We work and talk with many startups and a question that often comes up is, “Does it make sense to build our product for iOS and also for Android for our initial launch?” Our answer to this question is a resounding, “No.” This is not because we want our clients to only consider iOS and therefor only consider working with us (since we do not do Android work). We actually know several Android engineers and agencies we would be happy to recommend for Android projects. Whichever platform you choose, we think it is important to pick only one to begin your product. This question comes up so much that it made sense to write out an explanation:

Cost

Most startups have a limited budget and are very concious about it. Launching on both iOS and Android at the same time means that you’ll need to hire twice as many engineers, twice as many designers, and potentially someone to manage all of these people. Before you even know if your startup will be successful, we don’t think it makes sense to bring on all these extra costs before you have even demonstrated your product will be worth anything.

Time

First you will make a design decision for your Android app. Your team will discuss it, maybe argue about it, then come to an agreement and begin implementation. Then you will have the same discussion for iOS and come to a slightly different agreement. They are both mobile platforms, but they are not the same. Interactions are not the same, capabilities are not the same, and expectations of the user base are not the same. In our experience, if x is the time it takes to build your product on one platform, the time it takes to build on two platforms at once often takes more like 3x as long, not 2x.

Famous Examples

Many successful startups you have heard of have taken this strategy and it has worked out great for many of them.

  • Facebook: First launched a website, and years later launched an iOS app long before their Android app was released.
  • Instagram: Famously launched iOS only, then developed a Web interface, then launched an Android app. For years the only way to interact with Instagram was to use the iOS app and they had millions of happy users and were acquired for famous amounts of money.
  • Angry Birds: This game now runs on almost every device commercially available, we would not be surprised if it even ran on a toaster. It’s initial launch though, was only on iOS. Other versions were added after their initial wave of success.