How to design your app for the European market

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Written by Richard Kacerek June 30, 2019 | 6 minutes read

Which mobile platform is better for European market? How to build your app for Europe. Find your best option for your mobile app

In the USA and Canada iOS rules the market at 55 percent while across Europe Android takes a comfortable lead at 75 percent. So one could say that Android is the clear winner and therefore apps should be built for that platform. Well, not so fast. Let’ have a look at those mobile app development statistics in more detail.

While Android looks like a winner, is it really? In the UK, Apple iOS has solid 48, and the Android platform has 50 per cent. If we look closely at the mobile operating system market in the UK, the iOS version 12 and 12.1 has combined has 80% mobile market share, which is quite astonishing. Pretty much all iPhones in the UK run on the latest iOS 12 version. Android is not doing so well. Latest version 9.0 Pie has a 30% share, and the 8.0 Oreo has 24%. That means that almost half of Android phones in the UK are running three generations old operating system or even older. That is also quite astonishing but on the other side of the spectrum.

Android fragmentation in Europe

This is called fragmentation, and it’s the developers’ worst nightmare. Supporting three generations old operating system is nearly impossible if you want to innovate and some features are not even possible to build. Building complex native apps is simply not possible for all versions of Android, and it’s much easier to develop on iOS. You, as our client, will be supported, and we will help you make a decision which version of Android would be the minimum requirement. So you see, Android is not that much of a clear winner after all if you have to remove half of the users on old versions of the operating system that you can’t build your app for!

Moving further into Europe, the situation is getting worse. In France, iOS has 28% and Android 70% market share. But a majority, 27% of those phones run on the 8.0 Oreo version, meaning two generations old operating system and only 19% run on 9.0 Pie. One could say that in France, over 70% of Android phones run on three ages old operating systems or older.

How about Germany then? Android has a healthy 71% share, and again similar story, half of those phones run on three generations or older operating system.

Android in the Netherlands has 62% share and iOS strong 36%. Again roughly half of them runs on three generations old Android while iOS enjoys 81% being the latest version. At WWDC 2019 Apple took a jab at “the other guys” and making the point about this. A good point actually, if you want to develop fast and without issues and move your app at speed, you will need your users to update to the latest version.

Security should be the highest priority

Another reason for running the latest version of any operating system is security. Apple and Google have two fundamentally different approaches to publishing apps. Apple takes a manual review of any app that goes into the store very seriously. We wrote articles about getting your app through the store faster and how to implement app review into your business planning and release schedule. It may not be so frustrating if you allow time for this.

Google, on the other hand, has a fully automated publishing and then running security checks in the background and asking for app review after it’s been published. We would argue that it’s hard to ask for forgiveness of the users once their phones have been infected if a malicious app has been uploaded. In fact, this is a regular occurrence at the Google Play Store. Because Apple takes a manual review process, it only publishes apps in the store once they have been thoroughly vetted and tested and meet their criteria.

Across Europe, we see the same trend of 70-80% market share belonging to Android, but there are a few exceptions. In Sweden, probably the only country in the EU; iOS has a surprising 57% majority. Sweden loves the iPhone and Poland loves Android. 96% of the mobile OS market there belongs to Android, and only 2% are iOS!

Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi are the three largest Android phone manufacturers in the European Union market. Google makes the software and phone makers put that operating system on their phones. The problem lies in the updates which are causing Android fragmentation. Usual deployment time is 9-12 months. That means it on average takes up to a year to get your Android phone updated. That’s a massive headache for developers that want to build apps on the latest operating system, which usually unlocks and introduces new features. Something Apple thrives on since the open Beta developers jump on the programme and test their apps because when the iOS hits user phones in September, it usually takes under a month to reach 80% install rate.

So let’s focus on iOS I hear you say? Well, it’s not that easy. You can’t dismiss Android platform entirely. Even if more than half of people with Android phones run two or three generations old OS version, it’s still a big market. So if you are building an advanced app for AR/VR, then you need to consider the impact on your user-base, because the latest features that Android 9.0 Pie brings will only run on 14% of Android devices in the European Union. You need to ask if that effort is worth it or change development route a bit.

What can Google do about the fragmentation? Well, not much, really. This is an ongoing problem, and manufacturers like Nokia put an unmodified version of the operating system on their devices. It’s called Android One, and it is one of the smoothest user experiences available. Manufacturers like OnePlus are also providing an attractive option of OS experience with fast updates. I mean faster than others because it still took them 9 months to put it on their phones. Apple tends to support even 5-6 years old devices with the latest iOS updates while Android manufacturers bring a new device with the latest Android rather than trying to support an older device. And that’s how fragmentation happens.

What’s more lucrative, iOS or Android?

Definitely Apple. iPhone users tend to spend more on their devices than Android user counterparts. Nearly twice as much actually. iOS apps take less time as it’s easier to develop code for them using Swift and now with the new SwiftUI, it will be even more accessible. Therefore you have a smaller cost building an app and a much larger customer base spending on the device. It makes perfect business sense to build for iOS first if your app is advanced enough. Choose Android for a wider audience and shorter wait time to get the app to the store. Choose iOS for higher revenue per user, much tighter security, cleaner user experience and powerful phone hardware.


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