How much will it cost to build an app? This is one of the most frequent questions that customers ask and developers have to answer. And it is not surprising since any business owner seeks to find the best price/quality ratio.
Our team has worldwide working experience, and whatever country the customer is from, he is always interested in the very same question. There is only one slight hitch: if you are dealing with conscientious and experienced developers, the answer to this intriguing question will begin with “It depends…”. As a result, there arise more questions than answers.
In a nutshell, the cost of developing a mobile app can range from $3,000 to $300,000. The range is huge, but fortunately there are several key factors that have a decisive influence on budgeting and allow you to determine the development cost in advance. We shall discuss them in detail in this article.
What affects the cost of mobile application development?
There are many companies in the world that provide this service and you can easily get lost in the variety of offers. That can embarrass even experienced entrepreneurs, not to mention the start-up owners who don’t have sufficient experience yet.
It’s no secret that the cost of the developers’ work largely depends on their geographical location. So let’s start from this point.
1. Team experience and location
Depending on the requirements and project size, the executive team can include either 2-3 people, or consist of several dozen people with different specializations – developers, testers, UI/UX designers, etc. In this case, even a small difference in the hourly rate may result in a large amount following the project completion.
Differences in the average hourly rate of developer’s work in different countries are well illustrated by the infographics from VenturePact:
The second important point is the performers’ experience. The difference between a beginner and an experienced specialist’s cost of work can differ at times. It is quite logical that the first thing that comes to mind is to hire cheaper performers. But this works only for relatively simple projects.
When developing complex products, when architecture and code quality are a priority, it is necessary to attract highly qualified engineers. Otherwise, there is a risk that fixing the amateur developers’ bugs will eventually cost more money and time.
The difference in cost, as well as the need to arrange the process and maintain a full infrastructure while organizing the development department within the company, is the main reason why most enterprises prefer to outsource the mobile app development.
Software outsourcing allows you to attract a more experienced team, for example from Ukraine, at more favorable prices compared to Western Europe and the United States.
2. Functionality and technical complexity
The app functionality is one of the most important factors in terms of impact on the development cost. The difference in price between a simple app designed to perform a single function (for example, a to-do list) and a complex product that provides interactive communication with the user can be huge.
Among the most popular and highly desired features that increase the development complexity and cost are:
- integration with third-party libraries, frameworks and services;
- business logic based on complex backend development;
- administrative panel for easy app management and monitoring key indicators;
- implementation of the freemium model with in-app purchases;
- availability of users with different access rights and roles;
- the ability to make mobile payments;
- receiving, storing and processing user content.
Also, we can include the option of smartphone hardware components usage, such as gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, NFC, etc. In general, the more tasks an app needs to solve and the functions it needs to perform, the higher the cost of its development.
Designing a complex product first does not always make sense. Sometimes the better solution is to create an MVP and further develop it based on feedback received from users. This is especially true for start-ups, so we recommend that you read our article on the topic.
3. Operating system – iOS or Android?
The price depends on the platform you are targeting in development. We essentially live in a bipolar mobile world as 95% of all smartphones work on one of two key OS’s – Android or iOS. The choice in the end comes down to one of three options:
- Create a native mobile app for one OS ignoring the audience of another;
- Create separate native apps for each of the operating systems;
- Develop a cross-platform application that will maximize the coverage of the niche as a whole.
The first option should only be chosen if your target audience is mostly concentrated within the same ecosystem. The second option will be optimal if you have a big budget and time for development. In most cases, the third option is the most profitable.
This article is not about when it is worthwhile to consider the native and cross-platform development pros and cons – you can read more about this in the blog. You just need to understand that different programming languages are used for different platforms, and that SDK and development tools are different.
It is also worth noting that the Android ecosystem is characterized by a high level of fragmentation, which means the need to adapt the app for a large number of devices with different technical characteristics. This can lead to higher budget expenditures.
There are many manufacturers who release smartphones on Android; for devices running on iOS, there is only one.
