Any organization with a public website must by now be thinking about creating smartphone apps. But unless you have megabucks for development, you likely have to make a choice to develop a product on just one of a number of competing platforms.
But for most, I suspect, the best alternatives will be between Apple's iOS and its 100 million users on iPhones, iPods and iPads, or Google's Android, with 24 million users but growing rapidly. Of course, if 90 percent of your customers use iPhones, your decision is made for you.
Here are some considerations to think about, which are addressed in a new Harvard Business School case study: Developing an App for That: Mobile Application Strategy (Banking).
Approval process. Every app made available through Apple's App Store must first be reviewed by the company, a process that could take a week or, depending if your app is sent back to you for revision (as often occurs, according to various reports), weeks. This makes it difficult to promise your customers and your own board of directors a delivery date. And what if your application is rejected completely? Bye-bye development costs, and maybe your job. With Android, Google posts all submissions immediately, only taking action if problems are identified later. Advantage Android.
Hardware complexity. Android powers smartphones sold by more than 20 manufacturers, as well as on netbooks, tablets and TVs. This multiplicity of hardware options gives choice to consumers but can be a nightmare for developers to write to, and can extend your design and testing process. The Apple platform is pretty much a write-one-app-for-all-devices model. Advantage Apple.
Software complexity. Apple upgrades its operating system software on a consistent basis. But the fragmented world that the Android lives in means that the carriers who sell the phone issue updates when they want to, not according to Google's schedule. Again, developers can't be sure what OS version is operating on what device at any one time. Advantage Apple.
Flash. If your application or content needs Flash to run, Android is your only choice currently. Apple has banned Adobe's technology from its iOS platform. Advantage Android.
What all this should tell you is that making the Android-versus-Apple decision can be extremely complex. Start with a thorough understanding of your customers' needs and technologies before making this big bet.
How is your company deciding between iOS vs. Android?