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How much does it cost to develop an app? Arguably, this is one of the most asked questions when launching a mobile app development project.  

However, there’s no fixed price for building mobile apps. The price points vary depending on specific elements just like anything for development, whether it’s a mobile phone, car, or any PC hardware. The same goes for your mobile application project. 

How Much Does it Cost to Start an App?

So, how much does it cost to make an app? Well, the cost of app development depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Also, keep in mind that spending money on a mobile app development project is similar to purchasing any product or service — you get what you pay for. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of hiring a top mobile app development company. We’ll also cover the main factors that affect mobile app development costs.  

App Development Cost Benchmarks

app development costs

These days, it’s logical to launch an app startup. This is because almost all of us use several mobile apps as part of our daily activities. But how much does it cost to develop an app these days?

Here are some quotations we gathered according to several mobile app industry studies:

  • Based on the $150 per hour rate, the median app cost is approximately $171,450. This represents 1,143 hours to develop an app. The total app cost could even go up to $727,500 in case you want to implement certain complex functionality.  
  • The price range of an average minimum development project is between $5k to $10k. Typically, the cost to build an app can be a bit higher.  
  • The average mobile app development cost for an enterprise is $140,000.(VDC Research, 2017)
  • Using available app cost calculators, the price range for complex, multi-feature mobile apps is between $267,00 to $360,000.
  • With regards to the app development timeline, mobile apps that take more than 3 months to develop are over 80%. And those that take more than 6 months to develop are 40%. 

Factors that influence determining the final app development cost are:

  • Complexity of UX/UI design
  • Vendor type and location
  • Development approach (native, hybrid, mobile web, etc)
  • Complexity and the number of features
  • Additional branded visual elements inclusion
  • Connected APIs and backend infrastructure
  • Number of platforms to be developed (Android, iOS, mobile web, etc)
How Much Does it Cost to Start an App?

Generally, business and functional necessities, along with your app idea, can influence the cost to build an app. 

How much does it cost to make an app by yourself versus hiring a professional app developer?

Sitting at the bottom part of any mobile app development budget is the estimate for the app development cost. And more often than not, mobile application owners find themselves asking these two questions:

  • How much does it cost to make an app by myself? and 
  • How much does it cost to make an app for my brand by hiring professional app developers?   

Like any other product or service on the market, both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. To clear things up, let’s examine these two approaches. 

An app development company piles up vast experience after several years in the mobile app development industry. Likewise, they accumulate extensive experience in multiple platform mobile app development. 

Moreover, an app development company is experienced in handling complicated mobile app development projects that involve:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Machine Learning (ML)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and
  • Other advanced mobile application technology

How much does it cost to hire professional app developers?

A mobile app development company has most likely learned so much from the mistakes of app projects in the past. And so, hiring an experienced mobile app development company protects you from repeating the same mistakes.   

Remember, the app development process often involves careful planning and a proper timeline. The success of app development projects relies on a multi-step process based on previous experience.   

user experience in app development

How much does it cost to hire an in-house app development team?

Hiring an experienced mobile app development company helps decrease app development costs. Initially, creating a mobile app by yourself costs less. 

However, the lack of experience in fixing bugs can pile up app development costs. And over time, bug fixing with an in-house app development partner can cost more than hiring an experienced software development company. 

App Development Cost Breakdown

Unfortunately, we can not finger on the actual app development cost. Each app development process involves several factors that collectively dictate the cost of app development. 

That said, we can always come up with a mobile app development cost estimate since there are several forming factors for a certain app development budget.  

Average App Development Cost

Generally, several factors dictate the average cost to make an app. Besides, there are many different app development price tiers that app owners will need to consider. 

