Are you considering building an app? A question that would have invariably come up is how much it would “Cost to develop an app”? There is however no one answer to this question. The cost to develop a mobile app depends on a lot of factors - including but not limited to - the platform to target, the features you want, design, any additional infrastructure and finally the development team that you choose. There are many freelancers who would charge you peanuts to build your app - but their work will not always be reliable, well-thought out or good quality. There are also development shops working on large projects but focusing on specific genres (banking or manufacturing for instance) and not willing to go that extra mile to get you a world-class app or striving for a unique UX most suitable for your app. Then there are development teams that focus on UI/UX, quality and usability to ensure your app stands out.
When going through this article, please keep in mind that the cost projections made here are largely based on our experience developing mobile apps and mobile solutions for the past 9 years - across hundreds of apps we have built for our clients. The cost to develop an app can range anywhere between $5000 to $500,000 depending on various factors with the time to develop ranging from anywhere between 4 weeks to 20 weeks. That’s a hefty investment - both time and money. What determines how much your app would cost? Read on to find out:
6 factors determining the Cost to Develop a Mobile App:
We have summarised these factors into an infographic for your convenience.
Details - Factors affecting the Cost to Develop an App:
There are 6 key factors which help determine the appropriate budget for your app development needs:
1. Platforms to target
The cost for building an app can vary depending on the platforms you wish to support with your app. The more platforms you wish to support, the more the app development would cost. It is not always proportional to the number of platforms supported since reusability of code comes into picture.
However, to most of our customers, we suggest they start with one platform to help validate the idea before moving to others. Here’s a quick guide on which of the major OS platforms to target first.
2. Scoping and Development Model
When you’ve decided to go ahead with developing an app, the first step is to determine your business objectives and the solution you need - what will your app do. You need to create a technical specifications doc which lists down the features your app will have. This can be quite a task for a non-technical person - in which case you can always take some help from a technical team on what is possible or what isn’t.
Another point to consider is how you want to build your product. Does it have a fixed set of features you wish to go ahead with (waterfall model) or would you prefer to define features as you see your app growing (agile method). These are two vastly different development models followed and determine the cost for developing the app.
We generally follow something called an “iterative development” model which is a mix of both. We start with a set of requirements (sketches, key functionality, some documentation) but our clients have some flexibility around the features and some details during the development process.
App design (both UI and UX) is what separates good apps from amazing apps. A great idea followed by an amazing user experience is bound to make a successful app.
If you want an average design that users are familiar with, the cost for designing such an app would be less compared to an impressive app design which takes longer to turn out. The app design also varies based on the number of screens your app has.
An experienced UI/UX designer can also help provide invaluable feedback on what works for end users and what doesn’t.
If you are a designer yourself or have ideas which can help your developer, you can save on the cost here. You can also use a tool like Invision to share the app flow with your developers, trust us, they'd appreciate that!
4. Custom vs Platform-based development
There are many mobile app development platforms that let you build an app in a cheap, fast and easy way, they do have some limitations - most of these platforms have a fixed set of features you can add to your app, you generally do not get the code and don’t own it, there are very few customizations you can do. Some platforms that you can check out include AppInstitute, AppMachine and AppMakr. If you wish to do any of those, custom development would be the way to go.
Then there's an option of developing apps using cross-platform development tools - like Cordova, React to name a few.
The cost for developing a customized application would be much higher compared to the license fees charged by these mobile app dev platforms or building cross-platform apps. However a unique set of features, unique UI is something you can only get through custom development. Ownership of the source code is also something a lot of startups and enterprises stress upon.
5. App Features
Probably the most dynamic and most important of the pricing factors is app features. Your app’s development cost depends on the kind of features it will have - is it a simple todo app, an MVP for a social app or a complex app that has email and social login, GPS, notifications and the works? As the number and complexity of features in your app increases, so does the cost of development.
If your app is not a standalone offline app and has a server component involved, that increases the app development cost. You need to take into consideration the server setup, storage requirements, data encryption & security, communication with the app, user management among other things.
7. Additional Costs
Apart from the cost for developing an app, there are some additional costs associated with developing an app which customers generally tend to ignore while budgeting. Some of these are recurring.
1. Developer accounts
Apple, Google and Windows all have developer accounts that you need to sign up for in order to release your apps on these stores. The developer account for Apple costs USD 99/year for individual/company accounts and USD 299/year for Enterprise accounts.
Google charges a one-time fee of USD 25 for a developer account and Windows charges a one time fee of USD 19 for individuals and USD 99 for companies.
2. Server-side components and Cloud services
If your application requires a server side component for data storage and retrieval, there are various costs associated with it. These include storage requirements, hosting, domain name, landing pages, data backup etc.
If your app also uses other paid cloud services like SMS services, frameworks for notifications, analytics or any other third party frameworks, that is an additional cost.
3. App maintenance
A lot of apps on the stores right now are zombie apps - those which were released quite some time back and have been left by the developers without any updates for newer OS versions or devices.
But most app sellers who are serious about their apps and the services they provide to their customers have to ensure that they maintain the app. This includes support for OS updates, support for newer devices, bug fixes, feature requests and so on.
With a highly fragmented OS like Android, it becomes imperative that your app supports the latest OS version as well as 5-6 older versions as well. This can be a costly affair at times. So do keep this in mind while budgeting for your app.
So, how much will it cost ME to develop my app?
You will find different service providers who will offer different pricing plans for your app development. Some focus on quick and dirty, some focus on quality regardless of the cost.
If your app is critical to the success of your business and you have innovative ideas, then it is imperative you pick a strong technical partner and not look for the cheapest provider.
The bare minimum budget for building a scalable app (with a server component, APIs and some features for continued user engagement) would be USD 8000 - 15000. The app will work well when used by thousands of users and can easily scale for an even larger number of users. For a beta version or an MVP, you can achieve that in probably half the cost.
If you would like to get an idea of how much your app would cost, get in touch for a quick consultation call.