How Much Does App Development Cost?
In today’s mobile era, it’s no surprise that nearly every entrepreneur is clamoring to bring their business to mobile devices. When business owners find themselves in the market for a new mobile app, they might be surprised at upfront costs of app development. After all, they might think: “It’s just an app. How much could it really cost to make?” Depending on what’s needed: a lot…or not much.
The average cost of developing an app can range from US $60,000 to $250,000, and more.
The truth is, as software developers, we can only come up with estimates for custom web or mobile products. And at the end of the day, the final price tag will come down to things like the number and complexity of screens (in both design and function), platform choice (multiplatform mobile apps obviously require more effort), ongoing maintenance, and QA needs.
Here at Topflight, we typically break down the cost to build an app by providing an estimate into 3 core areas:
- Design Features – branding, animations, UX/UI design, etc.
- Technical Features – API and platform integrations, application capabilities, etc.
- Maintenance – server costs, bug fixing, OS upgrades, etc.
Entire books have been written on these subjects. So it may seem daunting to try and get a grasp of all these elements at once. Read on to understand the different elements of app development costs in more detail. Nevertheless, in the following sections, we’ll attempt to break down how each of these areas affects an app estimate and hopefully demystify the process of budgeting for app development.
After reading the post, the question “How much does it cost to create an app?” will no longer be a mystery.
- Expect to find a complete mobile app development cost breakdown, but note that each application has unique features, team members, UI, etc. — which all eventually drive the total cost of creating an app.
- The average cost to develop an app that’s ready to generate traction and convert users into loyal customers is around $80,000.
- Expect that the mobile application development cost will be significantly higher when adding AI/ML, geolocation, and IoT functionality to your mobile solution.
Table of Contents
1.2 Type of app you’re building
1.5 Hidden app development costs
2.1 Research product-market fit
2.3 Streamline project management with Agile
Factors affecting app development costs
App development costs are influenced by many factors, such as the development process, the type of application, availability of reusable off-the-shelf components, developers’ experience, app complexity, etc. Let’s review some of the most critical aspects that contribute to an app’s price.
Just a quick note before we kick off: all info provided here implies developing an MVP (minimum viable product) – the first releasble version of your product that doesn’t have to ship with 100% of all features.
App development process
When you start building an application, you’ll quickly find yourself following a specific predefined procedure of app creation. The steps that make up the process were defined way back in the 90s — at the rise of consumer software. And today, these app development stages are strong prerequisites for any app development project, unless you want the entire thing to go astray.
Besides laying down the ground rules for building an application, the mobile app development process breakdown allows us to better grasp how each stage affects the app cost. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
The discovery stage is all about uncovering the true potential of your product. During this step, you’ll need to match the needs of the target audience with the app functionality, decide which platforms you’d like to support, and define the product’s business goals.
In terms of pricing, the discovery stage is relatively light on the app development budget. Depending on the scope, it may take between 16 and 30 hours to complete the business analysis. However, you should keep in mind that the development approach you choose will significantly affect your development timeline.
For example, agile development will require only a couple of days to draw up a plan for the next few sprints. And if you’re looking for a more traditional waterfall approach, the discovery can consume up to 10 percent of the entire app cost.
Pro Tip: provided that you’ve done preliminary market research, we recommend limiting the budget of the discovery step to 20-30 hours / $2,500. Invite business analysts closely familiar with your domain to sail through this step faster. Never proceed to the design stage without proper research of your target audience.
Prototyping & Design
The next logical step after the discovery is to devise the solution’s user experience and design its graphical assets. This step will help us determine the cost to design an app, and the right way to do this is by creating a clickable prototype. Your prototype will consist of wireframes — rough representation of screens with clickable elements that let you switch between screens, following the user journey.
More Than Just Pretty Colors
When we talk about the design of an app, we don’t just mean the color scheme or icons, and we’re not just talking about what animation to use for transitions. Indeed, when Topflight hashes out the overall design of an application, we consider both the aesthetics of a finished product, user interface and user experience.
To the customer, software is more than flashy animations and pretty logos; they solve problems for people. In an ideal world, the app’s very design tells the user how to use it. Ultimately, it’s the design and development team’s job to ensure that no user is left dazzled by how an application looks, and totally confused as to how it works.
That sounds rather daunting when we put it that way, but as with the technical features of a good app, design choices can range from simple to complex which then impacts the budget to make an app.
