Why Android-First Development Makes Sense

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

Last week, we launched Pocket Buddy, our third internal product release this year after Sitcomd and Arbor. Both Arbor and Pocket Buddy scored #1s on Product Hunt, which we’re pretty stoked about. And Pocket Buddy has already been generating thousands of installs within its first couple of weeks. All of this is hugely exciting for us.

But there’s one thing about our release story that might take you by surprise: we launched on Android first. We generated revenue on Android first. Only then did we move to launch on iOS – and we were more successful as a result. In fact, launching on Android first gave us a big leg up when we did move to iOS. You may not have heard this before, but we learned something from this release: Android-first development makes sense.

Why Start With Android?

In the app development world, everyone cares about iPhones. As with all Apple products, the Apple App Store has a certain gleam about it that makes it seem like the cream-of-the-crop option – but why?

pocket buddy

Launching Android-first let us iterate to come up with features like the photo booth

Looking at the market, Android users vastly outnumber iPhone users, and that trend isn’t going anywhere. Even in the US alone, Android still controls the majority of the market. Apple’s “There’s An App for That” campaign may have been catchy and the Apple App Store may have flourished early on, but Google Play’s app store has surpassed Apple in available apps by 200,000. And, perhaps most importantly, Google Play generated twice as many downloads as Apple’s App Store in 2015.

Now, astute readers will point out that the Apple App Store brings in 75% more aggregate revenue than Google Play. And they’re right – the App Store may still be the most lucrative target for developers and should obviously not be forgotten. But there are still good reasons that an Android-first strategy makes sense.

R&D, But You Make Money

Android-first makes sense for one big reason: rapid iteration. Think about it – publishing on the Google Play store takes about 2 hours. On the app store, publishing takes 4-5 days if you’re lucky, often more, and Apple still has the final say on whether or not they allow the app on the store. Which environment sounds better to learn in?

For our Pocket Buddy release, we launched on Android first because it kept us lean and it helped us learn. By launching on Android for our soft release, we could acquire real users, learn from them, and implement the feedback – quickly. The flexibility of the Android environment let us iterate far more easily than on iOS.

User Acquisition Costs

mobile-app-user-acquisition-costs

User acquisition cost more than twice as much on iOS

Easy publishing isn’t the only reason to launch Android-first, though. For our Pocket Buddy release, user acquisition was 59% cheaper on Android than iOS. That means we could afford to shill out and acquire a bunch of users during our test phase, giving us real data to validate the app and iterate to make it more appealing to users. Plus, the early testing and iteration told us another critical fact – who, exactly, our target user was.

By working on Android first, we were able to do a lot of customer discovery and customer research without breaking the bank. This told us more about how they use the app, why they use the app, and what they wanted from it. It also told us that our target users – mobile gamers and cannabis enthusiasts – were mostly on Android to begin with. If we had targeted iOS as our initial release platform, we would have missed the majority of our target audience.

Launching Android-first let us learn a lot without spending a lot, giving us the competitive advantage to succeed on iOS – and a more engaging product thanks to our iteration cycles. When we did launch on iOS, we had the intel to target our advertising effectively, instead of just throwing money at a wall.

Don’t Just Follow the Crowds

So if you’re ideating a new app and you want to take over the world with it, we’ve got some advice for you: launch Android-first. The Google Play store is a much more fertile environment for testing and iteration, and it’ll let you grow your user base and gather customer research without depleting your budget. After you’ve done the legwork, you’ll be able to launch an informed, well-targeted release on iOS.

That was our experience, and we’re going to be using this game plan again in the future. And if you, like us, believe in building lean and launching early, we think you might want to give it a try, too.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbulmahn/