How much does it cost to implement real-time updates in your app?

We’re on to the next chapter of how much does it cost to make an app?, and this addition we’re covering real-time updates. At their most basic level, real-time updates provide data that allows users to make more pertinent and informed decisions, and to then take action (at the right time) based on that data.

There isn’t one single real-time updating method for apps, however – just like anything that is built through software development. So, how much does real-time implementation cost you? Well, to keep the trend going, it all depends on what you want to achieve.

It’s important to note that for all types of real-time updates, there are two significant factors to their cost – time to build/implement, and the cost of data transfer throughout the lifetime of your app. If you’ve read our blog about how much it costs to implement a GPS/mapping API?, you’ll be familiar with the idea that every request made from a client to an API has a monetary cost associated with it.

The same goes for real-time updates (in fact, GPS and mapping APIs use real-time updating to function), and each data transfer will have a cost that comes along with it (for many reasons).

Let’s get into how these functionalities work:

The mechanisms behind real-time

There’s a lot of tasks real-time updating can accomplish – from detecting fraud at the moment of a transaction, to sending out the latest and greatest offer to a customer near your store’s location via proximity marketing.

Updating a device with data from a server can only be accomplished in a few different ways, however:

Polling

The simplest form of real-time data transfer is called polling. It’s the equivalent to knocking on your neighbor’s door at regular intervals until they answer. Or, for a more real-world example, it’s when a client continuously requests data from a server, based on set intervals of time.

While it is easy to implement, it’s a very inefficient form of data transfer – even if there is no change of state in the server, data will still be transferred every minute, or five minutes, or whatever pre-determined period of time you set. This forces you to play a balancing game against just how close to real-time you want your app to be, versus the cost to do so. The more requests you have, the more servers you need – which comes with higher infrastructure investment requirements, as well as higher maintenance costs.

The more data requests and transfers a server handles, the higher your costs will be. On the other side of the coin, if you don’t allow for enough server requests, your app won’t actually be updating itself in real-time – it’ll be more like what-happened-five-minutes-ago-time.

Long Polling

Long polling is very similar to polling, but with one key difference; rather than visiting your neighbor’s doorstep every minute, it’s like leaving a note on their door that says “come over when you’re ready.” In more realistic terms, it’s when a server only transfers data to a client if a change has been made to the data on the server.

While this does solve the cost issues associated with polling, it still comes with some pretty significant drawbacks:

  • Servers can sometimes be expected to hold on to massive amount of data
  • It is difficult to recover a session if a connection was lost with high reliability

Because of this, long polling has the potential to become a burden to large scale apps that require a high frequency of updates, or utilize segmented campaigns to target specific user groups.

Websockets

Websockets can be thought of as a tool that turns a client into a server – it allows the client to both make and listen for data requests – giving the actual server the ability to very easily update the client.

Websockets function by the client providing what is called a callbackURL. These can be thought of as the phone number the server dials when it wants to transfer data to the client.

What this means is that because a client can actively listen to the server, there is no data transferred until a change has been made to the status of the server, and if connection is lost between the server and the client, it doesn’t matter, because the client will resume its active listening pattern.

It’s the digital version of installing a camera on your neighbor’s front door so you know when they’re home – except less restraining-order-worthy.

Note: “Websockets” and “webhooks” are easily confused terminology. Webhooks are used for server-to-server communication, and tell a server to send data to a specific URL. Websockets are used for server-to-client communication.

Subscription Websockets

These are essentially the previously-mentioned websockets, and function in a very similar manner – the key difference is that they allow the client to determine what changes to data they want to be alerted about. For example, if a package delivery service uses a client-facing app, the client could select different types of data changes to receive alerts for: packed sent, package delayed, package delivered.

Methods of real-time implementation

There’s two pathways you can take towards implementing real-time updates: native development or through a third-party API.

If you’re going down the native development route, the cost of implementation varies depending on a multitude of factors, including: hourly rate, the complexity of the feature, the server infrastructure, and the amount of maintenance that will be required in the future.

Native development of real-time capabilities does come with perks, but its cost will ultimately come down to how much time you spend maintaining your server – while third party APIs come with reoccurring costs in the form of subscription fees – it’s a bit of a toss up as to which costs more. While natively run servers will cost less when everything is running smoothly, if something goes wrong, the maintenance fees fall to you.

Depending on the complexity of the real-time feature you’re implementing, your costs could range anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.

Let’s go over some of the third-party APIs available:

Apache Kafka

Kafka can be used for messaging, website activity tracking, log aggregation, stream processing, and event sourcing. Like everything under the Apache license, it’s open source, and therefore free API to implement.

PubNub

PubNub can provide real-time integration for chat features, IoT device communication and streaming, mapping, GPS, push notifications, and alerts. PubNub’s services start at $49 per month, plus data transaction fees.

Fanout

Fanout.io serves as a proxy for real-time updates. Fanout also allows you to develop your own APIs alongside their service, so you can provide your own customization based on your app’s specific needs. Fanout costs $25 per month, plus data transaction fees.

Realtime

Realtime.co is a message broker that operates in real time through the cloud. It can be used for cross platform apps – and has SDKs to go with both Android and iOS. Realtime’s pricing starts at $49 per month plus data transactions, and goes up to $250 per month plus data transactions.

AWS AppSync

Amazon Web Services offers their own real-time updating API called AppSync. AppSync can be implemented for almost every use case imaginable. AppSync’s services cost $4.00 per million query and data modification operations, $2.00 per million real-time updates, and $0.08 per million minutes of connection to the AWS AppSync service.

Firebase

Firebase – Google’s comprehensive mobile development platform – has two different real time services: Realtime Database and Cloud Firestore.

Realtime Database stores your data on a single JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) tree. JSON is a “lightweight data-interchange format,” and is easily readable and writeable by people, and quickly parsed and generated by computers.

Cloud Firestore stores data in documents, which are organized and stored in collections. Documents serve as the unit of storage, and are written in a syntax extremely similar to JSON. Documents can be broken into sub-collections and nested objects, which are referred to as maps.

Both Realtime and Firestore are NoSQL databases, which come with their own pros and cons when compared to more traditional SQL databases. While SQL databases are organized to write data in a very efficient manner; NoSQL databases are organized to read data quickly, but due to their structure, require duplicate data in order to access information.

You can think of a SQL database as a collection of tables that hold very specific, uniform sets of information, that link up in a web. NoSQL databases are structured in branches, which lead to other branches, which lead to other branches.

NoSQL

Basically, when data needs to be shared instantaneously across hundreds, thousands, or even millions of devices, NoSQL databases are very efficient because of their data structure. Both Realtime Database and Cloud Firestore offer real-time and offline support with SDKs specifically built for mobile. Both are capable of being implemented for pretty much every real-time use case you can think of – from chat to re-sizing photos, to analytics and machine learning.

If you know your app will only be used by a relatively small audience in a localized area, and your data sets are straight-forward, go with Realtime Database. Cloud Firestore horizontally scalable – meaning it works better than Realtime Database when used across multiple localized areas, as you don’t need to create shards in order to do so. Because of Firestore’s structure, data is very easily split between different servers.

The Firebase payment model starts at a free version, and has two other plans: $25 a month, and a pay-as-you-go option.

Apps that utilize real-time

Sometimes, it’s a bit difficult to imagine what kinds of apps use real-time features in order to work properly, or improve their UX. So, here are some real-world examples of apps that use real-time tech:

Uber

Real-time tech is the backbone of Uber. Without it, users wouldn’t know where their driver was, driver’s wouldn’t know the location of their passengers, and GPS wouldn’t work.

SafeLite Auto

Much in the same way Uber relies on real-time updates to track its drivers, so to does Safelite’s app, which provides users with the location and ETA for a mobile technician.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp uses real-time updates for chat, voice, and video features. This is necessary for low-latency communication, and keeps conversations smooth, with even pacing, and no downtime.

Dominos

Real-time updates are how Dominos keep customers informed about the status of their pizza order – when it’s in the oven, when it’s ready for pick up, or when it’s out for delivery.

