Ever heard the phrase “There’s an App for That”? As predicted by Statista, the mobile app industry’s annual revenue is projected to exceed $189 billion by 2020. Now, the major question when it comes to building a mobile app is: what does the app development cost? Here is a complete guide to help you figure out the cost of your next app development project.
With the mobile app market estimating to become double in the next year or so, it is the best time than ever to get your business app developed. Nowadays, if a business doesn’t have an app, it may as well be losing significant traffic. An app is a much better alternative to the mobile website to grab the attention of the existing and potential customers of a business.
“As of 3rd Quarter of 2018, Google’s Play Store had over 2.1 million apps, which increased to 2.6 million apps in December 2018.”
As the app market grows, so does the demand for good app developers. This is the reason why app development companies are becoming so popular these days. One of the most crucial factors that affect the development of an app is the cost. Many individuals and businesses seek to get an idea of the estimated cost of app development projects. This is what we try to answer here.
So, how much does it cost to build a mobile app? What will be the average cost of app development? These are complex questions with even more complex answers, but we will explain here the complete step-by-step process of fairly evaluating the cost of a mobile app.
The development cost of an app depends on a number of factors, such as features of the app, graphics (design), complexity, number of hours, the price of developer or development company, the method of development, and the development framework (Android, iOS, etc.).
Types Of Mobile Applications
The cost of app development depends on the type of app you’re planning to develop. For instance, the cost of developing an iOS app is generally higher than that of creating an Android app. Here’s the broad classification of mobile apps in various aspects:
Based on Fee
- Free apps
- Paid apps
Based on Purpose
- E-commerce apps
- Business apps
- Informative (Blog) apps
- Gaming apps
- Entertainment apps
- Finance apps
- Social Media apps
- And more
Based on Platform
- Single platform apps
- Cross-platform or Hybrid apps
As you can probably imagine, the apps with different purpose and platform will be developed differently and so will have different development costs.
Why Should Your Business Have A Mobile App?
Mobile apps have changed the business world quickly and abruptly. You are probably already aware of the benefits mobile apps can give to your business. If you’re not, here’s a brief idea.
“More than 60% of the internet users prefer to shop on mobile apps rather than websites.”
So, if you have been wondering why your online shopping site is not receiving much traffic lately, it may be because your potential users are on mobile. Get yourself a business mobile app developed now!
Here are some other reasons why your business needs a dedicated mobile app.
- A mobile app can make your business more accessible to your customers, in turn, increasing your business value to customers.
- Mobile apps can help you improve your business customer experience, which is a key factor to bring and maintain new customers.
- Apps can help you build better relationships with your customers and engage more with them in real-time.
- Mobile apps can increase the overall image and reputation of your brand in the eyes of your customers.
- Apps are known to drive more sales than business websites. They are easy to access and use at any time and from anywhere.
- Your business mobile app can help you deliver better value and services to your customers, in real time.
- Lastly, a mobile app is one of the best ways to collect customer experience data, enabling you to improve your services accordingly.
How Much Does App Development Cost In 2019?
As we’ve mentioned before, the cost of app development depends on several things. The inclusion or elimination of even a single feature in your app will change its cost. There are a lot of things that need to be considered in order to be able to reach the right figure.
To make the calculation easier, we have here laid out all the things that contribute to the app cost.
App Development Cost Calculation Formula
Yes, there is a basic formula that most of app development companies use, and you can too, for calculating the cost of developing a particular app –
App Development Cost = (App Features * Time per feature development) * Hourly Rate
Now, it may seem like a simple formula, where you just need the number of app features along with the time and the hourly rate of the developer in order to calculate the development cost. But it is not that easy. For one, the development time for different features would not be the same. Second, not all developers and companies charge their services on an hourly basis.
However, once all the involved factors are considered and you have a working prototype of the app, it would be easier to calculate an estimated cost using the following formula –
App Development Cost = [(Time for developing App Feature1) + (Time for developing App Feature2) + ….] * Hourly Rate
Factors That (May) Affect The App Development Cost
The primary factors influencing development costs include:
It is the purpose for which you are making the app. The type of your business model, such as e-commerce, blogging, gaming, etc., and the issues your app will be solving will directly contribute to determining the cost of app development.
The development of gaming apps will be a costly affair, as these apps generally involve a lot of graphics and advanced functionalities. The cost will also depend on the game complexity. For example, racing games usually cost more than card games.
Based on the platform, app development can be broadly divided into the following two categories:
- Native (single-platform) app development
- Hybrid (cross-platform) app development
As the name suggests, native apps are developed for a particular platform, such as Android or iOS, while hybrid apps are cross-platform, that means one app can be used on both Android and iOS platforms.
Native apps are generally more expensive to develop, as they require access to specific phone features and need to be customized according to a particular platform.
Features and functionalities are the most important aspects in determining the cost of creating an app. For instance, building a fully-featured e-commerce app such as Amazon will definitely cost you more than creating a basic e-shopping store with limited features.
