How to start a mobile apps business

Combine sky-high downloads with impressive revenue. Read our guide to cracking the apps market

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Thinking of starting up a business in mobile applications? Funnily enough, like anything else you care to name, there’s an app for that.

Search the App Store, Android Market et al, and you’ll find plenty of examples: there are applications that offer app development code tutorials; apps that enable you to test your idea through market research; and even more applications that allow you to submit your mobile app idea to developers. Then, there are applications that help you keep track of sales once you’ve launched your mobile app…

With more than 225,000 apps to choose from on Apple’s App Store, tens of thousands on Android Market, and other platforms such as Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Mobile doing their darnedest to catch up, mobile apps is a growing area if ever there was one.  It’s a crowded and competitive marketplace too, however, and not an easy one to break. While it’s true anyone can develop an app, and many get brought to market, very few mobile app businesses actually make any money.

What is it and am I suited?

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and the resultant boom in smart phones, mobile apps have become the hot spot for new businesses. As Tristan Celder of Zolmo (the developers behind Jamie Oliver’s iPhone app which won top prize at the Apple Design Awards winner) puts it, the mobile app industry is “a lot like the music business. It’s all about the Top 40.” It’s dog eat dog, and things move very quickly.

To top the charts, you need a good idea, for sure. But you don’t need to be an expert developer yourself. It’s a business like any other: you have to work hard to create a decent app and you need to know your market.

Building a website for your business idea is easier than you might think. Our online tool ranks the top website builders that offer free trials.

In the UK, the most popular apps change all the time. Everything from throwaway gaming to retail, social networking and education gets a look in. Stand out successes range from gimmicks such as iPint from Carling and World Cup favourite Vuvuzela, to giants such as GoogleMaps and Facebook.  There’s a world between them all: so what do the chart toppers have in common?

Our case studies, Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, Tweetdeck, Touchnote and The App Factory, have seen varying degrees of success in the mobile app market. They are very different businesses, each with their own approach to development; to monetising their product; and to growing their venture. But what marks each out as a special case is the solid business thinking behind them:

  • Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals: a made-to-measure paid for app with celebrity credentials
  • Tweetdeck: a free social networking app with big business funding
  • Touchnote: a free-to-download app linked with a mobile provider
  • a self funded early stage app development agency and publisher

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.