Inventory management

Inventory management at scale would be completely impossible without real-time updating capabilities. Keeping accurate track of your company’s stock requires knowing your exact inventory numbers every moment – when you’re working at a national or global scale, conversions can happen at rates that can only be tracked through real-time updates.

Your options for real-time

There’s plenty more services out there – but what’s important to know is that just like most software services, the costs of a real-time APIs increase with the scale of your app. If you’re going the native development route, your costs will largely rely on how much infrastructure investment is required, as well as your servers’ maintenance costs.

How much does it cost to implement login capabilities?

There’s a lot of apps that require a login feature – mostly out of necessity for the app to work properly – but data has shown giving users the ability to personalize their experience within your app is a powerful UX strategy when used to increase your user retention.

There is, however, one major downside to including the requirement that users set up a profile before they can fully utilize your app: app abandonment due to first impressions.

If users are met with a proverbial checklist of requirements to complete before they can actually use your app, they’re much more likely to give up before proceeding. This is where implementing a login through social feature comes into play – it gives your first-time users the ability to create a profile with one tap, rather than filling out forms and fields.

So, how much does this user-retention-saving feature cost?

Honestly, not too much – it all depends on how secure you want it to be. If you use our favorite app analytics platform, Kumulos, it can take anywhere from 1-3 hours to implement a login feature with an app, depending on the complexity.

Implementing a login feature with the lowest form of security (basic authentication) can cost as little as $100 to implement. Apps that want to utilize the highest levels of security can expect a cost of $10,000 for a login feature implementation.

When it comes to the cost of implementing logins with social media, such as Facebook, or Instagram, there is no extra cost – just the addition to the time it takes to actually implement. The price of these social login features comes from labor cost – the APIs themselves are free.

Let’s look into why adding these extra layers of security can cause such a drastic change in total cost, and, if the added security is worth it in the long run.

The costs of security

There’s many different forms of security when it comes to user authentication. The costs of which can vary depending on many different factors – ranging from time to develop to the cost of physical infrastructure.

There is something important to keep in mind in regards to the cost of security: the cost of code only changes if you are implementing third party APIs that come with a price tag or subscription fee – implementing your own code to allow for security that exists in a digital space only comes with different associated costs due to one factor: time to develop.

Let’s cover those:

Basic Authentication

The least complex login method is called basic authentication. Let’s go over how user authentication (at its most basic levels) works:

  1. A user enters their credentials
  2. Those credentials are sent to an authentication server
  3. The server will then attempt to match the credentials together
  4. Upon a match, the server authorizes the user’s attempted access

This process is faster than it sounds – it happens every time you login to a website that requires your username and password, such as your bank. This process is also referred to as “logon” authentication.

Single-Sign-On (SSO)

SSO functions very similarly to logon authentication, but rather than granting access to a single server, it grants access to multiple – a lot of social media and email websites will use this feature.

While SSO is the least secure method (as it gives access to multiple servers), it works well for apps for two reasons – smartphones are generally intimately used devices, so the chances of someone physically accessing your personal information via your smartphone is diminished; and, SSO does wonders for user retention, which is a hard-fought battle for most apps.

IPSec

IPSec is the most secure form of user authentication. IPSec allows data to be encrypted and authenticated over a secure internet protocol network. In order for the user’s device to understand, and then display the correct information based on the encrypted data, a method called mutual authentication is used.

This happens at the first instance of the user logging in, and continues to happen throughout the session as cryptographic keys are exchanged over the secure server. This can be implemented in three types of data transfer: user-to-user, network-to-network, and network-to-user.

Biometrics

Biometric security is largely implemented through physical means, and utilized in mainly on-site locations, rather than remote – therefore, its most common use case is in buildings that require high amounts of security.

Current biometric capabilities include finger print scanners, voice recognition, and retinal and face scanners. These capabilities are rapidly changing and expanding into different realms of biometrics, such as heartbeat and even brain activity.

Biometric security is a high cost investment, as it requires specialized scanning equipment – because of this, its costs can greatly exceed $10,000 – this number depends heavily on the scale and amount of scanning devices required.

Token Authentication

Token authentication requires a user to physically possess a device, such as a dongle, card, or RFID chip (plus a password) in order to access a secure system. While this is a highly robust method of security, due to the requirement of both an actual device and password needed to be used to access a server or system, it mainly only works for organizations that have the infrastructure necessary to implement an extensive system such as this.

Transaction Authentication

Transaction authentication is a pretty straightforward security method. In essence, it boils down to this: If a transaction (via credit card or payment service) seems suspicious, the person making the transaction will be prompted to take extra steps in order to verify that they are indeed the person they claim to be.

While the idea of asking someone “Are you sure you are who you say you are?” Is a simple security measure to wrap your head around, the systems required to make that process possible are intricate and costly – and require a significant amount of investment in infrastructure.

This is largely due to the fact that you must first have significant amounts of data for each customer profile before you can start defining suspicious account activity, and then flagging errant transactions.

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication simply means mixing two types of user authentication together into a single authentication process. For instance, the example we used for biometric authentication (requiring bio-data and a password) can be classified as MFA, or, our example of token authentication – requiring a user possess both a device and password.

Out-of-band Authentication (OOB)

Out-of-band authentication validates login requests by requiring the user to provide information that can only be accessed by a device different from the one they are currently using to log on. For example:

When you login to your car insurance website, but before you do, you receive a text message containing an access code that is only valid for a limited amount of time. You then enter that code into the website, and you finish the login process.

This is a method of security that has a very applicable use case for an app that needs a high degree of security.

The costs of not using secure login authentication

First, it’s important to get one thing clear – if your app doesn’t make use of sensitive or highly personal information, go ahead with SSO. There are options you can take to implement extra layers of security on the initial login authentication.

If your app does make use of sensitive info, however, it’s vitally important to your user retention, brand equity, and business in general to use the highest levels of security. When comparing the cost of $10,000 to the cost a negative user review and rating can do to your app’s ranking, it’s definitely worth the upfront cost.

A perfect example of this is what happened to Facebook and its reputation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal; 1 in 10 American users deleted their actual profile, and 26% of American users deleted Facebook’s app from their devices.

Their brand is irreparably ruined in the eyes of some of its former customers – 15% of users who responded to a survey conducted by market intelligence firm Creative Strategies and Techpinions said there was nothing Facebook could do to regain their trust.

This was the response to a social media company’s mishandling of user data – now just imagine what the fallout would be if your sensitive-data-based app mishandled users’ personal information.

Context is key

When budgeting for a login feature with your mobile app, it all comes down to how secure your app needs to be. Basic user authentication can be implemented for as little as $100, and IPSec can reach the realm of $10,000.

How much does it cost to implement backend CRM software?

Continuing with our quest to provide you with the most comprehensive answer to the question: how much does it cost to make an app?, it’s our next addition to the fray – and this time, we’re going over the cost of backend CRM (Customer Relationship Management) integration.

There’s the usual simple answer (that really doesn’t answer anything): it depends on the complexity of the CRM software and the mobile app that goes with it.

There’s also two different options, both of which come with widely differing upfront and lifetime costs and value:

  1. Purchasing (and then implementing) a third party CRM API = low upfront cost, high lifetime cost, low lifetime value
  2. Building your own custom CRM software, and then integrating it with the backend of your internal app = high upfront cost, medium lifetime cost, high lifetime value

If you want to go the third-party API route, the answer ultimately comes down to the SaaS provider you chose to go with. Going the custom CRM software route, will, in the long run, save you both time and money.

Before we get into the reasons as to why, we’re going to cover the basics of the functionalities a CRM software can provide – so when you’re planning out your own internal business app’s development (and the backend integration of its sister CRM software), you’ll know what to expect.

CRM software functionality

CRM software is designed with the intention of providing a hub for every aspect of managing your business’ relationships with its customers:

  • Management of: Contacts, leads, prospects, affiliates, and partners Customer data: Storage and processing
  • Customer profiles: Personal data, contact information, history of past purchases
  • Process automation: Syncing communications, automating reports as well as email (and sometimes text) marketing efforts

Let’s go over the features that make those functionalities possible.

