Mobile apps have taken over the world already, there’s no doubt. As of January 2019, there were 2.6 million apps in Google Play Store, over 2 million apps in Apple App Store, 670.000 apps in Windows Store. The process of designing, programming, building and launching an app is called mobile app development. Apps must be useful or entertaining to users, have excellent design, certain set of features, and, of course, be stable and functional. Thus, a practice has been established to delegate this task to expert mobile app development companies.
Whether platform-specific, like iOS apps or Android apps, or cross-platform, or wearable apps, or IoT apps, etc., app development is the ongoing process which does not halt with launching and publishing. Mobile apps tend to grow, extend in functionality, upgrade to new versions, redesign or rebrand, as well as have to provide maintenance and support. Obviously, most of businesses cannot sustain those operations in house.
If you partner with a great mobile app development company and produce a beneficial and/or engaging app, it might be your path to success, outreach, new opportunities, new customers, etc. Unsurprisingly, the market of mobile apps is thriving, and the cost of app development is becoming more affordable. Just take a look at Statista research, showing a $88 billion total revenue of the mobile app industry in 2016, and projecting to at least double by 2020. Those revenues come from app stores download, in-app advertising, product placement etc.
App development is not just about the money or hiring the best mobile app developers at sky-high rates. Before hiring a development agency, we encourage you to learn more about the process of app development and industry inner workings. Expertise is key, and it might be quite a challenge to dig through thousands of mobile app developers offering rich tech stacks to find the right partner. A good practice is to make a shortlist of several firms, talk to them and let them offer a quote on your project. Generally, it would takes about 6-9 months to develop an average fully-functional mobile app. Bottom line: there must be commitment and enough budget.
What is an app development company?
We need to take a step back here and go to basics. A development company is a team of experts that develop something, some product or service. In our case, it is mobile apps. Building, designing and launching an app is called "mobile app development" and that's what these companies (aka agencies, studios, developers) provide. It's a rather complex set of services, involving software programming, project management, design and UX, quality assurance, support and maintenance. Yet, with stunning rise of app popularity, development companies started popping up all over the world in hundreds.
According to TechTarget, app development is a type of software programming, that focuses closely on specific mobile platforms and devices. That is why we see the majority of those agencies promoting themselves as "Android developers" or "iOS development company", due to the largest market share of 2 kinds of devices - Android phones and iPhones. As of Aril 1, 2019, there are over 10K companies globally.
How do app development companies work?
A short answer would be - professionally, fast and reliably... in a hopeful scenario. But joking aside, there are several aspects to be aware of. As a rule, these agencies are small teams up to 2-3 dozens of coders, designers and marketers, most of whom are young, creative and skilled enough experts. Of course, there are some that managed to grow to enterprise level, with up to 400-500 employees, and their rates are clearly higher. Basically, companies put themselves out by offering professional mobile app development, highlighting their successful cases, and competing in cost with each other to attract customers. So price per value ratio is becoming more sensible with each year, one can say.
In terms of working methods and communication with a client, the rule #1 for app developers is to "follow customer requests through continuous delivery". Here we've already dipped into terminology like Agile and Scrum, so let's elaborate. Due to the fact, that app development may stretch for months and client could not get a final product right away, developers typically abide by Agile methodology, which means dividing a project in stages and deliver results by progression. These stages are called iterations or sprints, and Scrum is one of the frameworks to manage and keep track of all tasks (and a source of insider memes, haphazardly). This way clients have strict control over progress and flexibility is any amendments have to be made anytime.
Scrum board example
What services and business value do app agencies provide?
As mobile phones/smartphones/digital devices have become omnipresent and basically a one extra body part for virtually every person on the planet, brands and businesses have no way of ignoring mobile presence. So naturally, any business, large corporation or a flower shop, start thinking about a mobile app to connect with customers. For that they hire an app development agency, whose primary service is building an app. The industry term for it is "mobile development" or "app development", and first of all it implies software programming.
But it doesn't end there. You might also need design, marketing, or special features, say Augmented Reality. Today's app agencies are quick to adapt to market realities, and thus their services include: mobile strategy (to make a proper business plan), development, design & UX, quality assurance, marketing, launching & maintenance, as well as innovative aspects, e.g. AR, VR, Artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, Machine learning (ML), Big data, etc.
In regards to coding, there isn't a problem to find any kinds of experts in a specific language, framework, library, database, SDK or whatever else. There are companies that provide native app development - like exclusive iOS or Android apps, cross-platform development - aka hybrid development of apps working similarly on all devices, custom app development - coding an app with unique set of features from scratch and without using presets, or even all types of app development.
