Mobile Apps · Mobile App Design

Mobile app development - custom build or start with am app building platform?


April 20th, 2015

I have some projects that are reaching the stage where a mobile app is beginning to make sense. I talked to folks on places like elance as I have had success before, and for what I want, it's a less than $10k investment. But I am also seeing a lot of platforms for building and hosting mobile apps, managing the ongoing compatibility etc.. Have you tried such platforms, and what type of technical resource did you use to leverage that capability and get the app out the door?

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

April 20th, 2015

I like for cross device apps. I think React Native also has a lot of potential (not quite there yet). On the other hand, I have heard horror stories about Cordova and cross platform apps built with JS. It's going to depend really. Flipboard has a good 60fps success story.

Services like Parse and Urban Airship are fine and you may not need to host your own server, but I also see a lot of people moving off of them in the long run for cost and flexibility.

The challenge will be in finding a developer who understands all that and can write clean, tested, and maintainable code. $10k seems a bit low to be honest, though I don't know what your app needs to do. I do worry that you'll end up with something you'll only need to re-build later.

I would certainly stay away from anything that looks like too much magic. Most things out there don't truly solve all the problems yet unfortunately. It's still a very bumpy landscape. I'd honestly expect a fair bit of maintenance. I feel that when using some of these cross device solutions and SaaS for data storage and such, your maintenance becomes a bigger burden compared to native apps and self hosting your API/back-end. Though the trade off is up front cost. Of course this will depend on how often you need to update your app.

Sudeep Bhatnagar I develop apps, talk apps, live apps.

April 21st, 2015

Hello Dax,

I'm an App development studio owner only and have worked across native and cross platforms, and also on so called magical tools, so let me throw my 2 cents - 

When you have a decent product on web already, then go for native app only as the quality offering to your customers. I'm yet to see a successful app made on such platforms and in the easiest way and cost they claim they offer. The reality is, you end up with more time, cost, and pain with these alternate routes if you are really launching a commercial grade product to compete with other apps in the market. And then, a user once uninstalls an app will hardly come back.

Scaling up these cross platform apps is a big problem as well, so as integrating with essential third party SDKs for example flurry. We recently tried integrating flurry events capturing in a phonegap app and it was a nightmare, the same job could have been done in 10 hours on iOS native or Android app.

So bottom line, if you want an app just for the sake of having it with no big goals then you may think of cross platform, but if app is a part of your growth strategy and is a serious effort then go for native, no matter if for one platform at a time, iOS or Android.

$ 10 K is an okay amount for an native App development based on my experience on what we charge, when server side is ready and we only have to work on screens, API integration, performance, design etc. I can give you many examples of nice apps created in this price range.

Using parse or urban airship are good options also if used with native apps, though if you have an existing product and must have relevant infrastructure too, then go with your everything custom for long run benefits. Parse becomes costly and cumbersome when number of users increase, and migration will also become difficult, so think wise way.

Take care...

Shaun Murphy Shaun Murphy works as Marketing Manager at AppsChopper.

Last updated on November 15th, 2017

You cannot develop mobile app especially without tools and techniques. Secondly, you must know of the following factors prior thinking about the development process:-

  • Know your target audience & their preferences
  • Benefits of your product or services offered through your app
  • Outlined structure of your app
  • Budget requirement
  • Design and Appearance of the mobile app

After finding solutions for all above points, you can start looking for a proficient developer or an entrusted mobile app development company like AppsChopper. However, this process requires your time and contribution for the successful mobile app development.

Vivek Ghai Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO Panacea Infotect I Startup Enthusiast I Outsourcing

April 20th, 2015

There are plenty of cross platform app developing and app hosting platforms available and to an extent they are good too if you do not want to spend much for the development of your app. There is a good developer community that works and supports such platforms and you can find them on the particular platform website in recommended developers / development partners section. 

If your app has lot of hardware interaction like camera or sensors then it highly recommended that you opt for native apps due to performance factor.

David Schwartz Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev

April 21st, 2015

Sudeep Bhatnager said:

"So bottom line, if you want an app just for the sake of having it with no big goals then you may think of cross platform, but if app is a part of your growth strategy and is a serious effort then go for native, no matter if for one platform at a time, iOS or Android."

