Should you build an app?

In most cases, probably not.

From Facebook to Flappy Bird to Vine to Tinder to Snapchat, apps have served as the quintessential success stories in our increasingly mobile world.

Creating an app is a sexy thing to do.

But please, before you invest your life savings in the next Instagram, suppress that inner-entrepreneur convincing you the world needs another photo sharing service and do not build an app unless you have too.

What does an app even do?

Seems obvious, right? Every 11 year old seems to have a smart phone stocked full of apps that let you do send disappearing photos or record lip-syncing videos—and we all have Uber (unless you #DeletedUber, I guess).

But why aren’t apps just sites in a web browser? Why do we need dedicated space on our phones to record videos of us lip-syncing?

An app lets you run a self contained ecosystem that can better connect to your phone’s hardware. This is why Google Maps and Snapchat make sense as apps. They can connect directly to your phone’s GPS and camera in a way that HTML5 can’t touch.

This is where the utility of apps really come into play. Here are a few questions to consider before sinking your time and money into app development.

  1. Do you need to use and access parts of the phone the internet can’t touch?
  2. Do you need bluetooth connectivity?
  3. Do you need to run high level responsive graphics?

Are the answers to these questions no?

THEN DO NOT BUILD AN APP.

Too-often-made-mistakes

The classic case is with shopping apps. Apparel companies realize people are spending more and more time on their phones, so why not build an app for people to spend time buying their product? Flawed logic.

H&M doesn’t need an app.

That app probably cost well into the 6 figures to create, but didn’t provide enough utility to justify occupying the limited space on consumers’ phones.

That money could’ve been spent making a mobile optimized site that wouldn’t require a retouch every 12 months to accommodate the latest iPhone sizes and operating system.

The tragic case of Company A

  1. Company A identifies a need in the market.

2. Company A decides to create a solution for said problem.

3. Company A finds it difficult to prove their app as an MVP.

4. Company A invests 50k+ to build an app.

5. No one downloads it.

Here are some app download facts to further dissuade you.

  1. 49% of smartphone users download 0 apps per month.
  2. The top 15 app publishers saw downloads drop an average of 20 percent in the U.S., according to research from Nomura, which relies on data from app tracker SensorTower.
  3. 75% of apps are only ever opened once.

Pretty bleak facts right?

What is the actual cost to make an app?

This question has no real answer. If you are a developer with a lot of free time, it could be as little as free. But for most people you are looking at minimum of 60k.

Aaron Cohen, a highly-respected top representative at Fueled, gives us some insight: “With Fueled’s experience you’re going to find that you’re going to need at least $150,000 to build the first version of your product.”

Notice the important detail: first version. App development seldom ends at the first version. UI adjustments, pivots, rebrands—you name it—mobile applications are really difficult to develop cost effectively.

At Biostrap

We built an app.

Does this contradict my dire warnings laid out in the previous dozen paragraphs? No. Making apps is a resource-intensive process—both with time and money—and that was 100% true in the case of Biostrap.

However, an app was necessary to round out the shoeclip-wristband-app trio that comprises the comprehensive health platform. We needed to create deeper integrations with phone’s hardware and use bluetooth connection to sync all the devices. We needed an app to connect our cutting edge technology to the computer in your pocket.

Would we recommend building an app? Only if you are trying to change the world.