Guide: How to Develop Apps for iOS and Android

“How to develop an app like Uber?” or “I want an app like Airbnb” - we get these questions and requests all the time. How to do it?

“How to develop an app like Uber?” or “I want an app like Airbnb” – we get these questions and requests all the time. While we recommend our clients not to copy an international business, there are valid ideas when the startup wants to offer a similar business in a country where there are no such providers.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Apple’s iOS mobile operating system accounted for approximately 29.89% of the worldwide smartphone market, trailing behind Android, which maintained a dominant position with a market share of 69.44%. The gap between iOS and Android is notable, with Android leading by 39.55% in market share.

[Source: BankMyCell]

What is the most common trap entrepreneurs fall into when attempting to create a “like” app? Oftentimes, it’s too easy to underestimate just how much it costs to create a mobile app like Facebook, for example. The temptation lies in seeing the front end – the tip of the iceberg – and thinking “Oh, it’s so easy. I’ll create my own.”

Read here a recent 2024 research on app development trends.

As a result, when the client gets the development estimation – with costs and hours required – it’s easy to get confused. Since everyone understands the idea of “like Facebook” differently, some iOS and Android developers might estimate the cost of a social media network creation as something that would take 4 months and $10K (thinking about the white-label solutions, which don’t require much coding and minor adjustments). At the same time, other developers might do reverse-engineering on Facebook and create an estimation for a minimum of 1 year for the MVP, costing $500K+. How do you choose a development partner in such a case? 

In this article, we’ll focus on the things you should consider in case you’d like to develop your mobile app and the answers to such questions as: 

Ready? Let’s go. 

How Much Does Mobile App Development Cost?
How much does it cost to develop iOS and Android apps?

How Much Does iOS and Android App Development Cost?

If you meet a person at a conference or elsewhere, who would be able to answer that question right away: don’t trust your development to his company.

You have to understand that every project, even a comparatively simple one, consists of numerous parts: the app itself and the platforms you want to reach, third-party integrations, website, database, possible admin panels, etc. Therefore, the cost ultimately depends on your expectations, the uniqueness of the tasks, and your particular business (for example, financial apps require two-factor authentication, while for most other industries it’s just a “good-to-have”).

As we mentioned above, a project description “I want something similar to Facebook” will range from $10K to $500K. Why are prices so different? 

  1. Different understanding of what’s expected
  2. Different prices per hour of development
  3. Different prior experience

HUSPI Notes: We usually take around 3-5 days for initial estimation, which includes preliminary basic business analysis to see what your business is like and understand what exactly you’re looking for (as well as the ways we might go about it). One of the next steps also includes the creation of technical documentation, which describes every detail of your project more precisely and in such a way that developers understand what exactly is expected in a technical sense. 

You might also be interested: Why push notifications are great for user engagement
what are mobile app development stages

Mobile Applications Development Stages

The creation of an app doesn’t equal programming for Android and iOS. It involves a lot more stages: 

  • Planning
    • Preliminary analysis, learning the client’s expectations, creating a plan for further cooperation, etc.
  • Analysis
    • Creating the technical documentation and choosing the ways to make it all happen.
  • Design
    • The design includes creating the layouts of screens, deciding on interactions, choosing or drawing icons, prototypes, etc.
  • Development
    • The actual development stage starts here, where you need to combine the design with the technical requirements and make it all work (including integration with third-party services and APIs, if necessary)
  • Testing
    • Testing goes along with development (we support test-driven development), but it’s also a separate stage as well to check all possible scenarios and system loads. 
  • Release
    • Let other people enjoy your brand new mobile application by making it available in the Google Play and Apple App Store. 
  • Support
    • There is always something that you will remember after the release – or, perhaps, a helpful user might recommend a feature. Therefore, you need support after the release of the app as well. 
development plan for mobile app

HUSPI Notes: Each project is different, which is why we take time to understand what each client expects as a result, even if we have done “a simple e-commerce website” a million times. Everyone has a different understanding of a “simple” and even a different understanding of a “website” 🙂

Would you like to talk about it? Send us a message.
how to create a mobile app brief

How to Create a Development Brief?

