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Why Your Native Mobile App Could Be a Big Mistake

Posted by Bryan Wang
Your brand may be thinking it is time to launch your very own native app. After-all every consumer seems to be on their apps via their smartphones and you want to get in on this popular trend. 


A native mobile app is installed on the device (i.e. smartphone or tablet) itself with access to its features and functions. It is built using the device’s native programming language and only run on their designated platform. As such Android apps can’t run on iOS, iOS apps can’t run on Windows etc. Native apps are downloaded via their platform’s marketplace/app store.

Remember you have options – you can also choose to develop a mobile web app (which run in the device’s browser and operate across all platforms) or a hybrid app (a cross between native apps and mobile apps – it is a mobile web app wrapper in a platform-specific shell). Whatever kind of app you choose to develop here are some general considerations to take into account:

  • What need does my mobile app fulfill? – don’t just build an app as a marketing tactic, provide value to your target audience/consumer.Your app can make it easier for customers to order from you using their phones. Examples: Starbucks, Domino's Pizza. You can also use it to deliver promotions and offers to customers.

  • What do my competitors’ mobile apps look like? How can I innovate past them or incorporate their successful features?

  • Will my customer use the app on their own or with a group of people? – this significantly effects the kind of content and functionalities you provide – remember always keep the end-user in mind.

  • Will my target audience be looking at my app because he/she is bored or in a hurry? – this effects whether you build an app based on convenience or provide in-depth content.

  • Building a mediocre app is as bad as building a mediocre product – remember brand fans who were previously impressed with your product, website and social media presence may now be turned off by a sub-par app.

But before you decide to jump into the world of native mobile apps read on to find out both the pros and cons of native mobile apps for businesses. 

Pros of Native Apps

  • App store distribution –
Native mobile apps are distributed through their platform’s native app store or marketplace.  App store distribution is essential for brands that want wide consumer distribution to engage existing consumers over a mobile channel or gain general exposure. However remember that even despite app store distribution your app will be one among millions if not more, with many apps never reaching a measurable level of popularity. 

  • Device integration –
Native mobile apps offer full device integration, perhaps meaning they will function completely in-sync with the mobile device as they have full access to its hardware such as contact list, camera, GPS sensor, microphone etc. Note that if your app will require device data – like geographical location or device movement to provide the full range of functionalities then having a native mobile app will be essential. 

Cons of Native Apps

  • Development/Acquisition Cost –
Development cost does vary depending on the how complex the native app you want is. However native app development is the most expensive approach to take – it is also very time consuming. One study found that most native apps will take 6-months full time work and will cost between $20,000 and $150,000 dependent on complexity. Another thing to note is that these cost estimates only apply to single-platform native app development. Your costs will rise significantly when developing cross-platform native apps – and remember with native apps every platform requires a different programming language.   To be specific cross-platform smartphone and tablet apps with 8 applications needed could run a total cost of $160,000 to $1,200,000. Even consider that there are also costs to develop for different screen sizes and different versions of the same OS i.e. the many versions of the Android in use at one time. 

Another costing factor to consider before embarking on the creation of a brand native app is the cost of acquisition. Do not assume that if you build an app an audience will automatically migrate to it. Typically companies end up spending significant amounts to drive installs. This in addition to churn (the amount of customers or subscribers who cut ties with a service or brand during a given time period) which for native apps can exceed 50%, runs the cost of acquiring installs to be very high. 

  • Platform Instability –
When considering building a native mobile app you also have to consider the mobile platform landscape. Know that it is notoriously unstable – a platform popular today may disappear in just a few years. Nobody can predict what will happen in the mobile platform landscape in the future. Just a while ago both Blackberry and Palm dominated the mobile industry but now one is struggling and the other one doesn’t exist. 

  • No portability –
Remember each native app only runs on one platform. As such brands building native apps need to either build their native app for one platform or multiple platforms. Currently the mobile platform landscape includes 4 major smartphone platforms (Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry) and 4 major tablet platforms (Android, iOS, Windows 8, Blackberry). Undertaking the development of a native mobile app may include catering to one or a few (or even all) of these platforms. 

  • Frequent Updates/Maintenance –
If you are going to build a native app, make a dynamic one that can be updated without having to publish new versions to app stores. It is important to consider the plight of brands that already have native apps that are not developed in this way. In such cases frequent updates can become complex due to the app store submission and approval process and limited functionalities of users who don’t upgrade to the new versions of the app. Also brands that develop native apps for multiple platforms need to duplicate every change or update made across all the applications. 

Keep the points outlined in this blog post in mind when creating your strategy for building a brand app. 

Topics: Loyalty