There’s a raging debate on the twitters about whether it makes sense to build for Android vs iOS first. The real answer is that it depends on the problem you’re solving and the user’s context. But most of the time, neither is correct. Most startups should be be building for the web. In a mobile-dominated world of 2014.
The Android vs. iOS debate is one hinges around whether you think it makes more sense to target a (perceived) larger market, or target one that the technorati favor. But why choose? Building a good responsive web app has a series of benefits, the primary one being that you target users on every platform with one app. Every user. Every platform. All the time. Release whenever you want. A/B test with ease. Go, go go.
Your primary job as a startup is to learn. The primary threat to your business is that nobody gives a shit about the thing you built and you would have been better off sitting in Dolores Park for three months. Keep that in mind next time VCs and journalists are debating the merits of various platform strategies. That shit matters to them. It doesn’t matter to you. At least, not when you’re pre-product-market fit.
And remember, once you think that shit is working and do decide to go native, you’ll still need a great web experience for user acquisition. The first experience most users have with your product will usually be when they land on it in browser. If your app is amazing, but the web app is half assed, potential users will only see your app as half assed.
The clear exception to this is when you can’t build something with the web. If you literally can’t, because you need hardware access you can’t get on the web, build native. If you’re selling something digital, go native. If you don’t believe web is a valid test of the interactions you think matter you’re probably wrong, but go ahead and build native.
The vast majority of the time, that app you think is an amazing idea isn’t. Or it kinda is, but you need to find the right pivot. When you great native apps, you don’t see all the work it took to get there. And for every great app, there are hundreds that never got to product-market fit, abandoned because the team ran out of time to find it. It doesn’t fucking matter which platform they chose.
Bonus Rant: Android Second
If/when you do go native, you should probably start with iOS. Here are a few reasons Silicon Valley companies shouldn’t be Android-first. These may or may not apply to your startup if it’s not in Silicon Valley, targets a specific demographic that is primarily Android, or you’re past product-market fit and the name of the game is scale.
- You are developing in English for the Play store, so Android’s global market penetration is irrelevant.
- Apple devices get used more, and apple users install more apps.
- Development will be slower, because Android is fragmented both in terms of OS versions and devices.
- Features will either not work on all Android devices, or you’ll be forced to dumb down to address more devices.
- It’ll be harder to get press, because nobody at TechCrunch uses Android.
- It’ll be harder to hire, because potential employees mostly use iOS.
- It’ll be harder to test premium services, because Android users are less affluent. All Uber for X apps start as premium services.
- You won’t be able to test monetization easily, because Android users don’t monetize well.
- You own an iPhone.