Android vs iOS Development: Which Should I Learn First?

Android vs iOS Development: Which Should I Learn First?

If you’re a mobile application developer or want to become one, you may be wondering which platform is the most beneficial for learning the development process. Both Apple iOS and Android offer great opportunities for developers. This article will provide an overview of the benefits of working on each mobile platform and help you choose which to learn first.  

7 Considerations for Android and iOS development

Software development appears to have a bright future, with a projected 22% growth by 2030. Within software development, the mobile development sector is among the fastest-growing software industry segments and is full of work-from-home (WFH), contract, and freelance opportunities. It is also an ever-changing industry, with frequent advancements and updates that mobile developers must effectively navigate, including choosing which development environment they want to work with. Below are a few things to consider when choosing which mobile platform to learn first.

  • Market share
  • Learning curve
  • Mobile developer salaries
  • Hardware requirements
  • Development tools
  • Licensing and membership costs
  • Code exposure

1. Market share

The two most popular mobile operating systems worldwide are Android and Apple iOS. Android and iOS users comprise 99% of the mobile OS market share worldwide. While Android users lead in global market share, Apple iOS has broader adoption in the U.S. and Australia. There are slightly more Apple users in North America as a whole.

Android has a greater market share in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Mobile Operating System Marketing Share

Mobile Operating System Marketing Share USA

It’s clear iOS and Android are the two mobile platforms with the most potential for aspiring mobile developers, no matter where in the world your target audience lives. Note that while Android is ahead in terms of global adoption, the Apple App Store marketplace had significantly higher revenue from in-app purchases than the Google Play Store. That said, the iOS ($21.8B) and Google Play ($10.7B) marketplaces still earned billions in Q1 of 2022.

2. Learning curve

Learning a new development language takes time, and mobile development is no exception. How long it takes to start actively developing iOS or Android apps will depend on your understanding of fundamental development principles.

Consider several important factors when determining the learning curve differences between iOS and Android.

  • Apple iOS developers use Swift, Apple’s standard programming language, which typically requires less code and is considered easier to use.
  • Android platform developers use Java and Kotlin, which are typically more time-consuming and cumbersome.
  • Apple’s App Store has strict requirements that make it difficult to get an app approved in their marketplace.
  • Apple’s ecosystem is more controlled as it’s limited to iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, etc.) to develop, maintain, and manage an app post-launch.
  • Developers must account for thousands of Android devices running with multiple versions of their OS, including hundreds of different screen sizes. This fragmentation makes it more challenging to develop, test, and maintain post-launch for such a large number of mobile devices.
  • Apple iOS applications generally require less development time and have a lower development cost than Android applications.

If you are newer to coding, there’s a benefit to learning the Java programming language that goes beyond mobile development. Java is a versatile language that is also used for web development, enterprise applications, and several other use cases. If your goal is to build your development language library, knowing Java will likely offer additional opportunities down the road.

3. Mobile developer salaries

Mobile app developers make an average annual salary of $121,000 a year in the U.S., while in some major cities developers can make as much as $141,000. There’s little difference between iOS versus Android programmers' salaries. Naturally, there will be salary differences based on experience, industry, and location.

4. Hardware requirements

To begin your mobile application development adventure, you will need to have a powerful enough computer to handle the work.  Android Studio and Xcode are the two primary coding tools for mobile software development. Android Studio gets the nod for its cross-platform compatibility, as it is available for Mac and Linux as well as Windows. Xcode is exclusively for Mac unless you’re up for a complicated workaround using Virtual Machine on a Windows PC.

Android Studio is compatible with most operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Windows requirements

  • 64-bit Microsoft® Windows® 8/10
  • x86_64 CPU architecture; 2nd generation Intel Core or newer, or AMD CPU with support for a Windows Hypervisor
  • 8 GB RAM or more
  • 8 GB of available disk space minimum (IDE + Android SDK + Android Emulator)
  • 1280 x 800 minimum screen resolution

Linux requirements

  • Any 64-bit Linux distribution that supports Gnome, KDE, or Unity DE; GNU C Library (glibc) 2.31 or later.
  • x86_64 CPU architecture; 2nd generation Intel Core or newer, or AMD processor with support for AMD Virtualization (AMD-V) and SSSE3
  • 8 GB RAM or more
  • 8 GB of available disk space minimum (IDE + Android SDK + Android Emulator)
  • 1280 x 800 minimum screen resolution

Mac requirements

  • macOS® 10.14 (Mojave) or higher
  • ARM-based chips, or 2nd-generation Intel Core or newer with support for Hypervisor.Framework
  • 8 GB RAM or more
  • 8 GB of available disk space minimum (IDE + Android SDK + Android Emulator)
  • 1280 x 800 minimum screen resolution

Xcode is only compatible with Mac computers and is the go-to software for the iOS development process. Learn more about the Xcode system requirements.