The project can be described in many ways. 

  1. You can simply try to explain your idea using words
  2. You can draw basic prototypes on a napkin.
  3. You can write a development brief. 
  4. You can write technical documentation. 

Articulating your project’s idea in words is a good start. If you can explain your idea to another person and s/he can understand what you mean – you’re on the right path. However, that’s not enough for the start of the development. 

Basic prototypes (on a napkin during lunch business meetings or in prototyping apps) are also a very helpful aid in helping others get excited about your project.

The next two options are more to the point: brief and technical documentation. The latter requires tech specialists and time to think of all possible scenarios, user stories, and milestones for development. The former – a brief – can be done by you. 

What’s the purpose of a development brief? It helps to identify the main features and functionalities of the app and evaluate the idea in general.

What’s included in the brief? There are four major parts:

  1. Users – who will be the primary target audience using your application? (For example, older people would probably require fewer features and larger buttons. Restaurant delivery services would need various options for delivery and take-out as well as payment options.)
  2. Problems – what user problem are you trying to solve with this app? The idea is that if the user won’t be able to find a definite benefit in using your app, s/he will delete it and never look back. Try to explain it in situations, for example, “get a cab when you don’t have cash” or “dry-cleaning services or laundromat nearby”
  3. Benefits – what makes your app stand out among competitors? It can be a unique option (for example, a social network for people with disabilities and additional features that help them navigate your app) or a better analog of an existing service. 
  4. Profits – how will you earn money from this app? This can include anything from in-app advertising, in-app purchases, premium features, subscription-based accounts, or users’ need to purchase this app in the very beginning. If you are creating a mobile app to help you with your general business, the app can also help to attract more customers, increase existing customers’ loyalty, or automate business processes (and therefore save you money on processing all that manually.)
HUSPI Notes: write down everything you think of, don’t just say it - this will save you from repeating yourself over and over as you are working on your project with PMs and developers. (In case you don’t like to write and it’s easier to speak, use the speech-to-text option in Google Docs, for example.)
should i use an online app builder

Should I Just Use an Online App Builder Instead of Mobile Apps Developer Companies?

There are numerous options available on the market that offer drag-and-drop (or otherwise easily customizable) mobile app builders, for example, Firebase (Google’s product) or BuildFire.

One of the most prevalent benefits of all of them – you can create an app yourself without needing to resort to coding. It’s quite a tempting idea for sure.

But should you use one? Yes and no.

  • Yes – if you need an app that does typical things for business (for example, a basic e-commerce store or an app for communication and information.)
  • No – if you need some specific algorithms or unique features that aren’t available in any other app on the market. (You’ll need a proper development team there.)
native or cross-platform

Native or Cross-Platform Mobile App?

Native Apps: Swift

Native apps refer to mobile applications that are meticulously developed and optimized for a particular operating system or platform, such as Apple’s iOS. These applications are designed to harness the full capabilities and features of the target platform, ensuring seamless integration with the native functionalities of the device.

When a native app is created, it is tailored to adhere to the specific design principles, user interface guidelines, and performance standards set by the platform it is intended for. This level of customization enables native apps to provide an optimized and cohesive user experience, taking full advantage of the unique attributes and capabilities of the respective operating system.

For instance, when developing a native app for Apple iOS, developers leverage the Swift programming language and utilize Apple’s software development tools, including Xcode. This approach allows them to tap into iOS-exclusive features, such as the Core Motion framework for motion sensing or the Touch ID functionality for enhanced security.

The benefits of native app development extend beyond platform-specific optimizations. Native apps typically exhibit superior performance, responsiveness, and overall reliability compared to cross-platform or web-based alternatives. They also have the advantage of seamless integration with the device’s hardware and software components, providing users with a more immersive and efficient experience.