I beg to differ.

There are two similar products from Embarcadero called RAD Studio and AppMethod that both allow you to build native cross-platform apps using a single source code base. Two languages are supported: ObjectPascal and C++/11; and four target platforms are available: Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android.

AppMethod is a repackaged version of RAD Studio that focuses primarily on mobile platform development. It has a different cost structure than RAD Studio that better reflects the pricing models most mobile platform dev tools are using today.

Both dev platforms allow you to build native apps that run on Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android from the same source code base. The dev environments themselves run in Windows (Win Vista or later) and contain multiple cross-compilers that compile the source code and generate native EXEs for each target environment. Both 32-bit and 64-bit EXEs can be produced for most targets (including iOS).

You can also easily build middle-tier services that employ REST/JSON interfaces in the same language that run on Windows Servers. (a Linux-based target environment is on their roadmap, possibly later this year.)

So if you're willing to use ObjectPascal or C++, you can get all of the multi-platform support you need from one tool and dev environment. Otherwise, you'll need at least two or three separate languages and dev environments: Objective-C or Swift for iOS; Java for Android; and either Java or something else (php, python, ruby, C#, etc) for the middle-tier.

Note these are very mature tools with a solid history behind them. Delphi and RAD Studio have been around for 20 years now.

NOTE: I'm an MVP for these guys as I've been working with Delphi and RAD Studio since it was first released in 1995.

David Schwartz Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev

April 20th, 2015

Unless you've got a really simple, static app that requires no back-end support, you're going to have a monthly hosting or platform cost. 

There are a few different kinds of mobile apps.

(1) simple apps that have everything you need built-in, with minimal dynamic stuff that's either hosted on the build platform or is from 3rd-party sites like FB, Twitter, etc.

(2) more complex apps that have a dynamic updating component built-in, such as scheduling, dynamic data updates (think menus, daily specials, special offers, etc), and so forth. Some platforms support this level of dynamic content. (The distinction here is if there's stuff in the app that can be updated dynamically without having to update the app itself, like menu options, page contents, etc.)

(3) apps that involve more involved processing or data aggregation or dissemination. There may be a membership component, two-sided activities (buyer / seller, service provider / clients, one-to-one connectivity), and any kind of processing that implements aggregate data processing (large event planning with dynamic updates) with dynamic updates displayed in real-time (think Uber car locations).

These are three different orders of magnitude in terms of development cost and time-frames. (1) can be built in a day for <$1000; (2) in a few days to a week for $3k-$5k; and (3) can take several months and $10k-$50k.  Also, (1) and (2) will normally have a monthly platform cost of $100-$300, while (3) will have monthly hosting costs that can be much higher depending on what you need.

I can help with any of these.

Heidi Hutchison Managing Director, Tau Consulting Group ❖ Outsourced Marketing Expertise ⇨ Driving Business Growth

April 23rd, 2015

I will be attending a conference in Atlanta from Wednesday, April 22 to Saturday, April 23. I will have limited access to emails. If this is urgent, please call me on my mobile or text me at (858) 245-7003. I will be back in the office on Monday, April 27. Cheers, Heidi

Eric Levenson

April 20th, 2015

what platforms do you know that can build and host a mobile app on the cheap? I am looking for something like that.

Jonathan Poston | Medical Marketing Agency

June 2nd, 2015

app building platforms are great for streamlined app needs, fast app to market, etc. but usually won't come close to really being "custom" no matter what the claims are. There are app builders that specialize around certain "custom" features, etc., so if that's the path you're going, then zooming in on adp's that specialize could help. 


Brandon S UX Designer at REC1 Software

October 5th, 2016

It's always key to begin a mobile project with a framework such as Bootstrap or Polymer or equivalent. The reason is these frameworks already have in place the minimum requirements such as the viewport settings, icon sizes and other UX/UI components that make life easier when trying to build such things. There's no reason to begin a mobile project with a fresh HTML file and have no framework, when using these frameworks is for the most part free. Another benefactor is when you use these frameworks, you gain experience on how to use them and it's normally what employers are looking for. We don't need anyone to try and re-build the wheel, so to speak.