Android versus iOS

ios-androidRecently I have been thinking quite a bit about the commercial viability of Android versus iOS – from the viewpoint of a commercial developer. Should I support both platforms (which is quite an effort for a small development team if you are going for native support and not some web-based stuff) or should I prefer one platform over the other. My concerns are (for now) related to the development of ADOM Live, a mobile descendant of ADOM, my vastly successful roguelike game.

For ADOM Live I have decided to stay with iOS and the iPhone as my primary platform. Despite quite a few folks asking for Android as being the preferred platform.

Why? Several reasons mostly centering about one core argument:

I am interested in the commercial success of the project and my guts tell me that Android so far is a huge commercial failure for developers.

Your mileage may vary and I would love to hear about it. So please give me your opinions – not your flames ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here is my line of reasoning:

  • Using iOS I basically have to support one unified hardware platform (ok, two resolutions if I limit myself to the iPhone, one more if including the iPad – but with a unified infrastructure). With Android I have a huge amount of different mobile devices and I remember very well the hassles required to support ADOM on Windows, Mac, BeOS, Linux, etc. Screen resolutions, etc. are a nightmare – especially on a mobile device with limited screen real estate and the customer expectation to really get beautiful and shiny apps.
  • Using iOS I usually can rely on the latest version of iOS as Apple is pretty persistent about getting its users updated to the latest stuff. With Android there seems to be a vastly varied market with various versions of Android floating around – all more or less modified by the mobile device producers. Resulting in a market were you just can go for the smallest common denominator if you really want to reap the benefits of the platform and not just of the most successful mobile device(s) on it.
  • I somehow feel that the Android PR machine is trying to trick me. Consider this: Apple obviously is pretty frank with its sales numbers and successes: According to the latest numbers Apple is vastly successful, primarily because of its iOS platform – a record revenue of $26.74 billion and record net quarterly profit of $6 billion. Google reported a revenue of aboutย $8.44 billion and a net income of aboutย $2.54 billion.ย Just think about these numbers: While the margins of Google obviously are much better, the profit of Apple is pretty close to the overall revenue of Google (ok, about 75%). Apple is earning loads of money with the iOS infrastructure, Google is only talking about the number of mobile devices shipped with Android. And that’s were my guts are telling me: The platform might be a success concerning that one single statistic. But what about the interesting ones? Earnings on selling the platform? The business model for the platform? App earnings concerning the platform? I have to admit that so far I searched only for about an hour and got sidetracked, but the only statements concerning these statistics I could find where older stuff from 2009 (e.g.ย and some more recent and pretty imprecise statements from the beginning of 2011 (like e.g.ย andย Hardly a fair evaluation but software development quite often for me is about gut feelings ๐Ÿ˜‰ Back to my original point…
  • Apple customers are accustomed to paying money for the devices and apps. And they also are accustomed to not taking the cheapest offer. Whenever I talk to Android supporters it’s always about “being free”. Which is extremely important. But which doesn’t help a commercial developer if you have to market something to a community base that wants most of their things for free.

So in the end it comes down to two points for me:

  1. Apple (at least for now) seems to have a much stronger commercial infrastructure up and running. Which potentially means higher sales to me.
  2. Apple has a lot more unified device infrastructure. Which means a lot less in costs and effort for me.

So please let me know your views – and if you have facts and figures to back them up so much the better. I would love to see more information about the hard facts.

    As a side note concering iOS development I also have decided to stay with MonoTouch as my primary development platform for several reasons:

    • MonoTouch allows me to use C#. C# is a modern programming language with all the efficient features from annotations to great library support for about everything.
    • C# feels extremely similar to Java. For me coming from 14+ years of Java development this is a great benefit as I felt comfortable in the language after about a day. I tried Objective-C and I simply despaired. As far as I am concerned it’s an ugly language and it has a half-assed memory management (come on – I have programmed C for 10+ years I can live very well with doing everything myself – even if it cuts overall development speed significantly… but having to find with a weird mixture of reference counting and manual memory handling is about the worst thing I have ever seen).
    • MonoDroid is a potential way to move my apps natively to Android should I become interested in that.
    • MonoTouch has close native integration (e.g. it is compiled to Objective-C which then is compiled to binary) which IMHO is so much better than using some kind of HTML/JavaScript framework for anything else but trivial CRUD applications.

    So there you are. Please give me your insights, opinions and feedback and not just flames ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I’m really thinking a lot about the whole issue and would like to become enlightened by other peoples opinions.

