Do NOT build a Mobile App!


Um… OK…. Can I ask why?

Apps are useful aren’t they? They are all the craze at the moment. We can look up events, go shopping from the couch, choose from 100s of different free chat clients, play word games with friends, have a combined magnifying glass / torch (or several), and make funny looking photos with our camera.

Throw away apps

That is exactly my point. These are “apps” in the classic sense of the word (yes, I realise “classic” is odd in this context, being the whole smartphone app industry is only 5 years young), but there is a misconception about “apps” that needs to be understood. Apple (followed by the rest of the industry) started the concept of a disposable simple utility gadget program called an “app” – most likely because it was a catchy name and made software “cool”.

But the market was quickly flooded with millions of torches, fart apps, and angry birds look-alikes.

Don’t waste your money

To compete in a flooded commodity market, the only differentiator is price; so all the commodity app producers began the “race to 99c”. Unfortunately this only works for commodity apps because they are cheap to churn out, small, and had a huge market with undersupply. So the name “app” has unfortunately become synonymous with cheap, small and useless. Unfortunately for these developers, the market was suddenly flooded and it became impossible to make your name with a fart app any more.

So our frequent advice is “don’t build an app, don’t waste your money”.

App Developer vs Mobile Application Developer

Wait, isn’t iApps an “App Developer”? So does that mean I am essentially saying don’t come and see us?

No, that’s not the message at all, “App Development” is generally easy, and there are a lot of start-ups and garage companies around Australia all vying for those small disposable projects. We are not in that category. We are a “Mobile Application Software Developer” – a consultancy focussed on delivering value and return on investment to the application sponsors, business owners and most importantly, to the end user. It is only through delivering a truly valuable tool to the end user that your concept will be adopted.

An “App Developer” takes your specification and tries to undercut the market to build as cheap as they can, this is indisputable, look at the market pressures and lack of differentiation. You can easily tell an “App Developer” when you try to call them and they tell you to email your idea. Then they send back a quote for $5,000 or $10,000 dollars.

Is your budget for your mobile application enough?

But the real warning sign here is the price tag, if you are looking at developing an “App” and have a budget of only $10,000 then you fall in the category of customer we seriously advise to “put your money into something else, you are just about guaranteed to find a better return elsewhere”.

About the only use of $5000 in the Mobile Application world, is to forget building your own app and purchase a “templated” app for your company, like the eCoffeeCards, the Clubs Alive and others. They have spent the requisite $100s of thousands developing a robust and capable Mobile Application and back-end servers and integration required to deliver real value at that price point. A custom app of your own on that budget will only buy you a glorified web page.

100s of thousands of dollars! What did I just say?

If you ask any larger mobile application cloud-based provider what it costs to create a compelling product and they will easily quote upwards of half a million. Sure there are cloud analytics and cloud platforms (PAAS) to aid in development, but they are only really a time saver for complex “Apps” (= very simple mobile applications).

When you are trying to build a rural platform for the entire supply chain, or providing a new style of auction platform or an iTunes-like authoring and sales system for business documents, you need custom servers and a solution specifically architected for that need. Building such software takes time and resources, all of which come at a cost.

What to look for in a mobile application developer

A true mobile application developer will take you on a journey to understand not only why you should forget about “Apps” and look at delivering real value, but will also help you to understand the need for solid software experience, qualified server and client architecture teams and application of proven project management philosophies to ensure delivery of a quality product on time.

A real mobile application development firm will have veterans of the software industry, people who cut their teeth programming for the aeronautical industries, or space programs, areas where mistakes in software can cost lives. Here, a substandard product will have disastrous effects.

The next wave of mobile applications

Now is the beginning of the next wave of mobile applications, your potential users are beginning to understand what can be done with mobility and how it can enrich their lives. They have already become jaded with low value “Apps”, useless trinkets that get deleted or forgotten.

That time is gone and the party is over, now is the time to shift to reality and look at a budget to cover design, build, testing, ongoing support and maintenance, marketing, and all the costs behind launching your new business or building a tool that truly connects you with your customers, your suppliers, and your staff.