Jun 24 AT 3:55 PM Dustin Earley 12 Comments

How iOS 7 could occupy developers and hurt Android


What is a platform without its apps? Third-party apps have become the life blood of mobile operating systems. They’re the reason why iOS and Android have absolutely dominated the competition, and the reason why BlackBerry and Windows Phone can’t catch up. In case you haven’t noticed, 2013 is the year of good Android app design. Or at least it was shaping up to be.

At Google I/O this year, Google introduced some new app design guidelines, like the navigation drawer. The navigation drawer isn’t necessarily new, but some rules, including how the navigation drawer should operate and how it should be represented, were firmly solidified this year. Already, a handful of popular Android apps have implemented these new rules, keeping them up-to-date with Google’s own apps.

This is the first time we’ve seen developers keeping up so quickly with Google. When Holo was first introduced, developers were slow to adopt the design. Strict design guidelines introduced with Android 4.0, heavy usage from users on modern Android and surges in market share have been attributed as reasons why Android apps have finally started to look good and adhere to a common design language. Developers finally had a style guide to look at and lots of users to implement that style for. But there’s another reason, and it doesn’t get brought up much. And that reason is directly related to iOS.

For years now, iOS has been utilizing a well-established design language. The user interface of iOS apps are always being tweaked, like with every platform, but for the most part long-standing apps in the App Store have been using the same basic design for nearly five years now. That gave companies the chance to neglect iOS apps and focus on Android. With iOS 7, all of that is thrown out the window.

iOS 7 is a lot more than a simple redesign; there are new rules that govern how everything functions. Nearly everything is different. iOS 7 is similar to Ice Cream Sandwich in a lot of ways, but may be even more of a drastic change. Nearly every single iOS app is going to require a massive redesign, which could have developers placing Android on the back burner.

It’s no secret that companies tend to favor building for iOS. For whatever reason, whether it’s due to limited hardware options or high adoption rates of current firmware versions, multi-platform apps always seem to come to iOS first. And sometimes, like with Vine, even when apps finally do come to Android, they are missing features and barely work. There are exceptions, but for the most part, they’re limited. You can look at it however you want. But from the outside, as an app consumer, iOS seems to get special treatment. There’s a good chance that special treatment is going to be extra apparent while companies redesign for iOS 7.

Anyone who has an app for iOS 7 ready to go this fall is going to have a leg up on the competition. Consumers will flock to their app. Apple will feature them in the App Store and in commercials. No developer is going to be willing to risk that. They’re going to fight for that. They’re going to place all of their focus on that. Unless companies have teams assembled just to concentrate on Android, which many do now, Android apps are going to be pushed aside for awhile.

That doesn’t mean that in a business sense, Android will suffer. In fact, I’d venture to guess it won’t really monetarily hurt Android at all. Only a very small portion of the app consuming population will even care about this kind of stuff. But for those of us who have been excited over every up-to-date Holo Android app, well, it might be a boring year. Might.

This could be the year we finally see just how committed developers are to Android. Despite iOS seeing a massive redesign, Android app development could carry on as normal. If that happens, that’s a huge story in itself. I still remember a time when a good portion of the most popular apps weren’t even on Android. Those days are clearly long gone, but where developers place focus with iOS 7 launching in the fall will show us just how far we’ve come.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • redraider133

    I think with how google put the new guidelines at I/O, most devs have updated their apps already for the new guidelines and this will more affect IOS just like it took awhile for many of their apps to be updated to support the larger iPhone 5 screen.

  • jerrbomb

    But the part of iOS being supported by developing more than Android is true.. I’m still waiting on the update for Modern Combat five to come to Android.. When I have become used to it.. I think that the support for Android will continue to get better.. Look at instagram putting an update for android and iOS at the same time.. I mean that’s just one Dev.. And now that they know Android is only going to be getting better in terms of support and guidelines.. I don’t think we have much to worry about.. But this was a good read..

  • ElvisonD

    Key word is “could”…i’m feeling a bit optimistic and say…it won’t hurt Android, just for the simple fact that Android is seen nowadays as the big dog…iPhone users are coming to Android…well at least in my area…iOS7 = no big deal

  • *d.*

    why is this so hard for ios developers to understand? especially the big names: if you don’t make the small visual update needed in ios7 it won’t hurt you nearly as much as leaving your android app looking janky & acting tweaky.

  • Nate B.

    Developing for iOS is a favouritism. I’ve seen some popular apps on both platforms and the developers just refuse to give it a modern look. Some apps may get the job done, buy looking at them can be an eye sore. Then you have some apps that are on both platforms but of course they function better on iOS. I believe it’s favouritism. I’ve witnessed the neglect of fixing apps but continuous updates for new features will come. This is the first that iOS developers have to change their apps. The most anyways. I don’t think it’ll impact that much.

  • Ric Salazar

    I really don’t think Android is going to get hurt, in fact two of my co-workers are switching to Android from their iPhone 5 they are very disappointed even after the ios 7 preview they still in love with my Galaxy Note 2 which is fully customized and themed up no need for rooting..

  • aryin

    I have yet to hear anyone around me says anything about new the iOS, seems like no one I know is excited about it at all. Rather, quite a number of friends has been switching to an android device from iphone. The only thing that surprised me was the apple conference stated iphone is on top of android.

  • John Patrick

    Not sure how much of an issue this is. Remember back to the start of Android when ALL of the good apps were on IOS? Didn’t change things much did it?
    A big difference now is the larger number of Android users willing to spend money on Android apps – myself included.

  • Bob.Boulder,Colorado

    This discussion was valid in 2009 when android was just beginning to make a mark and iOS was the top dog. The developer who concentrates only on iOS is a foolish one. it is now a bipolar mobile world and only foolish and lazy developers develop only for iOS.

    • Láwliet

      Who are you to call a dev foolish simple because they chose the clearly better operating system to develop for. You sound hurt.

      Not Apple’s fault devs love making well optimized apps for iOS. A lot of cool apps are never coming to Abdroid. Deal with it. iOS all the way. Only gets better from here on.

      iOS 7 is a fantastic update, people just can’t handle change. They love old and familiar and find it hard to embrace new things. Well this is the 21st century. A jail broken iOS device kills Android any day.

  • Jon Garrett

    Dear Dustin,

    shut up.

  • donger

    Get both, Andriod and iOS.