Moreover, some high-end apps, in fact, most of the apps today, need functionalities to work with device’s built-in features like Camera, GPS, NFC, split-screen, etc. The production cost increases with an increase in the number and complexity of features your app will have. Features like hardware components such as GPS, Bluetooth, etc., admin dashboard, rich graphics, third-party integrations, chatbot etc. will further increase the technical complexity of the app, resulting in an increase in the price.
The more complex an app, the higher would be its development cost.
Server and Database
The apps without a web server or remote server feature are likely to cost less as compared to the ones with servers. Apps like calendar, notes, planner, email, etc. fall into the prior category. The development of such apps may cost you around $1k- $4k, again depending on the location and features. The apps having features like remote web servers usually cost more, somewhere between $8k and $50k.
Similarly, the addition to a database feature to your app will further add to its cost. A database is a place where all the app data as well as the user data are stored, so if your app gathers user data it will need a place to store it. Depending on the type of database you’re adding, and the connection requirements, the cost may vary accordingly. A majority of businesses and developers now prefer to use the Cloud option for data storage because of its convenience and lower cost.
The app design is another major point to consider while trying to determine the development cost. A simple, basic design will cost you far less than a visually complex design. The more visual capabilities you add to your app, the more its price will increase. Some of these things include the use of animation, high-end graphics, heavy images, etc.
Besides that, the design complexity will also depend on the length of your app, i.e. the number of functionalities or pages in the app will also add to the design cost.
Apart from the basic coding part, there are various other technical features you can choose to integrate with your app, depending on its purpose. For instance, you can choose to add AI (Artificial Intelligence) feature in your app in order to provide a better experience to your customers through voice and chat-based services. Similarly, you can add AR/VR technologies in your media-related apps. However, you should know that these technologies come at a significant price, which will add to the cost of your app development.
Another modern technology, which is taking the world by storm is Blockchain. The cost of developing a blockchain based app, such as a Digital Wallet, ICO, Exchange, etc. will be higher than your usual app development cost.
Through this feature, you can enable your app users to take data from third-party apps within your own app. For example, Facebook allows its users to share content directly from third-party apps and websites. This functionality would require the development of an external API along with crucial safety measures, which will all add to the overall cost of your app.
Last but not least, the cost of your app will also depend on how much you’re paying to the developer/design or what kind of developer you’re hiring for the app development project. We will discuss this point in detail later in this article.
Some other things that might contribute to the cost of your app development project include app security, testing, maintenance and promotion, which you can consider as per your budget and requirements.
Calculating The Cost Of App Development
Here’s a general idea of how much app development will cost depending on aspects like app category, development stage, platform, etc.
Requirement Gathering, Research & Planning – $1k – $10k
App Design – $1k – $20k
App Development (Coding & Features Development) – $5k – $30k
Testing – $1k – $10k
Delivery & Maintenance (& Marketing) – $1k – $20k
Basic App with no backend – $2k – $5k
App with a Database Server – $15k – $25k
Complex App with Advanced Server & User Analytics – $20k – $50k
High-Graphic Games – $30k – $100k
Native app (Android or iOS) – $10k – $20k
Hybrid (Cross-platform) app – $10k – $15k
Development Agency/ Developer
Freelance Developer – $1k to $10k
Small Company – $10k to $100k
Mid-size Company – $50k to $200k
Large Company – $100k to $500k
USA – $100 to $150 per hour
Cost Of Hiring An App Developer
If you are not comfortable with developing the app by yourself or do not have the required skills or time for the same, outsourcing the job to a professional app developer would be your best option in the case.
When you’re planning to hire a good app developer or a company for making your mobile app, the question of cost will naturally come up. It is, therefore, recommended to have a basic idea of your options as well as the developer cost so that you can negotiate and make a deal accordingly.
So, what are your options?
Option 1: Hire an in-house Developer or Team
If you are planning to hire an in-house app developer, know that this may be a very time-consuming and even expensive process. You may need to build a team of developers and designers if you are creating a complex app. Also, there is no guarantee that the team or the person you hire will actually prove useful.
According to a leading job site, in 2017, the average salary of a full-time app developer in the US was around $107,000 / year.
Option 2: Hire a Freelancer Developer
The most cost-effective app development option is to hire a freelance developer. The websites like Upwork, freelancer, etc. can help you with that. The freelancer app developers are highly affordable, and if you are fortunate enough, you might even find someone with great experience and knowledge in app development. However, this option also has its cons, such as unqualified or fake freelancers, difficult and time-consuming process, lack of management, middle-man fee and more.
Option 3: Hire an App Development Team
Now, the third and the best option, in any case, would be to hire a reputed app development agency. You can hire a small or big development company depending on your budget and requirements. With a company, you get access to a team of developers, designers, managers and what not. So, you need not hire each team member separately. Also, you get developers with much more experience than any irregular app developer.