Lead management

Keeping track of leads is crucial in today’s market – and it’s no longer only large corporations that deal with high volumes of clients – small business must compete at a global scale in order to keep up.

One of the most practical methods to increasing customer loyalty is to develop and maintain a personal connection with every customer – from their initial point of contact with your business onwards. In order to effectively accomplish this standard, lead management is a necessary and effective tool.

By using the lead management functionality CRM software provides, not only can you disseminate leads to the right people, you can automate your mid funnel processes; such as marketing and remarketing campaigns that utilize email or text campaigns that serve to keep customers engaged with your business, thereby creating (and increasing) lead generation.

A perfect example of the efficiency CRM software provides is the automation of leads’ contact information – when a client fills out their info on your website, it’s then added to their customer profile in your database.

When your sales team adds contact information to a customer profile from a lead they just created, the data ends up in the same place. Not only does this make it impossible to lose or duplicate information, it means that if a sales representative is no longer with your company, the lead’s info stays within your database – not on their personal phone.

Process Management

When was the meeting with David? No, the other David. You know – the one with the on-demand dog walking app?

CRM mitigates the wasted minutes in those kinds of conversations. If an account representative schedules a call with David-the-dog-walker, your account manager will know as well, because all the information David and his business can be found in the same place – his client profile in your CRM software.

Assigning tasks, scheduling meetings, making sure follow-up emails are sent, and phone calls are placed is simple when it’s automated. You can even set up automatic notifications to make sure no task is left by the wayside.

Speaking of keeping everything in the same place, let’s move on to…

CRM Dashboard capabilities

Everyone loves a good dashboard – and with CRM software, you can create customized dashboards for each facet of your operations – from sales and marketing to service automation and even accounting.

Dashboards are the perfect tool for helping your employees understand the big picture, the pieces and processes that make it up, and their role in your business’ operations as a whole. They’re also excellent more mobile devices, as they are the quickest way to find information on a smaller screen.

Auto-generated reports and invoicing

There’s not much to say here, other than CRM software will put the “I want those reports on my desk by 5,” cliche to rest. Instead of spending countless hours tracking down and then organizing information, you can just click a button.

There’s nothing quite as inefficient as spending money to fill and send out invoices. The time and money spent on filling out documents that are, by their very nature, asking customers for money is one of the more catch-22 moments in everyday business life. Just like reports, filling out invoices is a thing of the past with CRM software. The program already knows who bought what, where it’s going, and who’s receiving it.

Lead Scoring

Knowing who to go after at the right time is a skill business developers must hone over years of professional development. CRM software can be used to automatically track and score the engagement of your users, and then update their profiles with their current score.

With a system that can quickly analyze and interpret vast amounts of data and interactions, you can better measure your leads’ online behavior, email and social engagement, and any other channels you use to engage with customers.

Wrap all that up in an app

The best part is that all of those functionalities can be packed into a mobile app – through integrating your CRM software with your internal business app’s backend. This means that when your employees are away from their desks, out in the field, or serve a roll that keeps them on their feet, you can still make sure they’re in the know.

This doesn’t mean replacing your CRM software with an app – merely that it’s just as accessible and useful when your employees are in situations that require them to be away from their desk.

The cost of implementing CRM software with a mobile app

Funnily enough, the cost of implementing your CRM software with a mobile app is a pretty low cost- your custom CRM software is basically it’s own API, so it comes down to how much time it takes to connect the endpoints with the backend logic of your app. A typical rate to do this would range from $75 to $125 per hour.

The true cost of implementing CRM software with an app is the actual development of the CRM software itself – building out a CRM system with the features listed above is a process that typically takes (at least) a few years.

The time it takes to develop is inexorably tied to the scale and complexity of the needs of your company – which usually means the greater your need for CRM software, the higher the cost to develop. The upfront cost to begin development of custom CRM software can range (again, depending on complexity) from $50,000 to $75,000. Over the course of a few years of development, costs can range from $175,000 (for a simple CRM system), and $250,000 – $500,000 for a complex one.

Those are high numbers – but consider the longterm costs of continuously paying for a third party CRM software; when looking at the most popular CRM SaaS provider, the option with the most functionality is $300 per user per month. If you have 25 users, that means $7,500 per month, or $90,000 in one year.

So, even if your custom CRM system cost $500,000 to develop, that cost is basically paid for after five years. In regards to the long term cost, the custom CRM software will win every time. Not only does custom-built CRM software have a lower lifetime cost, it also comes with a better value – since it’s custom, it’s made to specifically improve your processes, not business practices in general. This makes your employees who use it even more efficient with their time, which leads to happier customers, and more sales.

How much does it cost to implement wearables?

Just how much does it cost to implement wearable technology with your app? We have the answer, but before we get into it, let’s look into where the wearable market is today, and how it got there.

A brief history of the future

If there’s one burgeoning technology that has “future” written all over it, it’s wearable tech. From 2010 to about 2015, there seemed to be a contraction in the evolution of different types of consumer-facing hardware – sure, there were many different devices being created, but they all generally fit into the category of “thing with a screen.”

A smartphone is a smaller tablet. A tablet is a laptop without a keyboard (unless you’re talking about Microsoft’s Surface), and a laptop is a portable desktop computer. All of these devices were made to basically function (other than inputs) in the same manner – and during this time, innovation was based around making devices smaller, and more portable.

Mp3 players were abandoned in favor of iPods. iPods were abandoned and replaced with iPhones or Android devices.

The first wearable devices, like the FitBit, were a continuation of this trend – take a screen, make it smaller, and put it on a device. There was one important distinction with this device, however – unlike smartphones, tablets, and laptops (which all accomplish the same tasks), the original FitBit only did two things – it kept track of your daily steps, and how much time you spent sleeping.

This was in 2009 – two years after the first iPhone was released, and during the time period mobile devices were focused on adding features, not purposely limiting them.

The power of wearables isn’t their ability to do everything, however – it’s their ability to do a small range of things very well. When it comes to keeping track of steps, wearing an unobtrusive device that you don’t need to interact with is a much better user experience than taking out a phone, opening an app, waiting for it to load, starting your step counter…

What’s less distracting when you go for a run – a smartphone bigger than your hand, or a device you can wear on your wrist?

So what does a watch that keeps track of your heartbeat, steps, and sleep cycle have to do with the future? It’s because this is just the beginning.

The wearable hardware market

Smartwatches and fitness trackers – the two types of devices that immediately come to mind when the subject of wearable tech is brought up.

For good reason to – the vast majority of wearable devices sold have been Apple’s AppleWatch, which sold 1 million units in one day on its initial launch in 2014. Since then, there’s been steady, incremental improvements to smartwatches, like battery life and screen resolution. When WatchOS 2.0 came out, and apps began to run natively on AppleWatches without the help of a companion smart phone, the benefit of smartwatches began to come apparent.

Wearable tech’s association with fitness isn’t unfounded either – the fitness and sport segment of the wearable market accounts for 39% of the market share. Speaking of market share – the wearable market, while new, isn’t small at all – in the U.S. alone, there were 38 million users of wearable tech by 2018.

The truly exciting aspect of these numbers is their potential – with AR-specific products already on their way to market this year, like Microsoft’s HoloLens2, the growth and innovation the wearables market will experience will most likely be staggering – in both economic growth, and impact on society. In the U.S. market, 21% of consumers have stated they are “very likely” to purchase a piece of wearable tech like a smartwatch. With AR, VR, and MxR on the horizon, this statistic will only increase.

Just take a look at this piece from TIME about the future of wearable tech – smart clothes that provide tactile feedback paired with GPS navigation, shoes that charge your other wearable devices by utilizing the energy from your movements, and GPS enabled shirt buttons that can call 911 when you’re in danger.

The wearable software market

There are three main industries focused on expanding their markets via wearable devices:

  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Healthcare
  • Defense

Both the fitness and healthcare industries are expanding into wearables for obvious reasons – defense contractors and the DOD, however, are more interested in the application of VR and AR technology.

