Research has shown that iOS apps generate an average of 75 percent more money than Android apps, despite Android’s Google Play Store roughly has twice the number of apps downloaded. As a result, when going to market, many companies release their app for iOS first. Nonetheless, with the smartphone and tablet market firmly a two-horse-race between Apple and Google, any company serious about their mobile app presence should have an Android version. This begs the question: How do you create an Android app from an iPhone app?
The Challenges Involved in Porting an Application
Despite obvious similarities between the two platforms, it’s not an easy task for an Android app programmer to port an app from one to the other. Much of this comes down to fundamental differences in the way each platform is architected, and the visual interface each displays.
The biggest difference between the two platforms is the fundamentally different design architecture behind each one. Apple is well known for tightly controlling the App Store, and which apps make their way onto it. In contrast, Google’s philosophy is much more open, allowing developers to modify the source code, upload apps directly to a device and push the envelope of Android’s functionality.
While developing iOS apps using either Objective-C or the newer Swift, the majority of Android application development is done in Java. That’s not to say that some elements of code cannot be reused, especially underlying, basic C code. But large portions of the code will have to be ported to Java.
Since compiled Objective-C/Swift code runs faster than Java, Android developers may find performance bottlenecks that were not previously there and must now be addressed.
Another factor to consider is interface design. Google, like Apple, has a preferred design aesthetic outlined in its Material Design principles. While Google does not enforce that aesthetic, Android users nonetheless are accustomed to a certain look and feel, and any app being ported from iOS should adopt those design elements.
One of the single biggest challenges in porting an iOS app is the fragmentation that exists on the Android platform. Because Apple tightly controls the hardware, software, and developer tools that used to create and run iOS apps, developers have a limited number of screen sizes and OS versions to worry about.
In contrast, Android application developers have to contend with devices that range from small budget smartphones to phablets and full-blown tablets. In addition, because cell providers and device manufacturers can modify Android for their customers, there tends to be software fragmentation, as some users are slower to update to new versions of Android.
How to Port an App to Android
Due to the difficult nature of porting an app, time should be taken to properly plan out the process.
- Identify potential performance bottlenecks in the code and come up with a plan of action to address them and maintain performance.
- Study Google’s Material Design to understand the design and UI elements that help make an Android app.
- Test your app on a variety of hardware. While it’s not realistic to test it on every conceivable hardware and OS variation, testing on high-end and low-end hardware should provide enough of a baseline for your Android user base.
- Hire an Android app developer who is intimately familiar with the platform—and devices that run it—and can help you navigate the porting process.
With careful thought and planning, you can port your iOS app to Android and benefit from an even larger base of customers.
Author of this article:
Michael is a content strategist at Fueled. He spends his time exploring and writing about captivating new technologies that help people make better apps. His work has been published on various technology blogs across the web.