How to choose the right platform for your mobile application?

Many entrepreneurs or companies who are embarking on the development of a mobile application ask themselves this question before initiating their project; is it necessary to develop an iOS and Android application? It's true that most mobile apps are available for both platforms, but that doesn't mean that's the direction for your project.

Let's start from the beginning. The first thing to do is to define the functional use of your mobile application. Without going into the subcategories, there are mainly two possibilities; operational or commercial use. In either case, there is no one formula and different alternatives are possible.

To illustrate the differences between an operational and commercial application, we will take the example of GoStan, one of our partners at Bulldozer. GoStan is a startup that offers a food and drink delivery service to headquarters during sports matches. The Go Stan team has three different mobile apps; an iOS and Android mobile app that allows users to order, an iPad app that allows restaurateurs to receive orders, and an iPhone app that allows delivery people to navigate the stadium when delivering orders.

By analyzing the functional use of the three mobile applications, it was evident that the GoStan team had to make different technology choices for their operational and business applications.

What is an operational mobile application?

An operational mobile application is an application that meets a need internal to your company (often in connection with logistics). In the case of GoStan, the internal need was to receive, process and deliver the orders received. Since mobile devices are provided to restaurateurs and delivery people, GoStan's two operational mobile applications have been developed only for iOS (iPad and iPhone).

As with the majority of applications that are used to meet a need internal to a company, it makes sense to orient the technological choice towards a single platform in order to limit development costs, simplify maintenance and standardize the user experience, without compromising the use of the mobile application in the organization.

The choice of platform is then up to you. If, for example, your company offers Android phones to its employees, there is no need to develop an iOS application. If like GoStan you own the equipment, you will probably want to standardize the devices used, thus developing your mobile application for a single platform.

The commercial mobile app now, what is it?

The commercial mobile application is the one that you will distribute in order to support the commercial activities of your organization. Since you probably want to reach a large mass of users, you might think that it is necessary to develop iOS and Android applications from the start, but it doesn't have to be! The choice of platform (iOS or Android) should be based on the business model, market and target audience, not the other way around.

Let’s take the example of GoStan again. The main mobile application, which allows users to order, is available for iOS and Android. The reason? The viability of the business model depends mainly on the order volume, the application has a global reach thanks to the sports market, the target clientele varies depending on the location of the event and the sport presented.

In such a case, there are few indicators to define whether one platform is better than the other. It was therefore difficult to make an informed technological choice before collecting the first usage data. Today, after a year of activity, the ratio of Android and iOS users is 1: 3 (one Android user for three iOS users), which is not parity, but still not insignificant. We can therefore say that not developing the android application would have had negative repercussions equivalent to +/- 33% of the startup's revenue.

There are mainly two reasons why it is smart to develop your mobile app on a single platform first. The first is whether you have enough metrics to say that your business model, your market, and your audience don't justify either platform. If you come to the conclusion that 95% of your target audience uses iPhones (iOS), developing an Android app is probably not the best way to be successful.

The second reason is: to avoid making duplicate mistakes. Say you have an idea that you think is innovative and you want to make it happen, maybe your idea is great, but the reality is that you don't have the confirmation yet. In this case, it is important to perform several tests with the target users in order to understand what works and what does not in your application. Testing both platforms at the same time means making the same mistakes and making the same changes on both platforms (double the investment). In this case, consider developing your application on a single platform and validating as many assumptions as possible before moving to the second platform.

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