Is Supporting Android Actually More Work for a Developer Than Supporting iOS?

Russell Ivanovic, a developer at Shifty Jelly, argues that the answer is no:

Sorry to disappoint you John, but a talented Android developer works at roughly the same speed as a talented iOS one. They make the same apps, of the same complexity, in the same amount of time. Sure there are differences in platforms and API. Some things are quicker to do on iOS, others on Android. Long story short, there’s not a lot of difference when it comes to development time.

Like the very analysts he mocks, Gruber is trying to fit a story to his pre-existing narrative. Does the BBC story offer a reason as to why the team is 3× bigger? Nope. Does it suggest any sort of causality? None. It’s a casually mentioned fact about an app which is currently being developed. It could be that the team is bigger because the app is playing catch up to the iOS one that came out first. It could be bigger because some of the iOS team is helping out. It could be bigger because the BBC is using developers who are less familiar with Android. It could be that the iOS team used to be the same size or bigger, but was ramped down after the first version of the app was completed.

Or, perhaps it could be that the BBC has been very public over the last few years about the problems they’ve had supporting Android. Like this, earlier this year:

But as I said, this is not my job, so I asked Daniel Danker, the BBC’s head of iPlayer, apps and all that stuff, to explain. […]

“If you look at the amount of energy we spend on Apple, it pales in comparison to what we spend on Android. […]

“People write to us saying just that, why bother supporting older devices, why don’t you just start with - and then they insert whichever model of phone they have. But more than a quarter of our requests to iPlayer come from devices running Gingerbread. And the number one device contacting us is still the Samsung Galaxy S2, which can’t handle advanced video.”

See also this gem.

Maybe the BBC iPlayer Android team is comprised of a bunch of dopes. Maybe the problems the BBC faces are specific to the domain of streaming video. But the bottom line is that the BBC’s Android team is three times bigger than their iOS team, and yet their Android app lags behind in features, because they’re finding it harder to develop for Android because of hardware and software fragmentation. And they’re not alone.

Saturday, 3 August 2013