How to Convert an Android App to iOS or Vice Versa: 4-Step Process
If you are looking for the ways to convert an Android app to iOS or the other way round, I assume you are among those lucky app startups whose business is experiencing growth. Am I right?)
Starting your project with one platform was a good strategy to undergo in regards to time and monetary resources. Instagram, one of the most successful apps these days, was first available to Apple users. The app experimented with feature-set, designs, and even its idea. First, the app concept was finalized and gained positive feedback based on thousands of downloads. And only then, Instagram`s team decided to convert the iOS app to Android platform.
But, how hard is it to convert an Android app to iOS or vice versa? And what do you start with? And is there is a difference whether you convert an iOS app to Android or contrariwise?
To start with some clarification, in order to convert your app successfully, it is necessary to understand the main differences between iOS and Android platforms. Besides, it is crucial to differentiate business logic from coding aspects in each platform. The flow of an app conversion includes the next 4 sub-steps:
- Review the app requirements and functionality
- Adjust the app design to meet the platform`s guidelines
- Tailor coding and architecture components for a new platform
- Ensure proper app testing and app store launch
Why Convert an Android App to iOS?
Before we start with an explicit explanation of how to convert an Android app to iOS and the other way round, let's first state the reasons behind this process.
For a better outcome, your app porting decision should be based on the following aspects:
1- Positive current app indicators & metrics
The decision to expand your project to another platform should be based on some countable metrics like a sufficient number of downloads, active app users, etc.
2- Existing market
Also, first aspect to consider before you decide to convert an Android app to iOS or in reverse is the market. There is no sense if 95% of the target audience uses one specific platform -iOS or Android. Based on geolocation, it is possible to check the number of potential app clients. Try using the service of StatCounter Global Stats.
Once you’ve found some assurance, you may benefit in many aspects once you convert an Android app to iOS. Both mobile app platforms cover up to 95% (74.94% on Android,19.84% on iOS) of mobile devices available worldwide.
The app conversion gives any business owner the next advantages:
Possibility to increase your market share while gaining gain new app users.
Opportunity to add new app features. The process to convert iOS app to Android does not equal simple app copying. It involves compliance with new platform specifics and thus, it can be possible to enrich a product with new functionality.
Possibility to increase Return on Investment (ROI). A new application provides a great opportunity to apply a new app monetization model.
Ability to organize the process with a software development team quicker. The discussion process can be shortened since there is an already existing app with source code, app designs, or other materials.
A Notice on Online iOS to Android App Converter
If you are wondering whether it is possible to run Android apps on iOS, the answer is definite here. It is impractical to run Android apps on iOS or the other way round. This is due to the native components in the operating systems which each platform has. The native Android or iOS app development requires using different programming languages, design interface, navigation, integration process. All these aspects should comply with a particular operating system.
Furthermore, running Android apps on iOS is impossible because of the following factors:
- Different lifecycle of apps in the system
- Different lifecycle of app screens within the app itself
- Different approaches regarding data access. For example, iOS apps have been requesting access to data or device functions since the very beginning. In contrast, this feature was added only in Android 6.0 Marshmallow version.
Another aspect is that the Android system uses the instruction set of the Java virtual machine (JVM) called ByteCode, while iOS implements the compiled code. As well, it is impossible to install an app directly to your phone that has not been authorized by Apple's App Store.
It is misleading to be told to use some kind of service or program to transfer your app to another platform with just a few clicks. Online tools like an Android to iOS converter simply do not exist.
To summarize this part, if you convert an Android app to iOS, it simply means that you develop a new app from scratch. This process requires hiring a software development team with high technical capabilities in both platforms. Only then, the app`s business requirements, technical components, and app performance match with the existing application.
The only exception of this procedure is the case if your app is not developed cross-platform initially. This is hybrid app working with both operating systems while utilizing a range of web-based libraries and frameworks.
It is possible to use PhoneGap or React Native to convert an Android app to iOS, but this approach has some substantial pitfalls. This method is advisable mostly for apps with simple functionality.
