How Much Does it Cost to Maintain an App and Why Do You Need it?
Updated 19 Jan 2023
The development of any digital product is a multi-step process that does not end with the release of version 1.0. The whole life of software is a long road of fixes and improvements that extend the life of an application. The viability of a software product in the long-term period is what determines the success of the entire business, regardless of its industry.
To support an application properly, software companies and vendors provide a special type of service, namely app maintenance. In this article, we will dive into the topic of maintenance of software products in detail and also provide our estimate of how much such services can cost you.
What Is App Maintenance?
Before we move on to specific figures, it is worthwhile to understand in more detail the object of our analysis, namely, what is hidden under the term "application maintenance". It will help you better navigate the subject.
So, application maintenance is a continuous process of updating, analyzing, changing, and re-evaluating existing software to continuously improve the software's state. This approach is strictly obligatory since constantly changing market situations, new trends, and audience requirements dictate competition rules. Therefore, if you want your business to maintain a competitive edge, you must constantly improve your software product, and this is possible with the help of app maintenance.
The standard package of this service includes fixing bugs and modifying the codebase to improve performance, adding new features based on the development plan and user feedback, and much more. In total, there are five types of application maintenance:
The first thing that can come to mind and is often associated with unforeseen problems with the application that require urgent solutions.
This approach aims to meet the ever-changing user needs through maintenance, which helps to introduce new features that are useful and relevant to the application market.
This type of service and support aims to constantly track changes made to the application and keep the software product up to date.
The main idea of this approach is to improve the maintainability ratio through maintenance by restructuring and optimizing the code and updating the documentation. All these operations are also carried out to reduce the likelihood of new errors or bugs.
The last type of support is aimed at fixing faults and defects in the application functionality. In addition, various fixes and improvements related to UI/UX design can be attributed to this category.
Most of the projects that undergo the above forms of maintenance are developed according to the MVP scheme, which helps to save money and avoid redundancy in the number of features. After the release, new features and improvements are added to the main functionality, making it possible to use the available financial and human resources more efficiently and more competently predict the strategy for the development of the software product.
Learn more about Minimal Viable Product and the benefits it can bring to your business
To summarize all of the above, app maintenance is about adhering to four basic practices:
Adding new features. Thus, your users always understand that they are using a fresh application, and with each update, they will expect new functionality that will help make their life a little easier.
Interface update. New trends in interface design appear at an enviable frequency, and in order for your application to not feel outdated at the first launch, you should update the UI/UX.
Monitoring performance. The speed of the app’s operation and its drawdowns are unacceptable in any software product. You should constantly monitor the speed of your application, download times, and other operations within the software product and always strive to reduce these indicators.
Maintenance schedule. Chaotic updates without any planning are a path to nowhere. Clear update deadlines allow you to properly allocate available resources, and a maintenance schedule will help you not to miss out on issues or bugs.
Why Is App Maintenance so Important?
If the maintenance services for various applications did not benefit their owners, such services would clearly not exist. However, this is not our case, and we have collected the most basic strengths of app maintenance that will help you understand why you should pay attention to this type of service.
Reducing the Number of Uninstalls
A large indicator of the number of application uninstallations is something that all owners of digital business solutions are trying to fight. And this is not surprising, because according to analysts, 71% of users remove the application from their smartphones after 90 days.
An application with some flaws, bugs, or simple inconveniences pushes users to click the "Delete" button. In addition, if the app no longer provides useful features to the user, it also increases your chances of losing your audience.
Retention rate drop without app maintenance
App maintenance helps you keep your application in good shape by solving emerging problems, fixing bugs, and introducing new functionality that will meet the changing needs of users. Thus, you can not only pause but also reduce the churn of users from the application.
Provide Customers With Better User Experience
The main task of any entrepreneur is to create an application that makes users fall in love with it. It makes you constantly analyze the successes of the digital and monitor the feedback from your customers. A successful app delivers a unique experience to the user. By combining reviews and current trends, you can implement new functionality that will perk up your users’ lives.
