App Maintenance Costs and Planning

The BHW Group has recently posted about Mobile App Maintenance Costs. They say people often forget to consider the ongoing maintenance costs of mobile applications. Costs include hosting, monitoring, continued engagement, marketing, app updates, and customer support.

For experience, I think the most significant factor is app updates. For any non-trivial app, it’s almost always the case that once the app is live, it’s the first time stakeholders are able to really think through what they have asked to be created. They suddenly see the limitations, user experience problems and scope for improvements. Then there’s new OS versions. When Apple or Google have major updates to their operating systems, some things sometimes don’t work as well as they did and other times new APIs offer opportunity for improvement. Then there’s devices. On Android AND iOS it’s impossible to test all variants of operating system on all possible devices. There are always bugs to be fixed. Also, as new devices are released, there will be new problems. Hence, any non-trivial app undergoes ongoing maintenance. Then there’s Apple. Their T&C’s continually evolve and what passed review last time might not pass next time. Passing review is a moving target. What people consider as a ‘small change’ can become a larger change due to the need to address some new review issue.

Hence, as the BHW Groups says, you need to consider the ongoing maintenance costs of mobile applications. More specifically, you need to plan human and financial resources. On the human resource side, you need someone who will be around not just to create the app but also to perform longer term updates.

The Keys To Mobile Growth

Flurry has a useful new post by Toby Vogels on the keys to mobile growth. The article emphasises the importance of metrics, minimising churn and personalisation.

For further insights you might like to read my posts on metrics and retention.

One aspect I hadn’t previously come across is to not bombard the user with excessive onboarding:

“Activate first, educate later. This may seem obvious, however, John Egan from Pinterest explained that many apps focus too much on user education in the onboarding process.”

Android Becoming Ever More Pervasive

There’s a thought provoking piece by James Bourne at AppsTechNews on how Mobility investments are moving more towards the business. The article is based on CCS Insight’s enterprise IT buyers survey:

“Enterprises may well balk at the thought of deploying thousands of iPhones to the organisation – McQuire argues that Apple will begin to see its grip on the enterprise mobile market loosened in 2017”

“Banks are pushing ahead with Android and could form a ‘big change’ for the operating system’s overall perception. You’ve [also] got the broader use case for Android, whether that’s field service, rugged, kiosking…these environments where Android is actually quite successful. Those are some of the areas where Apple just doesn’t play.”

I have always seen Android as a much more capable OS. In the past, this has led me to work on widely varying Android projects that use the OS as a self-service kiosk in hotels, an insurance video recording device in cars and a medical instrument used by consultant Optometrists. What with Android Things, the scope of Android projects can only get wider.

Mobile App Use

Flurry has an interesting new post on mobile app usage over the last year.

“overall app usage grew by 11% and time-spent in apps grew by 69%”

Most of the growth was in use of ‘messaging and social’ as well as other areas such as sports, news and shopping that demand that the user return to the app to discover new content.

Thoughts on the iOS and Android Duopoly

CSS Insight has a new article on The iOS and Android Duopoly and asks if there will ever be a third platform:

“Many mobile platforms have come and gone during the past decade, some created by start-ups and others by some of the world’s largest technology companies. Mobile platform projects such as Firefox OS, LiMo, Jolla, Maemo, MeeGo, Tizen, Sailfish, Ubuntu, WebOS and Windows 10 Mobile have had little impact on the market.”

The conclusion is that the chances of a new mobile platform succeeding aren’t good. Instead, it’s the services on top such as artificial assistants that will alter behaviour.

This is good news for mobile developers and those companies creating apps. After two decades of uncertainty, we can now develop for Android and iOS in the knowledge that the two main mobile platforms are not likely to change in the next decade. However, we need to remain alert to new mobile platform APIs provided by the ‘artificial assistants’ as these might increasingly be the chosen way to interact with apps and services.

Android to iOS Porting

It’s taken a long time, but we have finally reached the stage where a significant number of companies are looking for Android to iOS porting. There was a time when most development was iOS only, followed by a time where there was significant porting from iOS to Android. After this, there followed a period of enquiries for work on Android AND iOS. Now, finally we are seeing Android being ported to iOS.

The main problem with Android to iOS ports is that Android allows you to do so much more. More specifically, there are lots of things you can do on Android AND iOS, but the Apple Store T&Cs tie down what’s allowed. There’s even been an Android to iOS porting project this week that I wasn’t able to quote on because I knew two main features were not possible. Therein lies the problem starting with Android and porting to iOS.

Mobile Payments Growing

The news arm of GSMA, Mobile World Live is reporting that the Mobile payment market tipped to hit $780B in 2017.

This is based on a TrendForce report that cites increased availability of NFC chips and related security infrastructure as the reasons behind the larger takeup of mobile payments:

“Mobile payment multi-factor authentication techniques, which combine elements including fingerprint, iris and vein recognition technology, in addition to existing security protocols, will also help to drive adoption”

I have also seen this from an app-development point of view. More apps I am involved with are including payment integration using payment provider SDKs.

Opportunities When Device Shipments are Flat?

With Gartner predicting Flat Worldwide Device Shipments, including smartphones and tablets, where do you look for growth? Where are the opportunities? CSS Insight provides some clues. Today’s article on Mobile Business Subscriptions to Outgrow Consumer Segment in Western Europe says:

“In Spain, 21 percent of all cellular subscriptions are currently billed and used by businesses…

The UK is not far behind; with 16 million subscriptions, businesses account for 19 percent of all mobile connections”

Over the next four years, business subscriptions will outgrow the consumer segment in the five biggest European markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Businesses need apps both for internal use and by their customers. These kinds of apps tend to be of more use and better longevity than ‘fun’ consumer apps. Also, most don’t rely on app purchases or being accidentally discovered. The best current and ongoing opportunities are in business apps.