You may check out the article: Native App Development vs. Hybrid and Web App Building. It describes different app development methods with pros & cons for each.
Key Differences to Pay Attention to When Porting an Android App to iOS
Let's get to the actual difference between the Android and iOS operating systems so that you can better understand what makes the whole app conversion process not at all quick and easy.
1. Fragmentation of OS Versions
Both operating systems are periodically updated with some improvements. Consequently, each successful app project should support the newest OS versions. At the same time, not every customer opts to change their mobile device, so your app should be compliant with the most-widely used OS versions.
The recent statistics state that there are 3 dominant OS versions for Android; 6.0 Marshmallow, 7.0 Nougat, and 5.1 Lollipop. However, others also have some portion of the total users and should be taken into account when you want to convert an iOS app to Android.
The situation is easier when you convert an Android app to iOS. In general, Apple users are more prone changing their devices and thus the majority tends to adopt the latest OS versions. Most known Apple mobile devices are compatible, starting with iOS 10, with 92% of users. Basically, you may concentrate your efforts on the 3 latest iOS versions.
2. Different Device Sizes
It is vital to take into account the devices and their screen sizes before development starts, as it is important for your app to be displayed on the screen correctly. Here, the situation is similar to OS versions, where Android has more than 20 screens available, while Apple devices have only 4-5 core screens. Therefore, consider this fact, especially when you convert an iOS app to Android.
Luckily, it is not necessary to make adjustments for each screen size. The Android system supports different screen resolutions, which is enough to cover the main 5-7 sizes. As well, the system adapts the application to the most applicable size by itself.
3. Device Buttons & Navigation
Another important element I would like to draw your attention to with regard to converting Android apps to iOS consists of the device buttons. These buttons have an impact on user behavior while interacting with the application. For Android users, a common action is to use soft keys to move back to a previous screen, whereas iOS users use back buttons or a new gesture of swiping from left to right to go back.
Worth mentioning, that the last generation of Apple devices, as well as some of Android smartphones, are without buttons. This definitely influences the process of user interaction with a device and the way apps are designed. This factor affects the app’s interface design, wherein Android uses mostly vertical elements, and iOS includes both vertical and horizontal. Moreover, the taps located inside the app should not duplicate the functionality of the device’s buttons.
4. Unique Aspects of Programming Languages
There is a common delusion that in order to convert an Android app to iOS, one simply needs to translate the code. Just like the languages we speak, programming languages also have their own syntax and semantics, rules, algorithms, etc. These languages are different in both mobile operating systems.
- Swift and Objective-C, programming languages used in app development for the Apple products.
These days, the majority of developers use Swift, which is more preferable to startups.
More information about iOS development can be read here:
Swift vs Objective-C. Which iOS Language To Choose
- Kotlin and Java, programming languages used in Android development.
More and more programmers begin to use Kotlin in Android app development.
Check the following article for all ins and outs: Kotlin vs. Java: Which Programming Language to Choose for Your Android App.
It could be helpful once you need to convert iOS app to Android platform.
Even it may seem that the feature on one platform is working the same way as on another, in reality, the situation may be quite opposite. This means that once you decide to convert the existing Android app to iOS, the same app functionality can be time-consuming on the latter platform. It is our friendly notification for you to understand why sometimes a simple feature can take longer time.
Any professional software developer is aware of this fact and optimizes the app functionality for the best app operation and performance on a new platform.
Step-by-Step Process: How to Convert an Android App to iOS or Vice Versa
Step 1: Review App Requirements & Functionality
Since there are many elements that should not slip from one's attention, a decent plan is necessary to convert an Android app to iOS successfully.
First of all, the software development team together with the client collects and analyzes all materials available from the existing app. For example, functional specification, app design, source code should be studied in detail. This helps to align the app's functionality and business logic. It may happen that some technical components need to be changed. Among these elements could be push notifications, adjustments in content, use of 3D Touch on iOS, etc.
