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Android First: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Regrets

· Java Zone

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"Android first" isn't a phrase you tend to hear that often, but some people embrace it. There are advantages: Android has a substantial userbase compared to iOS, high numbers of downloads (though maybe not revenue), and a much friendlier publishing process (unless you ask Steve Gehrman). For these reasons, Dave Feldman's team at Emu decided to launch their app on Android first. Apparently, they regret it.

Feldman tells the story of Emu's Android-first push on Techcrunch. It's not that it was a complete failure - the app launched successfully on Android in October 2013 - but now that Emu is on the iPhone (as of April 2014), they've abandoned their Android offering. Feldman gives a variety of reasons:

  • Our decision to build on top of SMS/MMS involved huge, unanticipated technical hurdles.
  • Even when you don’t support older Android versions, fragmentation is a huge drain on resources.
  • Google’s tools and documentation are less advanced, and less stable, than Apple’s.
  • Android’s larger install base doesn’t translate into a larger addressable market.

For each of these points, Feldman goes into great detail and explains the ups and downs of the process on Android. Many technical issues and minor UI bugs, for example, soaked up the team's time, and while every platform has its issues, Feldman suggests that Android feels a bit behind the times. Ultimately, he wonders what was lost by going Android first:

We’ll never know how things would have gone had we stuck with iPhone from the beginning. But here’s my guess: we would have launched our beta in April (not July) and our 1.0 in August (not October). We’d be building more functionality in less time. Our UX would be more polished, we’d have fewer bugs, and our addressable market would actually be larger.

For a detailed look at each of the unexpected drawbacks of Android development, check out Feldman's full article.

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