The ongoing rivalry between the two major platforms – Android and Apple’s iOS – is keeping developers and technology players on their toes, and is driving innovation forward. Almost as a rule of thumb, once a brand decides to launch an app, it shouldn’t just focus on a single platform, but offer it to both Android and iOS users to maximise reach. While it is key to be consistent with content and branding, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and companies need to take into consideration the differences in demographics, user experience, as well as the functionality and back-end of both platforms.
Know your audiences
Android has been experiencing a growing adoption worldwide due to the availability across numerous brands (Samsung, Amazon, Google). The high volume sales of smart phones and tablets combined has enabled Android to gain the majority of the market share to date.
The average age bracket of Android users is 18-24, coming from all over the world, with a high number of users living in developing countries. Android devices are marginally cheaper than Apple’s, retailing at around £100-£350, which means wider accessibility to those with a lower income. Considering this, they may not be likely to replace their devices every year and potentially even have an older version of the software. Part of the user base may not even have access to a credit card which limits its potential for mobile payments.
19% of iOS users are 18-24 year-olds and 29% over 35. Apple’s core customer base is located predominantly in developed countries. Kantar has even reported that 27% of users in Western Europe favour iOS over Android. Apple products are not cheap, but fortunately for Apple, 41% of its users have access to income above £72,000 ($100,000), and they are more likely to buy the latest phone or tablet models to keep up to date with the innovations.7 This also means that they are more likely to be open to in-app purchases.
Compared to Android, 23% of iOS users are more likely to use retail or payment apps on a daily basis.8 With the recent addition of Apple Pay to the latest device models, they have been encouraged to spend money in more innovative ways. As many retailers already accept this payment method, this functionality can be a strong asset to m-commerce brands in the future.
Do Android users dream of iOS UX?
Developing for Android and iOS requires knowing how both platforms work to be able to provide maximum satisfaction and convenience in user experience. It is also important to remain consistent with design and the objective of the app. However, there are some nuances that developers need to be aware of.
Look and feel
While Apple has moved away from skeuomorphism (design imitating real-world materials, such as metal or wood), to a more simple, transparent and minimalist design, Android has taken principles from paper properties. Its approach includes solid and flat layers, shadows and bold colours. To keep the similar look of the app for both platforms, colours and icons can have the same design, with additional shadows and dimensions for Android, and reduced, minimalistic features for iOS respectively. It is also important to be aware of the button styles – Android uses flat buttons (solid colour) and iOS uses ghost buttons (no colour within the frame) or rounded flat buttons.
Typeface also needs to comply with the standards of each platform, as users do notice tiny differences - Android’s typeface is Roboto and is aligned left, iOS uses San Francisco which is centred.
Android UI design elements
A key aspect to keep in mind is that Android phones and tablets have a real ‘back’ button to return to a previous screen, whereas iOS uses swiping or ‘back’ arrows on screen. Android fans expect to use the actual button and may be confused if an additional option appears within the app as well.
Android uses a drawer menu which is often located in the top left corner. It brings up a menu bar with all of the app functions/buttons for easier navigation. iOS apps may use this too, however most often, the menu buttons are located on a bar at the top or bottom of the screen and can slide left or right if not all options fit on the screen.
iOS9 UI design elements
Different menu options
Other elements that need to be considered is the positioning and look of smaller buttons, controls and hidden menus, such as notifications, tick boxes, action sheets or drop down menus. Android versions need to remain close to the design guidelines, incorporating standard placements and design principles of each function. Any deviations from the standard expected elements will confuse the device owners and will appear less user friendly.
This shows that Android users do differ from their Apple counterparts and don’t expect to have an iOS experience of the app – they may even not be aware of the alternatives.
UX is for users
Many companies may see apps as an extension of their brand or as something that’s nice to have. However, any marketing element published as part of it needs to reflect the key messages and values, regardless of who sees or uses it. It is therefore important to put the user at the forefront when creating an app. Adhering to the Android or iOS guidelines will not only please the core audience, but will also positively reflect on the brand due to its attention to detail and focus on user experience. Apps are created with ease of use and speed in mind, and the simpler and more consistent the workflow is, the more appealing it will be.
Users of both Android and iOS are so familiar with the ways their apps work, that any discrepancies will instantly be noticed, especially if the workflow doesn’t fit with the overall app design (e.g. swiping or back button). It’s almost expected that an app would have certain functionalities or design elements pertinent to Android or iOS. Following these rules leads to a unified and smooth user experience, which can bring the user closer to the call to action or the objective of the app – whether it is to contact someone from the company, download or buy a specific item.
Guidelines for both Android and iOS offer various options and flexibility for design, including colour schemes, font sizes, weight, substitutes and placement – all of this needs to be considered to deliver a native feel for each app without compromising on the overall style.