Engagement and User Retention


The performance of certain goals like registration, reservation, purchase, in-app purchase, and subscription vary between iOS and Android. In terms of user engagement metrics, iOS surpasses Android in all of these categories, except for registration, in which Android only has a minor advantage.


Again, this is why it is important to consider the goal and purpose of your application. Is the sheer volume of users the main determinant of success for your product, or are you focused on driving engagement? Choosing the appropriate platform will depend on the goal you’re trying to achieve and how you plan to monetize your mobile app.

Consumer Spend

As previously mentioned, the gap in consumer spend between iOS users and Android users is getting smaller, but the typical iPhone user still makes more purchases than an Android user. These insights are very valuable to brands looking to develop retail apps or generate revenue from paid apps. In contrast, mobile advertising is the main source of revenue in Android apps.


Android users tend to prefer utility, performance, productivity, and anti-virus apps. For apps that fall into that category, Android users are five times more likely to spend money than iOS users.   

Which Platform Should You Choose?


The best case scenario would be to develop an app for both Android and iOS to attain the widest and richest user base possible. In certain situations, this is not always feasible. If you’re required to decide upon one platform over the other, you need to give thoughtful consideration to what’s most important about the app – the user.


Each platform possesses its own unique advantages and characteristics. Android is clearly the leader in terms of market share and holds the potential to reach a much larger audience, but iOS competes with an audience who is more engaged and more likely to spend. Understanding and quantifying the distinctions between the users of each OS can help brands make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts to meet their goals.


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As a full service custom mobile app development company, Clearbridge Mobile handles the entire lifecycle of your product from Planning and Strategy, UX/UI Design, App Development, QA/User Acceptance Testing, to Technical Delivery. We use a unique agile development process that gives you control over scope, reduces your risk, and provides you predictable velocity. Start a conversation today to get started on your mobile project.

Annie Dossey

Digital Marketing Specialist