This initial step when you convert an Android app to iOS breaks down the project revision in two perspectives: business and technical. Therefore, the most efficient way is to assign two specialists like Business Analyst and Software Architect to perform the gap analysis. This examination allows for preparing the scope of work to maximum new app`s potential and performance.
Thus, here is a small checklist of important tech points to consider:
- Check for app optimization and potential improvement possibilities
- Analyze business logic and apply it to the new project
- Check and approve compatibility with included 3rd party frameworks
The potential deliverables from the initial step to convert an app are as follows:
- Market Analysis (optional)
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) - used to hierarchically organize all project`s elements
- Project Mind-Map
- Functional Specification (list of features with their description)
- Code Review
- Design Review
Want to port your app to another platform?
Receive a free consultation and cost estimate for the app conversion process. We can also assist in defining or adjusting your digital business strategy in line with converting your Android app to iOS or contrariwise.
Step 2: Adjust Design for App Porting
Since it is necessary to code an app from scratch, logically the user interface and layout should be changed too.
A common mistake is to just copy the existing UI (user interface) instead of adjusting it as necessary. The result of such a misstep could be a strange app look, feel, and/or navigation.
Material vs Flat Design Patterns
Google and Apple have different design patterns. If you convert an iOS app to Android, use material design. If you need to convert an Android app to iOS, you need to apply flat design patterns. The biggest difference makes the placement of the objects. The material design appears to be more three-dimensional. In contrast, the design elements are flat and direct in flat design. For a better understanding, please check out the examples in the illustration below.
iOS and Android have many different UI components. Let's now compare all these interface differences
Fonts To Use When Converting an App
The native fonts for each platform are as follows:
- San Francisco for iOS platform
- Roboto for Android platform
When you convert an Android app to iOS or vice versa, there is a possibility to apply custom fonts if it is specifically relevant. Some great custom fonts are used in AirBnB apps. These apps have LL Circular, a non-serif font, which brings uniformity to both mobile app platforms.
UI Mirroring (for RTL languages)
It may appear that your current app supports right-to-left languages (Arabic or Hebrew). The main difference between left-to-right (LTR) and right-to-left (RTL) language is the direction in which content is displayed. This aspect is crucial to take into account especially when you convert an Android app to iOS.
Android has native built-in support for RTL interfaces, starting from Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, so if your app uses native controls on a large scale, most things will work out of the box. With regard to iOS, starting from iOS 9, they have comprehensive support for right-to-left languages, which makes it easier to provide a flipped user interface. This means that standard UI Kit controls automatically flip in a right-to-left context.
As for the custom UI elements, there still may be a need for some extra development work.
Design Slicing Before Converting an iOS or Android App
Prior to the development process, the app design needs to be sliced into assets. This helps software development to emplace the corresponding design into the code. In case you need to convert an iOS app to Android, these assets are sliced into the next resolutions like mpdi, hdpi, xhdpi, xxhdpi (in some cases, ldpi, xxxhdpi) and provided in .png format.
With regard when converting an Android app to iOS, the design is sliced in 1x *.pdf. This is a vector format and thus, if necessary, can be easily resized to 2x or 3x by developers.
Our team creates UI Kit and Design Guidelines in PhotoShop and then uploads them to Avocode. By clicking on a particular element, it shows all the necessary information for developers, such as the width, height, and color of the particular element for active and inactive positions, fonts that should be used, etc.
You are welcome to read more information about the UX/UI Mobile and Web Design service on our website.
This information could be helpful once you decide to convert your Android app to iOS or in reverse. There is a design creation process described in detail as well as a list of design deliverables is provided.
Step 3: Tailor Coding and Architecture Components
As mentioned, when one converts an Android app to iOS, the code should be rewritten almost entirely from scratch. It is impossible simply to recompile the code. Aside from the programming language, the app uses some external solutions, libraries, and third-party integrations. Thus, it is crucial to check the compatibility of a platform your iOS or Android app is converted to with those components. Otherwise, some alternative tools should be replaced in order to fit functionality.
