Types of Mobile App Development Agencies

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Publish date:

July 8, 2022

Updated on:

June 12, 2024

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Types of Mobile App Development Agencies


It should come as no surprise that hiring an app development agency has never been easier to do. As the market becomes more and more dominated by e-commerce, mobile app development has proliferated like never before. Choosing the right app development studio does not have to be complicated, though — read on for our tips on hiring the right agency for you!

So you have made the decision to create an app for your business and to outsource the app development. The next decision to make is which type of app development agency to contact for the work. There are four main types of app development studios, although there are plenty of hybrids and subsets of companies specializing in various platforms throughout the industry. In broad strokes, the four types of mobile development agencies include in-house enterprises, outsourced enterprises, freelancers, and boutiques.

An in-house enterprise is generally the largest corporate entity of the four. They will usually be able to build an app from the ground up, from design, testing, building, all the way through to publishing and ongoing maintenance. Coders and programmers dominate their personnel roster, with a strong design team. Because their work is all done in-house, they tend to be able to take on much larger-scale projects than other app development agencies, but they can be more expensive to hire.

Similarly, outsource enterprises will have the capacity to take on large-scale projects, but they hire freelancers they have vetted on their own terms to do the bulk of the design, programming, and building. These companies are much more cost-effective than an in-house enterprise, and they offer a higher degree of flexibility for projects that may already be underway.

A team of three developers from an app development agency and three of their clients sit around a wooden table. Two people reach across the table to shake hands and seal the deal.

A third option is to hire freelancers directly. There are plenty of pros and cons to hiring a freelancer. Although it is rare to find a single person who has the knowledge, skills, and time management abilities to design, code, test, build, and publish an app from the ground up, they do exist, and they generally expect to be paid well for the breadth of their expertise. Hiring a freelancer for certain steps, however, can be a fantastic option for an app that has already gone through some of the initial development stages.

The most specific option of the four is a boutique app development studio. Boutiques tend to be quite small — some may only have two or three people on the team. Due to their size, they tend to take on far fewer projects to bring a heightened level of focus and polish to those that they do. Normally boutiques will work in a highly specialized area of app development, or a single industry. They are a great choice for companies who have a niche use or target market for their app.

Case Studies and Portfolios

Once you have worked out what type of app development agency fits your needs and your budget, it is time to review their portfolio. This is an industry standard and best practice for the kind of investment building a mobile app requires. A majority of companies will have case studies of their most successful projects listed directly on their websites, and our own company spotlights frequently detail the specifics of an example of their stellar execution.

Hiring an App Development Agency

Keep an eye out for their past clients, as well. The bigger or better-known of their past clientele does not necessarily mean they are the right choice for your company. If they have worked with companies of a similar size, industry focus, and scope to yours and have done good work for them, odds are they will be a great fit. Some app development agencies work solely for large multinational corporations; some work for local mom-and-pop shops; some pride themselves on their flexibility and their competence in meeting the needs of a range of companies.

In addition to reviewing their portfolios, you can dig deeper by seeking out references from their past clients — and their users. Knowing whether a mobile development agency is liked and trusted by companies in your industry is a must, and learning how they have worked with teams in the past will give you valuable insight into how they will work with yours. Knowing how users interact with their past mobile apps is arguably even more important, and it is easy to find out: check their Google Play and Apple Store reviews.

A bald Black woman wearing a white collared shirt and gold hoop earrings checks the reviews for an app development agency on her smartphone.

However, there are several things to watch out for with app store reviews. Negativity bias normally means that people are more likely to write a review if they have had a negative experience — bear in mind that a few hundred poor reviews do not necessarily mean poor performance if there are several thousand users. Another potential pitfall to watch for in reading user app reviews are an unusual overabundance of 5- and 1-star reviews, with little or no in-between. Unscrupulous developers and scammers will buy fake positive reviews to offset negative ones rather than patch bugs and fix issues that users find.