The healthcare industry is expected to monitor the health of an estimated 5 million patients by 2023, driving $60 billion in spending on wearable tech. The Department of Defense is expected to spend nearly $11 billion on VR wearable tech by 2022 – while that’s a hefty price tag, the amount of time and money saved in training soldiers is a much higher number.

While wearable tech will most likely never fully replace smartphones and laptops, they will undoubtably enhance the experiences they provide to users. That’s why it’s important to make sure the pain point your wearable app solves is even more targeted than a standard mobile app.

Despite many pieces of wearable tech providing the hardware layer for native, standalone apps that run independently without the help of the cloud or another piece of technology, most apps that live on wearables (especially smartwatches) are supplemental additions to an already existing app.

So, how much does it cost to implement wearables?

Luckily, developing a wearable app isn’t much different than developing for iOS or Android – there’s just a few tweaks here and there. AppleWatch apps are programmed using Xcode and Swift, just like all iOS apps, and Android Wear apps are programmed using the usual suspects – JAVA and C++.

Let’s pretend that we were going to make a wearable app for Brew Trader – it’s an app that gives users the ability to find and trade craft beer with other beer enthusiasts nearby, which they can find on a map, or through searching for a specific beer.

Let’s say the wearable app we’re developing is going to be used to supplement the process of communicating with other users – currently, users are sent a notification when they have a trade request. In order to optimize the interpersonal communication between users, and lessen the time a request spends in limbo, we decided to build out a wearable app that alerts the user about any trade requests, or responses to their own requests.

What would this require?

First, we would need to build out the UI for the wearable app – the parameters of which rely on a set of factors such as the screen shape (for smartwatches: rectangular, or circular) and model of wearable device (AppleWatch vs. Android Wear). If we wanted Brew Trader to be available for both Apple’s and Android’s wearable devices, we’d need to develop native apps for both.

The interfaces of smartwatches use different inputs and design hierarchy than mobile apps, so while it’s important to keep the styles of your app similar, it’s just as important to not reuse UI elements – you’ll end up going back to re-design them anyway.

Second, we’d connect the wearable app to the mobile app using the cloud, as well as connecting the wearable app itself to the backend database Brew Trader uses to keep track of trade requests, user profiles, and user DMs.

Third, we’d use an analytics platform like Kumulos to create segmented push notifications that alert users to trade requests, responses, and DMs.

Fourth, we’d implement the new code into Brew Trader’s code base, and add the new smartwatch functionality as an update to the already existing app.

And when it comes to implementing a wearable app into an already existing app, that’s really all there is to it. Something that’s very much worth noting – if the only thing you want to achieve by implementing a wearable app into your already existent app are push notifications (and the push notifications don’t rely on data from the mobile version), there’s virtually no extra cost. All smartwatches can display the push notifications of an app, regardless if it’s a mobile or wearable app in question.

If you want to build a wearable app from the ground up, it’ll largely be the same cost and process as normally developing a mobile app. One thing we will recommend here is to directly contact the company that designs the hardware you’re planning to develop for. The wearable industry is still very plastic, so UI/UX standards aren’t set in stone, and users are still very willing to learn new ways to interact with wearable devices. As a developer, you can actually influence the development of hardware to include physical features or processing capabilities your app would need to function. This isn’t an opportunity developers have very often, and the window to do so will soon be coming to a close.

How much does it cost to implement push notifications? – with Kumulos

Push notifications are a fantastic and proven strategy used to increase both user engagement and user retention – but are they worth the cost?

The short answer: most of the time. But let’s get into the reasons why.

The cost of implementing push notifications

Let’s start with the lowest cost option first – sending out push notifications on your own. In order to do this (at least for iOS), you’ll need to:

  1. Sign up for an Apple Developer Program Membership ($99)
  2. Set up a push notification certificate for your app ID (which you’ll get when you sign up for an ADPM)
  3. Download a push notification app from the App Store
  4. Set up a server from which to send push notifications to your users’ devices (costs for servers vary, and largely depend on your data loads)
  5. Use callbacks in the app to receive and handle push notifications

You should note that for iOS users to receive your push notifications, they must opt-in. For Android, it’s the opposite – users are automatically set up to receive push notifications when they download an app. Because of this, Android apps see a much higher opt-in rate than iOS – 91% compared to 43%.

Keep in mind, however, that iOS users tend to engage with apps more than Android users do. In addition to this, users who opt-in to push notifications engage with apps 88% more than those who don’t.

Also remember that just because you’re sending out push notifications yourself doesn’t mean that it’s free – if you’re the CEO of your company, you’re using your own time. If an employee of yours is sending them out, they’re using their own time – and time is money.

Sending a push notification, no matter if you’re supplying the backend infrastructure, is never truly free of cost. There’s also one glaring issue with sending out push notifications yourself – you lack the ability to study your push notification analytics.

Implementing push notifications through an analytics platform

If you’re invested in making a successful app, you’re most likely going to use an analytics platform in order to, well, analyze how users engage with your app. If you use these types of services, they might just have their own push notification service.

While this does cost more than sending out the push notifications on your own, successfully running an app without the support of an analytics platform is nigh impossible. So if you’re already utilizing a service like this, you might as well make the most of it.

There are a lot of analytics platforms, but we prefer Kumulos. A major reason for this is because through their platform, you can schedule, send out, and analyze your push notifications – as well as create segmented campaigns.

Bringing your analytical capabilities and your push notification campaigns together has an extra bonus – you’re able to study patterns of user behavior (like the day of the week, or hour of the day) that a user is most likely to open up your app. If they didn’t open up your app at their usual time yesterday, send them a push notification with a message that serves as a gentle reminder for them to engage with your app.

Now, we’ve stated this before, but we’ll say it again: it’s incredibly important to keep one fact in mind when sending out a push notification – you are interrupting your users’ daily lives. It’s the digital version of being handed a flier while you walk down the sidewalk – or being asked to write down your signature for a cause.

That’s why there are four key factors behind successful push notifications:

  1. Targeted
  2. Immediately beneficial to your users
  3. Attention-grabbing
  4. Billboard rule (less than ten words, ideally 7)

If your push notifications fall into the realm of “sales-y,” you actually run the risk of decreasing your app’s user engagement, and increase the chances of users abandoning your app in favor of one that doesn’t annoy them.

Bob Lawson, Founder, Kumulos says, “We 100% agree that push notifications are worth it, when done correctly. It’s far less expensive to retain existing app users than work on acquiring additional users. Having the ability to analyze the results of push notification campaigns is key to driving successful outcomes for any app.”

If you’re using a platform like Kumulos to both analyze user behavior and send out push notifications, you’re more likely to find the sweet spot between grabbing your users’ attention (for their own benefit), and interrupting them (for the benefit of your metrics). Users can easily tell which category your message falls into – and they’ll react accordingly.

This is why, even though it costs more (at least initially) to subscribe to an analytics platform with push notifications capabilities, it’s ultimately more economical to do so than going the “free” route.

Targeting the needs of your users, and providing them with a pertinent CTA is how you increase your user engagement. Shouting into the void, or asking your users to do something for your app while providing no benefit in return is how you lose users.

Here’s an example of a bad push notification:

Hi! This is _______! We’d love it if you could review and rate ______, the app you love, in the app store! Here’s a link to share us on social media: [link]

And here’s an example of a push notification that accomplishes the same thing, but in a way that’s beneficial for both your app and your users:

One month free for rating ______: [Link]

Now, that might seem like a low effort sales pitch, but what’s less of an interruption? “Here’s the thing,” versus “Hi! Here’s this great thing we’d like you to know about! If you want to act upon this thing, visit here!”

The second example also provides users with an immediate benefit: “one month free.” Don’t bury the lead.

There are other strategies for getting the most from push notifications, namely Proximity Marketing. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out our guest blog from Kumulos’ Caroline McClelland.

The last thing we want to cover is that sometimes push notifications aren’t the best way to go about increasing your user engagement and retention. Like anything in this world, context is key to success.

Understand how your users’ interact with your app, and if that interaction could receive benefit from push notifications. If there’s no benefit they could provide your app, don’t use them.

