Mobile app porting – How to convert iOS app to Android app

Mobile Apps

Having an iOS mobile app for business or brand is great. As you’ve decided to develop an app using Apple’s mobile operating system first, the next logical step is to build the same app for Android. After all, it currently has the 80% share of mobile OS market. So what are the requirements to convert iOS app to Android app? How big of a change ahead? How to find Android developers that will show you a really great result? With help of our in-house development team we’ll talk you through in detail.

But firstly, why should I port iOS to Android app, you may ask? Here are 5 main common reasons to covert iPhone app:

  1. Expand your market reach – Android phones are far more widely used, and many of those users you are missing out so far, could become potential customers.
  2. More features – Google brings more possibilities to mobile apps so you are not bound to make a duplicate app, but can enrich and improve user experience.
  3. Extra options for monetization – though the App Store brings more revenue in terms of paid downloads, in some other ares Android can also be of use, e.g. ad revenue rates or in-app purchases.
  4. Reduce app development costs – obviously building an app from scratch and porting iOS app to Android app are not the same in price and time, and you’d be able to save money.
  5. Google Play Store – which is easier to work with compared to Apple’s App Store, there’s less trouble in getting approved and adding further updates published.

This all, surely, does not mean the process is a breezy ride – there’s a lot of work, management and supervision in place. From now on we’ll be talking about considerations and various aspects of app conversion, and such things to consider to convert iOS app to Android are:

  • Architecture differences
  • Design/UX considerations
  • Code and components
  • Testing
  • Customers and business model
  • Play Store submission

Android app architecture

One of the first steps in Android app development is defining the minimum Android version supported by your app. For instance, setting it at 4.4 KitKat (and newer) will ensure 90.5% coverage of mobile devices. Though, for specific cases and in regards to app features as well as targeted audience, we recommend making an analysis to set a proper version limit.

Next step is the review of app architecture and features, considering peculiarities and differences of both iOS and Android platforms. Certain platform properties may amend or add new functions of an app, for example:

  • Touch 3D on iOS / AppShortcuts on Android for launcher
  • Push notifications specifics
  • Order and specifics of content switching
  • Interaction with other apps installed on a mobile device

Design considerations to convert iOS app to Android

There’s a lot of discussions regarding pros and cons of both iOS design and Android design. The main distinction here is that those are 2 different environments and act differently. Therefore, avoid copying design element when porting iOS app to Android. Android app with iPhone design, and vice versa, will not do you good.

These are elements and aspects that require special attention:

Icons Android platform has its own icon library, which is preferable.
Content navigation Components like Bottom Navigation Bar, Tabs, Navigation Drawer.
Fonts Roboto is a standard Android font as of recent.
Buttons 2 types of buttons on Android: Flat Button and Floating Action Button.
Dialogs User actions/tasks with clear-cut structure, check Android dialogs.
Lists Look, behavior and animations of Android lists differ significantly from those in iOS apps.
Other elements Components like Bottom Sheets, Checkbox, RadioButton, Switch, Text fields etc.

Also, you have to remember and apprehend metric differences. Things like different Android screen resolutions, various icon sizes, 48DP rule dominance in UI design, etc.

And compare to iOS icon and font sizes, which are measured in points (pt), instead of pixels on Apple platform. The ratio of points to pixels is about 0.75. See iOS resources grid below.

Libraries, frameworks, code porting

App developers always use certain external tools and libraries when building a mobile app. To convert iOS app to Android app, surely, one has to check for compatibility of those tools in Android. In case they are not compatible, it’s necessary to find a proper alternative frameworks.

Concerning code porting for iOS/Android conversion, dissemblance is huge. Today’s iPhone apps are being mostly developed with Swift language, while Android apps use Java and/or Kotlin. You can not just recompile the first code into the latter.

On the other hand, both iOS and Android platforms are capable of working in C code, which one can port in certain scenarios. In practice, for iOS to Android conversion, the app is rewritten on another programming language entirely. Duration of such task depends on app complexity, architecture, libraries and so on.

P.S. Clearly, testing the Android app is a nuanced process, same like iOS applications. The advice is to use common Android-specific emulators, quality assurance systems and other tools for software testing.

Publish to Google Play Store

After iOS to Android app conversion is complete, it is time to release the app to Google Play. The process is quite similar to the one with App Store – you need to add title and description, screens, icon, etc. You also have to specify regions of distribution and undergo app evaluation to set the age rating. More info in Android publishing guidelines.

How to port iOS app to Android

So when you have considered all the things mentioned above, how should the process of conversion to Android look like? We follow the standard and proven practice to convert iPhone app to Android apps, which includes the next stages:

  1. Analysis and plan
    It implies the analysis of how your current iOS actually works, what are its features, design characteristics, work flow, etc. You also have to determine possible issues/errors and think of ways to solve them or optimize the Android app version. The aforementioned tools, frameworks and back-end peculiarities have to be keenly checked for compatibility. Otherwise you are destined to fail.
  2. Assessment and implementation
    Assess all the compatibility technical issues with code, libraries, third-party services. Choose the right tech stack to make app porting precise and less time-consuming, and start the development. In many cases, converting iOS app to Android app is very similar to building a single Android app, so don’t expect it to be over in a week. It includes features and design adaptation by creating Android-specific UX and functionality, setting up the back-end, monetization tools, etc.
  3. Testing and going live
    Similar to any other app building task, quality assurance is a must to convert iOS app to Android. Depending on practices in the agency you’ve hired or your technical requirements, you may use real Android devices or emulation tools for testing. You may also apply various kinds of app testing (validation testing, load testing, user acceptance testing, beta testing, etc.). When all is fine, submit the app to the Google Play and start marketing campaigns.

Conclusion

iOS to Android porting is a complex task requiring technical skills in both mobile platforms. Developers have to be capable of platform adaptation, analyzing business logic behind an app, programming and testing. No “just make it look the same” approach is the rule.

Other recommendations include:

  • Check for optimization/improvement options
  • Analyze business logic and transfer it
  • Study 3-rd party frameworks involved
  • Test user acceptance (if possible)
  • Create Android-specific design and navigations

And finally, a short FAQ.

How long does it take to convert iOS app to Android app?

It can take from 1 to 6 months, or beyond that. It depends on app complexity, features, frameworks, design and other factors.

How much iPhone to Android porting cost?

$3,000 is the very minimum price for a small project. Consider $5,000 to $20,000 cost range for average feature app. Price depends on all the factors enlisted above in the article.

How many developers/resources are required?

One app developer and one designer at least. Sure, y Though, you should not expect “the more developers the faster delivery” effect. The best option would be to hire same team for Android app as for initial iPhone app.

Mobile Apps