How Often Should You Update A Mobile App?

Travis McCallum
Tips to help you become a better creator

Congratulations on launching your new app. You are making many people happy in the world by solving their problems. And heck, maybe some extra revenue is flowing in as a byproduct of your goodwill.  

But wait. Customer feedback is coming out in the dozens. Your app review on Apple is sitting at a 3.6.  Why so low you wonder? A comment reads: It keeps freezing whenever I try to click a button. Another comment says: Where’s the GPS support? 

What gives?  You thought you had thought of everything. 


In the beginning… 

Creating the app is only the first mountain to scale of many, many, many more to come. Much like lawn maintenance, you’ve got a lot of work left to do and the work truly never stops. Homeowner Associations (government regulations), neighbors (other app creators) and passersby (visitors to your app) are eyeing your yard to meet certain standards. 

Updates in olden days required a brand new shipment of material goods. Once a CD was shipped, no new songs could be added on the final release label. When you received your software package with the drawing tools for that big art project, you found out its not compatible with MAC as a Windows exclusive. What a pain in the butt for consumers and creators alike! 

But we live in the digital age now. 

Here you can update apps in real-time.  How incredible is that? Moreso, there’s an expectation from stakeholders in your app you need to abide by. Consider the following side effects for updating your mobile application: 

  1. It’s a free marketing tool 

  1. It’s a way to connect with your loyal followers 

  1. It’s your public relations machine 

  1. It costs people data (money) 

The verdict is clear: Pros outweigh Cons.  Given this newfound knowledge, you now need to identify when it’s best to update your app. I’ve included a FAST and SLOW update note for reach reason outlined below to help you understand how big or small these patches are when released. 


Reason #1 – Time (Bugs) 

You take your car to the mechanic every three months for an oil change right? Well, just like your car, with mobile apps on the surface everything looks fine, but it can be easy to miss major disasters that may happen if you aren’t auditing your software regularly.  

This is why getting into the power of habits is so important. Author Charles Duhigg of, “ In The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business”, says, “Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage.” This means that if you, the prestigious app owner, make a habit of updating (changing) your app on a consistent schedule, then those small incremental changes will amass into one huge victory. 

Technology is growing at an exponential rate, according to the Law of Accelerating Returns. So, at a bare minimum, you should update every 14 days to keep up with the world. That’s like driving from NYC to LA 7 times!!! What are the chances your car would break down? Probably at least once, if not more. 

UPDATE PRIORITY: FAST – Bugs that interfere with the user experience need to be taken care of quickly. 


Reason #2 - Feature Expectations 

Trends come and go, but sometimes something sticks.  It is your sworn duty as an innovator and entrepreneur to keep your ears low to the ground and your eyes above the horizon. When “AIM” came out, people thought it was a gimmicky item. No way it would take off… but take off it did. Now, every smartphone and chat app has a buddy feature because it’s become a part of society. 

Every application will have its own set of standard features based on its unique use case. But consider the following as updates people might expect: 

  • Search Function 

  • Social Networking 

  • Responsive Design 

  • More Touch and Less Keyboard 

  • User Feedback Options 

  • Offline Use 

UPDATE PRIORITY: FAST – Replicating other successes is easy, because they’ve already done the hard work of coming up with the idea for you. 


Reason #3 - Improved UX 

Want to know why the tab bars are so popular?  It’s because they are easy to reach with your thumb while holding your phone. Easy navigation, always visible and clear guidance on next-steps to take—people like simple and effortless experiences. Put yourself in front of your own device and ask if there’s something you would want to change to make it convenient and friendly. 

Outdated tech like the QWERTY keyboard could use a facelift.  ? 

UPDATE PRIORITY: FAST – These updates are quality of life changes that happen naturally. 


Reason #4 - Feedback 

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” Steve Jobs makes a great point all app developers know, but many fail to execute a whole product development. A product doesn’t just end with the sale. Its lifecycle is a continuous loop of feedback directly from the customer!  


Just like Jobs said, your customers are your greatest allies. They will tell you what works and what doesn’t. They’ll help you discover things about your app you never knew was possible. The growth doesn’t end after the laboratory testing.  If you ignore your user feedback you will get bad reviews. 


UPDATE PRIORITY: SLOW – Here you have to factor in a wish-list of things people ask for, which need to be prioritized and lumped in a big release.  Oftentimes requests that come in will overlap with small nuances. 


Reason #5 - Milestones 

What’s your product roadmap?  Surely there are big plans to develop your app further. Say for instance, you shipped a base product with limited functions, but over time plan to open it up to specific industries with unique use cases.   

Unless you are being funded by an external source like venture capitalists or kickstarter, you will most likely launch your product with the basic concept and build on it.  Here are some examples of milestones: 

  1. New language translations 

  1. New analytics reports 

  1. New integrations with other software 

UPDATE PRIORITY: SLOW – These changes require a lot of planning and foresight because they are on a large scale in development. 


The Takeaway… 

I always encourage anyone whose making app update decisions to look at other companies in their industry as a benchmark. If you visit the Google Play store you can search for apps in your specific category. 

Mobile app development never ends with the sale. You have to invest in it as an ongoing project filled with challenges and opportunities gleaned from the daily interaction of your users. 

If you are struggling to make your mobile application profitable and could use some help, Impiger offers strategic consulting and development services. Their team of seasoned staff comes equipped with over 250 plus applications using mobile app best practices.