    39 Responses to “Android versus iOS”

    1. Wjomlex  on February 10th, 2011

      I think you’ve reasoned it out perfectly. Looking forward to some iPhone ADOM action ๐Ÿ˜€

    2. hazza  on February 10th, 2011

      I think IOS is still the best root to go, I have both IOS and Android devices and I’m still to buy a Android app despite having hundreds of IOS ones. Ironically the best Roguelike I’ve found so far is Dweller on Android.

      The Apple market is however very saturated, you have the advantage of a brand name (albeit one nearly 10 years old) but it’s very difficult to get a foothold these days. Longterm I wouldn’t rule out a tipping point where the Android market goes crazy and those already established will be the ones making the money.

      As you say MonoDroid should allow you to compile for Android without too much difficultly, I’d certainly deploying for both platforms – although personally I’d be buying the IOS one.

    3. Rich  on February 10th, 2011

      Well, I’m an android user so that’s a bit disappointing, but I’m struggling to fault your logic. For the record, I have to this date not had to pay for a single Android app.

    4. Andreas Kuckartz  on February 10th, 2011

      Can’t you use HTML5 instead of native stuff ? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    5. Thomas_Biskup  on February 10th, 2011

      @Andreas: I don’t see any advantage except for a theoretical portability. But HTML 5 – as far as I know – to me still is a kind of early alpha technology. What complex games and applications have been done for a mobile device on a pure HTML 5 infrastructure.

      My uneducated guess would be: zero. And there probably is a reason.

      Native stuff almost always is so much better integrated, so much faster, so much better able to handle complex data and has so much better means of working without network access that I really don’t see much speaking for HTML 5.

      But you are free to prove the opposite to me – I want to learn ๐Ÿ˜‰

    6. Thomas_Biskup  on February 10th, 2011

      @hazza concerning the saturated market: that is not something I find particularly frightening. IMHO almost any well developed market will be saturated. Granted, today you probably need a lot more effort to be successful on iOS than two or three years ago. But that’s also true if you are trying to develop a business centered around JavaEE, CRM or cars… I love the challenge of trying to find the right niche ๐Ÿ˜‰

    7. Arttu  on February 10th, 2011

      My gut feeling agrees that iOS is probably better for commercial use, and easier for you as a developer. Only problem is that your application must be cute to succeed. ๐Ÿ™‚ One might think that typical roguelike gamer would have an Android rather than an iPhone, but it doesn’t even matter if you manage to create a good game.

      It would be nice to hear you preferring Android over iOS, but if it isn’t rational, then it isn’t.

    8. Thomas_Biskup  on February 10th, 2011

      It’s not really about preference but rather about the effective distribution of my resources ๐Ÿ˜‰ I would love to do both but that is unrealistic (for now).

    9. Andreas Kuckartz  on February 10th, 2011


      In this area things are moving from alpha to beta to “productive” use pretty fast.

      One interesting development:

      Game Behemoth Zynga Buys HTML5 Game Engine

      But the suitability of creating an HTML5 based web application certainly depends on these questions:

      1. How complex is the data which needs to be handled by the client? (Can it be moved to the server?)

      2. How important is it that the software works (which can mean different things) without network access?

      3. What is the intended business model? (Selling software? Offering a service? Advertisements embedded in the game?)

      And it also might depend on specific properties of the audience of the particular game. Maybe you can ask current ADOM users what kind of mobile devices they own?

    10. Epythic  on February 10th, 2011

      What about JADE?

      Each and every year you say you’ll release it the next year, then get sidetracked ๐Ÿ™

    11. Thomas_Biskup  on February 10th, 2011

      @Epythic: You need to keep one thing in mind – I’m doing all this in what little spare time I have. Thus whatever I do can only work out if I have fun doing it. That is the way in which ADOM was created and that is the only way in which I can work.

      Sadly I never found a billionaire among all the ADOM fans willing to finance a life of ADOM & JADE development (which would take an amount of money s/he would barely notice) so that I just can try my best. For now I have more fun working on ADOM Live, so I’m doing that.

      My plans for 2011 are laid out in

      I’m also quite excited about continuing JADE development based on IntelliJ… but if I try two such things at once nothing will ever come out of it at all.

      The base problem is that it is very hard to write a complete game if you at the same time are working full time as the CEO of a company… full time meaning something like 50 hours per week in very good weeks and 60-70 in cramped weeks.

