3 Reasons Against Building an iPhone Interactive Map App

A common question we are asked is why don’t we have an iPhone or Android app for our client’s interactive maps. We aren’t saying that we won’t ever build a mobile app for our maps, but as of now this is our thought process against them.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on .eduGuru explaining why Mobile Apps are a bad investment and how history proves it. As you can read in the article I’ve got plenty of ammunition to push back with, but I want to dive a little deeper into those points and why we specifically chose the route of building a mobile version of our maps instead of device specific.

Splitting Market Share

Since this article title specifically mentions an iPhone app we will start there. By building an iPhone specific app we can only target part of the smart phone market. The latest data from ComScore shows us that Google’s Android system has about 51% of the smart phone market and Apple’s iOS clocks in at 30.7%. So building an iPhone App only lets us touch about 1/3 of this market. I’d even argue that building an Android App with 50% of the market probably isn’t a great decision either. You could argue to build apps for each and hit 80% of the market, but then you have multiple apps to keep updated, which isn’t scenario anyone loves.

One wildcard in the iPhone App debate is that you can also get it on the iPad, which is the clear leader in the tablet market now. Of course, supporting the iPad increases the cost of developing the app in the first place.

App Development Costs

It is hard to get an exact estimate for the cost of building an iPhone app because there are so many wild cards that go into the equation. A fair estimate for a decent but not great app is $30,000. That isn’t a cheap cost by any means. There are so many great threads around the web discussing costs of building iPhone apps, and instead of getting into too much detail here I’ll just link to a couple of the better threads I’ve read.

For us to build iPhone apps for each of our customers’ maps it is true that we could reuse a lot of the same code, but you always run the risk of Apple rejecting your app into their marketplace. Android is much more of the Wild Wild West and anything can get in when compared to Apple. It is true that Apple has reduced some of these restrictions, but nothing would be worse than promising a client an iPhone app, building it and then never being able to get it approved.

It is a Niche App

We work mostly with colleges and universities looking to get an interactive campus map. Some of the time they already have an app that might gather news, share a calendar, provide connections with social media or some other feature. Does it really make sense to have another app just for their interactive map? Would visitors and fans of the school install two apps? We know that the average smart phone user has a lot of apps installed on their phone. Would this be a highly used app or would it just get buried in that mess?

Because we do offer a mobile version of our software it is possible to include the interactive map into an app that they have already built for their organization. This kills two birds with one stone by not having an extra app to confuse users and providing more value in the current app.

Closing Thoughts

Our customers come to us to not only solve their problems, but keep their interactive map ahead of the development curve. So at the end of the day for us it comes down to what is the best forward looking approach? We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and we want to be smart and realize that trends will change. All of the data out there suggests we are gearing up for the mobile revolution with doubling of mobile web traffic to most sites year over year.

Ultimately we believe the mobile browser will be smart and powerful enough to support all sorts of functionality exactly like the web browser of a PC or laptop does today. We want to make sure that we are ready for that future and not chasing the shiny expensive toys today.

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