In a simple case, a client might need to develop an app using a lightly-customized bootstrap theme. A few form fields here, a log-in overlay there, a few API calls to grab back-end data, and you’re off to the races.
Image credit: Bootstrap
In more complex cases, the app design cost will be higher. Clients may require a custom, built-from-scratch, multi-screen software with dozens of navigation paths, with each UX bit being tightly coupled with the back-end logic. If, for example, a mobile application needs to take in health data, we might change the type of data available for tracking, depending on users’ conditions.
A diabetic person needs to enter blood-sugar readings, but a non-diabetic user probably won’t. The style of the data entry screens should still remain consistent from user to user. In this regard, the overall number of screens is less critical to determining the time and money required to deliver the app project. Instead, what matters is the contents of these screens.
Imagine a feature-rich app like Uber with few sections but a high level of customization for each screen and platform-specific UX behavior. And compare that to an enterprise app with minimal design requirements.
Each step of the design of such a product needs to be intuitive and slick enough to keep the user engaged throughout the process. That takes a lot of back-and-forth between the design and development team and the client to finalize what can and cannot be dialed back to affect development pricing.
Wireframes, Interfaces, And Testing — oh My!
In either case, our design process starts with a schematic of how a user is meant to use the software — a so-called “user journey.” This helps us understand how many different screens an app will have, and thus how much overall work we’ll need to put into the design. This is the shortest part of the design process and is where we get a real sense of the scope of the design work. This phase typically takes around 3-5 hours.
Next up, we create wireframes for the app based on the user journey. The wireframes have no frills and might use programmer art where real design assets might go. At this point, we flesh out how the application will look with the client by sketching out where the buttons, fields, text, and navigation will sit.
This back-and-forth usually means that the wireframing stage takes around half that of the design: between 40 and 50 hours, give or take.
After this scaffolding work is done, we can start working on the actual design of the elements we laid down in the wireframe. At that point, we begin considering things like the color choices, animations, fonts, and the overall “style” of the app. We try to always be mindful of the brand image the client is ultimately going for, and so this stage does require quite a bit of input from the client.
Together, prototyping and designing an application take the bulk of the front-end time, at around 40-50 hours for each part. After the design is done, a prospective client could be looking at between 80 to 120 hours of front-end work from start to finish. It’s also important to note that this cost estimate only accounts for a first-pass attempt.
Usually, business owners forget to leave some budget for verifying the prototype with real users when trying to determine the cost to create an app. After completing a design, the prototype should always go through a user-testing process. For us, this means either observing as people use the software or enrolling in a service like usabilityhub. During testing, we try to figure out whether users are moving through the user journey in the way we intended, or whether they are failing to move past a certain stage.
For example, we might find that e-commerce customers are spending lots of time on the site, but are seldom adding items to carts, or are failing to use a wishlist.
More often than not, this user testing leads to further design revisions, which lead to more testing. This part of the process is typically open-ended in terms of time commitment, and we try to rinse and repeat until we get it right.
Image credit: UsabilityHub
For some, this process can seem like overkill. Still, our experience tells us that (over the long run) it’s the user experience that users notice the most.
In other words, we can build all the fancy state-of-the-art backend systems in the world, but users aren’t going to stick around if they’re turned off by the app’s very design. And knowing that this discipline doesn’t require too much money (unlike coding) helps too.
Pro Tip: since iterating on design is 80-90 percent cheaper than iterating on code, putting in the extra time to make sure it’s perfect is the best way to maximize ROI. The cost of the prototyping and design phase of app development may take between $12,000 and $28,000.
Related: Custom Mobile App Development: The Complete Guide
It stands to reason that app development per se makes the biggest impact on the app cost. Seasoned developers, who have successfully delivered multiple projects, are still a scarce resource. That’s why coding an app usually accounts for 50-70 percent of the total costs of app development; and the coding times vary depending on the types of apps; from chatbot app development to building a marketplace app; or a trading and investment app, developing a cryptocurrency exchange, or creating a crypto token.
Also Read: How to Build Your Fintech Startup
Built From Scratch Vs. Existing Projects
Whether an application is being built from scratch or uses an existing codebase also affects the cost.
There are many reasons for existing projects to be easier or harder to work on than a blank slate, but in the end, it all comes down to the fact that existing projects naturally bear the marks of their original creators.