So, how much do push notifications cost?

As much as you want them to. Just remember; the more investment you put into analyzing your users’ needs and usage patterns, the more targeted (and segmented) of a push notification campaign you can make – which in turn results in better responses to your push notifications.

Don’t be the seedy car sales representative. Be the friend who wants their friend group to know about the cool thing.

Android or iOS development – which costs more?

Developing an app is never an inexpensive endeavor, which is why it’s always important to cut any unnecessary costs. What’s the most significant variable to the cost of developing your app?

Android, or iOS?

After identifying your targeted pain point, the next question you should always ask yourself is this: which platform do I launch on? Answering this question will dictate your UI, your marketing, your development, your testing – the entire strategy behind building your app, basically.

Quite often, however, the most important aspect of developing an app isn’t which platform to develop for, but which platform costs more. So, which platform does cost more to develop for? Well, by now you’ve probably noticed a pattern – it depends.

For the time-pressed reader, the more affordable option is usually iOS. But there are factors that can alter this answer, and it’s important to know why and how these factors impact the cost of developing an app.

Let’s get into it.

The two wrestling giants

Both Android and iOS boast an almost unprecedented number devices sold, available apps, and total app conversions:

  • In 2017, over 1 billion Android devices were sold, while Apple sold over 200 million iOS devices
  • As of 2018, Google Play has 2.6 million apps available for download, while the App Store comes in a relatively close second with 2 million
  • In 2018, App Annie released a report stating that the total number of app downloads between Google Play and the App Store was 28.4 billion conversions – of that number, Google Play accounted for 20 billion downloads

Android owns significant percentages of the marketplace, while iOS apps see higher user retention:

  • In the U.S., Android owns 54.6% of the market, and iOS owns 44.4% (Android is the top performer globally)
  • More iOS users download purchasable apps than Android users (11.82% vs. 5.76%)
  • iOS apps have a higher retention rate than Android (1% to 3% higher)

Something to keep in mind: While Android does account for a larger share of the mobile market than iOS (at least in terms of devices sold), this figure is likely skewed by the fact that Android comes with many pre-paid phone options, and there are no iPhone counterparts. While this larger presence seems to indicate apps available for both platforms would see more downloads from Android, we have witnessed the opposite from the data of apps we have published.

Out of these three apps, one has an audience centered in the U.S., one is centered internationally, and one has an audience split almost evenly between the U.S. and international markets.

  • For the U.S. centric app, 76% of downloads are from the App Store.
  • For the internationally centric app, 46% of downloads are from the App Store.
  • For the app evenly split between U.S. and international markets, 65% of downloads have come from the App Store.

Purchasing power and user profiles

When you compare the average revenue per user between app categories on Google Play and the App Store, despite iOS accounting for less devices and downloads, iOS apps see higher average earnings than Android.

  • Gaming app average revenue per user: $1.99 (iOS) versus $1.56 (Android)
  • Shopping app average revenue per user: $19.64 (iOS) versus $11.49 (Android)
  • Travel app average revenue per user: $32.29 (iOS) versus $20.47 (Android)

What’s the reason behind these differences? While it’s important to keep in mind that the following findings are generalizations of markets, and not indicative of every user profile, there are noticeable trends that arise when comparing Android and iOS users:

Again, these are generalizations, and should be treated as such.

Some other interesting stats on user profiles:

  • iPhone users are more likely to engage in m-commerce
  • Apple customers are loyal; 80% of iPhone users have perviously owned another iPhone
  • iOS users tend to favor social media and retail apps, while Android users favor utility and productivity apps
  • iPhone users tend to identify as extroverts, and Android users as introverts

The cost of development

Development costs, no matter what platform you’re developing for, come down to three factors: time, hourly rate, and investment in infrastructure (like the computers used for development, or the servers that house your app’s backend).

The time it takes to develop an app can be further broken down into three determining factors: ease of programming, testing, and publishing (specifically the review of your app before it is officially launched).

Swift, the coding language all iOS apps are programmed with, is robust, streamlined, and was written expressly for the purpose of building apps for Apple’s devices. On the other hand, Android apps can be built by JAVA, C++, Kotlin, and Go (among others).

While the latter two of these languages were written with the same purpose as Swift (app development), JAVA and C++ have been around long before the idea of what an app is today had come to fruition. JAVA saw its public release in 1996, and C++ was released over a decade before that.

Since these languages are old enough to order a beer and not get carded, there are more programmers who can code for Android than iOS. While this does usually translate into a cheaper hourly rate when hiring Android developers, it doesn’t always ensure you end up with a smaller bill to pay.

There are conventions that no Android developer will break – but while there might be two, or possibly even three ways to write a feature in Swift, there’s a multitude of ways to code that same feature with JAVA (the most popular Android programming language). Due to this, when comparing the two platforms based on ease of programming, Swift tends to come out on top.

If you’re being incredibly thorough with testing your iOS app, you’re going to need about ten different devices (ranging from the iPhone 5s to the Xr, to the different iPad generations, and possibly Apple Watch). To achieve the same level of quality assurance for Android, you’d need 24,000 different devices (and there were that many in 2015!).

Realistically, a good batch of Android devices to test with are all the popular and currently used devices, plus as many others as you can get your hands on. But even when accounting for ignoring 23,970 devices, those thirty remaining Android devices still add up to at least three times the amount of devices that need to be tested against. Again, when it comes to testing, and the time necessary to properly do so, iOS comes out on top.

With so many devices necessary in order to properly test your app, Android apps can require a significant investment in infrastructure. It is definitely worth noting, however, that iOS app development requires Apple products, which means if you don’t already have iMacs or MacBooks, you’ll need to find a developer that does, or foot the bill yourself.

When comparing the cost of investment in infrastructure for both platforms, it really depends on what infrastructure you already have in place – if you already own Macs, iOS would be the cheaper option. If you already own a bunch of Android devices, Android will be the cheaper option.

Publishing an app on the App Store or Google Play is a drastically different process – Apple has strict guidelines apps must meet before they are published (such as security, transparency concerning private data, benefit it provides, and uniqueness), while Android has an automated approval process. To publish an App on the App Store, you must pay a yearly fee of $99, and Apple takes 30% of profits from downloads (that 30% is only applied to paid app and in-app purchases). In order to publish to Google Play, you must pay a one-time fee of $25, and Android also takes 30% of profits from paid an in-app purchases.

It is also worth noting that for every update you provide for an iOS app, Apple must approve that update before it can go live.

When comparing the two platforms based on time and cost to publish, Android is the winner. These differences do, however, influence other aspects of your app’s lifecycle, which we’ll cover a little bit later in this blog.

The cost of marketing

This is probably the aspect of launching an app that is least influenced by which platform you’re building for – but due to the centralized nature of Apple products and customers, iOS app marketing usually comes out cheaper.

This isn’t due to Android app marketing relying on different marketing channels than iOS, but rather the scale at which Android apps must market themselves. Because Android has such a large presence in international markets (one of the main attractors to the platform), you’ll inevitably spend more time and money marketing to those extra markets than the mainly U.S., Canadian, and western European markets iOS users usually reside in.

This is also influenced by the need to market your app in the native languages of those respective markets.

Longevity

Remember those strict Apple publishing guidelines? When it comes to getting the most out of the lifecycle of your app, those rules and regulations will actually work to your benefit. iOS apps are more secure, therefore they can be used for a longer period of time before being confronted with a vulnerability.

iOS apps are required to notify users of data collection, as well as receive their permission in order to do so. Because every update is reviewed by Apple before it can go live, users can always expect an update to provide meaningful, tangible improvements.

While these rules might seem strict initially, they’re powerful user retention tools. Privacy and data security are at the forefront of your users’ minds all the time, and generally speaking, iOS users can expect a higher degree of security from their apps.

One aspect of app lifecycle management where Android comes out on top is its open source nature. Because the platform itself is based around open source releases, and its core libraries are available to everyone for free, Android does have the benefit of unlimited potential for growth and innovation. In addition to this, because iOS is only available on the iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch or TV, there is always a potential that Apple products will fall out of favor with the market.