      Oh, and there is this thing called Real Life.

      In summary: Sorry for your disappointment – I also would like to do more, but Real Life continues to impede.

      • Nehor  on February 11th, 2011


        You have my word that if I become a billionaire, I will pay you at least $1M a year to do JADE full time.

        Don’t hold your breath though. I’m still on a grad stipend.

      • Epythic  on February 22nd, 2011


        Sorry if I came over a bit harsh, it’s completely understandable that you want to do something fun in your spare time (who doesn’t?).

        I’m not really disappointed, ADOM is already more than awesome.

    12. Thomas_Biskup  on February 10th, 2011

      @Andreas: As the article implies – it’s right now suited for casual games – something I’m not into ๐Ÿ˜‰

      But I have to agree – in something like 3-5 years it probably will be a gross misjudgement saying that HTML 5 (or 6 or 7) would be unsuited for games.

      Generally spoken I’m absolutely convinced that browsers and HTML need to take much quicker steps into being general runtimes for general programming languages. No doubt about that. I just believe that the time is not yet come for such things. But it is definitely coming…

    13. Andreas Kuckartz  on February 11th, 2011

      Well, I certainly do not know enough about ADOM Live. Anyway:

      A few weeks ago an article was published by Cory Ondrejka (Facebook) which contains some technical details regarding performance of HTML5-browsers:

      HTML5 Games 0.1: Speedy Sprites

      And slides “Mobile Megatrends 2011” published yesterday with many numbers etc.

      The announcement by Nokia and Microsoft regarding Windows Phone will also likely influence the mobile game market …

    14. Loke  on February 11th, 2011

      The one and only reason to develop for Apple’s iOS seems to be the money.
      There’s nothing wrong with that when it comes to commercial software. And of this I approve.
      But Android is Open-Source and it involves a different approach.
      The other reasons, such as fragmentation are not much of an excuse; there are already ports of Angband, Nethack and Dweller and they’re doing good. In Open Source world there will always be enthusiasts willing to contribute for the community with no profit in mind.
      Most commercial software comes with two versions: free (with advertisements or limited usability) and paid, and that business model seems to be successful in Android.
      The open-source folk just likes to have a choice.

    15. Thomas_Biskup  on February 11th, 2011

      @Loke: It’s probably one of the strongest reasons, yes.

      And please don’t misunderstand: I see many strengths in Android, I see many strengths in iOS. But concerning fragmentation: just because there are some ports of games this does not mean that fragmentation is not a problem. A platform usually lives and dies by its commercial viability.

      That IMHO is the reason why OpenOffice never really managed to change the office software market, why Linux probably never will become a mainstream desktop client and why Java also never will be much more than an excellent server platform (just to name a few examples).

      So I still am wondering: Is there really a working and viable business model for Google behind Android? Is ad sales enough to sustain their pace? Won’t they kill their own market by providing an ecosystem where search becomes less and less important as you customize your mobile devices with apps?

    16. Thomas_Biskup  on February 11th, 2011

      @Nehor: I take you on that and wish you all the best – may you become a billionaire!!!

    17. Thomas_Biskup  on February 11th, 2011

      @Andreas: While for a moment you convinced me when we talked an hour ago I’m now again doubting about HTML 5 for now. At least for games like ADOM (which don’t need a client/server or layered archicture) HTML 5 has one problem: all the sources go to the client and can easily be scanned and modified even during gaming in order to cheat.

      That’s something not very compelling. Does HTML 5 contain any means to protect your code?

    18. Thomas_Biskup  on February 11th, 2011

      @Andreas: And now having read some of the comments it’s obvious that HTML 5 is still a problem if you support multiple browsers and you quickly end up with antiquated DOM manipulations. So I agree with you that HTML 5 probably is going to become a strong contender for multi-platform development but my gut feeling remains that it’s not yet up to the task.

    19. Thomas_Biskup  on February 11th, 2011

      BTW, I find Robert Scobles statements about the Nokia / Microsoft venture (and the comments) very interesting:

    20. kroom  on February 12th, 2011

      I think Andreas Kuckartz is right when he refers to the potential audience of ADOM. We know a roguelike is somewhat geek-related.
      How many I-platform users will pay for a roguelike, and how much? How many Android geeks will pay for it, and how much?