5. Development tools

A number of mobile development tools are available to use when creating applications for Android and iOS. A user experience with an integrated development environment (IDE) is another factor to consider when deciding which tool to use when starting your coding adventure.

The primary development tool for iOS is Xcode, which has several benefits listed below.

iOS development environment (Xcode IDE)

  • Mature and intuitive tool with robust support
  • Supports the development of all Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iWatch, and macOSX
  • Includes Code Completion for faster development time
  • Additional functionality with managing directories’ hierarchy, profiling, debugging and assets management

Android offers a broader range of tools, so we’ve listed a few below.

Android development environments

  • Android Studio. Android Studio allows developers to build automation and customizable build configurations. Configure projects for local and hosted libraries and define build variants with different code and resources, among other tools.  
  • Eclipse. Developers can use this Java-based tool to develop and test code from other programming languages.
  • Visual Studio. Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for developing cross-platform applications. It offers writing and editing of source code, debugging, and building executable files.
  • Thunkable. Thunkable is a no-code platform for building native mobile applications.

Somewhat subjectively, Apple’s Xcode IDE is a great tool and provides a better overall user experience for developers than Android. However, Android does offer more development tool choices.

6. Licensing and membership cost

Another factor in your platform considerations is the cost of licensing and membership programs.

While the cost is minimal, developers must subscribe to the Apple Development Program if they want to “distribute apps, access beta software, and integrate with capabilities such as Siri, Apple Pay, and iCloud.” The Apple Development Program costs $99 per year.

Android does not require any subscription services, but there is a $25 one-time registration fee via the Google Play Console.

While the costs are not particularly high for either, it’s worth noting that it’s much harder to get an app approved for the App Store than it is in Google Play. In this category, Android wins on both counts.

7. Code exposure

If you’d like your mobile development experience to be a foray into a broader programming career, iOS and Android offer different inroads.

Apple iOS apps were initially programmed with Objective-C, which was a fairly complex programming language. Apple introduced a new, simplified language called Swift in 2014. Swift enables programmers to quickly add many common features with minimal code. Swift is a streamlined code that saves time and makes the development process easier for new programmers.

Android apps were initially created with Java, which has recently been paired with another language called Kotlin. Kotlin is interoperable with Java and adds safety and concise syntax to Android mobile app development.

Java on its own is used in web development, enterprise applications, and a lot of other use cases. Because of these additional uses, a novice programmer might get more long-term benefits from learning Java. However, as we mentioned earlier, Java will have a longer learning curve.

Both iOS and Android have advantages worth considering. If you plan to focus your efforts on mobile applications alone, Apple iOS will get you in the game sooner. If you’re looking at using app development as a springboard for other kinds of programming, it may be worth the extra studying time to start with Android.

Which is right for you? Android or iOS?

We’ve covered some of the differences between Android and Apple iOS, but how can you tell which is the best mobile app development platform to start with? That will depend on your individual goals and your level of experience.

If you’re a total coding novice, you’ll likely benefit from the more controlled ecosystem of Apple iOS. The Xcode development user interface for Apple users allows for less customization—but it does offer more standardization that saves you time and development costs.  

If you’re already doing development or UI design and are familiar with Java, Android should be the easier path for you. Android development takes more time but also gives you a clearer view of the inner workings of mobile development. Where iOS offers shortcuts, Android requires more fundamental effort and understanding.

Best for most beginners: iOS

Because iOS offers a more controlled ecosystem, a more mature and user-friendly development tool, and a platform that leads in revenue generation, we recommend beginning mobile app developers start with iOS.  

What’s good about iOS development?

  • User-friendly development tools that reduce coding time and effort
  • Large market share in the U.S.
  • Highest revenue-generating platform to date
  • Slightly higher earning potential

However, if you do not have a Mac computer and do not wish to get one, Android app development is recommended and has the additional benefits listed below.

Top Android considerations

Experienced Java programmers might find the transition to Android app design easier than learning the Swift language.

What’s good about Android development?

  • Multiple development tools available
  • Easier to get new apps into Google Play than App Store
  • Uses Java language, which offers more potential use cases for long-term career benefit
  • Cross-platform development tools can be used on Windows PC, Linux, or Mac

Work as a mobile developer

If you’re excited to get started making money with iOS, Android, and mobile app development, or if you’d like to hire an Android or iOS developer for a project, check out Upwork, the world’s work marketplace. Simply create a profile highlighting your experience and have high-paying clients and employers find you!

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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Android vs iOS Development: Which Should I Learn First?
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