Reducing the Cost of Mobile App Development with NativeScript

Building mobile apps can be an expensive endeavor. Тo create software you need 3 types of resources:

  • Developers that have specific domain knowledge
  • Hardware
  • Software tools to speed up the whole process

Let’s take a look at specifics of the mobile development and make a rough calculation for how much it would cost you to start developing mobile apps.

The team

When it comes to mobile apps, addressing both major platforms, Android and iOS, is a must for any business. One of the biggest problems is that only native apps bring you stability, smooth experience and optimized performance at the same time.

If you go down that road you will need two types of developers, or only one knowing how to build for both platforms (iOS and Android). Having at least two developers is likely the required minimum; if you go with one having the complex experience this will slow down the development by at least a factor of two.

The solution here is to find a JavaScript developer.

*Statistic about most popular technolog*y

This sounds unrelated to the previous paragraph, but using a JavaScript Developer will cut your costs on half, speedup the overall development and simplify future maintenance. This is because, using JavaScript, you can have only one codebase that works on both iOS and Android. How? Using NativeScript.

NativeScript is an open source framework for development of native cross-platform mobile applications with the help of JavaScript and CSS. Since JavaScript is the most widely used programming language in the world, finding a developer for your project is a much easier task. Plus, the ability to share code between your iOS and Android app means that you could potentially have one developer for both projects.

After the implementation comes the styling phase. Developers are famous with their (dis)ability to style software. The below image is not what most users expect to see in a professional app.

A designer's help to improve the look and feel to the app is crucial. But having a designer on board will cost you additional money.

Thankfully, NativeScript offers a free tool that helps you create an attractive theme for your project. You might even be able to remove the designer’s expenses from the Excel sheet.

Hardware

To cover both iOS and Android you need a Mac. On PC, you are not able to build and test iOS applications. With Windows you can develop only for Android. So the pragmatic choice is to buy a Mac so that you have the range of options. One of the biggest problems is the price … and the dongles.

If you don’t have enough money to buy Macbook Pro, a Mac Mini is the perfect solution for you. For $649 from Amazon you can get a pretty good machine with a solid configuration. I personally have one of these at home and development with it is more than satisfying. I am using the Android and iPhone simulators at the same time, a bunch of Chrome and IDE instances and I am not slowed down.

My preference for Mac Mini over the Macbook Air is the price and the better hardware setup. Also, it is lightweight and you can bring it with you everywhere, almost like a laptop. I flew with it to Europe and everywhere I stayed there was a monitor or TV to hook up to.

For the monitor, $229 is more than enough to buy a Dell monitor. I use this model at home and at work and have never had a problem with it. Regarding to the peripheral devices here are some suggestions:

Having the machine is not the end of the hardware story. Even though you have simulators to test the app I would recommend you to get at least two devices to test on. The iPhone 5S supports the latest iOS updates and it is not terribly expensive at about $250. The Android device should be around the same price range but get something that supports version 6 and higher.

Of course, these are just suggestions based on my personal experience and you can buy the above stuff from wherever you want and choose whatever models and brands you prefer.

Here is our total: $649 Mac Mini + $229 Monitor + $11 Cable + $20 Mouse + $14 Keyboard + $250 IPhone + $250 Android device =** $1423**.

Software

To distribute or test apps on iOS devices, you’ll need an Apple developer license which is $99 per year or the Enterprise developer program for $299. You can find more information on these programs here. The simulators for iOS and Android are free. Both of them are fast and reliable. In case you want a specific Android configuration, you can use Genymotion which is at least $136 per year (or free for personal use).

The NativeScript framework is free and open source, so there is no cost associated. If you are looking for functionality that is not built-in or need help, you can reach out via the NativeScript forum or Slack. Both are very active and will give help you get started from day one. For private Slack channel and direct discussions with the engineering team you are covered by the Enterprise support. The framework relies on different plugins and they can be found on npm. Most of them are implemented and supported by the community.

To play with NativeScript and the plugins you need a coding environment. Visual Studio Code is the most used editor and it is also free – and the good news is that it is integrated with NativeScript.

The next step is to choose where to keep your code. GitHub is a good option and the prices are affordable $25 per month or $300 per year + $9 per user per month or total for 2 developers – $516. If you are just one developer with personal account, it will be $84 per year. Keep in mind that GitHub is free for public and open source repos.

Besides the free plugins Progress offers paid packages of UI components to speed up your development. I highly recommend them because the price is low relative to what you get – $199 per year or $599 including unlimited support.

Let’s make the total calculations for one developer to cover the minimum case and for 2 developers to cover the maximum. Minimum: $99 developer program + $84 GitHub + $199 UI controls = $382. Maximum : $299 Enterprise program + $136 Android Simulator + $516 GitHub + 2x$599 UI controls = $2149.

There's another option though.

Telerik Platform

If you are not willing to deal with the hassle of setting up and supporting your own computers,

Progress offers a cloud based solution – Telerik Platform.

In this case, you don't need to buy and maintain machines running the latest macOS,

which are often required to target the latest iOS versions. Telerik Platform guarantees that the machines, which are used, are always up to date with the requirements for the latest versions of NativeScript, iOS and Android SDKs.

What's more, you can develop your apps on Windows, even when targeting iOS!

The package also includes support (for the tooling), integration with Visual Studio (Windows only), and our Views service, which helps you to quickly scaffold apps with the correct code structure.

Finally, the platform offers run-time services, which you may find helpful to bring your project to the market even faster.

The cost starts from $39 per month per developer or total **$468 **per year.

Conclusion

Getting started developing mobile apps is not nearly as scary and expensive as it sounds. If you are single developer the starting kit will be ~$1805 (hardware and software).

If you want to have development shop with 2 developers the amount could be: 2 x Yearly salary of a JavaScript developer + $4995 (hardware and software).

How much do you spend on mobile development?

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