This is the main idea of app maintenance because it is an ongoing process that goes hand in hand with analysis and allows you to introduce fresh ideas throughout the entire life cycle of your digital product.
Hold Competitive Edge
Competition in the mobile application market is as strong as nowhere else, as there are over 4 million different mobile applications, and each one is fighting for the user's attention. And the refusal of long-term support is what your competitors are waiting for and what they will definitely take advantage of.
Regular updates and the addition of new functionality help in constant competition, which is possible only when using app maintenance services. They will allow your digital solution to always amaze its users and not be inferior to competitors in the race for attention.
Keep Positive Brand Image
There is nothing more damaging to a brand and its reputation than an abandoned mobile app. Refusal from application maintenance will cause a wave of negativity, as users will see in this decision a disregard for their experience. This will result in low ratings and negative reviews for your digital product, as well as significant user churn. This scenario is not needed by any entrepreneur, and as a result, long-term support of your application is the only way to keep your brand’s reputation flawless.
Abstract benefits are good, but real-life examples are always better. There are many successful cases of various software products that were a simple MVP version with the most basic functionality at the beginning of their journey. Thanks to app maintenance, they have blossomed and become giants in their industries. And here are a few of them:
Facebook. It started as a social media within Harvard University and included a narrow set of features. Students could create their accounts using @harvard.edu email addresses only, fill in basic data (gender, birthday, courses, interests), add a single photo to the account, add friends to the list, and that’s pretty much it. No messaging, no notifications, just a simple database of students. Facebook has come a long way to become the number one social media in the world.
Uber. When it was first launched in 2011 and worked only in New York and Paris, it was simpler than now. The map looked less detailed, and there were no additional functions like picking a cab class or scheduling a ride. Nevertheless, due to positive customer feedback and overall popularity, we have the top-notch on-demand taxi app on the market.
Instagram. This social network was launched on October 6, 2010, and was somewhat different from the application we are used to today. It had very modest functionality, and the main idea was to enable users to exchange location data using geotagged photos and a simple image editor. However, for 9 years of its development, Instagram has acquired wide functionality such as video content, messaging, live streams, and many others, for which we love this application today.
Successes of popular maintained apps
Essential Parts of Application Maintenance
So, let's now talk about what exactly is meant when the application is on the maintenance path. After all, as soon as your app is released, you immediately begin to notice its parts that can be improved (or your users indicate this to you). As a result, support can take different forms.
This is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. Development maintenance can be attributed to many types of fixes and improvements that affect the overall state of the application:
The first thing developers do during maintenance is fixing bugs. When an application goes global, even the most tested digital solution may have minor bugs, and their fixes should come first.
Optimization of the code
An extremely important process aimed at reworking the structure of the written code to improve the application’s performance.
Working with compatibility
The number of mobile devices is amazing, and it is almost impossible to take them all into account during the development process. This maintenance phase is aimed at extending the supported devices by the application based on user feedback.
Last but not least is the addition of new features that expand the capabilities of the application and add a sense of novelty for users.
Application design can both attract users and scare them away. Nobody wants to use a digital product that looks like hello from the 2010s. Every year there are new design trends that should be followed if you want to maintain a competitive edge. As a result, you will need to regularly update your application’s UI/UX aspect as it evolves and features are added.
In addition, no one guarantees that your brand won’t need a rebranding, which will also affect your application’s appearance. And app maintenance will help you with this stage of your business path.
Learn more about the UI/UX design process in our recent article.
Ensuring security is one of the most important aspects in the development of any digital product and with its release, the responsibility to keep user data safe does not disappear anywhere. If we talk about application maintenance in this aspect, then these services can take two forms:
- Continuous security improvements. These include updates with vulnerability patches and preventive methods for hacking and security breaches.
- Improving security due to legislative changes. Additional work on security that is associated with new legislation can be classified into this category (for example, your application is released in a new region with its own special digital security laws).
To ensure maximum security, the development team must constantly monitor any changes to privacy, updates to third-party integrations connected to your digital product, and changes in global legislation.
