App Development, Thought Leaders

How to Know When Your App Needs a Major Upgrade

December 12, 2018

by Patel Nasrullah

Co-Founder, Peerbits

When a business releases a new app, it will eventually need to be updated – or risk becoming out of touch with new trends and consumer expectations. Learn how to know when it's time to update your app. 

Mobile and web applications have become an essential part of our lives. Today, there’s an app for almost everything – and thousands of apps of the same kind. As of March 2018, there were 2.6 million apps on Google Play.

With so much competition, how can your app stay ahead? The answer is simple: continuously update your app.

There are two types of updates: minor and major.

Minor updates typically fix bugs or improve an app’s performance. If you wait a few days or weeks to implement these changes, chances are the app would work just fine.

Major updates, however, can make or break your app. These updates don’t take place as frequently as the minor ones, but your app may stop working without a major update.

You can use this article to learn the indicators that it’s time to give your app a major update.

7 Signs Your App Needs a Major Update

There are 7 key indicators that it’s time to give your app a major update:

  1. Releasing new features
  2. Improving design
  3. Resolving performance issues
  4. Responding to user feedback
  5. Updating codebase
  6. Reaching new platforms or devices
  7. Improving stability and security

1. You’re Releasing New Features

Whenever you add a new feature to your app, you will need to issue a major update.

Common reasons for releasing new features include:

  • Capitalizing on a current trend
  • Extending your app’s functionality with third-party integrations
  • Addressing customers’ feedback
  • Authenticating and syncing across various devices

A prime example of this is Instagram, which was forced to release new features while competing against Snapchat.

In a short period of time, Instagram adopted almost all of Snapchat’s unique features, especially the “Stories” feature, which allows users to post images and short videos that disappear after a set period of time.

Stories are a prime example of a major update.

Instagram not only adopted Snapchat’s features, but it also improved the ephemeral story feature. Studies show that unique views on Snapchat have declined by 40%, while the use of Instagram Stories continues to climb.

If you are adding new features for any reason, you will need to issue a major update.

2. Your App Needs a New Design

Changing the whole design of your app also requires a major update.

New app designs are released for two main purposes:

  • To improve UX by revamping the whole app
  • To increase the efficiency and productivity of the app by adding new functionalities that are built into the design

A recent example of a new design update is Gmail. Gmail achieved two goals with its new design: It changed the design and added new features.

The update totally changed the way Gmail looks. The old Gmail home screen featured text-heavy buttons:

The old Gmail interface

By comparison, the new Gmail design features sleeker icons and more space between lines of text:

The new Gmail interface

If you want your app to succeed over time, periodically updating its design is essential. Design updates keep users engaged by offering a fresh experience.

3. Your App Has Performance Issues

If your app is already on the market and you are worried about its dropping performance, then it is the time to have a major update.

Your app’s success is directly dependent on its performance. To monetize your app and grow its audience, you must ensure that performance metrics are high-quality.

There are several parameters you can use to evaluate your app’s performance:

  • Active Users: The total number of users who log into your application for a period of time. This metric is critical for apps whose revenue depends on advertising.
  • Session Time: The amount of time a user spends your app. You can increase your app’s session time by improving UX.
  • Retention Rate: The percentage of users who visit your app over a period of a business quarter (90 days). This performance metric shows customer satisfaction.

Once you identify your app’s performance issues, you can develop a major update to enhance your app’s performance.

4. You Received User Feedback

Users matter most to your app – and you should never ignore their feedback.

User feedback provides significant insights into what works (and what doesn’t). If only a small portion of your users demand a change, you may not have to issue a major update. For example, hypothetically, if research shows that only 2% of Instagram users want a wallet feature, then Instagram would probably not decide to implement it.

If most of your users provide feedback about a feature or functionality, however, you must release a major update to meet their demands.

For example, WhatsApp recently rolled out a feature that allows users to identify which messages were forwarded and which were original. People used WhatsApp as a platform to spread rumors and fake news, which had led to violence such as mob lynching and riots in India. 

To quell the violence, India's IT Ministry asked WhatsApp to release a major update. In addition to clearly labeling forwarded messages, the update restricted the number of forwards in India to five at a time.

WhatsApp was required to release an update


Here, you can see that a forwarded message is flagged, alerting users that it was not written by the sender.

When you receive feedback from a significant number of users, you have an obligation to release a major update.

5. Your Codebase Is Outdated

Today, code that is two years old may now be obsolete. An app’s codebase is a complete source code that maintains the app’s functionality.

When developers build an app, they define a time interval after which the older version of an application can no longer function. If an app runs on an out-of-date codebase, it may lose functionality or become incompatible with current operating systems.

Mobile app development firms are aware of this and issue a major update every time advanced technology emerges.

6. You Want to Reach New Platforms or Devices

It’s possible that your app is intended for a specific operating system (OS) and device. It’s difficult to succeed, however, if your app doesn’t work on multiple devices and OS’s.

To reach new audiences, you can release a major update that makes your app compatible with new devices and platforms.

This type of major update must consider factors such as display orientation, graphics resolution, and the technology stack.

A major update can help your app reach new users while delivering strong performance across all devices and platforms.

7. You Need to Improve Stability and Security

Cases of hacking and privacy breaches regularly make headlines. Even behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have fallen victim to security problems. No matter how large or small an app’s user base is, security problems are an absolute catastrophe.

Even loyal users will unsubscribe from an app that puts their security at risk. In the aftermath of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data scandal, companies must work harder than ever to win users’ trust and prove that their apps are safe.

To achieve better security, you can release a major update with new security features:

  • Build a Sandbox: A sandbox is a testing environment that allows developers to restrict access to your app’s data by storing data in its own container and making it accessible by permission.
  • Restrict Clipboard Access: Hackers often go to clipboard data to steal information such as usernames and passwords. You should protect against this by restricting access.
  • Enable Jailbreak Detection: Gaining administrative access to your phone is known as “jailbreaking” – and it’s exactly what a hacker wants to do. You can design your app to include features that can determine whether it’s being used on a device that has been jailbroken.

Finally, users are more willing to trust a stable app than one that crashes frequently. Apps that crash frequently run the risk that a user’s annoyance will overshadow his or her fondness for the app.

To avoid this situation, you can release a major update that solves common stability issues such as poor memory management and error handling.

Major Updates Are Part of an App’s Life Cycle

In apps and life alike, change is the only constant. You must embrace change and adapt your apps accordingly.

Technology evolves rapidly, and apps need major updates to keep pace. As more competitors crowd the app space, regularly updating your apps will help ensure your app’s survival. Although minor updates can solve some issues, most apps need occasional major updates along the way.

By investing in major updates, you can help extend the life of your app. 

About the Author

Headshot of Patel NasrullahPatel Nasrullah co-founded Peerbits, one of the leading mobile application development companies in the USA, in 2011. He devotes his time in inspiring young leaders to take the leap of faith. With the experience of 10 years in web and app development, he now gives full attention to the enterprise by offering mobility solutions about the strategic planning and execution

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