What iOS and Android versions should my app support?

A question to ask, ideally before you start coding:

“What operating systems should I support?”

Let’s look at some popular apps:

App Min iOS Min Android
Facebook 8.0+ 4.1
Twitter 9.0+ 4.0
iA Writer 10.0+ 4.0
Buffer 10.0 2.2
1Password 11.0 4.0

(Note: for Android it can be a little tricky to quickly find out the minimum version required for the latest version of the app just by looking on Google Play)

To put this into context here is when those iOS/Android versions were released:

  • iOS
    • 8.0 September 2014
    • 9.0 September 2015
    • 10.0 September 2016
    • 11.0 September 2017
  • Android
    • 2.2 May 2010
    • 4.0 October 2011
    • 4.1 July 2012

Some things to note about the above:

  • Generally current versions of apps support much older versions of Android than their iOS equivalents
  • For the iOS apps the smaller companies tend only to support the latest versions

It is well known that iOS users are upgraded to the latest version much more quickly than Android users. Android phones typically have less chance of getting the latest version of Android, whereas even 4 year old iPhones get iOS 11. You can see the situation for Android at the Dashboards page - just 0.3% (as of November 2017) are on Oreo.

Android is different to iOS. Much of the functionality used by developers is contained in a support library released by Google - this supports Android 4 and above. Hence why developers can continue to write an app which doesn’t feel antiquated without needing it to support only the latest releases.

Just because an app theoretically supports version X of an operating system, it doesn’t mean that it will work flawlessly unless rigorously tested. That’s a large reason why smaller iOS developers support only the latest -1 release - they don’t have the facilities or time to test on older devices.

I usually advise clients to support the current major version of iOS and the previous one. At the time of writing that is 11 and 10. For Android you have to bite the bullet and support version 4. Usually I would say Android 4.4 as that corresponds with hardware devices I have available to test with - anything older gets harder to come by.

If you are having an app developed be clear on what versions of iOS and Android you want supported. Talk through the pros and cons with your developer. It will cost you more in money and time to market to support older devices, which often make up a small percent of your target audience.