Mobile app programs provide valuable tools to your customers and prospects across mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and an ever increasing array of wearable devices such as smartwatches. There are more than a million different types of mobile app programs in use, each offering a wide variety of services that cannot be provided by a website alone.
A Gallup Poll last year reported that more than half the population checks their phone multiple times every hour and the remaining half check at least once an hour. Ericsson, a large phone manufacturer, predicts that 90 percent of people over the age of 6 will have a mobile phone by 2020, and they also predict that there will be more than 6 billion smartphone subscribers by then. Here's the clincher, at least for me - nearly a third of google's ad revenue is already being generated via ads shown on mobile devices. That is a huge amount of potentially lost exposure, if you don't have a presence across those devices. Add to that the potential to attract, convert and retain more customers, and you have a good reason to build a mobile app.
A well designed and thought through mobile app should attract more customers to your brand, increase brand loyalty, deeply engage users, provide you with valuable feedback about your prospects and customers, improve customer service, reduce your costs, create new revenue streams and much more. Great mobile apps are super quick to download and automatically update.
The very best are built for specific platforms and exploit the additional functionality of the mobile device - such as camera, geolocation, messaging, etc. - to provide additional services that traditional websites cannot. At the very least, your website should be capable of being used on a mobile device - google made this an essential requirement for SEO purposes.
At the very high end of mobile app development and design, we have so called native apps. They are built to work on just one platform, require relatively more time, effort and higher budgets. Web apps, derived from standard websites, at the other end of the price spectrum, are more basic and typically require much lower budgets.
As the name implies, a native app is developed to work on a specific platform and optimise the user experience on that platform. The most widely used is the Android platform, followed by IOS/Apple and then then Windows and Blackberry in that order. Because they are designed for specific platforms, native apps typically optimise the user experience - they are faster, perform better and often look like they are an integral part of the device. On the flip side, they are more relatively more expensive to build, and to cover the whole market you'll need to build separate apps for each platform. You will need an android developer and an IOS developer if you want to cover a substantial part of the total market.
Android offers developers greater scope for customization than Apple. The latter keeps tight control of default apps to make the user experience more homogeneous. The former allows much more flexibility.
Also, due to the sheer pervasiveness of the android development platform, development tools and resources are relatively less scarce - with less scarcity you benefit from relatively lower development costs.
The Android platform is everywhere - Android smartphone manufacturers include Samsung, HTC, Sony, Motorola, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and more. Most come with a wide range of screen size, camera, stylus, keyboard, SIM and other options - including many that you simply cannot get with Apple devices - such as micro SDs and removable batteries. Android simply has the greatest variety and choice of smartphone and tablet devices.
This also means that Android fits the widest range of budgets, and attracts a much wider and more diverse demographic user base than Apple. To put this into perspective, last year IDC said that Android's market share was 79%, dwarfing the IOS share of 14.2%. Unless your application is aimed at a specific relatively high net worth demographic, it makes more sense to look beyond Apple to Android.
Good iOS apps are still significantly easier to write than good Android apps. Simply put, all platforms are not created equal. The new Android Studio IDE is closing the gap but the jury is still out. On average, in a small test, we found that Android versions of the apps required 30% + more coding than the iOS versions.
Android applications are written in Java, which is a much more verbose language than Objective-C or Swift, the language of choice for IOS apps. Android developers simply need to write more code than iOS developers to develop the same app.
Extra lines of code translates into potential for more bugs which in turn translates into more time and extra cost. The extra cost is partially mitigated by the slightly lower average hourly cost of an Android developer but overall, Android apps cost more than IOS apps even when you factor in lower hourly rates.
However, Android devices are pervasive, it is the undisputed market leader, with nearly 80% of the market compared with Apple's 14%, according to IDC. Android offers the widest range of devices - with prices that suit a wide and diverse demographic user base. Therefore, unless you are targeting a specific high net worth demographic with your first app, Android is still the more prudent entry point.
However, if you already have the Android app in your war chest, your next native app should certainly be based on IOS/Apple. Apple users punch above their weight in terms of their market importance - on average, they also have relatively higher disposable income. You simply cannot operate a credible app strategy if you do not address this very important market segment. In summary, if you want market visibility and impact for your app, you cannot ignore the Apple/IOS user base.
A more affordable option to native mobile apps, hybrid mobile apps can be installed on any device and can be run via a web browser. They use the HTML5 language and require minimal native app development - traditionally, they were not be as reliable, fast or as smooth as native apps. However, in recent years that has changed significantly. HTML5 is popular with many organisations that have less demanding background processing requirements. Simply put, not having to build a separate app for each platform is a compelling reason to go for a hybrid, especially if budget is the main consideration.
Xamarin apps, a form of pure hybrid, are based on Microsoft.NET. The framework they use provides the same performance and user experience as a native app, but at significantly lower cost and with much less development time. Some native coding is required but it will likely be much less than for html5 hybrid apps. Also, Xamarin apps can share all of the features and security of a native app.
A traditional web app will simply adapt to the screen size of the device that the website is being viewed on. A responsive web app takes on a different design depending on the device it is opened on - the app changes its appearance based on the device being used to view it. Adaptive web apps retain the same design as a web app but tend to better fit the screen size of mobile devices. In general, web apps cost considerably less and are easier to develop. However, they cannot use the additional hardware on the device - for example, camera. Also, they will not be available in app stores, denying your app a valuable channel to market.
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