4. Prototyping and UI/UX design
Design is a very important point even if it is a relatively simple product. Not to mention complex projects or games for which design can play a decisive role in their success.
First, a prototype is made, and once it becomes clear which functionality will be in the app and all the main issues are approved with the client, the designer proceeds to creation of a more detailed or release version.
There are two ways to solve this problem:
- Using ready-made interface elements sets – UI Kits;
- Drawing an individual design from scratch.
It is clear that the second option will cost more and will require more time. But in this way you can give your app some individuality and implement all the customer’s wishes.
The more data you want to display inside the app (profile, settings, administrative panel, etc.), the more screens the designer has to draw and the programmer develop. The data is any information in the form of numbers, text, graphics, etc. Provided the information is dynamically displayed, the task becomes even more complicated.
With the increase in the number of screens, you need to spend more time designing the app’s navigation and logic, and it takes more time to program it all. The difference in cost between a 5-screen app and a 12-screen gap can be quite significant.
5. Product testing
User requirements for mobile apps’ quality are constantly growing, and it is important to consider this. It’s especially true if you are going to create a product targeted to a market with a high competition level. So, you want your app to work without any errors and failures? Precisely for this reason you need thorough testing before release.
You do not have to try to make everything perfect, since it can postpone the release time and sometimes it’s impossible to do. You can include beta testing in the budget before adding it to the App Store/Google Play, and then conduct further testing and fix bugs in new releases.
If the app is designed for a broad audience, be prepared for the fact that a lot of people will interact with it quite differently. It is important to understand that it is impossible to calculate all possible cases of using the app by all users. But you have to check whether the app performs all its functions correctly in the main user-cases.
6. Support and costs after the release
If you are planning not a one-time app, but a working project, you need to plan the budget for its support too. The world around is constantly changing, there are new devices being released, operating systems are being updated, and so are changing business needs.
Therefore, it is necessary to release updates occasionally. Add there the deployment of the server part, user support, marketing, etc.
Far from always, the companies engaged in the development of mobile apps to order include the cost of support in the original estimate. But the client must know about it in order to calculate the necessary budget in advance so as to avoid unpleasant surprises.
By the way, it is likely that the product will need one or more technologies that require licensing. This also increases the overall development cost and falls into the category of post-release costs.
7. Some figures
To give you an idea about the approximate cost of mobile app development, we divided the projects into three conditional groups based on two main criteria:
- technical complexity/functionality;
- the number of hours required for development.
Here is the classification we got as a result (average):
- Simple apps. Functionality with minimal complexity, simple UI/IX, integration with any third-party APIs is missing, does not need any additional infrastructure and support. Development cost: up to $10,000. Time: up to 3 months.
- Medium complexity apps. It may include integration with the API, user UI/UX elements, payment mechanisms, administrator panel and simple server part. The cost of development: from $20,000 to $50,000. Time: from 3 to 6 months.
- High level complexity apps. Such apps include advanced functionality, such as a complex backend, the availability of different user types, real-time synchronization, the ability to process multimedia files, complex animation and a large number of screens. The project is not just technically complex, it is a priori large. The cost of development: from $50,000 upwards. Time: from 6 months.
One has to understand that the cost of developing a mobile app is affected not just by the components’ complexity, but also by their number. Therefore, the right decision is often to start with the minimum necessary functionality, and then gradually expand the available capabilities.
Paying close attention to the factors listed in this article, you can better understand the approximate cost of the future app and estimate what budget you will need. The development of a software product is a complex task influenced by many variables.
The cost of developing a mobile app is formed not only depending on the workload, but also depending on the answers to questions about the way it should be developed, for whom, and for what purposes. Be prepared for the fact that you might have to answer many questions. But this is necessary in order to make the project successful.
Of course, in this matter you will need the help of experienced specialists. So, if you have an idea for an app and you would like to know how much it will cost to develop it, write to us. Our experienced team of developers will figure out what you need, estimate the project cost and make the best bid for its development.