Frankly, sometimes it turns out that code is simply poorly written. Now, coding is an art form, and sometimes what looks like poor code is simply not what our devs are used to. We can’t tell you, however, how many times we’ve had a client tell us that their previous developer did 80 percent of the work, only to find out that in reality, about 30 percent was complete.
What’s more, because being contracted to work on an existing project inevitably requires a billable discovery phase upfront, it’s also imperative that we communicate amicably with the outgoing developers. Without documentation or knowledge of existing bugs or quirks in code, the discovery phase becomes more difficult, and eats a substantial chunk of the project’s billable hours, inevitably increasing the cost to develop an iPhone app.
Whether an application is for scheduling patient appointments or babysitting hours, finding specialized recipes, tracking disease symptoms, or simply displaying your blog to the world, it’ll probably need a database for storing product information, a payment processor for handling payments, or a CMS for managing the content. In other words, unless your app offers very basic features — think calculators or simple to-do software — it’s very likely to rely on a backend system.
The most popular SaaS backends often have many off-the-shelf solutions that can make writing parts of an application much simpler. One typical example comes from the Shopify software development kit (SDK), which enables store owners to create iOS and Android apps that use Shopify’s functionality to do all the things you would expect from an e-commerce store: carts, products, discount codes, payment, etc.
Such readily available instruments can significantly reduce the iPhone or Android app development cost.
Off-the-shelf components need not come in the form of SaaS platforms like Shopify, either. More often than not, another developer has already written tools to solve 75 percent of the problems you need to solve, and all a developer needs to do is use them.
Of course, having all these features handled by packaged components can drastically reduce the development time for the “guts” of a mobile/web solution, but as with all good things, such simplicity comes with potential caveats.
First and foremost, simplicity can sometimes end up hamstringing app scalability. WordPress, for example, is a fantastic solution for slowly changing sites with mostly static content like blogs. On the other hand, it’s not particularly well-suited for dynamic content like an extensive product catalog with the need for many searches and filters, serving thousands of customers.
On top of scaling issues, the potential need for significant customization of off-the-shelf components can have an even higher overhead for developers than if they wrote it from scratch. Making changes to another dev’s codebase is never a trivial task.
All in all, development time (and thus average cost of app development) depends largely on the features the solution has, their individual complexity, and the availability and feasibility of pre-existing open-source software and SaaS platforms. As a good rule of thumb here, simply consider how standard the feature-set you’re asking for is.
If you’re building a pretty vanilla offline application, then chances are we’ve done it before. That means there are pre-existing solutions that are feasible to use, and it’ll be fairly affordable to build.
That said, if your business model implies building something completely new that nobody has done before with innovative features nobody has ever seen… that’s clearly going to cost a pretty penny.
Pro Tip: coding takes around 50-70 percent of all app costs. So expect to budget for $25,000-$75,000 for the coding stage of your app development for a single app.
Also Read: No code/Low code app development processes
Another thing that turns users off is a program that is riddled with bugs or an outdated application that becomes obsolete with a new operating system update. This brings us to a vital, often overlooked step in the app development process: quality assurance.
QA (aka “testing”), is carried out at Topflight in a twofold manner:
- Unit Testing
- System Testing
Unit testing deals with each new component added to software individually. And system testing deals with how the product functions as a whole from a performance and usability perspective.
We do unit testing as we build the app, with our developers inspecting each other’s code and testing it every step of the way. System testing, on the other hand, is typically done once the whole solution is complete. System testing is especially important because we can involve the client in the process. We’ll often realign the app’s development as a result.
Overall, QA does precisely as its namesake would suggest: it assures both the client and us that the application functions as intended. Once our tests are run, and we’re comfortable with the end result, it’s finally time to let the software out into the world. Just remember that the Android or iPhone app development cost will depend on the number of tests we need to run. We should always include regression tests to verify that previously fixed issues won’t resurface.
From here, it’s mostly smooth sailing, but today, no app can afford to rest on its laurels. Software updates, operating system upgrades, and hardware improvements mean that applications need to continue to adapt to a changing technological landscape. Therefore, the cost to build an application will always depend on required QA activities. Money follows a bug-free smartphone app.
Pro Tip: QA usually takes around 15-20 percent of the total app price tag, which is somewhere in the range of $8,000-$18,000.
Once the software has been developed, it’s time to deploy it. Fortunately, this stage takes only a fraction of time compared to all other phases of making an app. That’s also the reason why it’s often overlooked by both clients and some development teams.
