Since smartphones became essentially ubiquitous we have all gotten very used to having an app for everything. For those with a bit of an entrepreneurial bent, this can often lead to all kinds of highly inspired ideas for new apps that could make users of iPhones or Android devices’ lives easier, or at the very least entertain them. But just how easy is it to develop a game or app for a smartphone or tablet device, and what kinds of costs are involved?
Developing software of any sort, even the most basic, one job smartphone app, requires some planning and management. You can’t simply knock something up, you need to plan the design, how you will build it, what tech you will use, how you will test it, and even things like how you will market and promote it. Even how much you want to charge for your app is a serious consideration (or whether you will use an ad supported model or offer in app purchases). This may be something you can do yourself if you know about software dev methodologies, but it is not something to go into naively. If you are planning a project, read up on things like the ‘V model’ and software development standards in general, as well as learning things like the APIs and programming languages relevant to the platform you are developing for.
Even when you have something developed, it isn’t guaranteed that you will be allowed to distribute it. Apple not only have very strict guidelines about what they will and will not verify for sale on their iTunes app store, but also take a 30% cut of any profits you make from both app sales and in app purchases. If you are rejected by them, they also don’t tend to give you a reason, so it is important to read the latest version of their guidelines before you even begin designing apps for iOS. If you don’t like that and think it sounds a bit draconian and also don’t like the idea of handing over nearly a third of your product’s income to Apple, then Android’s marketplace is much easier to get on to, but because of this it is also full of a lot of bad products you will have to compete with.
If your app or game isn’t a standalone thing, that people can use offline with no need to save large amounts of user data or log on to, then you can distribute it without needing a server dedicated to hosting the back end of the app. However, most products aren’t like that, so if you want any kind of verification or interaction between users, you will need to consider some sort of hosting plan for the databases behind your app.
All in all, making an app is about much more than just learning how to code and design for smartphones or tablets. Happily, there are a lot of consultancies out there that can help you with development and management of the project if you have a strong idea you want to see through.
Jerry Thompson, the author of this post, is an avid blogger and a Hawks fan. He is an employee at NetDepot, well known for managed dedicated server hosting. You can connect to his team on Twitter and have a look at his Linkedin profile.