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How to Convert IOS app to Android app?

Convert IOS app to Android app
Aran Davies
Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer

Wondering how to convert an iOS app to an Android app?

You have come to the right place.

Let’s start by first discussing why you should convert an iOS app to an Android and how both of these mobile OS differ mainly.

Why convert an iOS app into an Android app?

Android and iOS are the two most popular mobile operating systems. A Business of Apps report shows that these operating systems consistently tower over competitors. However, that doesn’t quite reflect the full reality.

iOS is Apple’s proprietary ‘operating system’ (OS), and only Apple devices use it. It’s interesting to note that Apple has highly loyal customers. They remain committed to iPhones, and Apple enjoys a legendary fan following among them.

As such, many companies launch smartphones that use the Android operating system. Overall, Android commands a significantly higher market share.

A Research and Markets report estimates that the global market for mobile apps will grow by a whopping $653.91 billion during the 2021-2025 period. The report projects a CAGR of 21% during this period.

Android consistently holds a 70%+ share of the global market of mobile operating systems. You can make plenty of money by launching an Android app.

You might have had strategic reasons to launch an iOS app first. However, you can’t ignore the Android user base for long. This explains why you now need to convert your iOS app to Android.

Android-vs-iOS differences:

A chart comparing Android and Apple

Before converting your iOS app to Android, you need to factor in the key differences between the two. It’s not just about different devices and manufacturers. The ‘user experience’ (UX) is entirely different in Android vs iOS.

Navigation differences

Navigation in Android is quite different from iOS. The top app bar in Android looks and feels different from the navigation bars in iOS, for example. The top navigation in Android also looks quite different from the segmented control in iOS, and so on.

While Android uses bottom navigation, iOS uses tab bars. Another key difference is in the use of buttons. Android phones use 3 buttons, which are ‘Home’, ‘Back’, and ‘Multitasking’. iPhones have only one button, which is the “Menu”.

Read more about these differences in “Nomenclature of mobile app visual elements — Android vs iOS”.

‘User Interface’ (UI) design approaches are different between Android and iOS

When you plan to turn your iOS app to Android, you also need to remember the fact that Android offers a far greater degree of customization. For e.g., iOS allows only Safari as the mobile Internet browser, Android lets users use 3rd-party browsers.

To take another example, consider the use of messaging apps. iOS imposes certain restrictions on messaging apps. Android doesn’t have them.

Android users can use any SMS client, however, iOS users need to use the default SMS app. Lock screen, launcher, and even ROM can be customized in Android, whereas iOS doesn’t allow these customizations.

Read more about these customization options in “Why Android customization still beats iOS”. Your project planning needs to factor in this.

Android is more ‘open-source’ than iOS

Android is open-source. However, iOS is “closed-source”. Your business stakeholders might opt to introduce more flexibility owing to the open-source components in Android.

Read more about this difference between Android and iOS in “Android is “Open” and iOS Is “Closed” — but what does that mean to you?”.

Easier file transfer with Android

Many people consider file transfer an important feature when using smartphones. Android makes file transfer easier. In comparison, iOS offers limited options.

Many more devices use Android than iOS

Android has a larger market share. Many smartphones from different manufacturers use Android. Android has more varied screen dimensions than iOS.

The differences I have listed above aren’t exhaustive. There are many other differences between Android and iOS, however, I have discussed the key ones that will influence your project planning.

To read more about Android-vs-iOS comparison, check out “Android vs. iOS”.

Steps to convert an iOS app into an Android app

A photo of an Android phone and an iPhone

iOS to Android app conversion is an involved project, which requires end-to-end project management. Let’s review the steps involved.

Step #1: Onboard an iOS to Android app conversion team

A mobile app is a ‘System of Engagement’ (SoE). ‘Agile’ methodology is more suited to this project, compared to the traditional ‘Waterfall’ methodology. Read our guide “Waterfall vs Agile: which methodology is right for your project” to understand how they differ.

You need business analysts, UI/UX designers, Android developers, testers, and a project manager (PM) in your team. The PM should know the project management best practices.

Our guide “Project management: 10 best practices” will help you with this. I assume you already have a ‘Mobile Backend as a Service’ (MBaaS) account for your iOS app, therefore, I have not included mobile backend developers here.

Step #2: iOS to Android app conversion project plan

It’s time you create a comprehensive and realistic project plan. Identify your Agile project vision. Create a product roadmap and an Agile release plan. Plan your Agile ‘Sprints’, i.e., iterations. Use the right tools for managing the project end-to-end.

Our guide to Agile PM tools can help.