At Topflight, we make sure that your mobile app goes through Apple’s and/or Google’s verification process and that the back end has been transferred to the production environment — tested and ready to take on floods of traffic.
Pro Tip: allow for up to $1,800 of your app-building cost for the deployment step. Make sure app developers you work with include this vital phase in the roadmap.
Maintenance and Upkeep
Like any well-oiled machine, a well-functioning application needs to be maintained over time.
Most apps nowadays run their back ends on cloud service providers like AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure, which (depending on the scale required) can cost pennies or thousands of dollars each month. Besides, many third-party services (such as payment systems) that a product might use operate under a SaaS model, requiring subscription costs.
As an app gains popularity, its throughput needs in both these areas are likely to grow, which in turn racks up app maintenance costs.
What’s more, once an application has been battle-tested in the real world with real users, bugs are bound to crop up and need addressing continually.
Pro Tip: With all of these things in mind, we typically estimate the cost for ongoing maintenance to be around 25 percent of the original development cost for each year after completion.
Type of app you’re building
Native vs. Cross-Platform
Building an app natively, using Swift or Java for iOS and Android, will typically incur a more substantial time commitment. In such a case, the solution essentially needs multiple codebases: one for iOS and another for Android, and yet another for any other requested platforms (Windows Mobile anybody?).
That may make native sound like a non-starter, but native codebases have the potential to be more powerful and provide access to more built-in hardware features for the mobile devices the software runs on. All the big names like Twitter, Uber, or Airbnb use the native tech stacks to craft high-quality mobile experiences.
Read the related article: How to Select a Technology Stack
If your application has less of a need for things like GPS, NFC, or Bluetooth, then another — potentially cheaper — path is open to you: A cross-platform codebase. After all, not all great products started out natively, e.g., mobile solutions by Bloomberg or Walmart.
Now, whether to build a cross-platform or native app is a topic far outside the scope of this blog, but one we’ve written about elsewhere. Suffice it to say, though, that in exchange for slightly restricted access to advanced hardware features, writing a React Native app tends to take between 25 and 50 percent less time than a separate solution for the two major platforms.
Cross-platform codebases have their limitations, but this difference in effort means that the decision to forgo a separate native codebase for individual platforms can mean a shippable product in 4-6 months instead of 12. Accordingly, the average cost of mobile app development backed by cross-platform technologies like Flutter or React Native goes down.
When choosing between Android and iOS native development, remember that the price of Android application development will be slightly higher than the price to make an app for the iPhone. Simply because an Android solution needs to be tested and optimized against way more devices than its iOS counterpart.
Pro Tip: Cross-platform tools like React Native can trim down app development costs up to 50 percent and allow you to go to market 1.5x faster. Even if you plan to launch only on a single platform, say the iPhone, which dominates the US smartphone market share, a cross-platform tech stack will allow you to easily reach a greater number of platforms in the future.
If you want to learn more, check out our post Swift and React Native comparison.
Progressive Web Apps vs. Native
Developing a progressive web app (PWA) is akin to cross-platform app development. Such a PWA will be available on both mobile platforms: iOS and Android. An easy way to think of a PWA is to imagine a website that tries to emulate a native application by its look and feel – sort of a hybrid app.
This website-app downloads itself to your phone and can be accessed even without an internet connection. It sits on your home screen behind an icon, just like any other app.
What you can’t expect from a PWA is integration with your phone’s hardware and new features in mobile OS versions, like push notifications, GPS, etc.
Because PWAs are built using web technologies, such apps can save you budget when you need a mobile companion app for an existing web application. You’ll just need to repurpose your web application’s graphical assets to mimic the interface of a mobile solution, and then connect the UI to the existing back end with its business logic.
Pro Tip: use PWA to considerably cut your development budget for developing a mobile companion app for your business that already exists as a web application. PWA may cost around 30 percent of the native app development budget and never come close to the native iOS app development cost.
Complexity of features
The more complicated the features of an app are, the more expensive it will be to develop.
A complex app often implies things like third-party integrations, server-side logic, admin panels, or the use of mobile hardware like Bluetooth or GPS. Each of these has its own cost in terms of both developer time and potential subscription costs in the case of third-party services.
There are tons of technologies that go into the more involved feature sets: databases, machine learning libraries, front-end frameworks, the list goes on. Each layer of new technology adds complexity, time, and requisite knowledge to a project, and thus more cost and depends on the type of app you’re building – whether you’re building a marketplace app, or a stock trading and investing platform, a medical app that uses blockchain, or creating a crypto token, developing an apple watch app.