Major Factors That Affect App Development Costs

  • what you need your app to do
  • mobile app design
  • how your app gets built
  • who builds your app
  • app maintenance cost
  • app complexity
  • Android and iOS apps (operating system) 
  • your app budget
mobile app functionality

Each of these factors will impact your mobile app development cost. And at $40 an hour, the average cost of app development are:

  • Average Mobile App Development Cost – $60,000 to $150,000
  • Simple App Development Cost – $40,000 to $60,000
  • Complex App Development Cost – starts from $300,000 and up

App Types and App Development Cost

Typically, different types of apps are at different price levels. A simple app with basic features will only cost a few thousand dollars. 

Also known as functionality apps, these applications are often pre-installed in a majority of mobile devices. Here, we are referring to app functionality such as a:

  • Timer
  • Stopwatch and 
  • Calculator

Simple apps are easy to build as there isn’t much to them. You just have to write the basic programs for the specific functions to work and that’s about it. Obviously, mobile apps with basic features are perfect for first-timers to build on. 

On the other hand, the app development cost of building complex apps will increase over time. App complexity directly impacts the total app development price. 

Thus, mobile apps with functionalities such as payment processing, syncing with the internet, processing in-app purchases, using real-time GPS, or providing push notifications — will be more expensive to build. 

The addition of new features will contribute to app complexity as well.

Another reason why it’s more expensive to develop complex apps is the other factors that affect app development cost. 

Apart from coding, you’ll need to consider:

  • Back end development 
  • Design costs
  • Architecture
  • Security
  • Testing

In terms of design, mobile app development costs for social media and gaming apps can cost more than a simple app design. 

The Apple App Store allows you to select your main app category that best describes your app. It’s a good practice to determine a clear category for your app.

Common app categories include:

  • Social media
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Health & fitness
  • Kids
  • Lifestyle
  • Photo & video
  • Education
  • Books
  • News
  • Navigation and
  • Music
health app like fitbit

After you have determined the type of app you’re going to make, you should then stick with it. Or else, the app development cost will quickly go up.  

Moreover, you should be careful when adding complex app features such as geolocation, push notifications, or mobile app design elements. This can change your app’s category and could cause the app development cost to increase quickly.

And so, you must never build an app for social media and then add new features that could turn it into a complex app. It would be too complicated, and at the same time, too expensive to develop an app with so many features installed.

Remember, too much going on in one mobile application can confuse your app users. 

Further, either dating apps or consumer apps can be more costly to build than app development for internal business use. This can affect the average cost to build an app. 

App Development Stages: Understanding the Mobile App Development Process

Understanding the mobile app development process is essential if you want to assimilate the development between different apps. 

Understanding the development process should come before you start thinking about the:

  • App development budget
  • Target audience
  • App stores
  • App maintenance
  • and more

If you don’t know how to write code, then expect a higher app development cost estimate since you’re going to need assistance to build an app. 

You’ll need to hire a mobile app developer or several app developers depending on the app complexity. And having more app developers on board equates to a higher app development cost. 

Cost to Build an App Based on the App Development Stages

Typically, there are at least 5 stages in the mobile apps development process. These  development stages are:

  1. Discovery or research (also called pre-development)
  2. UX/UI design
  3. App development (coding)
  4. App testing and deployment
  5. Ongoing maintenance and support 

Note that each stage may have different names depending on the app vendor. Also, there may be a slight difference in the stage order and formats between vendors.  

According to a 2017 Clutch report, a majority of app vendors will start the app development process in the discovery stage. This crucial step allows the development team to clarify the intricacies of mobile apps from both technical and business perspectives.

And it is only through personal meetings that the software development vendor and client can form a common understanding and trust.

Discovery Stage Benefits

  • Risk coverage
  • Time and cost savings
  • Goal-based product design solution
  • Product owner (client) and development team synchronization  
  • Requirements validation
  • App project task prioritization

But the biggest benefit you’ll get from the discovery stage is the answer to the question: “how much does it cost to develop an app for my business?”. 

The product backlog is where user stories are presented. These stories are also the basis of calculating the app development budget and delivery date. 

As the discovery stage starts, a cross-functional team is created to manage the app development project. The team often consists of a:

  • Designer
  • Business Analyst
  • Software Architect, etc.