In summary, native apps are finely crafted applications tailored for a specific platform, ensuring optimal performance and a cohesive user experience by aligning with the unique characteristics of the targeted operating system, such as Apple iOS.

Cross-Platform Apps: React Native, Flutter, Xamarin

Cross-platform apps, on the other hand, are designed with the inherent capability to operate seamlessly across multiple platforms, such as Apple iOS and Google Android. Unlike native apps, which are specifically crafted for a single operating system, cross-platform apps are developed using frameworks and technologies that facilitate compatibility across various platforms.

The key advantage of cross-platform development lies in the ability to write code once and deploy it on multiple platforms, thereby streamlining the development process and potentially reducing costs. Frameworks like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter enable developers to create applications that share a significant portion of their codebase while still delivering a native-like experience on different platforms.

In the case of cross-platform apps, a common programming language, such as JavaScript (React Native), C# (Xamarin), or Dart (Flutter), is often used to write the code. These frameworks then provide a layer of abstraction that allows the code to be translated and executed natively on each target platform. This approach facilitates the development of applications that maintain a consistent look and feel across different devices and operating systems.

While cross-platform development offers advantages in terms of code reusability and broader reach, there are considerations related to performance optimization and access to platform-specific features. Developers often need to strike a balance between code sharing and platform-specific optimizations to ensure an optimal user experience across diverse devices.

In summary, cross-platform apps provide a versatile solution for developers aiming to reach a broader audience by creating applications that function seamlessly across various platforms, offering a pragmatic approach to app development in the ever-diverse mobile landscape.

Which one is better – native or cross-platform? 

Once again, the answer depends on the purpose and type of your mobile application (and business in general.)

Native App Advantages: 

  • You can utilize all the platform’s abilities (including hardware) in your application. For example, seamless integration with Siri or 3D touch technology on iPhones. 
  • The app will be more efficient because the features will be optimized for the given platform’s abilities. 
  • In case you’re creating an app that would be a part of an ecosystem (for example, it should work on both iPhones and Apple Watches), a native app is a way to go.

Cross-Platform App Advantages: 

  • The code is usually easier to support
  • Business logic is located in one place which helps with testing the functionality simpler and more straightforward. You also don’t have to re-write the same business logic several times for each of the platforms. 
  • Cross-platform apps are a wonderful solution when you need a web app shell without major integrations with third-party resources. 

What factors should you take into account before you make your decision?

  • Price – creating one app for two platforms might seem like a cheaper choice and in many cases it is. However, it greatly depends on your app’s features, therefore, consult with developers about this issue before you begin the development. 
  • Features – as we mentioned above, if you don’t need anything from rocket science or machine learning, you’ll probably do well with a cross-platform app. If you need to involve hardware options, then you should consider creating a native app for each of the platforms you want the app to be available on.
  • Updates – if you have a cross-platform app, the testing time for each of the new features is a bit more complex because it should correctly work on several platforms. Therefore, if you plan to update your app frequently (many apps today are updated once in two weeks in response to user feedback), then we would advise going for native app development.

Also, remember that each platform’s app store has different requirements and times for approval. Take this into account as well, especially if you need the app to be released on a specific date.


Combining All Advice:

  • The same idea can be evaluated differently by different teams. Get a few estimates to get an idea and work through the project’s requirements. 
  • Write everything, don’t simply discuss the requirements verbally. This will greatly simplify the estimation process because all team members will be on the same page as to what was said. 
  • Create a brief for development that includes target users, problems, benefits, and profits.  
  • Cross-platform and native apps have specific purposes and cases when each is better. 
  • Start with an MVP version of your app to get feedback from your early users and use that feedback to make your app better. 
  • Remember that apps take time to be reviewed at the app store, so plan your launch activities well ahead (but keep dates flexible just in case the review doesn’t get approved.)
  • In case of any questions, consult with HUSPI – we’re here to help you with tricky questions and software development.

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Feel free to drop us a message regarding your project – we’re eagerly looking forward to hearing from you!