Step #3: Create the iOS to Android conversion requirements

You have already seen how Android is markedly different from iOS. The Android UI offers more flexibilities, moreover, file-sharing is easier. The business and marketing stakeholders in your organization will likely want to introduce features to take advantage of these.

Your business analysts will need to create these requirements in the ‘Product backlog’. You will gain many new users after launching an Android app. This changes your non-functional requirements (NFRs) such as scalability, performance, maintainability, reliability, etc.

Analyze these changes and document them.

Step #4: Reassess your ‘Mobile Backend as a Service’ (MBaaS) arrangement

Are you prepared to cater to the potentially large number of new users? Are you prepared for the effects of your revised NFR factors like scalability and performance? Is your existing MBaaS arrangement sufficient to deal with these?

You need to take a hard look at this. If you need to get a new MBaaS provider, consult our guide “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?”.

Step #5: Get the right Android IDE

Get the right tools and resources to expedite this complex development project. Start with the ‘Integrated Development Environment’ (IDE). Android Studio is a very popular IDE for Android development, and I recommend you use it.

Step #6: Choose a suitable programming language

You have quite a few programming languages to choose from, in this iOS to Android conversion project. To make matters simple, I will recommend Java. My 2nd recommendation is Kotlin, which is a recent introduction. Kotlin is very much like Java, however, it’s easier to learn.

Read more about it in “I want to develop Android Apps — what languages should I learn?”.

Step #7: Use libraries to expedite the coding

I recommend you use libraries to expedite your project further. These can help with setting app rules, graphics effects, templates, communication protocols, etc. Check out the following libraries:

Step #8: Utilize plugins to improve your productivity

Android plugins can help you significantly. They improve your efficiency, moreover, they help with syntax. There are many plugins available, and I recommend the following:

  • ‘Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager’ (HAXM): Developed by Intel to allow people to use SDK simulators to help run their apps faster. Study the HAXM documentation.
  • Android material design icon: This helps to create icons of the right size and resolution, and this plugin is built into Android Studio. Read the plugin webpage for more information.
  • ADB-IDEA: This helps with faster app development, and it’s compatible with both Android Studio and IntelliJ IDEA IDEs. Check out the ADB Idea plugin documentation.

Step #9: Create UI using Android Studio

Now you take the next step to turn your iOS app into an Android app. You create the UI using Android Studio. Android Studio provides a user-friendly layout editor. Designers can drag UI elements into this visual design editor, therefore, they don’t need to write the layout XML manually.

Read “Build a UI with Layout Editor”. The layout editor provides you with a palette, a component tree, a toolbar, a design editor, and the ability to control the attributes for the selected view.

The instruction I have referred to describes how to create a new layout, create a layout variant, convert a view, find items in the palette, and many other functions.

Step #10: Coding to migrate an iOS app to an Android app

You already have your iOS app codebase. It might be in Objective-C or Swift. Now, you need to code in Java or Kotlin. You can code the entire app from scratch. On the other hand, you can use code porting tools to expedite the project of porting iOS app.

One such tool is “Objective-C to Java – O2J automatic source code translator”. It automates one-way conversion from Objective-C to Java. The developers of this tool claim that one can save 80% of the coding time with it.

Another tool is called “SwiftKotlin”. Check out its GitHub documentation.

Lisa Luo, an Android development expert, has written a guide on converting Swift code to Kotlin. You can read it in “Converting your iOS app to Android using Kotlin”.

Step #11: Build, debug, and run your app using Android Studio

Android Studio lets programmers create new projects, and offers easy ways to build, debug, and run them. It can deploy code to Android emulators, alternatively, you can also use a physically connected device.

To build your app for the first time, click the “Run” button. Android Studio prompts you to select a deployment target. If you haven’t connected to any physical device, then you can use a virtual device. Read “Create and manage virtual devices” to know more.

You can do a lot, e.g.:

  • Change the run/debug configuration;
  • Change the build variant;
  • Build your project;
  • Monitor the build process;
  • Configure the project for an instant run.

Step #12: Publish your app to “Google Play”

Now is the time to open your app up to your users. You need to publish the Android app to “Google Play”. There are stringent guidelines for this. Read “Publish your app” for detailed instructions.

Step #13: Managing the iOS to Android app conversion project

I recommend you use the tried-and-tested ‘Scrum’ technique to manage the project of converting iOS app to its Android version. The ‘Scrum master’, i.e., the PM leads a cross-functional ‘Scrum team’ where developers and testers work together. Your business analysts should have provided the requirements in a document called the ‘Product backlog’.

The scrum team estimates and prioritizes the requirements into ‘Sprints’. The team conducts a ‘Daily stand-up meeting’ to discuss the project status. Project stakeholders approve the sprint in a ‘Sprint review meeting’ if the features work properly.