The only downside is the cost, which is generally higher than the other available options. But if you look around carefully, you may manage to find a good app development firm in your budget. The usual costs are as follows:
The US – $150-$200 per hour
App Maintenance & Promotion Cost
Like any other software, mobile apps demand constant maintenance. The cost of maintaining and marketing a mobile app is also usually included in the overall development cost. On average, the maintenance cost is around 20% of the actual development cost. It can be divided into the following things:
The cost of hosting will depend on the platform where you’re planning to host your apps. If you are hosting on a generic app platform such as Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store, the fee would be as follows:
Play Store – An annual developer fee of $99
Google Play Store – A one-time developer fee of $25
However, if you are looking to host your app on an alternative platform such as a dedicated website, you’ll have to pay the domain and web hosting fee extra, which may cost you anywhere in the range of $20 to a few hundred dollars.
App Update Cost
Updating your app on a regular basis is as much important as building it in the first place. Apps are updated to remove bugs and add new features to them, as the very first version of an app can never be perfect. Developing an update for your app may involve significant work and cost, depending on the complexity of the app.
Monitoring & Analytics cost
Monitoring an app is mostly about tracking the health and user engagement of the app to determine its overall performance. After all, it is no benefit to have an app that doesn’t bring traffic or creates an ROI for you. To monitor your app, you can use any of the free or paid mobile analytics tools, such as Flurry Analytics, Countly, AppFigures, Facebook Analytics for Apps, etc.
App monitoring is a crucial aspect for the success of your mobile application, so do not hesitate to invest some money in it if needed.
App Marketing cost
You cannot simply expect your app to start getting downloads and engagement from the first day after you upload it to the respective App Store. It takes time and effort on your part. Besides that, you’ll need to start a buzz in the industry so that people become aware of the launch of your new app. This is where App Marketing can help you.
App Marketing involves activities to bring and engage targeted users in your mobile app. You may even have to pay the users to install the app, through the means of referral, paid ads and other similar campaigns. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort and money. Once traffic starts flowing to your app and users become interested in it, you’ll no longer need to spend a lot of money on the marketing part.
A good app marketing firm can help you with the job. The cost of marketing is usually defined in terms of Cost Per Install, or CPI, which is the cost to get a new install/download for the app. Similarly, the costs to acquire new loyal customers and/or paying subscribers for your app are as follows:
Cost Per Install – Android ($0.86) and iOS(0.44)
Cost Per Loyal User – Android ($2) and iOS ($1.5)
IOS Vs Android: Which Platform Is Better For Your Next App?
Android and iOS are two of the most popular app development platforms. Most of the apps today are built on either or both of these mobile platforms. So, it can get quite confusing to choose the right platform for your new app.
You can make a decision based on the following two things:
- Your preference
- Your target users
By preference I mean the quality and security preferences you have for your app. Since the App Store has stricter admission guidelines, you’ll have to focus on more quality and security while building your app. So, if you prefer to spend more on the maintenance cost for added security and quality, the App Store is for you.
An obvious benefit of developing your app for the Android platform is that Google’s Play Store has a wider user base as compared to the App Store. So, you can expect your Android app to be downloaded more times, in turn, producing more ROI for you as compared to an iOS app.
The second part, i.e., finding your target users might take some research. For one, you’ll have to figure out whether your users prefer Android or iOS more. For instance, if your target users reside in markets like Asia and Africa, you should go with Android, as iOS is mostly preferred by mobile users in America and Europe.
How Much To Invest In Building A Mobile App
So, it all comes down to this one question – how much is it going to cost you to build that app? Here’s a quick analysis.
As we have previously discussed, the cost of an app depends on things like app features, complexity, developer cost, platform, etc. Organizations around the world spend $50k-$500k to get an app developed.
The average app development may take anywhere from a month to a year, from getting started to launching the final app.
Developing an iOS app may cost you in the range of $38,000 and $171,000, depending on the app functionality and features. On the other hand, building an iPad app costs in the range of $5k – $150k.
In the end, the cost of app development will greatly depend on what you want to develop and who you’re hiring to develop it.
App Development Alternative For Those Who Can’t Afford To Pay Big Bucks
Let’s accept it.
Not everyone can afford to pay the high fee of app development companies or developers to get their desired apps developed. In fact, there are only a limited number of organizations that hire big guys for the job.
What about the rest of them?
Well, they choose a more affordable option. When you’ve got that perfect idea for an app which you’re fully confident about, there is no way you should give up on your dreams. Thankfully, there are pocket-friendly ways to get yourself an app.
For one, you can try searching for a small app development agency which is ready to offer services in your budget.
Another option is to use a custom app builder. There are many popular free/paid app building tools which you can choose from. These tools are easy to use and perfect for developing simple (no-database) apps.
However, if you are looking to build a feature-rich and server-based app, you will have to hire the services of an expert app developer.
Developing a good app for your business is important for many reasons. Your app would act as the face of your business, as it is how your users will interact with your company and services. Providing the target users with an immense and friendly experience should be at the top of your list of reasons behind developing an app.
As for the cost, it differs from app to app and company to company. Do your research, ask around and make a calculated decision of hiring the right mobile app development company.