If you’ve made a resolution list for your business this year, localization should be on it. More specifically, mobile app localization. Why? Because the app market is experiencing explosive growth. The number of mobile subscribers globally is close to 4.77 billion in 2017 — and they’re becoming more demanding. With millions of apps available, users won’t bother downloading your English app if there’s a local version available. Android localization or iOS localization have become essential.
Faced with so many different choices, mobile users are no longer held hostage to the few apps that came with their operating system. They don’t need to book a regular flight, stay in a standard hotel, or call a taxi to take them to the airport. There’s an app that pretty much covers everything and customizes the experience for them.
According to KPCB mobile technology trends, we’re now way beyond the tipping point of internet usage. That means that people spend more time on their mobile devices than their desktops. Significantly more, in fact, at 51% and 42% respectively.
Add to that statistic that 90% of that surfing time is spent within apps, and it’s pretty clear. Apps are shaping the future, and it’s a worldwide tendency. The majority of anyone old enough to hold a mobile device has one in their hands. But how do you make your app popular around the world in different markets with varying tastes?
Mobile App Localization is Essential
Recent data shows that there are currently 2.2 million apps available for iOS operating systems and the number is even higher for Android. But remember, not all apps are created equal.
If you have a successful app in your home market, you’ll already know about the importance of user experience. You’ll know how to select your icon, interfaces, colors, popup messages and payment platform. And then optimize your titles and descriptions for the app store with strategic ASO.
And if you want your app to be a global success, you’re going to have to localize it for different audiences worldwide. Which means you’ll need to study the market you want to launch in and ask yourself a few questions. How big is the potential demand? What are consumer purchasing preferences like? What language do they speak and what currency do they use? Does their geographic region affect buying behavior? Is their culture similar to yours? Do they have different legislation? Ideals and beliefs?
The Common Sense Advisory found that 75% of foreign language speakers prefer to buy products online and in apps in their own language. So, if your idea is to roll out your mobile app across the world in English, let me stop you in your tracks. Not only will it not be the raging hit you’re hoping for, but it will also not get seen in the App Store. Why? Because even if you make the (incorrect) sweeping assumption that most of the world speaks English, they won’t be searching for an app in English.
Local Language for Local People
Let me explain. If a French lady wants to lose weight, she’ll be searching for weight loss apps in French, not English. If a Russian man wants to buy a hat, he won’t search the same way as your home market users. Optimizing your texts for app stores is all part of the app localization process. It’s essential if you want to get seen.
But before you think you can get away with merely optimizing your app description and meta data – think again. If your app fails to meet expectations, it will be deleted faster than it was downloaded. 90% of apps, in fact, are deleted within 30 days of download. And only 16% of consumers will try an app again — which means you never get a second chance to create a first impression. (Well, not much of one.)
Why iOS Localization?
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. If you’re ready to start the app localization process, how do you decide whether to localize for Android or iOS? Why should focus on iOS localization? In an ideal world, you’ll carry out your mobile app localization for both platforms. You’ll share data between iOS and Android and corner the market of smartphone users globally.
But since we don’t live in an ideal world, you may find yourself faced with a little stumbling block called a budget. Sometimes you’ll have a team of developers who prefer iOS to Android. Maybe you have a personal preference for it, or your research tells you that more of your customer base uses iOS devices. Whatever the situation, there are several good arguments for focusing on iOS localization. Let’s check them out…
iOS Localization is Easier
If you’re on a budget or time crunch, iOS localization is a lot easier. OK, so it’s always wise to prepare your app for localization for both platforms from the start, to avoid unnecessary hassles later on. If you create your strings only for your iOS app, all your careful preparation will be useless later on, when you want to use the files for Android. So, localize for iOS, but don’t close the door on Android.
But, Apple’s latest update, iOS 10, was practically designed with localization in mind. With at least five massive updates that make localizing for iOS even easier:
- The keyboard is multilingual
This is awesome news for developers and users alike, as iOS 10 lets you use a multilingual keyboard. Instead of having to change languages using the globe icon, you can type straight into the keyboard in any of the languages you selected in your settings. You will automatically get the relevant autocorrect function for the language you type in. Pretty neat, hey?
- Localized Number Pads
As you know by now, mobile app localization goes way beyond just words. Units of measurements and numbers are important too. With iOS 10, the number pads are now localized as well. This is great for phone numbers, credit card numbers, and IP addresses. Just use UIKeyboardTypeASCIICapableNumberPad as the keyboard type and the rest is easy.
- iOS 10 Loads the Right Language for the Right User
Localization is a complex process. If you only had to deal with the major different languages, like Spanish, French and German, it would be a piece of cake. But languages vary from region to region. British English is not the same as American English. Castilian Spanish varies from the Colombian dialect. They have different spellings, grammar and vocabulary.
