Smart people like John Gruber of Daring Fireball seem to believe that Android development takes 3x as many developers as iOS. He believes it so strongly he mentions it again in another post about analysts who try to fit facts into a narrative.
Unlike John, we actually do Android development full time, and we have for many years. We’ve made big apps, we’ve made small apps. 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 3x 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. Which one is it? I have no idea, I don’t infer facts from stories that don’t explicitly state them. Justin Williams (an iOS developer by trade) speculates along the same lines. Your mileage may vary, but unlike most other people I speak from years of experience in actually developing on these platforms.
John is certainly not the only one doing this, people write articles like this almost every day on both sides of the fence. It’s just disappointing that these kind of myths are perpetuated in the echo chamber that the tech press occasionally becomes.
Update: Johns response is quite well done, and his research shows that indeed, the BBC iPlayer team is having a lot more issues on Android than iOS. He also links to a PBS Article where they’re having the same issues. Then states:
Maybe the problems the BBC faces are specific to the domain of streaming video.
Maybe? I’d say most likely since that’s all they talk about in the other articles John has now linked to. I realise however, that I should have provided examples of where Android development was faster, or the same as iOS. So here goes:
Skala View development on Android was easily 10x faster than the iOS version. The main reason? Networking is far easier on Android, as are most of the other tasks that Skala View needed to perform. The iOS version was also there for us to work from. To quote Marc Edwards of Bjango:
Backing up @shiftyjelly’s claim re Skala View. Android was way faster and has some additional abilities.
My Physio, a client app we developed was also done in a shorter amount of time than the iOS one. Again because the iOS version was already completed so a lot of the hard work had already been done. I’d say if they were done in parallel they would have been finished in parallel.
Pocket Casts on Android was easier to develop than the iOS counterpart, though the testing and support costs are higher. It’s no small project either, taking 6 months to complete the version 4 update.
Likewise our other apps like Pocket Weather take about the same amount of time to develop for Android as with iOS.
At this point I could scour the Internet for more examples like this one where the author explains how both platforms took him equal amount of times to develop for, and which aspects of each he prefers. That’s not my intention though, it was merely to point out that Android and iOS development in general, take about the same amount of time. In some cases is Android development harder? Of course. In some cases is it easier? Yes. I’m not here to champion Android and claim it’s not fragmented, because it is. I’m not here to tell you that it’s somehow superior to iOS, the truth is that it’s a lot more nuanced than that.
After a quick eight day wait at the hands of Apple’s review team, the best Pocket Weather we’ve shipped yet is now available for your iPhone and iPad.
Among the many fixes, we’ve redesigned the full-screen rain radar, cleaned up the card designs, touched up some of the weather icons, changed the background weather conditions to look nicer for the summer, made the weather icon bigger on iPhone 5, + a heap more. (read below for the full update notes)
You can grab it from the app store. If you really like it, please submit a five star review!
Today Apple released their own podcasting application for iOS. This was widely rumoured, though it still seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Naturally a lot of people have asked us about how we feel about being ‘sherlocked’ (a fun term dating back to an app called ‘Watson’ which Apple copied, and bundled into Max OS X as ‘Sherlock’). Our reaction to the rumours was of course trepidation and fear, since Apple can play ‘dirty’ and do all sorts of things with iOS apps that we as third-party developers are not allowed to do. The app that they released today though, made us very happy.
Apple’s app is quite pretty to look at, and it does a nice job of separating podcasts out of iTunes so in that sense they’ve done the podcasting community a great service. Once you play with their app for more than 5 minutes though, you realise it’s little more than that. It’s literally the features they once had inside the Music and iTunes applications bundled into iOS, moved into their own application. As the maker of a podcasting app, we realise this sounds dis-ingenious, so please, allow us to elaborate.
Let’s pretend that I’m a podcast fan (which I am, so that part is easy) and I’m out to find a podcasting application. Logically (for me at least) I’d try the free Apple one first. Here are some of the things that are immediately annoying about it:
- There’s a 50MB limit on downloads over 3G. Case in point Macbreak Weekly came out today, it was 50.3MB. Can I download it?
- When I play a podcast, I like to be able to see where I’m up to. The now playing screen Apple has is pretty, but doesn’t tell me that. You can tap the artwork to get a progress bar but even that doesn’t have times on it, you actually have to start scrubbing to get them. Once you do the times stay, but they don’t update at all…which seems a bit silly.
- I like to be able to skip adverts really quickly. Apple has a skip back 10 seconds, skip forward 30 seconds. That part would keep me reasonably happy, except the buttons are too close together, and I’d struggle to hit them accurately in my car, which is where I listen to podcasts for over an hour a day.
- I also listen to podcasts that don’t come out on a regular basis, and I’d like the app to send me updates when a new episode comes out, the Apple app can’t do that, I have to open it to get it to refresh.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “You’re purposely focussing on all the things you’re app does well, because you want to point out how great it is. That’s not fair”. You’re right, and you’re wrong. We built our app because we’re avid podcasts fans. We spent a long time agonising over all the little details that we wanted in an application to make our podcast experience pleasurable, rather than painful. So yes, the Apple app is missing things our app has, and yes I’ve pointed out some of them, but for good reason: these are all features we wanted, nay, demanded.