Check out the table for the tech stack summarizing the components necessary once you decide to convert an Android app to iOS or in reverse.
|Programming language||Swift 4 (preferred) / Objective-C||Kotlin (preferred)/ Java|
|Development OS||Latest Mac OS X||Ubuntu, Mac OS|
|Target OS||iOS 11+, watchOS 3.0+, tvOS 10+||Android 4.2+ (Jelly Bean, API Level 17+)|
|Integrated Development Environment||Xcode 9+ or AppCode||Latest Android Studio|
|Store||iTunes App Store||Google Play, Amazon etc.|
It does not make any difference, either you port an Android app to iOS or convert iOS app to Android, both operating systems can integrate use the following 3rd party service:
- Payment Systems: Braintree, Paypal
- Analytics: Flurry, Google Analytics, Fabric, Crashlytics, Mixpanel
- Social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, SinaWeibo+
- Postal service: EasyPost, FedEx,etc.
So that you may avoid the most common mistakes, here is a list of potential pitfalls. These could be especially difficult when you convert an Android app to iOS:
- Check the development works necessary in case of a multi-language app
- Check for the app localization functionality (especially if converting an Android app to iOS)
- Check the work with out-of-the-box solutions (e.g. specific animation)
- Check for the possible adjustments to make with a system’s backend (e.g. functionality for push notifications or in-app purchases. Primarily, this corresponds to the conversion of Android app to iOS)
- Create Google or Apple account beforehand
The bottom line is, if you want to convert an Android app to iOS or vice versa, the development time will not be any shorter. In any case, reviewing the current app’s code is always useful, especially if your app has implemented some sophisticated algorithms.
Step 4: Proper App Testing and Launch
Well thought-out software testing allows creating a great working product. As well as app coding and app designing, converting an iOS app to Android or vice versa includes quality assurance. This service usually takes around 30% of the total development time. The quality assurance engineers are testing application in terms of code functioning and correspondence in design interface and navigation.
Here is a list of possible tests conducted during the quality assurance:
- Functional testing
- Security and Access
- Control testing
- Performance and Load testing
- Usability testing
- Validation testing
- User acceptance
Worth to note that in order to submit the app to the app marketplace correctly, it is highly recommended that you use common tools, software, and devices for testing the specific platform to meet its guidelines. In general, Apple's App Store has stricter rules when submitting the application.
For the detailed project development process check our service: MVP Development
How Much Does it Cost to Convert an Android App to iOS or Contrariwise?
As it had been said, the process of converting an iOS app to Android is very similar to building a separate Android app, so don’t expect it to be over in a week. The procedure includes the adaptation of features and design to meet Android platform specifics, building a corresponding backend, applying monetization models, etc.
Also, it is crucial to take into account the communication time and team meetings. These aspects are necessary to convert your Android app to iOS or the other way round in a proper way.
During the meetings, the software development team is defining all the project`s details like technical and functional documentation, application programming interface, communication protocols and many other.
Application porting services are often customized. The cost to convert an Android app to iOS is formed from all of the mentioned aspects.
Case Study: Converting an iOS App to Android
A successful example of converting an iOS app to Android at MLSDev is the Yummi app, which allows users to log personal food memories and share them with friends. The app began as a Minimum Viable Product on iOS, and was then converted to Android. The app was adapted for a new platform, but did not include every feature.
Another example of converting an Android to iOS was the Elite Emoji app. Our cooperation started with Android development. Shortly thereafter, the app showed very good traction, making it the right time to reach to a wider audience and develop an iOS app. At the same time, we were working on new features for Android. Elite Emoji, at that time, was a feature-rich app, so the initial plan was to launch with only the basic features and provide users with regular updates afterward. (Link to Android, iOS)
To sum it up, when you convert an Android app to iOS, the main point during the whole process lies in applying business and technical requirements that are already operating to the new platform. With MLSDev, the porting process will be precise and clear.
Want to port your Android or iOS app to another platform?
Drop us a line to get our consultation regarding your app conversion process.