BOULDER — Considering a mobile app for your business? The bad news is that you won’t be among the first, and the good news is you won’t be among the first.
Brad Weber, president of Inspiring Apps of Boulder, said his company has been developing mobile apps for the better part of eight years, which was soon after the iPhone was first introduced. From a few early consumer apps his company put on the App Store, his business soon became all about mobile apps.
“It wasn’t that long that small and mid-sized businesses began to come in for apps,” Weber said. “In three or four years, the big corporations were on board.”
Today, Inspiring Apps has 16 employees, about half of them software engineers. The company has designed apps for companies ranging from innovative local startups to corporate giants such as Toyota, Gulfstream, Cisco, Weyerhaeuser and the U.S. Golf Association.
Weber said there really isn’t an industry that doesn’t use mobile apps today, and a typical budget runs from $50,000 to $150,000.
“It’s certainly possible to spend $1 million to get something developed, and it’s a little less possible to get something developed for $20,000,” he said.
But that’s where not getting into the app field early might prove profitable. About half of Inspiring Apps’ workload is for productivity applications — apps that are designed to enable workflow, rather than advertise or entertain. Because of this, the company has developed some turnkey solutions for both iOS and Android devices, including Reps, a presentation software, and Work Crews, which helps schedule and monitor employees out in the field.
According to The Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016, a survey released April 16 by the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, mobile apps designed to increase productivity accounted for about 72 percent of the apps that will be undertaken by the companies it surveyed this year. Other top reasons to undertake mobile apps, according to the company, included improving customer service, improving operational efficiency, reducing costs and remaining competitive.
Daun Davids is the founder of Sky Woman Technology LLC, a Fort Collins company that started in 2014 and develops applications for Android phones and tablets. Joel Blocker/For BizWest
The survey, which had no breakdown in the number of companies surveyed or the size of those companies, had some rather brow-raising figures about what is being spent on mobile apps, with more than a quarter of the respondents planning to spent in excess of $1.5 million. However, 29 percent of the respondents said they planned to spend between $250,000 and $500,000 and almost a quarter said they planned to spend less than $250,000.
Native apps — developed in either iOS, Android or (less likely) Windows — are key to productivity-orientated uses. Apps also can be developed in HTML5, which will work on both operating systems, but development here appears to be slipping dramatically.
In Fort Collins, Daun Davids of Sky Woman Technology LLC, said her one-woman firm does a great deal of its work in creating Android apps from existing iPhone technology. A great deal of app development takes place in iOS, even though iPhone only control about 38 percent of the U.S. market, with Android controlling about 59 percent and Windows less than 3 percent.
“Most people start by making an iOS app, but I think Android is the real growing market,” said Davids, who recently started doing mobile development after spending much of her career doing Java.
While many mobile apps are developed on both iOS and Android, Davids said developers have to be aware that users won’t be comfortable seeing the exact same presentation.
“I spend a lot of time explaining to clients that Android users don’t have the same expectations that iPhone users have,” she said. “Android users expect a different look than an iOS app, and the user experience and design part of it is really critical to creating a fundamentally sound app.”
Mobile development is hardly limited to design firms today, however. Cardinal Peak in Lafayette is a contract engineering firm specializing in digital audio and video and Internet of Things (IoT) products and lists clients such as Ball Aerospace, Comcast, DirectTV and Samsung.
Work Crews by Inspiring Apps helps companies with workers in the field, such as construction and landscaping companies, manage scheduling, track logistics and improve customer service. Courtesy Inspiring Apps
Today mobile apps are involved in more than half of the engineering jobs coming in the door, said Kevin Courter, director of mobile engineering. Cardinal Peak does native development in both Android and iOS, although he didn’t see one outweighing the other in cases where only one operating system was deployed.
“The key to success in mobile applications is a deep understanding of what our clients’ needs are and the top engineering acumen to meet those needs,” Courter said. “A mobile app is only as good as the service infrastructure behind it.”
App developers said they see interest from almost the entire spectrum of potential clients, although often you do see certain operating systems deployed more in some fields.
For instance, “there’s a lot of app development in medical fields, and they are very much concentrated on iOS development,” Weber said. “But in the beginning, it was almost all iOS.”
Weber said in the beginning his business also did some HTML5 development for entertainment and marketing apps, but today it’s almost entirely native development.
A great deal of mobile development today doesn’t need to be advertised, because it is not consumer facing. For those applications that are consumer facing, it’s gotten a little more difficult to make sure that app can be found.
“Certainly with hundreds of thousands of apps, they aren’t going to find it in the App Store or Google Play,” Weber said. “We work diligently with people on marketing their apps, whether it be in print, broadcast or social media.”
Should any business sector believe that mobile apps are not viable?
“I’m not in the business of telling clients their idea sucks. Look at all the weird ideas that turned out to be huge,” Weber said. “But people do come to us for feedback all the time, and you really need to focus on the execution of their plan.
“There’s a little magic in building a product that people will love, but researching markets and focusing on what customers really want is important.”