Possible Deliverables for the Discovery Stage

UX of an app

App Development Cost in the Discovery Stage

On average, the cost of development in the discovery stage for a mobile app ranges between $10,000 and $15,000 within the 2 to 4-week period. These timelines and app development costs relate to a project lasting 3 to 5 months.   

Depending on the app functionality, app complexity, app features, and the number of platforms — the app development budget in the discovery stage can increase to $50,000 or higher.

The succeeding development stages use the same deliverables taken from the pre-development (discovery) stage. Depending on the app project, the development team may advance to the coding stage or complete the app design. 

App Development Cost in the Development Stage

The cost for app design corresponds to the use of customized visual elements, design complexity, and the number of screens. On an average of 11 to 20 screens, an app design can cost around $5,000.  

Additionally, other factors that influence app development cost in the development stage include the:

  • Quantity of app features and their complexity
  • App concept and
  • App type

Typically, many basic features cost less such as:

  • Push notifications
  • User login/logout
  • Basic one-to-one-chat
  • In-app search, etc  

In contrast, complex app features are more expensive and these include audio and video streaming and other functionalities connected with the admin panel.

App Development Cost in the Application Testing Stage

The purpose of the app testing stage is to ensure that mobile apps function properly. 

In theory, the application testing cost is directly in proportion to the app’s functionality. In practice, the app testing cost spent on the front-end (client-side) implementation takes up around 30%. On the other hand, app testing on the front-end admin panel side is around 10%.

Who is Building Your App?

Should you hire a software development company? Regardless of location, there are several types of app developers you can hire to build an app. 

Some common app developer options include:

  • Big corporations
  • Small app development companies and
  • Freelance app developers or independent contractors

Disadvantages of Hiring Independent Contractors

The price will change depending on the type of app developer you’re going to hire. Different development options have different reasons behind their pricing structure.   

For instance, freelance app developers could be your least expensive option. If you’re looking to pay around $10,000 to develop an app for your business, you can always find a freelance app developer who will do that job.  

However, this app development option may not provide the best service that you’d expect to receive. Also, independent contractors who have a proven track record and more experience are most likely to charge more money for their services. 

Another problem with independent contractors is that they typically work with multiple clients. And so, they may not give their best efforts to your app development project because they have other projects to focus on. 

App Costs by Agency Size

Are you looking to hire a team from app development companies to build an app for your business? Note that the size of the app development team or app development agency will also impact the app development price. 

Big development agencies can charge much higher app development prices for their services. That is because they have development teams working on a single app development project. 

Advantages of Hiring Software Development Companies

A development team from a big software development company will most likely consist of highly qualified app developers. You can expect to get the best service possible if you’re willing to pay around $100,000 for your app development project.  

One of the advantages of working with big companies is the easier access to their proven track record. This allows you to go through a vast collection of successful projects they have done in the past. 

mobile app development company

What’s more, they will let you see how the apps perform and contact the app owners as a reference.

On the other hand, it’s easy for independent contractors and smaller agencies to withhold information about past projects that didn’t turn out well.

And for this reason, it is crucial to look into an independent contractor, agency, or big company that you’re looking to hire. Taking time to investigate early on will save you lots of headaches down the line. 

Eventually, you’ll be spending more money for a well-respected custom software development company to develop an app for your business. 

But you also have to consider weighing that cost against a freelance app developer who may not develop an app to your liking or may not complete the project on time.    

In the end, you have to make sure that whatever decisions you make will not waste your time and money. 

Costs of Building Customized or Complex Apps 

A gaming app or some sort of complex application will require a high-quality user interface. And thus, it would make sense if you hire developers who have built similar apps in the past. You’ll need an experienced developer with a higher app development price.

On the flip side, if you think your app project is in the $1,000 to $10,000 price range, an independent contractor with limited experience can be a good option. 

But remember, the complexity of your app will impact the app development cost no matter who builds it. 

mobile app development team

So, if you want to hire an experienced app developer from a reputable software company capable of building complex apps — be prepared to spend more than $10,000. 

