Mobile devices are rapidly taking the place of desktops. Today, there are 2.5 mobile devices per capita, and this ratio is on the rise. Therefore, mobile app development is becoming increasingly important for businesses to maintain their competitive edge.
In this article, we will introduce custom mobile app development. We will evaluate who needs custom mobile apps and discuss different methods to create such an app.
What is custom mobile app development?
A custom mobile application is developed to perform tasks or fill gaps in the existing IT solutions of a company. In other words, it is the opposite of using off-the-shelf mobile applications that are available to everyone.
Each company has its own conditions, target groups and workflows. As a result, generic technology solutions may be insufficient to solve each company’s business problems. In such cases, developing a customized mobile application becomes a necessity for businesses to increase the effectiveness of their operations and customer satisfaction.
What are the different methods for developing a custom mobile application?
There are two ways to create custom mobile applications which are developing from scratch and modifying an off-the-shelf solution.
Creating an application from scratch
Building a custom app from scratch is one way to create a custom mobile app. Although it is a challenging process, it ensures the uniqueness of the application and can give the company a competitive advantage that is difficult to copy. In general, there are two ways to build an app from scratch:
- In-house development
Modifying an off-the-shelf solution
If an existing application meets your business requirements except for a few aspects, modifying an off-the-shelf solution can be a cost and time-saving option. The downside of such an approach is that if you can transform a standard application into your custom mobile app, your competitors can easily imitate it too. Therefore, it is questionable how long such a solution will provide a competitive advantage for the company. Nevertheless, this could be an optimal strategy for startups or companies with a lack of capital.
What are the benefits of custom mobile app development?
The advantages of developing a custom mobile application are as follows:
- Better fit: As we mentioned earlier, every business has its own paradigm and goals. Using off-the-shelf applications provides a general solution to common business problems. In this regard, it may not fit your specific circumstances. Moreover, custom mobile app development ensures the integration of the app with existing structures such as software and tools already used by the company.
- Uniqueness: A customized mobile application gives companies a competitive advantage that is difficult to imitate. Such uniqueness can have a positive impact on the company’s goodwill and market value.
- Scalable: When a business has its own mobile application, it is easy to make some adjustments and changes to the application. This flexibility is important because business is a dynamic process. The size of the business may change over time or external factors may affect the strategic decisions of the business. In such cases, it is better for a company to have an adaptable tool.
- Improved customer engagement: With the help of mobile app chatbots, businesses can offer their customers individual specific news, notifications and updates about their products or services in real time. They also allow businesses to monitor customer preferences and behavior, which can be a huge advantage in improving customized marketing strategies.
- Security: Off-the-shelf apps may not include technical safeguards, putting your company’s data at risk. Developing your own custom mobile app can help strengthen your data security system by using obfuscating code, setting different levels of authentication for workers’ access, etc. It should also be noted that some industries, such as healthcare and finance, are heavily regulated. Therefore, developing a custom mobile app may be a necessity for such organizations.
What are the disadvantages of developing a custom mobile application?
The disadvantages of developing a custom mobile application are as follows:
- Time required: Compared to off-the-shelf apps that are ready to use, developing an app from scratch or modifying an off-the-shelf app requires more time for deployment.
- Higher costs: Developing a custom application is more expensive for two reasons: First, it requires a higher fixed cost investment compared to standard applications. Second, custom applications require regular maintenance and performance review, which is reflected as an expense in the income statement.
- The deployment is not guaranteed: General-purpose applications are either perfect or not, but it is certain that they will work. A custom mobile application project might not be successful.
In-house or outsourced custom mobile app development?
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and the decision depends on business goals, project requirements, and the current situation of the firms.
In-house custom mobile app development
In-house development is a suitable strategy for companies that have time, financial and human capital. Such a strategy is best suited for companies that have resources and experience with digital technology development. Even though it is costly compared to the outsourcing option, the company can gain invaluable experience and know-how at the end of the process. In addition, in-house production always comes with greater managerial control, as they can personally oversee the development process.
If a company succeeds in developing its own customized mobile app as part of an in-house strategy, it is difficult for competitors to imitate such apps due to the greater security of know-how and laws protecting patented functions. On the other hand, the success of the project depends on companies’ resources and capabilities. Therefore, companies need to effectively evaluate the risk and know their capabilities without bias before deciding on an in-house strategy.
Outsourcing custom mobile app development
There are a lot of companies that offer custom mobile app development services. Such companies rely on their talent pool and previous experience in developing such tools.
Outsourcing is a more cost-effective strategy compared to in-house custom mobile app development. For such niche productions, outsourcing is usually associated with high-quality results. The disadvantage compared to in-house development is that the company has less control over the development process. Moreover, outsourcing is an option where less know-how is gathered.
Nevertheless, outsourcing is a suitable strategy for many companies due to product quality and price. If a firm has no experience in developing digital tools, outsourcing might be the optimal strategy regardless of its size.
Outsourcing custom mobile app development has similar benefits and challenges with outsourcing machine learning and data labeling projects. For more information, see our article on ML and data labeling outsourcing.
How to choose partners for custom mobile app development?
- Determine the business needs and the timeline: The first step is to figure out why you need a custom mobile app and how much time your business has to develop one. This will help your business eliminate many vendors.
- Professional and technical expertise: Different vendors have different areas of expertise. It’s important that the vendor you choose has experience with projects relevant to your company’s industry. Also, some vendors specialize in iOS development, while others specialize in Android development. You should look for vendors with technical expertise according to your existing IT infrastructure, target customers, and target region.
- References: The vendor should be able to provide case studies from previous projects. Contacting companies that have worked with the provider can be a good source of information.
- Quality of workers: It might be helpful to check the background of the workers. This way, you can get an idea of their skills and past successes.
- Customer support model: Performance of appplication can deteriorate and may need maintenance. At such times, it is important to reach out to the vendor and get their support. Also, changes to the application may be required over time due to the reasons mentioned above. Even in such cases, it is beneficial to work with a provider who can solve your problem quickly.
- Price: If there are several vendors that meet your company’s requirements, it makes sense to select the lowest-priced vendor.
We will be happy to answer any further questions you may have about custom mobile app development:
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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