iPhone vs. Android App Design: What’s the Difference?

When you’re developing a website or app, you’ll typically be requested to do so for both Android and Apple phones. Why should you design for both iOS and Android? It’s pretty clear that both are important, and ignoring either market can cut you off from potentially thousands of users, especially as the overall rate of worldwide smartphone adoption continues to grow. Android dominates the worldwide market with an 83% share, but in the U.S. Apple iOS accounts for 43% of the smartphone market. How many people actually understand the difference between these two platforms, though? It’s important, when developing apps, to have cross-platform consistency. Each platform has its own conventions and design patterns and deviating too much from these will confuse your users. For this reason, designing for both isn’t just about making small tweaks: it’s about understanding the real differences between user interactions on these platforms. Here’s the basics you need to know about Android versus iOS.

Screen Sizes are Different

You’ll need to support multiple screens for both platforms, and none of Apple’s screen sizes match Android’s. In total, you’ll need to design for eight different screens, ranging from the smallest Android phone to the iPad2 (768x1024 pt). It’s worth noting that, while Android measures using density-independent pixels, iOS measurers using pixels. To understand the conversion, 1dp= 1px @ 1x [160dpi]. Newer versions of the iPhone also use Retina display.

The Back Button

On Android, going back involves touching a left pointing arrow at the top of the TouchScreen or on the device. iPhones, however, have a back button in their navigation bar.


Anytime you design a header for an Android app, the name of the app links to the “Home” function on Android. There is no similar concept for iOS.

Switching Views

With Android, when users want to switch between tabs, they go to the top of the screen. For iOS, it’s more common for apps to use a bottom tab bar. Google’s own design page recommends avoiding bottom tab bars for Android in order to maintain a consistent experience for users across different platform apps.

Differentiated Guidelines

Many developers have designed an app for iPhones and then made small tweaks to bring their app to Android, only to realize that there are major issues with having their app accepted under Android standards. Both Android and iOS have UI Guidelines you should familiarize yourself with. Although Apple has traditionally been more strict about which apps they allow in their play store, Google is likely going to follow suit soon. In 2014 there were 66 million iPhone users and 75 million Android users in the U.S., and these numbers will continue to grow over the coming years. Designing for both platforms, and keeping the user experience in mind, is key for having a successful app. Check out our list of top mobile app design firms to get you started.