Mobile apps—software applications designed to run on mobile devices—are in high demand. In fact, some estimates put the number of apps downloaded during 2017 at 178.1 billion. Industry sources expect the mobile app market to expand by a whopping 270% to US$189 billion by 2020.
Clearly, the biggest challenge mobile app development companies and their customers face is fierce competition. There are established players in every app niche, and the competition just keeps growing.
Other obstacles to creating a truly successful app include:
- Identifying a need: Before you build your app, do your research. Given the stiff competition, your app will need to meet a tangible need—and do it better than countless other apps.
- Start-up funds: To simply develop a mobile app, you could spend anything between US$20,000 and US$50,000. In addition to development costs, however, you’ll need money for marketing and promotion. Since less than 0.01 percent of apps succeed financially every year, it’s understandable that investors tend to shy away from the app market.
- Updates (and more updates): For mobile app developers, your work doesn’t end at launch. To give users a great experience, you’ll need to seek feedback, fix bugs and release updates regularly. If you launch and leave, you can expect your competition to quickly run you out of business.
- Continuous promotion: The moment you stop promoting an app, is the moment your user counts start to drop. Ongoing promotion goes hand-in-hand with ongoing updates. Consider your different user categories and target your marketing appropriately. Remember, it’s easier to keep a customer than to earn a new one. Some people may download and install an app but only use it for a few weeks. This explains why an app that’s been downloaded more than 20 million times may only have 5 million active users. Continuous promotion is the key to user retention.
- Making money from apps is now more difficult: With so much competition among app developers, it’s hard to convince users to download an app that costs money. So if you can’t put a price tag on your app, you can just fall back on ads, right? Wrong. Pop-up ads that take up too much screen time will annoy—and eventually cost you—users. Walking the tightrope between ads and content, purchase price and in-app purchases is challenging, and not for beginners.
- Monitoring OS upgrades: Both Apple, the owner of iOS, and Google, the owner of Android, regularly upgrade their platforms to make room for better performance and more sophisticated features. Once an upgrade is done, app developers must check the performance of their existing apps on the latest platforms. If any issues arise, it’s time for a prompt update and release. The challenge becomes making sure that your app works well on different versions of the same OS. For example, some mobile devices are still on Android 6 Marshmallow, some are on Android 7 Nougat, and still others are on the latest Android 8 Oreo. (You can’t also rule out the possibility that some devices are still on either Android 5 Lollipop or Android 4 Kitkat.) And that’s just Android!