    21. pyrotas  on February 14th, 2011

      Just a quick comment about Obj-C. It is maybe not the most elegant language around and sure it makes you feel uncomfortable in the beginning – at least it’s been so for me, coming from years of vanilla C programming. However, it does not take too much time to get grips of it – and of the garbage collection mechanism.

      All in all, it is *the* language for iOs (or OsX for that matters) and there’s a huge code base around so I would invest more time on it.

      What is really horrible is the x-code suite. And the 4.0 version, which in most parts re-invents the wheel, does not improve things too much. This is a really bad thing.

    22. Mars0124  on February 14th, 2011

      I can understand all the reasoning behind going the iOS route – unfortunately I have just purchased an Android tablet for not wanting to sit under Apple’s overbearing thumb (even after everything a jailbreak enables). One of the things that I love to do is play ADOM – given that it is not available on the ‘Droid system I will likely be bidding the ADOM life adieu in favor of Nethack as it does offer me choices…

      That is of course unless I get tired of it and opt to configure an SSH server to play ADOM remotely from my tablet…

    23. B3  on February 18th, 2011

      Oh it is so pity. But:
      1) iOS = ONE company, Android = many of them
      2) Europe is Apple resistant
      3) Android share is growing rapidly, very rapidly

    24. CaptainPlatypus  on February 20th, 2011

      I’m unlikely to ever buy an iOS device, and my next phone will probably run Android, so obviously I’d prefer it to be on Android for personal reasons. On the other hand, your reasons for using iOS sound very logical – if nothing else, you can make (hopefully a lot of) money selling ADOM Live and use that to spend more of your time on roguelikes!

      Have you considered the possibility of making ADOM Live a client-server application accessible via SSH? I assume that SSH is available on all relevant devices, and this would make dealing with resolutions your only real concern – you don’t have a single worry in regards to compatibility or anything like that. It could potentially make it slightly less accessible, I suppose, but it would solve platforming issues quite effectively.

    25. BWGIA  on February 22nd, 2011

      Interesting problem you have here. I think your reasoning is pretty good, and “I-pple” is the way to go TODAY, but IMHO five years from now it will be more like 90% Android. I think Google has the winning formula, with lots of free apps. Because of the way the market is structured, people make a decision to buy a hardware platform that they are then committed to for at least a few years. Apple was first in with no real competition, so right now it’s at a peak, but that’s changing pretty quickly.

      I’ve got a Nokia E71 and in a year my contract will be up, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be going Android. Why? because of those free apps, which add 100’s of dollars of value to the phone compared to apple. That’s not to say I won’t ever pay for an app, but why commit to a platform that makes you pay for everything??? Android is shaping up to be like windows, there are fully commercial programs, sort of weird add and/or fee supported programs, and totally free programs. often all doing the same thing. Google its self will be fine, would you rather get 1 cent from a billion people or 5 bucks from a million people?

      For the developers though, Android’s going to be a tougher ecosystem, but it’s the CONSUMERS that are going to pick the winner, and it’ll be all down to costs. Apple wants everyone to believe that great apps will drive sales for a premium device that in turn will bring even greater apps, but it didn’t happen that way with desktops. But, hey, Apple is strangely charmed right now, I thought the ipad was a bit silly, and would be a bit of a flop, but now it tablets tablets tablets, so if they can keep ahead of the curve, then maybe nobody will be using phones at all in 5 years time.

      SO, for my two cents, if this ADOM mobile is coming out in the next year or two, then I say go with apple, but I do think in five years or so you will have to have a Android presence if you want serious market exposure.

      BTW, I get what you’re saying about open office and Linux, but be honest here, how many people know that OO and Linux desktops exist, vs how many humans have heard of Android as an alternative to iphones?

    26. keless  on February 22nd, 2011

      Funny how time flies– I submitted some of the art to the original ADOM website back in the day. Now I have a book on iPhone Game Development and several years of experience in the Mobile Game field under my belt: iPhone is definitely the correct lead-off platform.

      Preferences aside, Android marketplace(s) do not currently monetize well. Meanwhile there is much extra leg work to support multiple devices and markets. iPhone will get you more revenue per man-hours hands down.

      Once you’ve conquered iPhone, and you want to increase your potential market, is when you should look at Android. IMNSHO ๐Ÿ˜‰

    27. creed  on February 26th, 2011

      @Thomas: I agree that a question about business model on Android (not only for Google, but for other developers too) is very important.

