How Long Will My Mobile App Last?

“You mean it won’t last forever?”

When planning to have a mobile app commissioned, you need to consider a number of factors beyond “How much is this going to cost to develop?“

That’s another article in itself. Suffice it to say that you need some kind of strategic plan to formulate why you’re having an app built, how you’re going to market it and - here’s the point of this article - how long your app is going to last.

“Hopefully forever”, you might think…..

Bad news and good news

That’s a bit unlikely.

Apps that are written, uploaded to a store and never touched again will invariably need a complete code rewrite once every one to three years.

Let’s also factor in user churn. On average, users delete apps three months after installing them.

However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Users tend to get rid of bad looking, slow or difficult to use apps. Good apps tend to stay on phones indefinitely. Obviously, no-one would commission an app which a user downloaded and then deleted shortly afterwards, so with a good UX / UI design and solid development, user churn is a problem you can mitigate.

The same is also true about avoiding code rewrites.

Keeping your app healthy and in tip top condition

With active maintenance of your app, the good news is that you might be able to completely avoid a major rewrite. Foresight use technologies such as Firebase and Flutter, which are straightforward to maintain, have almost guaranteed availability going forward, and have no ongoing server maintenance costs.

If your developers "refactor" the app - maintain individual parts of it to support new features, platform releases and to monitor technical debt, you’ll further prolong the life of your app. More about refactoring and code rewrites here.

Of course, maintenance involves ongoing cost. (Incidentally, we’re not vague about quoting for maintenance costs, we’ll give you straight figures. It’s a question which all reputable developers should be able to answer).

Given that maintenance of an app costs, this leads us into…. “How long do I want my app to last for?”

Banger versus brand new

A good analogy here is car ownership.

You don’t just go off and buy a car without any forward planning. Well. We hope you don’t, anyway.

Unlike a car, mobile apps can't be bought secondhand, but the concept is much the same. You don't expect a car to last forever. You can either have it regularly maintained so it lasts longer and retains its value, or you can drive it until it falls to bits or becomes economically inviable to repair.

You might just get a new one a few years down the line that aligns with your new priorities or target customers.

The “disposable app”

Being developers, we'd always advise you to ask your development team to keep your app well maintained.

Conversely, there's always the idea of the "disposable app" - identify a market, get an app published to take advantage of it, ride the crest of the wave and then gracefully sink underneath it as others do the same and the market space becomes more crowded.  

It might be that the average user deletes the average app within three to six months, in which case a "disposable app" makes sense. The opportunity which the app is designed to capitalise on disappears, the market becomes saturated, after six months to a year, it’s a case of diminishing returns.

This is unlikely to be the case (but it does happen) and remember, an app can always be repurposed or functionally added to.

And if it all goes horribly wrong, have a look at our Native App Rewrite page here.

Think strategically

A good developer should be able to talk all this through with you, and, let's blow our own trumpet, we do.

Looking for a mobile app development agency? Feel free to hit the contact button below if you'd like a chat about your app idea. Telephone us or come and see us in our offices just outside Manchester.

Dave's IT background goes back "to the beginning of time" and has worked with some leading technologies and brands during his professional career

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