It is also worth noting, that there are app companies specializing in particular market segments, so they offer better expertise in that niche and therefore hiring those may be of great benefit. For example, if you clearly know what is your product and what kind of customers it has to reach out to, your business may partner with developers who are focusing on mobile games, e-commerce apps, lifestyle apps, booking apps, startup app, educational apps, etc.
In terms of business value, by hiring professional developers to launch an app a business entity might kill two (or more) birds with one stone. We are talking about presence in mobile sphere, creating a new digital product, a new way of connection and communication with clients, a source of information about products and services, introducing contests and rewards to attract new customers, and overall raise company profile. As an example of value, check out this case by Nerdery agency for Danfoss - large machinery producer.
For something more real and visible commercial results, let's take ASDA, the UK supermarket chain who wanted to improve shopping experience via a mobile app, especially for grocery products. After collecting feedback and implementing barcode scanner, store locator, new price finder and other features, ASDA reached the following gains:
- 2 million app installs
- 18% increase in grocery shopping
- 90% of increase contributed by the app
- 1.8 times higher shopping frequency via app compared to website
- more repeat customers
For more mobile app success stories with figures and facts we encourage you to read about 9 app marketing cases and 21 epic mobile app studies. Or check out this brief guide on how to get loyal customers via a mobile application for business. Few options highlighted are direct contact with customers letting them know about product delivery, new deals, introducing loyalty cards, happy hours, etc.
How to choose the right mobile app company
Start with your app itself: idea, concept, type, prototype, business model, etc. Clear-cut vision will help both to find the right app development agency and to meet the deadlines of development stages. Finding a company is known as “discovery stage” and it encompasses several steps/aspects, ending ideally with a project price offer from 2 or 3 companies.
A thorough research will typically include:
- Website and portfolio - the face and first presentation, offering a glance at company’s work, style and capabilities. Professional mobile app development services should be able to have a professional and perfect website, hinting at the fact that clients should expect the same.
- Team - see who will be working on a mobile app as developers, designers, project managers, marketers (LinkedIn or social media profiles), check their skills and spirit, as those are the people you will be communicating with over next few months and entrusting them your business idea execution.
- Customer reviews - but be sure to find the authentic feedback, as often testimonials of the official website are generic and doubtful. Check other sources, tech portals and topical directories, social media to learn more about the reputation of a given mobile app development company.
By the way, the goal of our present ThinkMobiles directory with Mobile developers category is to aid such research. Here you may find information about location, size, expertise area, portfolio, customer reviews about each app development agency. You might also visit our blog post - 20 top mobile app development companies all over the world for some really great suggestions.
Important questions to ask / Things to explore
To answer the question “how to select a mobile app development company” you might want to take a closer look at few factors. Based on the specifics and business goals, we recommend researching the following aspects: type and/or size of mobile company, location, hourly developer rates, similar projects in portfolio. There’s always temptation to choose the one that will cost less, but that’s a really huge risk to the quality of the end product.
- Types of mobile app development companies
Enterprise mobile app developers or boutique app development agencies - which would suit your better? On the one hand, big guys like Fueled or Savvy Apps offer proven skills to build any kind of apps, capable of hosting up to millions of users. On the other hand they work at high rates and personal touch might fall prey to company’s production standards. Smaller teams, 10-30 members as a rule, may offer close relationship throughout the process, more dedication and creativity. There’s no good or bad here, the question is what type does one prefer?
The market of app development services provides 3 options: onshore, nearshore and offshore teams. This is about communication and supervision preferences. Onshore companies are your fellow countrymen, which means the same language, culture, time zones and maybe even a city. For Northern America and Western Europe the downside is that onshore app developers work at high rates.
Nearshore companies are located in neighboring or close countries, probably in the same time zone, and working at lower rates. For US clients, nearshore app developers are typically from Latin America, for example. Offshore companies are the ones from countries far from yours, say Eastern Europe to the USA. Of course, there are risks to such type of mobile app development outsourcing, although modern tools of communication and strict process guidelines may smooth things out.
There might be an option to set the fixed price for the whole project, though, as practice shows, most contracts imply hourly developer rates. For cases with limited budgets, this often turns out to be the crucial factor. US and Canadian app development companies are known for the highest rates - according to Statista, $100 to $150 on average.
Rates in Western Europe vary from country to country, the average range for hourly work is $70-$115. Companies in Eastern Europe, e.g. Poland or Ukraine, one of the most popular choices due to talent, charge between $30 and $60.
One final point to make is relationship. Things may be very bright and promising on paper, and yet one will always discover the real situation when talking to the team. One extra step is also finding out about a company’s past projects that are similar to what you are planning. Meet the CEO in person or talk to developers on the phone and you’ll see if their values and possibilities match your goals, think how well would you get along in the process.