The growth of Smartphone has given birth to a whole new genre of application development called Mobile App. Mobile apps are small applications or games which are build to be run natively on a mobile platform. Due to the superior User Experience they provide, they are quite popular on Smart Phones. Because of the popularity of these Apps many of us want to plunge into App development to make some quick money. But remember that developing App is not everybody’s cup of cake. Conceptualizing an App functionality and turning this idea into a full blown App requires two complimentary skillets. And after development completes, we need an effective marketing strategy to make our App successful. Hence a proper collaboration is required. If you have an unique App idea, it is like winning half of the battle. Because conceptualizing the App is the most important part of the process. The rest is converting it into a finish product and doing marketing to popularize it.
The end to end mobile App development can be broadly divided into 3 stages e.g. Platform Selection, Actual Development, Distribution, Marketing and Monetization.
When we talk about Mobile App, we talk about Apps for different platforms available for Mobile. Some of these platforms have larger installation base while others have larger availability of Apps. Some Platforms are easier for development and some are difficult. The various platforms have various user bases so depending upon the App you are developing and the audience you are targeting, you need to decide on the platform. Various platforms available for a developer to choose from are:
This Java based platform exists for quite some time and has the highest number of installation base. Almost all the mobile phones today support J2ME. This can be used to build smaller games and applications. This is the platform of choice for feature phones to provide additional functionalities.
Before Apple launched iPhone or Android made any news, Symbian was the market leader. Symbian is a real-time, multi tasking mobile OS and runs well on resource constraint devices. It was the platform adopted by Nokia to power it’s phone. In 2011 it signed an agreement with Microsoft to replace Symbian with Windows Phone 7 to power its next generation Smartphone. The future of this look bleak as number of developers and devices adopting Symbian is dwindling rapidly.
With the release of Apple’s iPhone the Mobile Phone saw a complete revival. iPhone started the Smartphone revolution and carried it forward. The usage of Smartphone increased drastically. The platform that powers iPhone is iOS. It runs only on Apple hardware, that means it can run on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The Mobile App developed for this platform should be passed by Apple and has to be distributed through App Store. The non-approved Apps can run on iOS only when the device is Jail Broken. Current version of iOS is 5.0 and Powers iPhone 4S and iPad 2.
Android is a Linux based mobile OS and is the platform of choice for most of the Smartphone manufacturers. Though it is a late entrant to the arena, it has gained popularity quite soon and has reached to the top slot among all Smartphone platforms. The current version of Android is ICS 4.0.3 and powers many beautiful Smartphone and Tablet PC.
This is another proprietary platform from Research in Motion and can run on their hardware only. It supports Push Email and Internet Faxing, which are the 2 biggest advantage of it. Because of this Blackberry has higher adoptability in corporate users. The latest version of Blackberry OS is 7. The number of Apps available for blackberry is very less, so new apps can have greater visibility.
Windows Mobile is the core of Microsoft’s Operating System for Smartphone which has been recently named as Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 7 has quite a lot of feature improvement and primarily aims at consumers. As it is quite new as compared to other big players, number of users for Windows Phone 7 devices is less. The current version of Windows Phone is 7.5 called Mango.
After you have decided the platform you will be building your mobile App, it is time for actual development. The development is not an easy task and not everyone can master the development skills. Various platforms uses various programming languages to develop the apps. For example iOS apps are developed using Objective C where as Android apps need to be developed using a form of Java. The App developers find it easy to develop Apps for Android platform and Symbian is the most difficult platform to master App development.
In order to build an App you do not essentially need to be an App developer. Do you build your house yourself or fix your car on your own? You can think of App development in that parlance, so It is often a good idea to engage a quality programming team specializing in mobile App development for your preferred platform. Make sure you have proper communication with them in terms of the concept. You can create an App specification document and chart out the whole idea, including as minute details as possible. Also include pictorial explanation wherever and whenever possible. This will help the development team in understanding the App idea better.
Also remember that when you are contracting the App development, do not go for hourly rate as this way the team can stretch out the project to as much hour as they can to bill you more. Always insist on a fixed project cost model.
