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Developing mobile apps: some key considerations

Jan 31, 2013

There's never been a better time to release your own App. The mobile App industry is bigger and more lucrative than ever before, and the constant stream of new mobile devices continues.  With many digital media agencies and development houses focusing on app development, there’s a wealth of choice to develop your idea.

Although app development contracts include many of the provisions you would expect to see in any software development contract, the introduction of the “app-store” means additional considerations need to be catered for. As a customer approaching a development agency, here are 3 key difference between development contracts for traditional software and mobile apps:

(1) The app-store rules

From Apple’s “App Store” to Google’s “Play” and Microsoft’s “Window’s Store”, the same rule applies: What they say, goes.

All app-stores exert a certain amount of quality control. Although some take a "quantity over quality" approach, they all incorporate strict (and lengthy) guidelines to make sure all Apps measure up to a certain standard. Apple, by way of an example, have their own “App Store Review Guidelines”, which is then beefed up by their “Human Interface Guidelines” and “Developer Program Licence Agreement”. All this is designed to ensure their Apps make maximum use of the features their operating system and devices provide. Making sure your developer is familiar with all these guidelines is crucial to having a chance of a swift and smooth development process. Unoriginal and buggy Apps submitted to any app-store are unlikely to make the grade, so talk through your idea with the developer and make sure there are some robust testing procedures (see below) in place. Rejected Apps could mean further cost and delayed launch dates.
 

(2) App-ify your Acceptance Testing

Acceptance testing in App development may well borrow many of the provisions found in regular software development contracts. However, in the most common scenario, acceptance will mean the software having to pass a series of tests that ensures the software complies with what was agreed in the specification. Once these tests are passed, it’s normally the trigger for the developer to be paid and brings the development phase to an end. The customer can then start using the software in a live environment.

With Apps, the introduction of the app-store means acceptance has to consider additional steps beyond customer testing. On passing the tests, the developer will then be in a position to make a submission to the relevant app-store. If the App is rejected by the app-store, the agreement will need to be clear as to what happens next. It may be that you take on a fault based approach, so if the developer is to blame (like a bug) then they would fix it at no additional cost to the customer and resubmit to the app-store. If it was rejected, for example, because the customer’s idea simply wasn’t original enough, this could be considered to give rise to further charges, should the customer want to make changes.
 

(3) Change Control

The App world is full of innovation. Development of new technology moves quickly and devices with greater processing power taking advantage of new features and gimmicks are seemingly launched every month. Taking advantage of new technology can be a key to the success of an App. Having a change control feature in place means having a more certain way of doing this, should you find new technology that you want to introduce prior to launch. App development can take days, weeks or months. If new features become available, you want to move quickly, and having a clear process for changing the specification for your App, or the terms of the agreement, with your developer is crucial.

If you need any advice on mobile app development contracts, contact one of the commercial contract team on 020 7234 0200 or info@waterfront.law