      Maybe what Loke said is good idea: to have two versions – a free one (with ads and, probably, limited functionality) and a paid one.
      I believe it works very good in a casual game market…

    28. ray  on February 28th, 2011

      Some counter-points on iOS vs Android

      Although most of your points are certainly valid, here is another set of, I believe, valid points for consideration.

      Market: The iOS market is crowded. I’ve heard a lot (and I mean a LOT) of developers complain about how hard it is to get an app noticed on there. The very fact that the Android market is (at the moment) smaller means it is easier to make an app that stands out.

      Systems:The 1.6/2.0/2.1/2.2/2.3 thing isn’t too bad, since developing for 1.6 means all versions since can run the software.
      Honestly, targeting 2.0 at this point would probably get you the vast majority of the devices currently in use, with 2.1 not losing you too much.

      Hardware: Ugh. Very valid point on the variety of android systems out there. The differing screen resolutions are not too much of a problem, but the variety of physical controls is a nightmare. They include
      * Touch-screen only (on budget devices that tend to be the low-resolution ones)
      * More common (HTC uses this a lot) layout of physical Menu, Search, Home, and Back buttons, plus a click-able scroll-wheel
      * Physical slide-out keyboard, with or without the extra buttons in the second bullet point.

      Only way to deal with this, is design a touch-only interface, and then hide unnecessary parts depending on available controls.

      The only counter-point I have is that the worst-case scenario is that you only have the controls Apple gives you, and most devices have more controls than that, allowing a cleaner, less-cluttered screen and interface.

      * Being “free”: Most of the Android owners I know appritiate Android for its free as in Freedom not free as in Money.

      * Lower Market share: Android allows developers to sell software on their websites, and bypass the market entirely. I’ve seen a lot of developers, even of very popular games and apps do this, as then Google gets 0%, and the dev gets 100% (minus credit cards fees, probably). This doubtless has some impact on the numbers for the store.
      Most of these devs put a free demo on the store to gain customers, however.
      This also allows customers from any country in the world, and not just the ones that are in Market-approved countries.
      Also, there are more Android devices out there and the Android user-base is growing faster than the iOS base (I can cite a bunch of websites on this, if you want, but don’t want to clog this post with long URLs.

      Finally Android has language options, with Java (SDK), C, and C++ (NDK), and C gives you dozens of other languages in turn.

    29. Omnivorous  on March 13th, 2011

      Well if you’re only thinking about money, then yeah- iOS is the way to go. Users have less choice, their brains have through use of their Apple-device become used to the fact that “there is no way to do that. I am trapped within these borders that Apple laid out for me.” And these users is more likely to spend their money in the marketplace.
      Why make money on a good game at all? Why not start a company that sell ringtones and crappy S60games, save up for a commercial on MTV and start making easy money!

      I use Android, and while I’ve gotten lots for free, I’ve probably also spent around 50$ on software, in 3-4 months. Several games with 100k/500k+ downloads, cost 4-5 bucks. Other games which are free to play, offer upgrades which you pay for etc.

      I chose Android because I like freedom, and I think every consumer these days have a responsibility with which products they support. Dissapointing to see one of my favorite RL-developers forget about the postcard quest, and try to jump aboard Apple’s money-train ๐Ÿ˜›

    30. Al-Khwarizmi  on March 17th, 2011

      I understand your reasons to focus on iOS, but I hope you decide to release an Android version someday… I have an Android phone and would definitely pay for it.

    31. FatMagic  on March 17th, 2011

      I for one would pay for an Android version. I loved ADOM when I played it 10 years ago on a PC.. would love to play it again on my phone.

    32. narayank  on March 21st, 2011

      I respect your decision – but I can’t help wishing for a phone that works on Windows as well. Theres a risk that the Windows phone OS may not take off – as previous versions have failed to, but the thought of ADOM on XBox Live makes me squee. But Nokia’s distribution clout – even in the smallest towns and villages in India, you will find Nokia phones should negate that.
      Plus, C# should make porting slightly easier and MSDN is (IMHO) the best developer support system around.

    33. velinion  on March 25th, 2011

      Honestly, I think that the Android market, being less saturated, makes it easier to differentiate your app and get noticed.

      The hardware situation is as you noted however: very fragmented on android.

      Recent article on the health of the Android Market:

    34. Fretzy  on March 25th, 2011

      Profitability of android apps on the rise:

    35. CC  on April 15th, 2011

      For the record, I would buy ADOM on iPad in a heartbeat, as well as any incarnation on iPhone.