If Samsung fails, Android remains strong. If Apple fails, iOS is gone. There is no indication that this is going to happen anytime soon, but it is worth noting.

There’s a time and place for everything

Generally speaking, if you want to access users in western markets, iOS development will be the cheapest option. If you’re looking towards international markets, Android will take the lead – at least when it comes to lifetime profits. But when accounting for time to develop and test an app, iOS will almost invariably come out on top.

How much does it cost to add a GPS & mapping API?

How much does it cost to include a GPS and mapping API in your app?

Depending on what you want your app to achieve, the answer can vary drastically. It also depends on the API you want to use, the type of app you’re making, and the functionality you want your map to provide.

Let’s go over the cost of some of the more popular GPS and mapping APIs, starting with the most well-known of all:

Google Maps

First of all, if your app is free (as in no cost to download, no ad revenue, and no subscription fee) Google Maps is free to use. This includes all of their API’s functionality – directions, routing, street view, and all the other functionalities.

Google Maps also provides developers with the ability to customize their map – this includes colors, information presented, and much more. The customized map can then be copied as simple Javascript to be implemented into your app – this works with both Android and iOS platforms.

Google Maps’ costs are as follows:

  • Embed Advance: $14 per month
  • Static Maps: $2.00 per month
  • Dynamic Maps: $7.00 per month
  • Static Street View: $7.00 per month
  • Dynamic Street View: $14.00 per month

For more information, visit Google Map’s pricing page.

Keep in mind that even if you’re on a free plan for Google’s API (or any API for that matter), it still takes time and costs money for developers to implement that API into your app. Most APIs also require a backend through which they access data, which adds to your costs. Backend service pricing varies wildly.

Mapbox

Another GPS and mapping API, Mapbox is free-to-implement as long as you stay below the magic number of 50,000 views/requests/users a month. Mapbox gives developers the ability to provide users with real-time navigation, augmented reality, and data visualization. Their API is customizable, and their tools for visualizing data can be used on the web, mobile, and desktop.

If you go over that magic number of 50,000, the price moves up to fifty cents per 1,000 map views, geocoding requests, directions requests, matrix elements, and Tilequery requests. If you’re building an enterprise app, you can get a volume discount if your numbers are over 5 million for the same categories.

Mapbox can be implemented for both Android and iOS apps.

For more information, visit Mapbox’s pricing page.

Tom Tom

Tom Tom is yet another mapping API – rather than providing a pricing plan based on interactions per month, Tom Tom offers you 2,500 API transactions on a daily basis. This number is reset each day. Keep in mind that a transaction isn’t a user opening your app, using the map functionality, and then closing it. For their maps API and traffic tiles, one transaction is equal to fifteen requests.

If you’re going to go above those 2,500 free transactions per day, you can check out Tom Tom’s pricing page here. For 50,000 transactions, the price is $25.00, and for ten million the price is $4,199.00 – as you can see, depending on how many users you expect, your costs can vary significantly.

So just what are GPS and mapping APIs?

First, let’s cover the basics – API, just in case you aren’t familiar with the acronym, stands for Application Programming Interface. Basically, an API provides a developer with set of functionalities and protocols that define how pieces of software interact with each other.

In regards to an what an API call (also referred to as an API request) is, it’s essentially a piece of software in an app connecting to a server in order to transmit data between the server and the app. This is all made possible by backend integration.

This is how GPS and mapping APIs are able to update users with directions, or can display (and react to) traffic conditions. Every time your users interact with the mapping API your app uses (for instance, finding the nearest gas station) they are guided by directions that are provided by multiple API calls.

The app communicates to the server where it is, and the server uses that data to correctly display the next step in their route. This process is continued until the user has reached their destination.

This is why most GPS and mapping APIs offer different options from which to mix and match – and why you should choose which features you want to include carefully. While mapping APIs are designed to scale with your usage volume, they do become more expensive as your user base grows.

It’s always easier to add functionalities than it is to take them away – your users will be disappointed and dissatisfied if they notice a feature that was available to them is no longer there.

That’s why we recommend starting out your app as an MVP.

How (not) to build an app with Appy Pie

There’s something to be said about making something yourself, whether it be a meal or piece of art. There’s nothing like coming up with an idea and executing it from inception to completion, all on your own.

For the self-driven individual, an app WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor sounds like a dream – they can work pretty well for websites, so why not apps? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to make it on your own anyway?

It makes sense that a service like Appy Pie would be tempting for any appreneur with an eye for design and a small budget – or maybe a CTO in the same situation. But – and this is my honest opinion – I think it would be easier to design an app in Sketch, prototype it in Invision, teach yourself Swift, and build in Xcode, than it would be to create a successful app using a service like Appy Pie.

I have come to form this opinion because I tried to make an app using Appy Pie. I originally intended this to be a fairly benign chapter of our How to Build a Mobile App: The Ultimate Guide, detailing the best options to use and a short how-to guide for the appreneur who does not have the funding to hire an app developer; but almost as soon as I started testing the user experience of Appy Pie, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Because; skipping (for now – I’m going to get to these later) the un-organized creation system, limited options, and inescapable cookie-cutter feel – it’s not you making your app. It’s Appy Pie.

Now, I feel like I need to put a little disclaimer before we go any further; I don’t hate you, Appy Pie. This isn’t a vendetta against you personally. It’s just WYSIWYG doesn’t work with app creation. This isn’t even really about Appy Pie – it’s about any service that provides a way to make apps without coding them.

Making an app with Appy Pie

Appy Pie

At first, I was intrigued. “Create an app for free in 3 easy steps? That sounds awesome!” I was interested in how it would work; I had built a website that didn’t need to accomplish much using a WYSIWYG creator in my first year of exploring web dev, and it had honestly taught me a few things, and the site really wasn’t half bad (for what it was intended to do). So, I had hope that there would be an equivalent for apps..

What I’m trying to say, is that I went into this with an open mind; I didn’t intend to write a piece touting the benefits of hiring a mobile developer over using a service like Appy Pie. It’s just how it naturally transpired.

Appy Pie

One of the first questions Apps Pie asks is on point: What’s the purpose of your app? As we’ve gone over in the past, knowing the purpose of your app is one of the most important questions to answer before doing anything else. At this point, I was hopeful.

And then came “Step 2.”

Appy Pie

This is where it all starts to fall apart. The above screenshot is what you’re greeted with, and while Appy Pie’s UI is pretty straightforward to navigate, I found it extremely difficult to visualize what I was creating. Now, not every app developer has the same process, but a simplified overview usually looks like this:

  • Designing the UI in Sketch
  • Planning the flow in Invision
  • And then coding based upon the Invision file

Appy Pie seems to take this process and condense it into one step. While this may seem like the service has just streamlined the app building process, they’ve instead muddied the waters. There’s a lot to keep track of when planning and building an app, and one scrollable list isn’t the most efficient way to go about it.

Take, for instance, what an app’s UI design looks like in Sketch:

Sketch

Every rectangle you see above is the design for each screen of a single app. These screens are then put into Invision and linked together to plan out the app’s flow and UX. During the design and prototyping phase, our UI/UX team gets into the nitty gritty details of each screen, working in tandem with our programmers to determine everything from screen transitions to the exact pixel dimensions for each button, field, and image.

Our developers can then take the Invision file, and code based on that – providing them with easy access to all the necessary information, from hex colors and fonts to UX and flow.

Now, imagine doing all of that, but with this UI acting as your tech doc, your design editor, your prototype, and your code:

Appy Pie

Yes, it’s visually simple. But take a look at that Sketch screenshot again. Now imagine bringing that level of detail into a system like Appy Pie’s. This system condenses the intricate and detailed process of creating feature sets, UI/UX design, and app flow into:

  • Choose feature
  • Design feature
  • Choose another feature
  • Design that feature
  • Repeat ad nauseam

This is a great way to produce an unorganized app. It’s akin to not only building a house without a blueprint – but building a fully functional and furnished kitchen with plumbing, appliances, lighting, table and cabinets, and a coat of paint – and then moving on to the living room’s wooden frame. Doing this, it’s unlikely you’ll build a structurally sound home.