But, thanks to Apple’s latest update, you don’t have to worry about localizing your app into hundreds of thousands of languages variations. The latest preferredLocalizations bundle from iOS helps ensure that you deliver the best possible localized version to your users. How?
Imagine you have an English-Speaking user in India and your app isn’t localized into Indian English. Apple’s bundle will recognize that your user prefers Indian English but that you don’t have it available. It will then deliver the next best option, which in this case, would be British English. Not only does this speed up your iOS localization process, but it reduces the cost of localizing for thousands of different regional variations.
- XCode 8 Updates
The latest updates to XCode 8 work like a safety net to catch you from making errors during your iOS localization. There are two new settings in XCode 8, called static analyzer settings. You can work more easily and be notified if any information is missing. Turn on the “Missing Localizability” setting, and if you forget to use your NSLocalizedString, you’ll be alerted with a warning. Similarly, as the name suggests, with the “Missing Localization Context Comment,” you’ll be notified if any comments are missing. Any better and Apple will do the job for you!
- Improved Formatters
Oftentimes, formatters like date, weights, times, etc. can cause the greatest problems when localizing. For example, the Chinese date format is year-month-day. So, when you have your formatters correct in your base language, using a fixed format, this can cause hiccups when it comes to another language. This will result in measurements and dates looking strange and being displayed incorrectly.
Fortunately, with the iOS 10 update, their formatters allow for automatic adjustments so that your iOS localization won’t mess up your user interface. Use the setLocalizedDate format for times and dates. It will localize your formats according to the language you are converting to. You can also use the NSMeasurementFormatter to cover your bases with weights and measurements, from kilometers to energy and pressure.
iOS Users spend more money
Beyond the new updates for iOS 10, if you want further reasons to focus on iOS localization, your users have more purchasing power. Of course, you’ll need to analyze the market for the countries you plan on launching in. Just as you spend time researching your buyer personas at home, find out who your international ones are. Correctly targeting your iOS localization campaign is essential.
If you’ve identified a potential demand for your product or service and know how to craft a message to your audience, your chances of engagement will be higher. When you get higher engagement and positive reviews, your downloads will increase and your ranking in the App Store will rise.
Think about it this way. If your app requires a fee to download or an ongoing subscription payment, studies have proven that iOS users have greater purchasing power in general. There may be more Android mobile devices globally, but Apple users are very loyal and more willing to spend money on your services.
iOS Apps Earn More Revenue
You only have to glance at the Android and iOS revenue models to know which one belongs to Google and which is Apple’s. In the Android platform, there is a much greater percentage of apps that are supported by advertising. In contrast, it’s much more common for users to pay for apps on iOS. There have been abundant studies proving that iOS apps earn more revenue. So, if you’re looking for greater localization ROI, focusing on iOS is your best bet.
Entering the Chinese Market is Less Complicated
Don’t just look at the numbers before you make your app localization decision – make sure you understand what they mean to you. Last year, for example, less than 25% of all Chinese people who owned a smartphone had an iOS based operating system. But that 25% was made up of a loyal fan base, giving Apple a consistent audience. In 2016, in fact, China became Apple’s number one market, outdoing the US by 15% in sales.
On top of that, entering the Chinese app market through the Apple App Store is much easier than taking the Android route. How so? Because the rules for App Store Optimization are the same all over the world and there is only one app store to localize your product for.
Android localization, in contrast, can be extremely difficult in this country. With Google’s infamous troubles within the Chinese market, the absence of Google Play translates into a fragmented market. There are currently over 200 different app stores in China. And each one has its own rules and regulations. If you’re planning to be successful in this part of the world, you’ll be glad you focused on iOS localization.
Just imagine having to strike up a new relationship each time you want to launch with a different app store! Going through stringent QA processes and negotiating rates with each different one. This is a headache you can spare for yourself and your company by opting for iOS.
It’s Better for Beginners
iOS localization is better for when you’re starting out and most developers will advise you to go down this route first. iOS apps have a faster speed to market than Android apps. They cost less to develop and localize with iOS 10, and will yield a faster localization ROI.
When you’re starting out on your app localization project, you’ll be learning a lot on the fly. You’ll need to make adjustments according to your audiences’ reactions. Try new things, add new features, fix some bugs. All that is easier when you’re focusing on one platform, particularly when it’s iOS.
It’s the best environment for beginning your localization project as it’s less challenging than Android. Not to mention that you won’t have to figure out how to make changes and apply your learning on two platforms at once! You can always localize your app for Android afterwards, in fact, it’s highly recommended that you do. But start with iOS localization and move onwards and upwards from there!
Also published on Medium.