If there is one thing which has dominated the world of technology in the last 2-3 years, it has to be the smartphone and tablets. The biggest byproduct of this smartphone and tab revolution is application development or apps which add to the value of these gadgets.
There are thousands of apps which serve your entertainment, communication and other personal needs. Naturally most businesses are talking about developing their own apps to market their products and services and create a brand value surrounding them. But is it all worth it? Does the cost you spend on developing an app for your business have no value? This article will answer those questions and to help you decide what’s best for you.
Mobile Applications vs. Mobile Websites
There has been a raging debate on the benefits of mobile apps over traditional mobile websites. Mobile websites are slowly giving way to mobile apps which are customized for different platforms and operating systems. If you are wondering why that is happening, here are some of the major advantages of developing mobile apps:
- Mobile applications give a richer experience to the users compared to a traditional mobile website. With apps, you can be high on the graphics part as well and can make them more interactive and informative.
- Since an (native) app is a downloadable piece of software, it can work even in the offline mode, giving users all the basic information that they look for about your brand. They also come in handy when there is regular disruption of network bringing their cache to good use.
- Apps use very little bandwidth compared to graphically rich mobile websites. The skeletal structure is installed in the smartphone or tablet and there is very little information exchange between the client and the server.
In short all these factors give users an overwhelming experience with their smartphones. In a world where mobile Internet browsing is expected to take over from traditional desktop/laptop based browsing there isn’t any doubt that mobile application development is important in today’s world where branding is as important as product and service.
Does that mean we should write an obituary for mobile websites? Hell No! That would be the most insane thing to do as all the smartphone platforms add up to about 46% (nearly half) of the total adult mobile users of the US (figures released by Pew Internet). So leaving out 54% of the users outside your target range isn’t a smart thing to do, and with the advent of HTML5 mobile websites are giving a tough competition to mobile apps. The right way is to have a two pronged strategy where you have good apps as well as a responsive mobile website.
Types of Mobile Apps
There are basically two major categories of mobile applications –
1. Apps Generating Revenue Directly
These are apps which generate revenue directly which mean that users have to pay upfront to download these apps from their respective stores. What this basically does is give you instant ROI. These apps generally have a direct intensive riding on them which makes the users buy these apps from the stores. For instance users are happy to pay for a GPS app which guides them around the city or an app which informs them on the running of the public transport system in real time.
2. Apps Used for the Purpose of Branding
This is what most businesses generally look for where they develop an application to promote their products and services among the users. There is no direct return on investment and the robustness of the app often decides on its success. If you are an online travel agent and sell flight tickets an app which is made available to the users free can go a long way in increasing your sales and giving you high returns on investment.
The second category of apps is where a business needs to look on the ROI factor before launching an application.
Coming Back to Where We Started – Cost!
There can be no benchmark on the cost of an application development but the ongoing rate for a good app developed by a professional mobile development company starts from somewhere around $30,000. And here we are talking about a single platform such as iPhone, Android or Blackberry. So if you want to develop applications for multiple platforms you can simply add up the cost. Now we are talking about some serious money and something most businesses cannot afford to mess with. There are means to cut down on the cost of developing a mobile application and let us take some of them into consideration.
- Don’t go for a native app, which is OS-specific, as it can increase the cost of development. According to the latest figures, released by Business Wire, Android, iPhone, Symbian and BlackBerry account for close to 97% of the smartphone market with their individual share being 75%, 14.9%, 2.3% and 4.3% respectively.
Solution: Go for a web app; it will not only extend the reach of your business but will also limit the cost of app development. (However, if you are seeking a well- polished, faster app, it is recommended to zero in on native app only.)
- If you choose a native app, don’t go on creating it for all platforms at one go. Target the platform which you think can serve your business objectives in the best manner. Judge the response of the market for some time – it will help you decide your future mobile strategy.
Are Mobile Apps Worth Your Money?
Finally we come to the business side of the article and before we give out the verdict let us state two important facts. Earlier in the article we mentioned that around 46% of the adult mobile users in the US are actually smartphone users. Secondly smartphone sales are increasing and it is only a matter of time before majority of handsets in the world are smartphones. Keeping these things in mind mobile app development is always going to be a worthy investment only if you can make sure the apps are robust and attract the users.