And based on what you’re trying to accomplish and your preferences, you’ll have to spend 20% more if you want to customize your app. 

Also, you have to keep in mind that not all app developers can make both Android apps and an iOS app. Hiring different developers for different platforms can cost more than hiring a single development company.

A custom app development company with a team of developers can build both an Android and an iOS app simultaneously. Working with them keeps the app cost of your project a bit lower than the cost of hiring multiple independent contractors.

Hybrid vs. Native Apps

Whether you want to develop a native or hybrid app or not is another decision you’ll have to make. Remember, the app development price for a native app is different from a hybrid app. 

You also have to decide right away if you’re going to build a native app. And are you going to build an app for Apple App Store or Google Play Store?

Developing a native app requires following certain guidelines for a specific platform. But this will, in turn, improve the app user experience. 

Native apps can easily access certain hardware and software in mobile devices such as a camera, GPS, or contact list. All of these factors contribute to the mobile app cost. 

Mobile App Cost Per Platform

If you’re going to build a native app, you will most likely spend closer to $100k. Also, you’ll have to build separate native apps for each of the major platforms. Meaning, you have to develop native Android apps for the Play Store and native iOS apps for the App Store.

android and iOS apps

Note that the app development price for native builds is higher than those of hybrid ones. Moreover, you can launch hybrid apps on both Android and iOS platforms simultaneously. 

In brief, the app development cost in the hybrid platform is much lower. Also, the development process is much easier. And so, you can expect a lower app development and maintenance cost. 

App Development Cost Calculators

Competition in the mobile app development industry is fierce. It would be quite tough to reach your target audience and meet your ROI objectives with millions of competing mobile apps on the market.   

But businesses or app brands are aching to know the app development cost upfront. For this reason, app development cost calculators were developed to meet this demand. 

Here’s a highlight of the most popular ones around:

Cleveroad Calculator

The Cleveroad calculator has more than 10 questions to guide you in shaping an app development price tag either for:

  • Creating a mobile app from scratch or
  • Developing a mobile app similar to the ones on the market

As you’re answering questions and making choices, the time for app development estimates you’ll get are in hours. 

Buildfire Calculator

This calculator guides you in defining a price tag for creating a mobile app through several filters, which are:

  • Users
  • Features
  • Platform
  • Maintenance & Hosting
  • Monetization
  • Integrations and
  • Buildfire services

Estimate My App Calculator

A bit different from the aforementioned development cost calculators, this one takes a different approach. All the filters that help you define the price tag estimate are listed on one page. 

The filters cover the: 

  • UI complexity
  • User-generated 
  • Account features sophistication and
  • App’s size.

Other included filters are mobile app-specific features such as:

  • Analytics
  • Apple Watch support
  • Billing & eCommerce
  • Admin & feedback
  • Social & engagement
  • Dates & locations
  • External API & security
  • Cloud Syncing and more

Inoxoft Calculator

The Inoxoft calculator also takes a different approach when it comes to giving development price tag estimates. Also, this one is designed for both mobile and desktop applications. 

The Inoxoft calculator gives you a range of price tag estimates on each stage of the calculation process.

How Much to Make an App

This one is a bit similar to the Inoxoft calculator in terms of providing a price estimate on each phase of the calculation process. 

app testing

This 8-step calculator requires you to fill in a form on the final screen. You’ll need to provide your contact details before proceeding with your app project.

Andreasley Calculator

Interestingly, the Andreasley calculator is an easy-to-use app development calculation tool with a shopping cart-style design. 

When you’re done defining the price tag estimate, the result is then displayed on the right, similar to purchasing items in an eCommerce mobile app. 

The Andreasley calculator computes app costs based on:  

  • Quality
  • Device types
  • Number of screens
  • Platform
  • Screen orientation modes
  • Supported OS versions
  • Security level
  • Custom Controls
  • Deployment and 
  • Number of supported languages 

Additionally, calculations on certain special functions include:

  • Stats
  • Push Notifications 
  • In-app payments support, etc. 

