Why Are iPhone Apps So Expensive?

This may seem obvious, but mobile applications are expensive. There is a reason for the scarcity of mobile application firms. The programming is difficult, and the process can get tedious.

Here are a just a few reasons why apps are so expensive:

Objective-C Native Applications.

I’m sure some of you have heard of Objective-C, the programming language for iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone mobile applications. So what is Objective-C? Well, in short, it is a descendant of the C programming language. So anyone who has used C#.NET or C++.NET should be up to speed, right? Wrong. For starters, you’re going to need a Mac computer, because you aren’t going to be using Visual Studio. Xcode, the hub for iOS development tools, is another animal entirely. After you master the ins and outs of interface builder, then you leap into Apple’s unique language.

Quality of the firm.

If you hear an iPhone application developer offer to build an app with HTML, CSS, JavaScript or C#, run. There is a reason Apple developed a unique language and hub of developer tools exclusively for the iOS devices. Also, there is a reason we say “native app”. There are several apps on the iTunes Store built to be a mobile view of the company’s website, mostly HTML apps. Here is a secret- build a mobile website, it will save you money, and you will reach multiple smart phone devices. Apps that are not native to ObjectiveC will never be as effective or as useful to your customer. Your app should incorporate features unique to your company.

Unique Mobile Applications.

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First, lets talk about a company who does it correctly. Starbucks, oh I love you guys. Now, I can enjoy my Tazo hot tea and blueberry muffin more quickly. With the new Starbucks app, you can build your perfect drink and add your credit card for a swift check-out at the counter. The app contains a native in-app bar code. This allows baristas to quickly scan your phone, and start preparing your drink. If you are ever looking for a late night Starbucks with a drive-through, the app can help you with that too. It also features a variety of their whole bean coffee and nutrition information. This app is unique to Starbuck’s brand, efficient, and useful to all of their customers. Very impressive- 5 stars!

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Ok, now lets pick on one poor company, who didn’t get the best advice. Neiman Marcus– sorry, guys. As much as I love your Christian Louboutin heels, your application needs some work. The sad part is the application is a great concept. On the home screen, you can shake your phone for a randomized gift to purchase. You can also shop individual categories (if it loads), purchase a gift within the app (given your checkout screen updates correctly), and login to your NM account. Maybe this was overly ambitious. Taking the majority of a department store into an application is a huge task. The only company I’ve seen do it correctly is Amazon. (You can download Amazon’s Windowshop App here.) So, what could Neiman Marcus do differently? Here are a few ideas I would recommend for quick fixes: push notifications a few days in advance for large sales (such as Black Friday), simple graphics that do not flash with pink butterflies (really guys?), an app that appeals to both men and women (yes, men shop at Neiman Marcus too), and a high resolution logo. Honestly though, I would probably start from scratch. I love Neiman Marcus stores, and I would like to see an application that displays like their beautiful store-front windows.

Support.

The iTunes application market is constantly evolving. Every time you update your iPhone in the iTunes store, your mobile app needs to be ready for the changes too. If you want to be a company known for cutting-edge technology, the technology must be constantly changing. Each new feature to the iPhone adds another avenue for developers to explore. Not to mention- if an application stays untouched for too long, it will be useless in the market. It must be updated with the newest versions and monitored for possible mishaps. My advise- find a firm who cares about your business. You need a long-term relationship with your application developer. Just like a website, there will kinks along the way.

Submission to the iTunes Store.

I almost forgot the worst part, Apple. The submission of an application to the iTunes store is tedious and obnoxious. Really Apple? You would let thousands of people pollute the market with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and C# (non-native) applications, but you complain about the length of the paragraph describing the application in the iTunes Store. Ridiculous. It takes approximately seven to fourteen days for them to approve or disapprove an app. They also take thirty percent of all download revenue. I’ll save you from my lengthy rant on the iTunes Store approval process, but just know- it is not fun.

iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad applications should bring value to your company. Starbucks invested a lot of time and expense into their application. However, it helps sell their product, streamline their business process, and offers useful information for their customers. The mobile world is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, but you shouldn’t jump into anything without doing your homework. Find a helpful firm with educated developers and an extended support package. At MotionMobs, we develop creative concepts unique to each client’s brand, useful to the end-user, and of course financially beneficial to the client. It is a huge step to plunge your current business model into the mobile world- are you ready?

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