So why would you buy our app over the Apple one? Do you even need to? If you’re a person who listens to only a few podcasts every now and again, you can probably get by with the Apple app just fine. It’s very capable, it’s nicely designed, it’s clean, it’s minimal. But if you want more, here’s the things you’d get with our app:
- Push notifications when new episodes comes out, handy if like me you can’t keep track of when new shows are meant to come out:
- Giant skip buttons (hidden by default, come up when you tap them) for easy skipping in the car. Also handy is the amount back and forward is configurable. Personally I prefer 45 seconds forward, 10 back. Two taps when Tech News Today starts gets me straight to the content every time 🙂
- Server side podcast parsing. Now this is something as a user I wouldn’t think I’d need, but being able to update all 30 of my podcasts in 1 second, vs 1 minute for Apple’s app saves me bandwidth and time. We’re also the only app in iOS to do this.
- Being able to play a video podcast, as audio. All to often I download a video podcast, but then want to play it while doing something else on my phone. The Apple app stops the video the second you back out of it or press your home button. Pocket Casts automatically switches to playing the audio from the video file, allowing you to keep listening.
- Being able to play a podcast while it’s downloading is also very handy, it means you get the best of streaming and downloading. So this morning I was dropping my son off at school, and a new Macbreak Weekly came out. I was out on 3G, so I just tapped download before I hopped back in the car, about 20 seconds later it’s ready to play, and I get to keep the file afterwards so I don’t need a network connection next time I go to play it. Update: I’m told Apple’s app actually supports a slight hybrid of this mode. Where it will stream and download at the same time, then switch to the downloaded version when the download is done. I can’t confirm this, but you’d still be out of luck if it’s over 50MB and you’re on 3G, just like I was in the example below.
I could literally go on all day, but here’s a few more of my favourite features of our app:
- Variable playback speeds (1x, 1.2x, 1.5x, 2x) – Apple has just slow, normal and fast.
- Playlist, choose the order in which you want to play your episodes. Handy when you’re on a plane. Queue up some episodes in the order you want, put your headphones in and your phone never needs to leave your pocket.
- Show notes, one of the most crucial parts of listening to any podcast, and yet as far as I can tell Apple has left them out completely.
- Handy Settings: want to delete a podcast automatically when you’re done. No sweat. Want to configure how your headphones should work with the app, Pocket Casts can do that too. Apple’s app is locked into triple tap to jump back 10 seconds, double tap to skip to the next podcast. In Pocket Casts we have the more sane default of having double-tap skip forward, which is a lifesaver for skipping adverts when you’re phone is in your pocket and should you choose you can have the headphones skip whole episodes instead.
- Manually add shows: every now and again you’ll come across a podcast that isn’t in iTunes. In Apple’s app your out of luck but in ours you can paste in the feed URL and be on your way.
Today we’re proud to announce our latest app Pocket Casts, for Android:
Which begs the obvious question: Have we gone mad, two Android apps in the space of a month? Have we abandoned iOS for greener pastures? The simple answer to which would be: no, we’ve always been mad, but we’re still committed to iOS development.
The longer answer is that currently we have two programmers at Shifty Jelly: Philip and Russell. Out of those two only one coded all our iOS apps, Russell. Philip focussed on the server side of things, which pretty much all of our apps rely on, and which has always been a full time job on it’s own. Since resigning from our full time jobs in September of 2010 Philip has been optimising the heck out of our servers, to ensure that each day he has less and less maintenance that he has to do on them. This frees him up to do some front-end development, which is something he’s always wanted to do. Combine that with his 10 years of experience in Java, and Androids rise in the mobile world, and you have a pretty good match. If you’ll endulge us a second, let’s rephrase it as a computer hardware analogy: in essence we’re a dual core machine, capable of working on iOS apps on one core, and Android apps on the other, while taking advantage of our design co-processor across both.
In many ways the Android side of things is still an experiment, a way of putting a toe into the water to see what happens. So far we’re pleased with the results, but it’s early days. We’re going to be writing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks about the experience, should be quite interesting!
So what can you expect from the Shifties over the next few months? Here’s our current plan:
- New version of Pocket Weather AU for iPhone (hopefully released to Apple today)
- New versions of Pocket Casts for iOS and Android (hint: we’re building a platform here, not a podcasting app as such…there’s a LOT more in the pipeline for Pocket Casts)
- New version of Pocket Weather AU HD for iPad
- New versions of our world weather apps
- New versions of Pocket Weather AU for Android to slowly build up the feature list to match the iPhones
- What, that’s not enough for you? 😉
So let’s put aside the iPhone vs Android war, it’s pointless, both platforms have their merits and neither one is really superior to the other. It all depends on your preference, and having a choice is a good thing as far as we’re concerned. But more importantly, you can enjoy the benefits of Shifty Jelly on both…now isn’t that a load off your minds? Now go be good little boys and girls and buy up all our apps so we can eat for another week! No really…I’m hungry…