Litslink Calculator

The 7-step Litslink calculator guides you through a set of 27 questions starting the industry your app needs to be built for. Along with building the application development price tag, the Litslink provides a rundown of all the choices made.  

Once the calculation process is complete, you need to fill in a contact form before receiving an estimate of the development price tag.

Digitalya Calculator

This 5-step calculator gives you both the estimate for the development price tag and the time to complete the app project. The Digitalya calculator offers a downloadable, easy-to-use app cost estimate in PDF format. 

This development cost calculator uses filters such as:

  • App user profile
  • Revenue generation method
  • Additional MVP features and 
  • Tech features (IoT, AI, VR/AR)
app user profile

10 Hidden App Development Cost Drivers

The app evolution process can be broken down into the following phases:

Phase 1: First App Version Development

This milestone consists of: 

  • Creating the app design
  • Quality assurance
  • Coding the feature, etc.

Additionally, the application architecture is organized for the succeeding project versions that include certain components such as:

  • Hosting
  • Databases
  • Different supporting libraries
  • Proper server capabilities, etc

Phase 2: On-going Application Development

This stage consists of the: 

  • Necessary app updates 
  • App maintenance
  • Implementation of new features 
  • Bug fixes, etc.  

Some of the elements, specifically those that belong to the ongoing development and app architecture categories, can sometimes be played down or hidden from the client’s eye. However, this may confuse the clients as these parts significantly impact the app development cost. 

ongoiing application development

Below are elements that greatly influence app development cost:

  • App infrastructure services (domains, hosting, servers)
  • App architecture assembly: monolithic vs. microservices architecture. The latter is more effective despite the tendency of using more technical resources. 
  • Databases used for storing user data, photo and video content, etc.
  • Back-end infrastructure assembly
  • Third-party service and API integration
  • App administration (CMS for app management or complex web portals)
  • Use of development tools and libraries
  • Data encryption for data transfer
  • Regular bug fixes and app updates
  • Audio and video streaming functionality

You should also consider that software development vendors evaluate the current application development costs. But this does not include maintenance costs and support. 

Bear in mind that there will be an ongoing development cost that you need to handle if you’re looking to build a great app product.   

The cost to support and maintain an app is significantly higher than the original app development cost. 

So, how much does it cost to upkeep an app? 

App Maintenance Costs  

Mobile apps and other types of software need maintenance. The industry average accepted app maintenance costs are between 15 and 20 percent of the original development cost. 

An app maintenance cost can be broken down into the cost of:  

  • Monitoring
  • Hosting
  • Marketing
  • Engagement
  • Updates and
  • Licenses

Monitoring 

Monitoring is essential for your app’s success. An app can have a vast variable number of users. And it has its unique set of users as well. Thus, it’s not practical to just come up with an estimate of the app monitoring cost. 

To monitor your app’s performance, you need to find a mobile analytic platform and register your app. 

Hosting

The type of data your app deals with is the deciding factor in calculating the app backend data hosting cost. These types of data can be text or media such as:

  • Audio 
  • Video or 
  • Photo

Media-rich mobile apps will need powerful CPU web servers with more RAM and bigger disk space. And based on these factors, a typical monthly subscription for web server app hosting ranges from $70 to $320. 

Today’s top web hosting platforms are: 

Engagement & Marketing

Mobile app marketing often includes activities that engage the app user base, which the cost typically consists of multiple components. 

All mobile app engagements often start with app installs. The cost of an app install depends on the:

  • Specific ad unit
  • iOS or Android platform and
  • Country

In 2020, the Cost-Per-Install (CPI) for both platforms was $2.24. 

As we go from the instance of installing a generic app to the desired action taken by an app user, we can talk about the average cost of app user acquisition. 

From 2018 to 2019, the worldwide average user acquisition cost was:

  • Up to $7.5 in the registration cost
  • Up to $87 for in-app purchases and
  • Up to $46 in subscription

App Updates

Mobile apps on all platforms get their subsequent updates later on. It would be impractical to make an app that doesn’t require software updates. 