This isn’t even mentioning the cookie-cutter feel this system is sure to produce. Take a look at the options given to you for layout and design:

Appy Pie

Appy Pie

With limited options and methods of implementation, your app is bound to feel just like someone else’s.

This muddied method for app creation has another negative compounding factor: You don’t know how anything fits together. Sure, “Step 2” has a live preview of each page on the right side of Appy Pie’s UI:

Appy Pie

But all too often, I would be met with this message:

Appy Pie

Which brings us to development cycles. We’ve covered some dev cycles before, but overall, most developers will use what’s called agile. Basically, the steps to an agile development cycle are as follows:

  1. Identify and set goal for issue
  2. Work on issue
  3. Meet up after a set amount of time to discuss and test process on issue
  4. Iterate until complete

This process can take anywhere from a day to two weeks, and it largely depends on the developer – but (and this is a very important but) – each issue (another word for feature) is tested independently before it’s implemented. This is because (as we’ve covered in our Swift development piece) programmers will build their code in a branch, test that branch independently from the rest of the code, debug, and then merge their branch with the master branch.

This serves two very important functions: compartmentalizing bugs, and reducing the risk to the overall codebase. It’s much simpler to look over 100 lines of code and find the problem with your app than it is to look over 10,000 lines. By testing each feature by itself, developers are able to cut down on overall time spent testing the app – measure twice, cut once.

And this is where things really start to go downhill. I had made a gallery linked to my Flickr account, and I wanted to test it on a phone to see what it would actually be like to use this app on a device. So, I downloaded the app, and this is what I saw:

Appy Pie

Honestly, not bad. All the work I had to do was select the grid layout, and I had played around a bit with some of Appy Pie’s default backgrounds. The scrolling, albeit a little janky, worked, and switching between the “Donate” and “Photo” bottom menu options worked. There were a few problems though – scrolling just stopped loading new images after a certain point, and I wanted to take away the “Sets” tab, along with changing the typeface the gallery used.

So, I set those as goals to fix – much in the same way developers will test, find a bug, and fix it. I went back into Appy Pie to edit the gallery, and I was met with this:

Appy Pie

I couldn’t edit. I had downloaded the app to a device in order to test a feature set, and I couldn’t make changes (not until I paid, at least) based on my findings from testing.

How to make an app with Appy Pie: v1.1

With this newfound information, I present the fool-proof guide on how to make an app in Appy Pie “for free in 3 easy steps”:

  1. Make an Appy Pie account
  2. Design, plan, and implement your entire app all at once (perfectly too, no testing allowed)
  3. Publish your app

It’s just that easy!

When I started researching Appy Pie’s service, I really didn’t expect to end up writing something with as much snark – but my plan was forced to change. I tested an outline against my actual experience, found they didn’t work together, and then edited the outline to make it fit with what actually happened. A process Appy Pie can’t seem to replicate – for free, at least.

There’s so much more to a successful app than just making it too; ASO is a huge factor for your app’s success. For any sort of analytics, you’re paying $50 per month per app, and that app can only be stored on a maximum of 600 MB of space.

There are entire companies dedicated to analytics and building keyword campaigns for apps, and when you build an app with Appy Pie, you’re expected to do all of it yourself, while paying a platform for allowing you to do so.

If you’re a self-driven individual set on making your own app, we think that’s great. Our senior Swift developer is self-taught, and we believe some of the best coders come from the evolution of hobbyist to professional – but keep in mind, if a service’s “Create an app for free in 3 easy steps” claim seems a little too good to be true, that’s because, more than likely, it is.

Android vs. iOS – How do I decide which platform to launch on?

This is a question we covered a bit in our piece about how to find a mobile developer, but I felt like there was more to talk about; we were recently discussing in a meeting why some clients seem to favor one platform over the other, and what the benefits are to launching on iOS versus Android.

First, I think it’s important to distinguish what I mean when I say platforms – this isn’t just limited to Android and iOS, after all. There’s other facets of these OSs; AppleWatch and AppleTV; while Android is currently supported on SmartTVs and wearables like the MOTO ACTV, and is already making headway with smart glasses, home appliances, cars, and even SmartMirrors. Apple itself is of course supporting their own ventures into these new implementations of smart tech, with their own projects like Titan, for example.

But how do you decide what platform is best for your idea? Before we get into the what the future holds for Apple, Android, and all the other tech giants, let’s get a clear picture as to what the current field looks like today:

Just the facts

  • In the U.S., Android owns 54.6% of the market, and iOS owns 44.4% (Android is the top performer globally)
  • More iOS users download purchasable apps than Android users (11.82% vs. 5.76%)
  • iOS apps have a higher retention rate than Android (1% to 3% higher)
  • Android has a lower publishing cost than iOS (Android has a one-time-fee, iOS is yearly)
  • iOS development is cheaper than Android (by about 30%)

A few things to keep in mind: Android’s market share, while larger than iOS, is skewed by the fact that Android comes with many pre-paid phone options, while there are no pre-paid iPhone options. While the larger percentage of market share should indicate apps that are hosted on both Google Play and the App Store would see more total downloads from Android users, we have, in fact, witnessed the opposite.

Three apps that we have published to both the App Store and Google Play are the perfect example of this. Out of these three apps, one has an audience centered in the U.S., one is centered internationally, and one has an audience split almost evenly between the U.S. and international markets.

  • The app with users mainly from the U.S. has seen 76% of it’s downloads come from iOS users.
  • The app with mostly international users (remember, Android boasts a very high market share internationally) has seen 46% of its downloads come from iOS users.
  • The app with an even split between U.S. based and international users has seen 65% of its downloads come from iOS.

As of Q4 in 2017, Google Play hosted 3.5 million apps, while the App Store had an offering of over 2 million. Users have downloaded apps 19.2 billion times from Google Play, and 8.2 billion times from the App Store.

iPhone users tend to be younger (by only a few years, but still a noticeable difference), and are described as “power users,” meaning they engage with more categories of apps more frequently, and on a regular basis, when compared to their Android counterparts. While iPhone users are more likely to engage with apps than Android users, they also represent a smaller audience when compared to Android.

A question you should ask yourself (and this is largely dependent on what type of app you’re making) is: what is more important for my app? Reach, or engagement?

iPhone users are more likely to engage in “m-commerce” (online purchasing through their mobile device), and are also more likely to retain their position as Apple customers, as 80% of iPhone users have perviously owned another iPhone.

While iPhone users tend to favor retail and social media, Android users tend to gravitate towards (and purchase more frequently) utility and productivity apps. iPhone users tend to value simplicity and consistency, while Android users place great import on the customizable nature of their apps; likewise, iPhone users usually identify as extroverts, while Android users are mainly introverts.

These findings, of course, are not set in stone – there are most definitely introverted, low-engagement iPhone users just as there are extroverted, high-engagement Android users; some Android users exemplify the epitome of brand loyalty, while some iPhone users are disillusioned by their experiences with iOS.

But the trends are noticeable, and when deciding which platform is most important to focus on, this is data that should be considered carefully.

For more information, check out our Android and iOS dev pages.

Development options

Android vs iOS Development

As we’ve discussed previously, it’s always better to develop your app natively. This does come with one main detractor, however; cost. A great way to offset this is by focusing on one platform initially, and using the MVP model of development. We believe the best platform for an MVP is iOS, mainly due to the platform’s high user engagement. Since users are more likely to engage with, and spend more time using their apps, iOS early adopters provide higher quality feedback than Android.

In fact, one of the most successful apps on the market today, Snapchat, has mainly focused on developing their app for iOS. Now, with the benefit of a (much) larger budget, they are bringing Android up to par with their iOS version.

This is not to say that Android apps won’t work as MVPs; rather that iOS user behavior lends itself to the user engagement necessary to build a successful MVP.

The future of apps and their platforms

There’s no way to be sure what advancements in tech will look like, and predictions about the future rarely come to fruition as we expect, but there is one trend that has remained throughout the explosive growth of the internet of things; people use more, want more, and expect more.

