Developers have limitless options when choosing where to spend their talents and time. So when the world is your oyster, how do you choose? Coding for mobile devices is the obvious frontrunner for those looking to be truly innovative and relevant these days, but which platform?
For many of us, the decision to focus on iOS was easy.
There are obvious differences from a technical perspective. For instance, Android development is done using Java while iOS takes advantage of Objective-C, a subset language that runs on top of C. Because the argument for which is better is as fruitless as a Coke vs. Pepsi or The Original Series vs. Next Gen debate, I will refrain from comment other than to say both languages are powerful and capable. The preference for one over the other is often due to what the developer has already learned and is most comfortable with.
At a high level, the first consideration has to be what you want to accomplish and not which platform to write for. Is it all about the Benjamins? Who is your target audience? The market for your brilliant idea may actually be found with BlackBerry users or require the features of Windows 7.
Being honest, there are lots of comparisons that can be made that will drive many of you to accuse me of drinking the kool-aid or being bias. And it’s true. I’m happy with iOS. In my development world, the hardware is consistent, marketshare is high and overwhelmingly the people carrying around iPhones and iPads are happy and comfortable giving their credit card over to Apple to make purchases when they feel there is value in doing so.
But that’s today. My hope is that Apple continues to be innovative and that we don’t see the kind of controversy like with Amazon not paying Android developers as expected.
This isn’t to say that everything is sweetness and light when developing for iOS. The App Store is a closed system over which you have no influence or control and approval times for your app submission can be lengthy and are subject to strict rules put in place by Apple. Not only this, you’re paying an annual fee for your patience. The iOS Developer Program is $99 a year and is required if you want your apps to see the light of day. (and before you say it, who needs Flash when there is HTML 5?)
But with a little perspective, even these negatives can translate into something positive for developers. Restraints on the system offer a certain quality control that has made the public trust what they find in the App Store, and developers who have paid to participate tend to be a more invested and serious lot which contributes to a very active and helpful development community.
That doesn’t mean I don’t often find myself with the urge to write something for Android, and in time I probably will. But something had to be first.
And in that fantasy world where there is infinite time and no other commitments, I’m sure we would all like to write for multiple platforms and not have to choose. In my experience, the really gifted developers have a voracious appetite for learning and an open mind.