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Sometimes it feels like everyone has an iPhone, doesn’t it? Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, the latest sales numbers from research firm Kantar World Panel have phones running Google’s Android outselling those running Apple’s iOS by a slight margin.

Despite roughly equal sales, however, the processes of developing apps for the two systems are two decidedly different challenges. The latest update to Android’s adoption chart showed just 2.5 percent of Android users running the latest version, KitKat 4.4. Compare that to iOS: Fully 83 percent of iPhone users are running Apple’s latest, iOS7. By controlling both the hardware – the iPhones – and the operating system, Apple has an ability to push users into updates that Google just can’t match.

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Does this mean the prospect of developing for Android strikes fear in the heart of app nerds everywhere?  Not at all. Actually, Android is an amazing platform to develop for.  But, let’s just say that it’s a good thing we Rocket Farmers thrive on a challenge.

To develop an Android app, we have to decide with our clients whether we should take advantage of the latest-and-greatest features available in the most updated version or limit ourselves to the capabilities of the older versions that are in wider use. Seriously. Look at that chart again. More than 60 percent of users are still on Jelly Bean and there are still significant numbers of folks using the Gingerbread system, which was released more than three years ago. Then we find ourselves needing to contract with third-party quality assurance companies to do the sometimes arduous working of testing our work on all the systems being run on Android phones.

The upshot is this: Most of our clients decide to roll out their apps on iOS first, hone and tweak, then adapt for Android. It’s the right strategy for them, but it certainly makes you ask whether Android needs to do a little more work to find its own winning strategy.

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