If you are sure that you can develop your own Apps, then you can use various tools available for different platforms for developing the Apps. Below you can find few widely used developer tools for Mobile Apps:
Apple iOS Developer program
If you want to build iPhone/iPad apps, you need to register with Apple’s Developer program. It has an annual fee of USD 99. Upon registration it provides access to loads of tools, tests and guides for developing Apps. It is a one stop shop for Development, testing and distribution of Apps for iOS.
Android OS Developers
You can download Android Software Development Kit (SDK) and start creating Android Apps. The charge for registering as Developer for Android is USD 25 as onetime fee. The SDK comes with sample codes, projects and emulator to build and test your Apps.
The Blackberry developer zone has all the tools and resources required for developers to start building, testing and distributing the BlackBerry Apps. Blackberry is an open platform so it offers SDK in various programming language and you can choose the one you want.
Windows Phone App Hub
Microsoft App Hub provides access to development tools and guides to get started with developing Windows Phone as well as Xbox 360 based application and distributing them. The annual joining fee is USD 99 and offers upto 100 free App submission and there after USD 19.99 for each additional app. The main benefit with developing for Windows Phone is that the existing visual studio and .net development skills and server infrastructure can be reused.
If you want to target many platform at once, it is better to go for Cross Platform application tools like PhoneGap, RhoMobile or Titanium.
Distribution, Marketing and Monetization
Once the App is ready and properly tested, it is time to distribute the App. Different platform have different ways for App distribution. Broadly Apps can be distributed through App Market place or download via App website or offered through other Apps. For iOS, the Apps have to be distributed through App store. So the App needs to be passed Apple’ guidelines to be listed in App store. Non App Store Apps are difficult to install in iOS, as they need a special technique called jail breaking of the device, which voids the device warranty. Android is not so stringent about the App distribution. And even non market Apps can be installed on any Android device without much restriction. The image below shows various distribution methods for different platforms.
The success of any product depends upon how we market it. So a strong marketing model before the App is launched will help in creating a buzz for the App and get visibility. You can have a dedicated website for your App and use social media to promote the App as well as build a community. Use Splash page and sneak peak to let the world know about your App. Communicate with fans and update them about the progress of the App development. Approach bloggers and app reviewers to review your Apps and write about it. You can use advertisement to promote your App. Google’s Admob is a very effective advertising platform for promotion of Mobile Apps. Admob offers 2 ways to build the user base e.g running a paid ad campaign to advertise across thousands of apps in it’s network or use the house ads tool to cross promote other apps with your own App. Admob also offer App developer a way to monetize their traffic.
Due to the excessive popularity of Apps and millions of users, iOS and Android offers lot of revenue potential, if the App becomes popular. Depending upon the type of App and the users you are targeting, the monetization method will vary. You can monetize your App by selling it as a paid app in the marketplace, or offering it as a free app and getting money through Advertisement. It is always better to release a lite, ad supported free version and a full featured paid version of the App. That way you can let users try few functionality of the App before they spend money on the full featured version. While deciding the price for the App, do a proper research and set an optimum price. Pricing too high will have an adverse effect on the sale and pricing too low will affect your revenue. Read review by users and if excessive amount of users say about high pricing, be open to decrease the pricing. In app purchase is another way to monetize your App. By this you can offer virtual currency in exchange of real money. This method is primarily suitable for Games. The image below shows a survey report conducted by Vision Mobile to show the ROI of Mobile Apps.
If you think of an App idea today you should not be amazed when someone else had come up with an App based upon that idea. This is because someone else might have same thought at some point in time and he went ahead at faster pace to convert his idea into an App. So when you come up with such an unique App idea you should not make any delay in realizing the idea into a functional App. While selecting your platform of choice, you need to take a wise decision depending upon the market penetration. You need to very clear whether you are going to develop the App in house or contracting it to a specialized team. Also you need to keep in mind that iOS as a platform offers highest revenue potential. So thoughtful planning and proper approach is an essential element in realizing your App idea to a functional App making money for you.