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Four Key Considerations in Onshore vs. Offshore Mobile App Development: Which is Better for Your Needs?

Read Time: 4 minutes

After multiple presentations and many break-room discussions, you’ve finally gained approval from your company’s decision makers. You’re getting a new app! Now, you’re faced with a challenging decision: choosing a developer. You’ve looked at onshore and offshore developers, and the latter seems to save a lot of money. But you’re wary because the lower price seems too good to be true. After all, you’ve heard lots of offshore development horror stories.

When it comes to onshore versus offshore mobile app development, there are some key differences to consider. With over 12 million mobile developers worldwide, it seems impractical to limit yourself to onshore companies, right? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to app and software development, but many companies find that onshore, local mobile app development is the better option in terms of timeframe and budget.

Language Barriers in Offshore Development

The language barrier can be a major roadblock when working with an offshore mobile app developer. Conveying your ideas, needs, and even the project scope can be a challenge, resulting in frustration and decreased productivity.

It’s not uncommon to encounter a scenario where just a portion of the development team speaks English, creating a situation where your feedback, ideas and specs must be translated and conveyed to the other developers. Anyone who has played a game of “telephone” knows how quickly information can become convoluted when it’s passed from person to person. This effect is exacerbated when you add language translation into the equation. Even still, simple translations often lose meaning as it pertains to colloquial dialect and any figures of speech that may seem completely normal to you.

These language-related challenges greatly increase the chances of a miscommunication that could result in expensive and time-consuming mistakes. The end result? A longer project timeframe and increased costs. This is one area where onshore development brings an advantage, as it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll encounter language barriers.

Considering the Cost of Onshore vs Offshore App Development

Cost is a major consideration when seeking a mobile app developer, and it’s one point that prompts many companies to hire offshore development firms. The cost of living is significantly lower in many other regions of the world, which means offshore companies often require a much lower fee than firms in the United States.

That said, the lower hourly or per-project rate can be offset by the other challenges associated with offshore development. When all is said and done, the project’s total cost may equal or exceed the sum you would have paid to hire a US-based service provider and the actual completion date may well exceed your business needs.

Time Differences Impact Development

When hiring offshore app developers, the time difference can have an unexpectedly significant impact on a development project. Let’s say your developer is located on the opposite side of the planet. When you’re starting your workday, your developers are eating dinner. Perhaps a question arises early in your developer’s work day; they can’t proceed until they have an answer. But you’re asleep, so you’re unable to provide any feedback until after the end of the developer’s business day. With a 24-hour turnaround on communications, you’re left in a situation where you could lose an entire day’s worth of work.

A typical app development project spans 6 to 8 weeks, perhaps longer if the app is more complex. If you lose just one day per week due to the time difference, this could add more than a week to your project’s timeframe. If you’ve got a multi-month project, you could be looking at timezone-related delays equaling a month or longer. If the developer only accepts one project at a time, they may still bill you for downtime arising from communication delays. When it comes to time zone differentials, local developers clearly have a major benefit.

The Logistics of Working With Offshore App Developers

The logistics of working with an offshore development company can be far more complex than what you would encounter with local app developers. Something as simple as conveying your ideas or requirements for an app can be far more challenging due to the distance, especially when you are forced to communicate by phone, email and video chat. After all, some ideas are best conveyed in person.

Vetting offshore companies can also be difficult. Sure, they may have fifty satisfied clients, but if you’re unable to communicate effectively with those clients, it can be close to impossible to get a testimonial or even verify that a person is a legitimate former client. Many offshore providers are based in emerging economies that may add risks to your company associated with bribery and corruption among other unacceptable business practices.

Offshore mobile app development can also be associated with major intellectual property and legal challenges. Documents such as nondisclosure agreements are rendered virtually useless when working with an overseas company, so clients with a revolutionary idea could face the theft of their app concept. And for an NDAs that is valid, you will find that the cost of pursuing a violating party is exorbitant.

What’s more, if a developer suddenly disappears or demands a higher-than-agreed-upon fee to release the app’s source code, you’re left with very little recourse. Laws vary dramatically from region to region, and it’s very costly to pursue legal action overseas. So the risk is quite a bit higher than what you might incur while working with a local developer.

With all factors taken into account, offshore development brings a number of problems that ultimately negate the lower per-hour or per-project rate. At the end of the day, the hassle, stress, timeframe, and total app development cost are often higher than what you would spend if you hired a local company.

At 7T, we offer a strong alternative to offshore development thanks to our unique open source STAX platform, which may cut your cost of investment and time-to-market  by as much as 35 to 40 percent.. With offices in Houston, Dallas and Austin, Texas,  our clients enjoy all the advantages of working with a US-based company that offers competitive pricing while making no sacrifices on quality. We invite you to contact a team of experts at 7T today to discuss your app concept.


Venkatesh Kalluru

Venkatesh “VK” Kalluru is a technology and business expert with executive and hands-on experience in automating multi-million dollar enterprises and a strong record of success in creating robust information technology architectures and infrastructures. VK brings proven ability in using IT to solve business issues to the Sertics team. Sertics is SevenTablets' sister company, specializing in predictive analytics solutions.

VK studied computer science at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, India and earned a Master’s Degree in computer science at George Mason University.


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