The Lifecycle Cost of Developing and Managing Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are proven to be effective in generating business value. But unless you are satisfied with a cookie cutter app from one of those app generators (I suspect that most reputable and respectful organizations won’t be), developing and managing your custom mobile apps could be very expensive and involve a lot of hidden costs. This is the case whether you are building an army of native app developers in-house or outsourcing the project to external development agencies.

Let’s say you start with the development of an iPhone app. You need to define the blueprint that lays out all the features, functions, and user interaction points; you need to design the UI that reflects you brand and style; and you need an iOS developer writing the Objective-C code for the front end of your iPhone app.  Obviously cost varies depending on the level of sophistication of your app, but for this first stage of UI design and iOS front end development, the cost can go anywhere from $35K for a reasonably polished mid-range app, to well over $100K for a complex high-end custom app.

Then there is Android. With its leading market share driven by a plethora of OEMs pumping out new devices every week across all mobile carriers, you cannot ignore it in your mobile strategy.  While you can leverage a portion of your early investment in blueprint and UI design, you need a separate team of Java developers writing code for the Android platform.  For this step, the cost can go from $30K to over $80K.

As a next step, you have to invest in the backend. This involves integrating with your own CMS systems such as Drupal; integrating with your third-party content platforms such as Flickr or our Video Cloud; integrating with your advertising servers and networks such as DoubleClick and AdMob; integrating with your analytics engines such as Omniture; integrating with social networks such as Twitter and Facebook; and building your own push notification and in-app purchase infrastructure across two platforms.  Be aware, because you are sending bits and bytes through an unreliable and very thin pipe of wireless bandwidth which could also be expensive to your end users, extra skills and efforts are needed to optimize and transcode your content for these devices.  Conservatively speaking, this stage could cost from $8K to over $30K.

So far you have spent anywhere from $73K to over $210K to develop one app on two platforms. If you are able to accomplish all of these within six months and launch your apps, congratulations on a job exceptionally well done. Perhaps you should consider a future on America’s Got Talent! Most projects go far beyond this time frame and significantly exceed budgets, not only due to technical complexities and surprises, but also because of a cumbersome and time-consuming iteration and review cycle during the development process – you have to ask your developers to build an ad-hoc app and ship to you every time a change is made.  Time is money, and this can turn into a lengthy and costly process.

Now you have launched the single app on two platforms, you have taken the first step – yes, the first step – of a long journey, a journey we call the App Lifecycle.  After your app deployment, you need to fix bugs and release new editions, launch push notification campaigns to drive up user engagement, update and optimize your content portfolios, monitor, analyze and report the app performance, and fine-tune your mobile adverting policy, just to name a few operating tasks.  By the way, don't forget to invest in operational monitoring to ensure that your apps and the back end that feeds them are available at least 99.9% of the time, which is the industry standard for enterprise grade SLA.  For these ongoing operating tasks that are critical to the ROI of your app strategy, be prepared to spend anywhere from $20K to more than $60K per year.

           3 Year Total Cost of Ownership for one mobile app across iOS and Android 

3 Year Total Cost of Ownership for one mobile app across iOS and Android

Do you want to build your second app? Great, now you have to start the process all over again … from scratch.

Despite all the proven benefits of mobile apps, do you think you have the budget, time, and risk appetite to take this journey? I don’t blame you if you don’t. According to a new study, app development costs exceed earnings by three times. 

I'm sorry to send you into depression, but the great news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Innovators at Brightcove have been working on this problem for a few years and now with the newly released App Cloud, the end-to-end solution for app life cycle management across platforms, you can reduce the total cost of ownership by up to 90%.

How? With App Cloud and the many cool capabilities it offers, you can leverage your internal web development team rather than building an expensive new iOS/Android development team, you can address multiple platforms with one single development process, you can dramatically shorten the development and review cycle, you can count on us to handle all those backend plumbing and value added cloud services, and you can build one custom template and reuse it for many apps. Also, rest assured that there is a 99.9% SLA behind the platform.

Together, let’s take the journey to help you capitalize on the power of mobile apps without breaking your budget.