White Label vs. Custom Apps

Having a good hard look at an app development agency’s case studies portfolio is a great way to check out whether they create white-label or custom apps. Depending on your company’s vision for what your mobile app will do, either can be a good fit. A white label app is a more generic build that a larger company — like an in-house enterprise — can quickly and easily re-skin with your branding. They are much cheaper than custom-built apps, can be customized to your needs up to a point (though generally for a pretty penny), and often have established ongoing support and maintenance teams that are already practiced in the peculiarities of the app.

However, they often have limited functionality, and clients have no control over the quality of the code that they are purchasing. White label apps are running into more and more issues with app store availability, as well. As app store platforms increasingly try to crack down on clone scams and spam apps, white-label apps are having a tougher and tougher time adhering to app store criteria restrictions.

On the other hand, as the name suggests, an app development agency that specializes in custom apps will be able to create a product suited precisely to your company’s needs and vision. The overall UX design will be leagues ahead of that of a white label app, and the corresponding UI updates will be tailored to your company’s user base. With a white-label app, you will likely be stuck waiting on UI updates that reflect the needs of the developer’s entire customer base, that may or may not actually be useful for your own. Custom apps obviously come with a heftier price tag than that of a white label, though the latter may tack on extra fees for extra features you deem necessary — potentially bringing the price up to a similar or higher level for a custom app.

Companies on a tight budget may have to opt for the cheaper option of a white label app, and they are well-suited for the more simplistic functionalities associated with mass production and sales. If the UX/UI design and functionality are exceptionally poor, however, it may still be worth seeking out a small app development studio that can deliver a custom product that works as it is intended.

Contracts and Payment

The final step before getting down to business with an app development agency is to nail down the nuts and bolts of a contract. The agreement between your company and the developer you settle on will cover the basics of a business contract — the scope of the work, the date they will begin, how long the period of their work for you will last (including for how long they will offer support and maintenance after development has been completed), a price estimate for services rendered, a payment schedule, intellectual property rights and ownership, and any confidentiality specifications.

Each app development studio has its own terms of payment; some require an hourly fee, while others have a flat fee for the entirety of the project. Payment schedules differ across companies, as well; some will charge a portion of the full fee upfront, while others will charge the full amount before the work can begin. The average cost of developing a mobile app varies with the complexity of the project, including what kind of functions it will provide and how many platforms within which it will be able to operate natively. We have a comprehensive guide on hand to make sure that you have all the tools you need to make the best decision on who and how to hire an app development agency.


Q1. Which type of studio is best for app development?

A high-budget, extremely complex mobile app that operates across multiple platforms may necessitate hiring an in-house or outsourced enterprise, whereas a highly specific app may need the specialized expertise of a boutique app development studio. A small-scale app that needs minimal work may benefit most from the work of a single freelancer. The best type of app development agency depends entirely on you and your company’s needs and vision.

Q2. Who can build my app?

Software engineers with hard skills like coding across multiple programming languages are key to building a successful app. They can be found in any type of studio, from the biggest in-house enterprises to the smallest-scale freelance outfits. Have a look at our verified list of vendors — we’ve vetted them ourselves, and if you need help working out who best fits your needs, just tell us what you need. We’ll find five potential candidates and send you a list within 72 hours.

Q3. What should I ask a developer?

  • What stages of the development cycle do you cover?
  • What frameworks and platforms do you develop natively for?
  • Do you develop cross-platform apps?
  • What kind of tech are you using?
  • Do you cover submission to app stores?
  • What kind of testing do you do?
  • What does communication look like throughout the development process?
  • How will this app generate revenue?
  • What is your payment structure and schedule?


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Arielle Cottingham

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Texas-born Afro-Latina poet, performance artist, and dancer. With a theatre degree, two books, and an Australian Poetry Slam Championship under her belt, Arielle explores the interplay between spoken word and the body, merging elements of dance and physical theatre with written poetry to create multidisciplinary short works that she has toured through Texas, Australia, and Southeast Asia, from the pubs of Melbourne to the cafes of Singapore to the Sydney Opera House.

During her free time, she enjoys editing and contributing to content at Pangea.ai and other sites.

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