Each of these decisions has its own benefits and caveats, but they can mean the difference between a $60,000 app and a $150,000 one. We suggest that you create a detailed list of all required features and mark only two or three fundamental options to lower the initial cost to get an app developed.
Your mobile application might need to work with external service providers to provide a rich functionality to users. App developers use APIs to connect apps to payment gateways, messaging platforms, geolocation, social networks, and many other services.
Pro Tip: while integrating an app with on-device system features like FaceID or Apple Auth is generally considered a low-cost investment (under $1,000 each), making your app work with third-party services (e.g., social media) via APIs may cost you $4,000-6,000 per integration.
ML and AI capabilities are slowly but surely becoming mainstream. Apps rely on ML algorithms to surface relevant content and predict the customer’s next actions based on an individual user profile. However, coding the chunk of the app that’s responsible for the ML-powered features takes a heavy toll on the overall costs of developing an app. So it’s no surprise that AI options often take months to develop.
Pro Tip: Set aside between $13,000 and $21,000 for AI features in your app, and ask your app developers if using Core ML (iOS) and ML Kit (Android) makes sense. Opting for on-device ML functionality (using Core ML/ ML Kit) can reduce the app cost because you won’t need an AI-designated server side.
Related: Machine Learning App Development: The Complete Guide
If you’re looking to offer a mobile shopping experience for your customers, we advise you to opt for a ready-made e-commerce platform. Today, there’s no shortage of those. You can choose from Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and hundreds of other SaaS platforms providing APIs, SDKs, and even white-labeled mobile e-commerce experiences.
Like any off-the-shelf software, consider this approach a legit shortcut to push down the mobile app development price while working on a commerce app.
The cost of integrating your app with geolocation service can vary significantly based on the desired feature set. It’s one thing if you need to display a map with a custom pin, and quite another if you want to build routes, show traffic and other overlay information, use geofencing, etc.
Related: Location App Development: Steps, Tools and Best Practices
Pro Tip: Use “native” mapping SDKs on each mobile platform — Apple Maps or Google maps — to keep the cost of making an app down. This approach typically raises the app making price by $4,000 or so.
Modern phones come with loads of sensors that your app can use for enabling advanced features, like showing the direction and others:
- Proximity sensor
Apple and Google both provide APIs to allow your app to work with these hardware components. However, Apple is notoriously more conservative about giving full access to its hardware.
As you understand, the cost to build a mobile app increases if we need to tap into the phone’s hardware (except GPS because this functionality is easier to access via Apple’s or third-party’s SDK).
Pro Tip: the cost of developing a mobile app that works with phone sensors should be around $2,100 per sensor.
Apart from built-in sensors, apps may have to source data from external devices such as pedometers or heart rate sensors. To enable this connectivity, developers need to work with a Bluetooth Low Energy protocol (BLE) and establish a link between the app and on-device firmware that controls the sensor.
Pro Tip: Expect the best price per external device integration to end up between $8,000 and $10,000. In case your app needs to work with a sophisticated external platform, the cost may rise substantially.
As you can see, startups need to make careful budgeting cost analysis to launch a new app with the maximum cost-effective strategy because the cost involved in developing a typical app vs. custom app development costs can as different as day and night.
In the end, the minimum feasible cost to start up a cellphone app business will always depend on the number of features and their complexity. Also, keep in mind the general costs like Apple’s and Google’s developer licenses — $99 and $25 per year accordingly, or $299 per year for an enterprise license by Apple.
By the way, the good news is as of September 2021, you’re no longer forced to sell subscriptions or other in-app purchases using Apple’s StoreKit. That means no 30% (or 15%) commission any more, although there are still cases when you need to oblige.
Related Article: How to Develop an IoT App
Unfortunately, many businesses are guilty of ignoring accessibility options. I noticed companies rarely choose to cash out on adding special features that help customers with seeing or hearing issues get the most of their software.
And, formally speaking, there’s lots to comply with:
- WCAG 2.1
- ADA Title III
- Section 508
- IS 5568
- EAA/EN 301548
Therefore, I totally understand when business owners invest in accessibility options only if their solutions cater to niche user groups. At the same time, winning software titles always have this stuff straightened out. You can’t be an industry leader and neglect a massive group of customers.