Additional Maintenance Costs
In addition to the main parts that affect the cost to maintain an app, additional aspects can change the final price of services, which are also no less important and which you should be aware of.
Storing application data on servers is not free, and you should definitely include hosting costs in your maintenance budget. The payment for the servers and the final price tag very much depends on which particular service you choose, which specific servers you need, as well as the data format that you are going to store on them. The larger your application, the more server power you need to keep your digital product running smoothly. In addition, the requirements for the size of data storage and much more will grow.
On average, you can expect that renting a server for your application will cost you from $70 to $300 per month, and it is far from the limit.
The analysis is the key to thoughtful planning of the further development of the application and its maintenance. Analytics provides the key to the information that underlies any decision-making process, and you will have to pay for it too. You will need to know the application's metrics such as the number of downloads, the average time spent, bounce rate, user behavior parameters, and much more. This data will help you get a picture of how ordinary users see your app and what aspects of it can be improved. As a result, you will have to fork out various monitoring services for these metrics.
The price of such apps varies greatly. Some solutions may be completely free, while others will request a subscription costing $80 or more. The more features you want, the higher the price of the product.
All additional services connected to your application will also make up a significant part of your monthly app maintenance cost. For example, for the full functioning of your commercial product, you need to connect a payment gateway, and your choice falls on the rather popular Braintree solution. As a result, be prepared that this integration will charge 2.59% + $.49 per transaction. Or another example: your application urgently needs integration with maps, and the most popular solution is implementing the Google Maps API. And it will also go to your final costs as this service bills $0.50 per 1000 additional requests.
Solving problems and questions of the clients directly affect their experience of using the application, so do not forget about organizing good user support. This will also contribute to the final app maintenance price tag, but at the same time, you will get a huge benefit in the form of satisfied customers who know that they have a place to turn for help if they have any questions. Support costs vary greatly since your custom team can be either one chatbot written by the developer (which can be equated to a one-time expense), or staff of specialists, where everyone receives a salary, sick leaves, and much more. Also, do not forget about purchasing equipment for your support team.
Cost Optimization Tips
Reducing costs and maximizing profits is what all entrepreneurs strive for in all aspects of their business. And application maintenance is no exception. So we decided to collect some useful tips to help you optimize your app support costs.
Ensure App Scalability
Monolithic applications are extremely reluctant to improve, which greatly complicates the process and, as a result, significantly increases the cost to maintain an app and introduce new features. As a result, from the very moment you develop your digital product, you must lay the foundation for scalability. It will provide your system with the necessary maintenance flexibility and allow you to freely implement your new ideas as the application develops and its audience grows.
Pick Your Platform Wisely
When developing your digital product, you will be faced with the choice of which platform to join. You can choose a native or progressive web application. These two options have both pros and cons that will affect the cost of supporting these solutions.
We’ve made a full comparison between PWAs and native apps so you can make the right pick.
For example, a native application often has a wider range of capabilities due to access to the native capabilities of a mobile device. In addition, they have better performance. However, you have to keep two versions of the application (iOS and Android), and app maintenance costs are also multiplied by 2.
Meanwhile, the progressive web application has more modest functionality due to technical limitations. However, it is more accessible, and you only need to maintain one application, which significantly reduces the overall cost.
Also, you should pay attention to cross-platform applications. You can create it from the very beginning that will work on both iOS and Android since it is based on Flutter technology. It will also allow you to have and maintain only one version of the application.
Despite all of the above, it’s up to you what platform to choose. Lean on your business development plans, ideas, and financial capabilities.
How much does it cost to make a Flutter app? Read in our recent article.
Think About Development Team and its Location
The way of acquiring the development team also depends on the app maintenance cost. The most profitable and reliable option is to hire an outsourcing team. There is a rather long list of reasons for this:
- You do not need to engage in hiring individual specialists since outsourcing companies have teams of developers equipped with all the necessary cards.
