Differences Between iOS & Android App Development

Many mobile devices can launch applications (apps), including mobile phones, digital assistants, and tablets. These apps can be installed during the manufacturing process or downloaded by the user from an application platform, typically within a web browser.

Developers must consider the wide range of display sizes when creating mobile apps in addition to other hardware specifications and configurations. iOS and Android are the two most popular mobile operating systems (OSs) in the world, so mobile app developers often must choose which OS to develop an app for first.

Critical differences between iOS and Android include the following:

  • Environment
  • UX design
  • Language
  • APIs

An Overview Of iOS & Android

Google developed Android from the Lennox kernel, specifically designing it for devices with touch screens. User commands to Android’s user interface (UI) are primarily based on gestures that resemble real-world actions, including tapping, swiping and pinching.

A virtual keyboard also allows users to enter text. Google has developed Android for other electronic devices as well, such as televisions, cars and wristwatches. Currently, Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS.

Apple created iOS exclusively for its mobile devices, including iPad, iPhone and iPod. The iOS UI is also based on direct manipulation of the touch screen, including multi-touch gestures. It can also make use of a device’s internal accelerometer, which allows the user to enter commands by shaking or rotating the device.

Apple has also incorporated accessibility into iOS, allowing disabled users to operate its mobile devices. iOS is the world’s second most popular mobile OS.

iOS & Android App Environments

iOS clearly leads Android on development environment. It’s still possible to write iOS apps with command lines and text files, although professional developers typically use an integrated development environment (IDE).

Apple’s IDE is Xcode, which is fast and powerful without intruding on the creative aspect of app development. Xcode is particularly effective at isolating the developer from the complex compilation and certification process that Apple requires to maintain control over iOS apps. iOS also has an efficient debugger and responsive simulator.

Android Studio is currently the standard IDE for the Android platform and was specifically designed for Android app development.

It was first released in December 2014 and officially replaced Eclipse Android Development Tools (ADT) in late 2015, when ADT was deprecated. Studio is a significant improvement over ADT, although many developers still consider it to be counterintuitive and overly complex compared to Xcode.

Studio’s debugger is also clumsy to use, causing many developers to use log files to debug code. Furthermore, the Android emulator is slow to load and often fails to connect to the Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

UX Design For iOS & Android Apps

Developers often expect Apple’s Interface Builder to make iOS the clear winner on the issue of User Experience (UX) design, but this comparison is a tougher call than that.

Interface Builder does allow developers to build slick interfaces quickly, but it also adds another layer of complexity to app development. The storyboards that iOS developers use to create an interface require multiple screens that can become cumbersome. Developers also use Auto Layout to design interfaces for different display sizes.

Overall, this approach to UX design is most effective for simple interfaces, but its complexity makes interfaces more difficult to build as an app evolves.

Android also has a visual tool for developing interfaces, although many developers choose to write XML manually. This approach requires developers to specify guidelines for the display layouts, which should allow the app to display properly on a range of display sizes.

Android also provides developers with an icon pack, whereas iOS developers must obtain icons from third parties or create their own.

The best mobile OS for UX design often comes down to a matter of developer preference, although iOS probably has the edge. iOS developers only need to consider three display sizes and two screen densities, while Android developers theoretically must consider every possible combination of display size and density.

Furthermore, developers typically consider iOS’s visual elements to be more appealing than those of Android.

iOS App Language vs. Android App Language

In general, iOS apps are written in Objective-C or Swift the latest iOS language, while Android apps are written in Java.

However, a number of exceptions exist such as Apache Cordova, which is an open-source mobile app development framework. Some developers may also Xamarin tools to develop native iOS and Android apps, but these cases are relatively rare.

Developers who are already proficient in Java will find Objective–C to be a verbose programming language. Java also creates better stack traces, allowing developers to locate intermittent bugs more easily.

On the other hand, Objective-C is cleaner than Java, primarily due to Objective-C’s use of blocks and categories. Furthermore, Objective-C doesn’t require the developer to wrap code within exception-handling boilerplate as Java does.

Android had superior garbage collection until iOS implemented automatic reference counting in 2011. While Android’s garbage collection is still better, the difference is no longer significant. iOS therefore has the edge over Android on language.

APIs For iOS & Android

Both iOS and Android have many Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) available to developers. APIs provide features and functions for mobile apps such as network access and View objects that are essentially full-fledged browsers.

The controllers that perform most of the work of implementing these APIs are generally comparable between IOS and Android. However, iOS has Core Data, a powerful framework for which Android has no equivalent.

Core Data allows developers to organize data by entity, attribute and value, so they can manipulate it with high-level objects. iOS’s API system is also generally cleaner than Android’s, which makes class declarations shorter in iOS. Developers generally prefer to work with iOS classes than Android classes.

App Development For iOS & Android

A mobile app wifor typically be developed for both iOS and Android to maximize the app’s user base, so the more important issue is which OS to develop the app for first.

iOS is usually the best choice, since it’s generally easier to write apps in iOS. Furthermore, iOS users are typically willing to pay more for their apps. Developers may then port a mobile app to Android once it succeeds on iOS.

For more information on the development of mobile apps for iOS and Android, contact NS804 at 804-793-8682.

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