Over the last 8 years, the world’s 2 most popular mobile OS (iOS and Android) have both had a catalogue of more than a million apps launched for every possible task you can imagine. The competition will only increase.
In this post, we will discuss how to approach app updates, balancing smaller and larger updates, and some general tips for different kinds of release cycles. So once the first version of your app is complete, logically the next step is to maintain and operate the app. The most popular apps in app stores often update as frequently (i.e. weekly) while other release cycles may happen once or twice a month. So how do you determine when you should update your app?
Most successful apps release 1–4 updates a month.
Update frequency will depend on user feedback, data, and team size.
Most feature updates should be scoped to be no more than two weeks.
Balance faster bug fixing updates with longer feature releases.
Plan 2–4 updates in advance but keep attuned to market demands.
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All devices in Testin’s cloud are real devices (not simulators or emulators) and the devices’ user coverage is up to 95% of the market.
Although most don’t know it, app updates are one of the best marketing tools app developers have at their disposal. With the number of apps people have installed on their devices today, regular updates can help an app get more mindshare relative to other apps on a device. Releasing regular updates keeps an app top of mind because it will show up in the updates list like the App Store or Google Play Store.
App updates can also help build a loyal user base, provided that the updates include relevant bug fixes and features that users were complaining about. Frequent updates reflect a commitment to the app and that it is still being maintained and improved. This also reflects greatly on brand image.
App stores do not reward the “ship it and prosper” mentality. As mentioned before, the most successful apps are updated upwards of weekly on the higher end. On the lower end, they usually get at least an update a month. If you don’t feel you can be committed to updating your app at least once a month, you should seriously reconsider even building an app.
Your app store updates should be driven by qualitative user feedback, quantitative data, and an understanding of your market. Being more conservative with your release planning initially will ensure that updates will start making it to your users sooner. That is why it is more efficient to adopt proper QA testing measures to detect errors and bugs before the release of an update and of course prevent the flood of negative reviews!
There are some exceptions to the guidance of 1–4 app updates per month. If you have a large number of apps in your portfolio, it may be challenging to update all of them each month. There is also the case where an app may just be in “maintenance mode” with little justification for continued investment, but that’s a topic for another time.
Another type of app update is a bug fixing release. Although some releases will include features and bug fixes, it’s also common just to focus on a release that helps make an app more stable. For example, Apple and Google’s last major OS releases—iOS 12 and Android 9.0 respectively—were in many ways more about stability and bug fixes than new features.
For more mature apps that have a significant market share, bug fixing updates are fairly common. These apps are mostly about improving and stabilizing experiences for their users because their features are largely solidified. They’ll occasionally have longer feature building cycles happening in parallel for significant updates.
While the number of app updates will generally be in the range of 1–4 per month, obviously where you fall on the spectrum will vary. Individuals or smaller teams may only be able to get out a quality release per month. Larger ones with more mature apps will usually be in that two, three, or even four updates range. However, DevOps team are recommended to balance adding features and stabilizing your app. Of course, there is also an option of employing a third party testing service to validate your app for you and you can focus on development!