- You are not limited in choosing a company by the borders of your country. You have a lot of regions to pick from, each one with hundreds of IT hubs and thousands of IT vendors.
- Outsourcing is cheaper than an in-house team since there are regions with lower hourly rates (while the quality of services is at the same high level as at your homeland)
- Outsourcing companies have many convenient models of cooperation you can choose from depending on your current financial resources (location-based and relationship-based)
The most profitable option is outsourcing to Europe, namely Estonia, which is one of the most popular tech hubs in the region. This country has one of the largest number of technicians in the region.
In addition, Software development companies from Estonia charge from $30 - $60 per working hour, which is highly beneficial for long-term app maintenance. Finally, do not forget about a convenient location and a visa-free regime, which makes this country extremely convenient for visiting and personal control over the development process.
Don’t Be Jack of All Trades
In our last advice, we recommend maintaining a balance between your personal desires to implement everything and their appropriateness. According to analysts, 45% of application features are never used, which suggests that attempts to implement absolutely every functionality will not bring much return, or you will completely waste your financial resources. Instead, think carefully about your app maintenance plan and include only those improvements that are actually needed. Thus, you will save the resources that you could have spent on a deliberately unsuccessful feature that no one asks for.
How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Mobile App: Cleveroad’s Estimate
So, now is the time to talk about what worries many entrepreneurs who want to organize thoughtful app maintenance - the price of these services.
First, it should be said that in order to organize support through the outsourcing of the developer, your application will go through a general analysis carried out by DevOps specialists. This is a necessary step in order to study in more detail what is under the hood of your app and how it behaves at a given time. These services will include:
- Checking system logs for application-level failure entries
- Checking server subsystems usage (CPU, RAM, I/O, network)
- Analyzing performance spikes if any
- Сhecking out backup process
- Checking security logs and current firewall settings
- Searching for OS patches or software updates
- Applying OS patches (optional)
These operations are also recurring and, as a result, may not be a one-time cost. They often take 10 hours a month and, like any services, are calculated according to the formula - the time spent is multiplied by the hourly rate. As a result, we have the following figures in different regions:
|Region||Rate (per hour)||Service price ($)|
Next comes the most difficult part: support with constant bug fixes, updates, patches, and new features. And this part of the calculations causes difficulties since there are a lot of variables in it, and you will never know the exact figure before the experts estimate your specific scope of work.
According to statistics, this level of support is about 15 to 20 percent of the original application development costs. For example, if you spent $150,000 on developing your application, then the annual support costs could cost you $30,000 (if taken by the upper bar).
We’ve revealed how much does it cost to make an app for business in 2022
However, we repeat that this estimate is approximate and is influenced by many variables. The real cost of support will be told to you only after the specialists of your technical vendor thoroughly study your project at the Discovery phase, document all the requirements, and calculate a 100% accurate estimate for app maintenance.
How Can Cleveroad Help You?
Cleveroad is a top-tier custom software development and maintenance company based in the Estonia, EU. Since 2011, we have been helping businesses get unique digital solutions for their businesses of various domains. Cleveroad in numbers is:
- 10+ years on the market
- 120+ in-house engineers
- 170+ successful projects
- 8+ expertise industries
We provide a full cycle of software development and its subsequent maintenance, which will allow your digital product to always stay ahead of the competition and surprise your customers with new functionality. Each of our cases is unique, and we adapt to the client's business and financial capabilities thanks to flexible cooperation models. For the app maintenance process, which is often indefinite, Time and Material remain the most profitable option for cooperation.
This model allows our team to start working on a project without having an exact amount of work in hand. Here's a scenario of how the development process goes: under the Time and Material contract:
- We make a demo, test it, send checklists and sprint reports to you.
- You review all the documentation and give us feedback on our work.
- We take the feedback into account when planning the next sprint.
A properly designed application will be uncomplicated and inexpensive to maintain, and the main thing here is an integrated approach. An ideal scenario is when one experienced technical vendor is engaged in the app development and maintenance, and then the application will live for a long time and will steadily increase your owner's income.