Clutch spoke with Taj Dhunay, founder of The Sound Pipe Media, as part of a series of interviews on mobile app cost and platform choice.
Please begin by introducing The Sound Pipe Media and your role at the company.
The Sound Pipe Media is an application development company. We specialize in a few different areas like luxury and social networking apps. My name is Taj Dhunay and my role is project manager. I'm the founder of the company as well.
Mobile App Platforms
What are the things that a client should consider when deciding on a mobile app platform?
Most people go for both iOS and Android, but there are a few occasions where people do tend to do iOS first depending on their market base and user base, and then do Android. That way you get to see what kind of changes you should make if you need to for the Android device. That's preferable, and people mostly do iOS. Also, the network of iOS users is bigger at the moment, but it costs more to market the app and acquire users. Android is a lot less commonly chosen than iPhone at the moment.
Are most of the apps that The Sound Pipe Media develops for a European audience?
Yes. We have some European clients from France, Monaco, and Greece. We have some recent ones in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as well. So, there are international and there are quite a few United Kingdom-based ones as well, so it's a bit of a mix among that side of the world.
Are there any use cases from your experience for which you built Android first?
Yes. We have done some Android development first, for example, for a game. Then, that was successful, so we ported it to iOS. So, yes, it can work out well.
We do Android first when people might not have much marketing budget. We suggest trying to do the Android first because it's cheaper and you get greater visibility. There are more opportunities to market at a lower cost using the Android. That's when we would do the Android first.
What makes Android cheaper in terms of marketing?
It's a cost-per-user acquisition. So, we can pay per download at a lower cost than you would on iOS. It's less busy on the Android app store than the iPhone App Store, so the Android store has got less volume to hit in terms of ranking on the charts there.
Are there any examples that you think particularly illustrate that point from your experience?
We've built a recent application called Hotspot, a social network for one of our clients, on both iOS and Android. The client didn't have much budget for the Android, and we managed to get user acquisition costs at point 10 cents per user on the Android. Currently in the U.K. Android store, it's in the top 13 social networking apps. We managed to do some user acquisition through marketing and some social media marketing, and had really good results on a couple of charts in the Android social networking category.
Does The Sound Pipe Media ever do any hybrid development or mobile Web development?
We have done mobile Web apps, as well as some PhoneGap, but we mainly focus more on native applications because the performance is better than in the Web app, and you have much more control and more resources available in native apps than you have in the Web apps and the hybrid ones. So, we tend to do less of those.
Are there any examples that come to mind for which hybrid was the best choice?
We did an informational application, where it was mainly just getting information from a Web service and putting it into an app. It was sort of like a blog. We did that quite well. For anything that involves gaming or anything that requires a bit more control on the push notifications and things like that, I think native is the way forward. But, if it's something simple with not too much functionality, we can use a hybrid model rather than a native one.
Do you ever build Windows applications?
We haven't done much in Windows, to be honest. We've done much in iOS and Android. Many people haven't really requested Windows. iOS and Android are the strongest markets worldwide, so everyone is doing those.
Mobile App Cost
What are the key drivers of cost in building a mobile app?
I think the main things are the amount of Web service requests that need to be done from the mobile app. Social networking is more high-end because you can do much more with integrating a lot of social networks, so the scope becomes bigger with social networking apps. So, their costs are higher than the other, more utility sort of apps.
If you're integrating different application programming interfaces, it does increase the cost because you have to understand what API you're trying to integrate and understand the documentation for that as well. We've had a few third-party API integrations, but mostly we write our own software. We write pretty much everything from scratch so that we can have more control on everything. We can better understand if we need to change parameters or values, and we can do that quite easily. With third-party APIs, you have a lot of limitations, so you might not be able to access a certain amount of information. Also, the people running these third-party APIs can also turn things off from their end if they want to, so you don't really have control of anything.
To develop the same app on a second platform, how much more does it cost?
We don't code something so it's universal, we have to code each app from scratch. We would code Android in Java and the iOS in Objective C. Everything is native programming, rather than a cross-platform, one fits-all-type of solution.
If you had done iOS first and then you do the Android, it will take about a fourth of the time for the second app. If it's switched around and you want to do the iOS second, the same thing, it will be a quarter of the time more to do the iOS when you want to do that. The reason why is that when you do a second platform, you can replicate most of the features from the first platform, but then you've still got to code it from scratch. It does takes less time to replicate something rather than making the whole thing again. What we do is we take that framework, and then we just create the components for the second platform. The back-end stays the same, so you don't recode the back-end. You only recode the whole front-end side of things. So, it's a bit less time, meaning less cost, but there's still a cost.
Does your company require a minimum budget to take on a new client?
We don't really do anything below about 10,000 or 12,000 pounds. We try to keep it above that ideally.
How do you go about figuring out a price quote?
We figure out the complexity of the project and how much time it's going to take for us. So, depending on if it's going to take us a long time to do things and there are a lot of tasks involved or we need to use more resources, we price it accordingly. We don't reuse codes for other clients, everything is done from scratch every time we do it because most of our clients have their own intellectual property and own the code for their project, so everything becomes a task again. So, we tend to price things up depending on complexity.
Do you normally work for a fixed price or is it billed hourly?
We mainly do fixed costs.
In terms of your business model, how do you think that compares from a cost and value perspective with other types of development companies?
We have a team based here in the U.K., so cost tends to be a little bit higher. But, on the flip side, you maintain the quality of the application and the product becomes much stronger because we're working on it together. We're trying to get the best product for the client and make sure they're happy and make their life easier. Some of our developers are based around Europe and some in the Middle East, so not all of our team is based in the U.K.. Some are based here, and some are based abroad. We try to get the best skill set for what we're trying to do. Not all developers are quite as skilled in the U.K., which we've found from trial and error.