Espcially, in the times, when web and mobile technologies are literally begging for implementing accessibility features by using ready-made code templated. Apple and Google, both provide developers with low-code scenarios for enhancing their experiences and making them more accessible to all users.
The cost of applying accessibility best practices to mobile and web development should not be overlooked.
App development team
Another all-important factor that affects the mobile app development cost is app developers. And we don’t mean just the software engineering talent. Successful apps are built by expert teams with versatile capabilities, who can adjust to changing market conditions on the fly.
Outsourcing vs. in-house team
It’s hard to argue that it’s more expensive to hire a full-stack in-house team than outsource app development to an app development agency. An in-house team always comes with the cost of recruiting and the cost of knowledge transfer — something that doesn’t influence the costs of making an app when you outsource.
There are many other roadblocks to hiring your own team, especially if you’re interested in maintaining a decent time to market:
Depending on the scale of a project, you will need an IT management unit: Someone will need to take care of basic IT stuff like network, security, servers, and everything else required for an optimal development process.
CTO and project managers
Developers and designers need to be coordinated. Plus, their interaction with other company units should be streamlined and transparent. So apart from developers, you will need to hire a CTO and project managers for that. These expenses are too often overlooked.
Equipment and office space
Developers quickly become hopeless without their computers, servers, monitors, and other high-end devices that host code. Naturally, this equipment will also require a comfy office.
Throughout the development process, it’s often the case when you don’t have enough tasks to justify a full-time position, but without it, your project is not going to happen. Juggling workload between dev team members adds another level of complexity to your already busy day.
Developers operate at their best in companies that foster team spirit and promote company values. It’s small things like providing your team with free meals or covering their gym subscriptions.
Benefits, paid leave, etc.
And remember about “extra” costs associated with having your own team like 401 matching, taxes, etc.
With outsourcing, you don’t have to worry about those issues. Whoever you’re outsourcing a project to will be responsible for that, while remaining accountable for the timely delivery and adherence to the agreed upon budget. The only impediment with the outsourcing option is to choose the right app developer.
For example, agencies from India may offer a lower cost per hour for mobile phone app development, but often lack professional developers on a team. That significantly skews the delivery timeframes and messes up your marketing efforts.
Therefore, if you need a mobile product in the App Store and Google Play on time and on budget, opt for a near-shore option and probe teams from other countries only with a simple app. Even though the median price range to create a basic app in some of these countries (e.g., in Eastern Europe) may fall within $10K, we’ve seen plenty of small business owners who had to rebuild their iPhone or and iPad apps because they fell prey to a low hourly cost.
As a result, their average price ended up higher, sometimes even twice more expensive than the original low cost that got them on the hook. Feel free to get in touch and ask for specifics; we’ve got plenty of examples of apps that had to survive this turbulence.
Pro Tip: An average annual after-tax cost per developer in the US is around $100,000. That may very well be the overall cost of building your entire product, which will use way more resources than a single developer and ship much sooner. As you can see, the cost to have an app developed will greatly depend on whether you’re ready to outsource its development and on the average hourly rate you’re ready to accept.
Hidden app development costs
Besides design and development services, several things directly affect сosts of app development but nevertheless slip through the cracks, especially if you are getting a quote from a not very experienced team. Check if your app development price includes these critical items.
For many business owners, an app is its front end piece — the customer-facing component. However, remember that there is a back end code behind the surface that runs the app’s business logic and controls data storage. Besides that hidden back-end part, you might need a web admin app for managing your app and its users.
SaaS and SDK fees
Often, to ship products faster, companies opt to use plug-in SaaS services to power certain parts of their application. For example, you can use Chargebee to set up a subscription or add Google Maps for location-related features. A pro app development partner will always inform you if these services require a monthly subscription and help you approximate the cost based on your customer base.
The code does not run in a vacuum. The so-called cloud is numberless racks of servers that eat electricity to run your app’s code and require payment. So even though it may sound trivial, don’t forget to amount for the hosting costs when budgeting your app.
Whether you work on a software application in-house or outsource it to a mobile app development company, someone will need to take care of projet management. Note that development companies typically don’t include the effort required from your side in their estimate cost because they don’t charge you for that. So you need to account for managerial efforts on your side by yourself.
Customers won’t flock to your mobile product all of a sudden once it’s published in the app stores. Therefore, you need to allocate some resources to marketing, e.g, for app store optimization or affiliate partnerships.
