Developing Android first - A look at the pros and cons

My team and I built geavi so people can make emergency calls in the smartphone era. Follow us @geaviapp.

A lot of people would disagree with the decision to develop on Android before developing on iOS, and that’s fair enough. Apple products get more hype - Take Periscope for example, it didn't even exist on Android when it was first released and it was one of the most hyped products out there.

My team and I knew to begin with that we only had the resources to do one or the other. If we had done both, we have done neither one well. Stretching limited resources between iOS and Android development was never going to work.

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So it was always Android OR iOS to begin with. All of us at geavi had had an iPhone at one point, and all of us, except for me, had converted to Android due to the greater flexibility (I now have one of each).

Personally, I like Apple products, and I like the iPhone – I like the design and I like the feel of the product; but I had to concede to the others, that iOS is very restrictive in terms of what you can do with a phone as a developer, and I had to concede that way more people have an Android phone.

We thought about the people we wanted to reach with geavi, and as it turned out, the people who would benefit the most from an emergency centered app were people who lived in countries where Android was the predominant device of choice.

Take India, for example - A country with over a billion people, where violence against women is currently an epidemic. India has 91 percent of people with Smartphones using Android, and less than 3 percent using iOS.

alt Protest at India Gate related to 2012 Delhi gang rape case.

In short, while everyone benefits from geavi, Apple products are too expensive for the people who ‘need’ geavi the most.

So the decision was made and geavi is an Android first product with a new release (and a stack of new features) coming in a couple of months. And iOS is not on the market for a little while longer.

So now that you know the reasons why we went Android first, let me talk about what’s been good and bad about going Android first, over iOS.

1) Geavi is very complex, and it’s better on Android

Geavi is a big product, because there is a lot going on in the background; literally. The flexibility that the Android OS provides means we can play around with a lot more ideas when compared with iOS.

Building on Android is like being an artist with a blank Canvas. By contrast, building with iOS is like being an artist who can only color between the lines.

Apple makes you buy into their existing design principles and work solely within their framework. Apps don't communicate with each other, unless Apple builds them. On the other hand, Android gives you the freedom to do what you want, how you want.

2) Apple gets the buzz

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We always knew Apple got the buzz, but we didn’t realise the degree to which this is the case until we released geavi on Android. I like to think of it as the ‘Hollywood Effect’. Take for example ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ movie series. The originals were awesome, even if you had to read the subtitles. But no one hyped about the series until Daniel Craig played the role of Mikael Blomkvist in an English version that was at best, half as good.

But hype is hype, and Apple does it best. Take for example, the iWatch. A watch that is technologically the same as every Android Wear and Samsung Gear device out there, except that TechCrunch and VentureBeat won’t stop talking about it… Hype!

While the lack of hype is real for Android (and something Google should try more to remedy) there have been positives to having less hype. We’ve been able to improve functionality without getting too much attention. You almost always get crashes with new releases, and it’s much better if only a few people experience this crash.

We’ve also been able to develop a close relationship with many of our early adopters, and learn what they like and don’t like, and fix any problems they see.

3) Lost in Translation

The countries that Apple has a larger foothold in are predominantly English speaking, or know English as a second language. For a startup, getting translations done isn’t as expensive as it is difficult. You can get a play store description translated pretty easily. But to get all the in-app strings translated is a pain. You need to sit there with someone who knows the language and can explain the context to the coder so that they can change it to be relevant if need be.

We’ve all seen how google translate can ruin the context of a sentence, and there are even more complications when it comes to translating strings i.e. English characters versus Chinese characters can effect spacing on the screen.

With geavi, we got the play store description translated into 7 different languages. However, translating the in-app strings has been more difficult, and as such, we’re not connecting properly with those people in India who need geavi, but don’t speak English.

The positive of this is that it’s really only a time constraint for a startup. If you can get the time to do this, it’s quite easy to find a translator. If you’re really strapped for cash, you can even get translations done on Fiverr; but ‘buyer beware’ on Fiverr.

4) Strength in numbers and the emerging market

As previously mentioned, there are significantly more people in the Android network, which means that if you get number 3 of this list done properly, you have hundreds of millions of potential users. iOS will never have the same market size as Android.
In addition to the existing number, everyone knows China has arrived into the Smartphone era.

China is going to be (if not already) the biggest market in the world for smartphones. And in China there are 3 times as many Android phones than there are iPhones. Get Android right, and you’ve got enormous opportunities to scale.

In the first few weeks of releasing geavi, without any promotions, geavi was growing as fast in China as it was in Australia. That's pretty significant when you consider all the members of the geavi team live in Australia.

We know we want to cater to the Chinese market more, and being on Android is a more viable way to do this.

Conclusion

There are certainly other implications of Android and iOS, but these have been the most noticeable for the team and I at geavi in our 5 or so months on the market.

I am certain that we made the right decision to go Android first, but this won't be the same for every startup. Some companies will be better off going iOS first. And hey, if you can raise money without a prototype, then you might even be able to do both at the same time.