If you’re in the ideation stage of app development, consider what you’d like to see happen. Wearables are expected to represent a $34 billion industry by next year, and right now, mainly focus on health and fitness apps. As of now, in 2019, AppleWatch is the leader of the pack when it comes to smart watches, but this could very easily change.

Android, and Google, by proxy, have cast a very wide net when it comes to exploring new avenues for devices through which to engage users, and Apple, like usual, tends to focus in on a few products to perfect.

There’s no right or wrong platform for any app, but there’s sometimes a better fit. Like any venture, it’s important to do your own market research, and plan based on your own findings. For any appreneur or CTO, the best steps you can take to build a successful app is to know your competition, know what makes your app different, and to do it better than anyone else.

How to Build a Mobile App: The Ultimate Guide

It’s no secret that smartphones are quickly becoming intrinsic multi-tools that enhance our productivity, our access to information, and pretty much everything else in our daily lives. The meteoric rise of mobile devices is indeed a shake-up to an already volatile and new industry itself; it’s almost difficult to believe that mobile devices account for 63% of all internet traffic, a 6% rise from 2017.

Out of that 63% of mobile internet traffic, a whopping 90% was spent using apps. Just like the total increase of mobile traffic, app usage grew by 6% from 2017 to 2018 – a dip from the 11% between 2016 to 2017 – but still a significant amount of growth nonetheless, especially when accounting for certain app genres, like games, which are seeing users spending both more time and money on their interactions.

This is a trend that isn’t expected to stop any time soon, and if you’re an entrepreneur, or the CEO of a fortune 500 company, and you don’t have an app to enhance your business (or engage your customers), it’s time to get one.

Chapter 1: Native vs. Hybrid Development

Chapter 2: iOS Development and Swift Code

Chapter 3: How to find the perfect mobile app developer

Chapter 4: ASO 101

So, how do you go about making an app?

Building an app

Before we get into the intricacies of app creation, let’s go over what we’re going to cover in our How to Build a Mobile App: The Ultimate Guide.

  • The platforms available to you, and the code that makes them work
  • How to properly design your app
  • How to find and communicate with developers
  • Different types of development
  • App Store Optimization and how users engage with the App Store
  • Usage, keyword, and design trends
  • How to measure, grow, and ensure your app’s chance of success over its lifetime

For the next 22 weeks we’re going to dive deep into every facet of app development, from the very basics and first steps, to user retention and acquisition strategies. This is the How to Build a Mobile App: The Ultimate Guide after all, so strap yourself in for a five-month-long ride down the app creation highway.

For now, here’s an introduction to each topic:

The platforms available to you, and the code that makes them work

Mobile Platforms

When it comes to platforms, there are two main players; iOS and Android. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks when comparing the two – iOS provides greater stability and Android allows for more customization.

Apps that run on iOS are programmed using Swift, the most current iteration of the language being Swift 4. Swift can be used to code for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. This is handy, as it gives you the ability to code for all Apple products while only requiring the knowledge of one language, but it limits your potential audience.

When programming for Android, there are many languages available to you: Java, C and C++, Go, and Kotlin – the most popular being Java. Android is open source, which gives you free reign to modify and distribute Android’s code at no charge. Android is used on a wide variety of mobile devices, which gives you the potential to open up a greater range of revenue streams, but this can also slow down your app’s development.

When it comes to choosing a platform for your app, there isn’t a right or wrong option – and frequently, the best answer is both. In the future, we’ll be looking more into the intricacies of developing for both iOS and Android.

How to properly design your app

App Design

App design is like butter on toast; not enough, and you’re in for a bland experience – too much, and you’re not sure whether you should eat it or throw it out to give your arteries a break. Due to user experience (UX) being so entwined with user retention and acquisition rates (as well as user ratings) an app’s design can make or break its chances of success.

Design trends are changing all the time, so it’s important to update your app to not only keep it secure, but to also ensure it stays relevant. User reviews are a great source to pay attention to when planning your app’s design – but always err on the side of caution when designing your app – if you can scrape some butter off of that toast without sacrificing flavor, get rid of the unneeded butter.

In the future, we’re going to cover app design principles from the ground up.

How to find and communicate with developers

Finding App Developers

There’s a multitude of developers out there, so how do you figure out which one is the best for you?

Rather than searching Google, it’s best to start with Clutch. Clutch is a website dedicated to providing a platform for entrepreneurs and businesses to search for developers that fit their specific needs, and is a great resource for vetting teams when deciding on a development partner.

As we cover development pitfalls and best practices, we’ll go into detail about how to ensure time spent building your app is never wasted, as well as tips on how to communicate effectively with your development team.

Different types of development

App Development

There’s plenty of fish in the sea, just as there’s a myriad of methods to structuring and planning your app’s development. The most common are Skyscraper, Agile, and Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

In short, the Skyscraper method relies on heavy planning and market research, Agile focuses on utilizing an adaptive, responsive method of development, and MVPs are used to quickly and efficiently produce a bear-bones, but workable app, intended to be enhanced upon after being brought to market.

In the future, we’ll cover how to figure out which development style will work best for you.

App Store Optimization and how users engage with the App Store

App Store

App Store Optimization (ASO) is crucial to your app’s chance of success. Just like SEO, ASO relies on utilizing keywords that users regularly search for, which are then paired with your app’s total downloads, user retention, user ratings, and user reviews, which culminate to form your app’s ranking in the App Store or Google Play. Apps with higher scores in these categories will be listed above lower-scoring apps during searches, giving them access to a wider audience.

Most app downloads come directly from the App Store’s search function. The two largest discovery channels in the App Store are the search function, coming in at 20%, and word-of-mouth, coming in at 15%. This exemplifies the importance of both keywords and UX, as users are much more likely to recommend an app to a friend if their experiences using the app are positive, as opposed to negative or even mediocre. Interestingly enough, negative word-of-mouth spreads much faster than positive, doubling the importance of your app’s UX.

In our How to Build a Mobile App: The Ultimate Guide, we’ll spend a lot of time covering ASO best practices, pitfalls, and proven user acquisition and retention strategies.

Usage, keyword, and design trends

User trends

Your app’s ranking, design, and user experience aren’t set in stone. Trends can make or break your app’s growth, so knowing the resources and options available to you in order to stay at the crest of these trends is crucial to your app’s success.

Your customer’s usage patterns will morph based on a plethora of factors, from simply-recognized time-of-day patterns to seasonal usage patterns influenced by weather, or even geographical differences. For example, productivity apps are used more during the day, while mobile games are used more during the evening. An app that tracks waves for surfers to catch will perform well in costal areas, while a snow-plow service app would perform better in cold regions during the winter.

ASO is ever changing – for example, certain keywords (especially those that are holiday related) can perform better during certain seasons, and should be implemented only at particular times. Keyword trends are forever changing, and it’s imperative to keep up with those trends to maintain your audience’s engagement and growth.

Even the design of your app is expected to change over time – mobile devices are constantly improving and changing, and your design must follow suit to compensate with larger screen resolutions and more powerful processors. There are trends in mobile design as well, which evolve frequently, and paying attention to the UX innovations of your competitors can give you an edge on how to do it better (simpler is always better), and stay up to date.

In the future, we’ll go into more detail about the methods and resources available to help you stay on top of upcoming keyword and design trends.

How to measure, grow, and ensure your app’s chance of success over its lifetime

App Growth

There’s never a fool-proof method to ensure a 100% success rate with any app, let alone any facet of life, but there are tools and options available to you to help ensure your app is successful in the marketplace.

There are tons of analytical services to choose from, ranging from touchscreen heat mapping and user session tracking and recording, to crash monitoring and realtime alerts.

If you’re keeping up with your ASO, and providing users with regular updates to stay on top of trends, you’re already headed in the right direction. Partnering with the right developer can spell either the success or failure of your app as well, so knowing how to shop for and speak with development teams is a crucial step in providing yourself with a stable foundation to build upon.

Over the next few months, we’ll dive deep into all of these topics, covering app creation from start to finish. Next week, we’ll cover tips on how to be a successful appreneur.