After the sprint, the team conducts a lessons-learned meeting called the ‘Sprint retrospective meeting’. Read our guide “How to build a Scrum development team?” for more details.

“Which one’s easier? Converting iOS to Android or vice versa?” 

Are you still strategizing your project? You might be wondering which app to launch first among iOS and Android.

You might think of launching one app first. Subsequently, later on, you might convert it into the other platform. You might wonder which conversion is easier.

We recommend you avoid basing your decision on the wrong question. A project to convert an iOS mobile app to Android isn’t easier than Android-to-iOS conversion. Both require analysis, planning, development, testing, and deployment.

We recommend you focus on your business strategy when determining which one to do first. Launch both Android and iOS apps if you can. If you must choose one, then choose according to your strategy.

Should you focus on using tools to port iOS apps to Android?

You can explore using tools for converting iOS applications to Android applications. However, we don’t recommend you focus exclusively on this option.

We suggest you undertake a well-planned mobile app development project for this conversion. We say this due to the following reasons:

  • You created an iPhone app to cater to a target audience. The app meets specific business requirements like monetization, compliance, etc. You should focus on your users first and not the development tools. Concentrate on implementing your business logic first.
  • A conversion tool can only help with some parts of the project. Undertake a full-fledged Android app development project to meet customized business requirements.
  • You need to factor in the different OS versions for both Android and iOS. Conversion tools can’t handle the complexities of different iOS versions. They can’t manage the complexities of different Android versions either.
  • The Android platform differs widely from iOS. There are different mobile devices with different screen sizes. You need to offer an excellent user experience when you launch an app for Android devices. A conversion tool can’t do the job, and you need to follow comprehensive software development processes.

Should you develop a native Android app or a cross-platform app?

If you are still defining your project scope, then this question has relevance. Native iOS and Android apps offer the best user experience. They offer excellent performance and security too.

Native Android apps make the best use of the Android platform-specific features. Similarly, native iPhone apps optimally utilize the strengths of the iOS platform.

For native iOS development, you use Xcode to create a new app. It’s a popular IDE. You use programming languages like Swift or Objective-C. These languages have excellent compatibility with the iOS platform.

Similarly, you will use Android Studio for native Android development. You will likely also use a language such as Java or Kotlin to code a native Android app.

You will use different SDKs and APIs for different platforms. E.g., Android and iOS have different frameworks for implementing the “push notifications” feature.

As you can see, you are creating two different new apps. You submit them to different app stores. A user downloads your native Android app from the Google Play store. Users download your iOS app from the Apple App Store.

Creating two different apps can increase your software development costs. Many start-ups and enterprises might choose the cross-platform development approach to reduce costs.

They use frameworks like React Native or Flutter for this. By reusing code, they create one app to run on both platforms for the least amount of time and money.

These frameworks have useful widgets. They help you to create workflows. You can manage navigation aspects like the back button. While this approach saves costs, it can’t deliver the same native user experience, performance, and security.

Have you already launched a native iOS app? If yes, then we don’t recommend you take the cross-platform development approach. You should develop a native Android app, which offers the best user experience.

Focus on the “verification and validation” activities when you convert an iOS app to an Android app

Choosing the right tech stack is important, however, you also need to focus on the “verification and validation” activities. Implement a thorough review process. Look for application optimization opportunities during the review.

You need a robust quality assurance process. Choose the right mobile app testing tools. They should enable you to test your Android app on different Android versions and devices.

Features like in-app purchases require your app to process sensitive information. Your testing and review processes should focus on unearthing application security vulnerabilities. 

Got a bigger project to Convert iOS App to Android?

An iOS to Android app conversion project is, in fact, almost a custom development project. The cost estimation depends on your requirements. MBaaS providers display their prices on their websites. You will need to hire developers, designers, and testers. Depending on the geography, the manpower cost could be high.

We can help you to hire iOS developers. Furthermore, we can help you to hire Android developers.

If you are lacking the experienced iOS to Android conversion developers and you need to ensure your project goes smoothly, then why not take a moment to tell us about your project requirements via this link and one of our DevTeam.Space account managers will get back to you to answer any questions that you might have.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Convert iOS App to Android

Can you convert an iOS app to an Android app?

Provided you have the expertise and right tools it is possible to convert an iOS app to Android. Read this article to learn how.

Why convert an iOS app to Android?

Android has by far the largest number of users so converting an app to Android will allow you to access a much vaster userbase. This means more profits.

Do Android apps make more money?

Android apps do not make as much money per user as iOS ones do. However, Android has far more users so overall, Android apps make more money.

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