App updates are an essential tool for continuous user base engagement. They are not just good for fixing bugs and improving app performance.

app maintenance

However, we can’t provide an estimate for app update costs because the time to make an update varies from one app to another. Additionally, an update cost depends on a specific app’s complexity.

Licenses

Incorporating one or more technologies into a mobile application design can significantly increase the overall cost of app development. 

A license fee often depends on the number of devices and the annual fees to pay. For instance, a mobile app developer may pay a license fee that may reach up to $120,000 annually for 50 devices. 

Cost of Hiring App Developers by Region 

Salaries of app developers vary from country to country. And the difference in pricing between countries is substantial. 

app development and cost

Hiring a developer based in the United States costs between $120 and $150 per hour. With the same product, hiring a developer based in India costs $20 to $30 per hour.

Nonetheless, it is important to know that the differences in development costs between regions depend on the:

  • Type of programming language used (JavaScript, GoLang, PHP. Kotlin, Java, Swift)
  • Project complexity. The types of specialists involved. (programmers, app testers, project manager, business analyst, scrum master)
  • Specialist qualification (junior, middle, and senior)

The more you know about the costs to develop an app between regions can help you evaluate the proposal properly. Likewise, these main cost factors for developing a mobile application for your business can help you get an initial software design that meets the requirements of your app project.

Make Sure You Factor in Other Costs Associated with Software Development

While there are various types of software developers you can hire at different pricing tiers, you shouldn’t allocate your entire budget to a software developer alone. 

Your app project might require other skills other than writing code. For instance, you might need an app designer since not every app developer can do both development and design tasks. So, that’s another cost for another type of service.

With regards to the size of your app, you might want to consider hiring a quality assurance (QA) agent and maybe a project manager. Likewise, your app project might require a business analyst to keep the development cost low and within your budget. 

You realize by now that your development team may consist of lots of people. Again, that’s another cost for employing several software development professionals to develop an app for your business.  

Furthermore, there are other fees you need to consider such as legal fees, server costs, and startup fees if you’re looking to convert your app into a business. 

What’s more, there will be ongoing maintenance costs once your app goes live. 

You should not overlook these additional factors. The last thing you don’t want is to run out of funds and have your app project fall behind, or worse — stop the project completely.

Can You Build an App on a Budget?

You can build an app even if you have a limited budget. While this may not give you a fully functional app, you could at least get the ball rolling.

With this in mind, you may want to consider developing a proof of concept app or a minimum viable product (MVP). This can only offer limited designs, features, and functionalities but at least it can get you started in the right direction.

Developing an MVP is an excellent option if you have a great app idea but don’t have sufficient funds at your disposal. 

One advantage of an MVP is that securing funding from outside investors is easy once you decide to carry on and fully develop your idea. 

If you’re on a tight budget, try to avoid making your app do many different things as it will increase the development cost. We recommend taking a single component from a more complex concept and sticking with it. Only then you can build an app for less than $10,000. 

Final Thoughts on Mobile App Development Cost

Conclusively, many different factors influence the cost to develop a mobile app. It depends on what you want it to do, how it gets built, and who builds it. 

A trusted software development agency with a proven track record might be the best option for some businesses. Others might benefit from a single freelance app developer or a small development team. 

Creating a mobile app for your business isn’t cheap. A $1,000 app budget won’t get you much. An app like WhatsApp or Uber will cost a lot more than a flashlight app. 

Nevertheless, you can still get started and build a decent app with $10,000. 

If you’re operating a business with a limited budget, you might want to consider developing a hybrid app. While this option may be limited in functionality and maintenance, it is a bit cheaper to build.

Having more money at hand can make app development a bit easier. However, spending $100,000 doesn’t always result in a successful app project. 

Now that you are familiar with the factors that influence the cost to develop an app, your next step is to partner with an award-winning team of software development professionals. Contact us to estimate the cost of your app project today.   

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