Also Read: Topflight’s growth story: 1400% increase in traffic
Optimizing app development costs
Seasoned app developers have a few tricks up their sleeve to kick down the cost to develop an app. Our strong advice is to follow these best practices to ensure your app budget won’t spiral out of control.
Research product-market fit
First and foremost, you need to know the target audience your app type is aimed at. What are their real needs? What are they trying to achieve? What is their context for using the app throughout a day? Does social networking help their primary use case? These and many other questions will help you develop your ideal customer persona, which will guide the feature set for your application.
Create a prototype
The next step is to verify your findings by creating a prototype of the app. It’s a smart move that will help you keep the app cost structure under control as you’re likely to update the prototype based on user feedback. And making edits to a clickable prototype is way less expensive than applying changes to code. Otherwise, the price of building your mobile software may increase drastically due to inevitable iterations.
Streamline project management with Agile
Once you lock in the final list of app features and the app’s look and feel, it’s time to build the actual app. It is at that point that your app-making budget will start to melt quite noticeably.
To ensure that every dollar of the budget contributes to the bottom line, you need to set up a project management framework. We practice and recommend Agile with weekly sprints because it helps balance the development progress with spending.
The benefits of the agile software development approach come down to:
At any moment during development, our partners know what each team member is busy with and how they allocate their working hours between different tasks. This transparency is useful not only to keep one’s finger on the pulse but also to project budgets for future sprints.
No software has ever been developed strictly off the specs. We live in a changing world, and software needs to adjust as we start releasing or testing early versions. Fortunately, agile is all about that flexibility, allowing the dev team to augment features, cut knickknacks, etc. As a result, we end up with a product that’s ready to start generating traction right after the release.
Also Read: AR App Development Guide
Quicker time to market
Since agile favors frequent change based on retrospective and early adopters’ feedback, we get to launch faster. That’s because we don’t need to spend time elaborating every minute detail in requirements – they shape as we go, with every iteration, keeping the end ROI goals in perspective.
Working with an agile team is like hiring a full-stack department of cross-discipline specialists (in design, testing, development, DevOps, etc.) and not having to keep everybody on full-time payroll.
Also Read: DevOps Implementation Plan: Everything You Need to Know
Agile really shines in this regard: every expert gets involved proportionally to the value they bring to the table. In addition, business owners avoid costly mistakes when hundreds of hours can be spent on useless development – that’s simply out of the question with agile.
And the budget adjusts according to your team’s velocity, depending on how many experts are allocated to your project per month and the number of hours they put into your product.
Stick to the scope
Finally, to retain the original estimated app development budget, it’s advisable to stick to the feature set you defined at the prototyping stage. Any add-ons and new options can be put off until later stages of development when you can assess if you still have the bandwidth to accommodate them.
Hopefully, you’ve got enough info now to answer, “How much does it cost to build an app?” And when all is said and done, the final cost won’t come as a complete surprise.
Need to know more about app costs?
There you have it, the breakdown of app development costs. The price of your app will end up somewhere between US $60,000 to $150,000, with 25 percent of the initial app development budget going towards yearly app maintenance cost. You can also get an approximate cost estimation via our cost calculator.
Also, do check our Vision to Traction System. It gives a decent overview of costs associated with hiring top-notch agile design and development team:
We’re app developers in NYC, LA, Miami, and our team is here to help you. We’ll answer the most common questions about the costs of developing an app in the FAQs below, but do feel free to reach out if you have any inquiries about the cost to make an app. Our app development team will share insights to help you set up your app for success, on time, and on budget.
[This blog was originally published in July 2017. It has been updated for more recent information.]
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does mobile app development cost?
Our mileage says the average app costs from US $60,000 to $150,000 to develop, provided we’re talking about a mobile product of medium complexity.
How much does it cost to maintain a mobile app?
25 percent of the total app development cost per year.
How long does it take to build an app?
Depending on the team composition, it may take from three to six months.
Is cross-platform app development really less expensive than building apps natively?
Yes, if your app fits the best-case scenario for cross-platform development, you can develop two apps (iOS and Android) and spend considerably less than if you were to build two standalone native apps.
What are some shortcuts to optimizing my app development budget?
An expert app developer, familiar with the mobile tech landscape, will suggest using ready-made solutions and SDKs that can speed up development and save the budget.
How much does it cost to make an app if I use Flutter or React Native?
If the feature set allows, you can save up to 25% – 35% of the budget to make an app if you compare using Flutter or React Native with developing two native apps for iOS and Android.