Why Game Developers Prefer iOS

Black iPhone showcasing native apps, held by Anthony Beyer

Anthony Beyer – iPhone home screen

Less than a decade ago, the iPhone launched and changed the worlds of tech and telecommunications forever. One of many brainchildren of the late Steve Jobs, the iPhone’s popularity with consumers quickly dominated all conversation about smartphones, upon its release, from apps to the relevance of a keyboard, its appearance (at the time, it was available only in black with silver), and, of course, its unique operating system. Since that time, however, it has experienced stiff competition in the mobile devices/software sector, most notably from Google-powered Android systems.

In 2014, nearly 7 years after its initial release, the iPhone had amassed over 470 million sales of its product; the incredible growth has been lauded by companies and investors the world over. Still, the number pales in comparison to the amount of devices which operate on the Android system: a whopping 1 billion users, which is more than half of iPhone/iOS users, overall. With such a large difference, it would seem that game/app developers would be looking to get their creations into as many hands as possible. Think about it, 1 billion people with access to a game you created would be cool, to say the least. However, for many developers, it’s not at all that simple.

A black iPhone 6 with purple home screen on AMOLED display, pictured in Anthony Beyer's car.

Anthony Beyer – iPhone 6

In fact, simplicity is just one of the reasons developers are choosing to launch on iOS as opposed to Android. Considering that iOS only runs on Apple devices, developers only have to test a few models, about 10, according game developer Barry Meade. On the other hand, Android runs on a number of different devices from various companies, with multifarious hardware, interfaces, etc. As a result, developers may have to test up hundreds–yes, hundreds–of different devices to ensure that the game works properly across all platforms.

Subsequently, most developers go with an iOS first strategy, resulting in a slow rollout of games on the Android side. Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon, further explained the reason behind this, saying: “…with an iOS-first strategy you can release the game to many users with only a small chance of bugs arising due to differences in hardware, which means that when a bug does arise on iOS it’s likely unconnected to the hardware and by fixing it, you are also fixing that bug for any future Android build.”

A picture of a phone running android software, taken by Anthony Beyer.

Anthony Beyer – Phone running Android Software

But that isn’t the only reason developers prefer iOS to Android. According to multiple studies, like this one by App Annie Index, Apple’s iOS users buy more apps than Android users. Furthermore, they spend nearly four times as much on apps, despite the large differences in the number of users worldwide. Also, Android development typically costs 30% more than iOS development. Therefore, by choosing to place games on iOS, developers are getting more bang for their buck in multiple ways.

Nevertheless, Kuchera did make clear that the preference for Apple has nothing to do with Android users, themselves. In the previously-linked article, he expressed that Android users were great and that the experience with the software was pleasant. However, he clarified, “as a dev you’ve also got to take the platform’s particularities into account. One thing I knew going into it was that the ‘unpaid install’ rate would likely be around 95 percent and this is exactly what I’ve observed. In a lot of cases the smart thing to do is to convert your premium game to be free-to-play on Android, but that just didn’t make sense for Prune, nor was it something that I was personally interested in.”

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