How much does it cost to make an app?

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The market of mobile applications shows no sign of stopping and, naturally, more and more people are researching the issue of how much does it cost to make an app? While we all use apps for communication, games, lifestyle, business, food, sports – creating your own app is a matter of business for some of us.

The good news is – it isn’t really so expensive as most of us may think. Before reviewing it all in detail, let’s give a brief extract about the cost of app development and its main considerations.

How much does it cost to make an app

There is no simple answer to this inquiry due to multiple factors at play. Different developer rates, project complexity and time it takes to build an app, all impact the cost of making a mobile application. The price to make an app depends on the following aspects:

  • type (mobile game, business, social networking, lifestyle. etc.)
  • platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.)
  • design (basic, individual, custom)
  • number of pages
  • features & infrastructure

If we split mobile apps into 3 categories in regards to complexity (simple, moderate, complex), and take 2 kinds of hourly rates into account, this is how much app costs to make approximately:

Complexity Notes Time, hours Cost at $50 hourly rate Cost at $100 hourly rate
Simple No API integration, no back-end, standard UI components, simple features like email subscription, social login, calendar, etc. 400 20,000 40,000
Moderate Custom UI features, payment features, API integrated, headsets and tablets adaptation, back-end server. 500-800 40,000 80,000
Complex Multi-language support, 3rd-party integrations, custom animations, complicated back-end, professional design, real-time features. 800-1500 75,000 150,000

Remember, the figures above serve only as an orientation to apprehend a potential cost to make a mobile app. Every app is different, it’s like inquiring about the price of a house or a car – you can not know the exact price without specifications. Plus, it is estimated based on minimum time and effort required to technically build an app. And of course, to make your app great be ready to pay more.

how much does it cost to build an app

Now, a more practical tool to calculate the cost of your app lies next.

App cost calculator

Now, to give you the opportunity for more accurate app cost estimation, below you may find an interactive calculator tool. There you can specify the specifications of your project or an app you have in mind, and send data to our app development experts. Our team will contact you shortly after with an exact price quote.

1. Type

Games
Business
Education
Lifestyle
Entertainment
Utility
Social
Other

2. Platforms

Android
iOS
WP

3. Design

Tempalte Individual Premium

4. Pages (approximately)

1 255+

5. Type of app

Native Hybrid

6. Versions support

Basic Advanced

7. Database

Mongo
Postgre
Mysql
Other

8. ERP integrations

Oracle
Netsuite
Other

9. CRM integrations

Zoho
Salesforce
Other

10. Mobile API

NodeJS
Ruby
Other

11. Content management system

Angular
Ruby
BackBone
Other

12. Analytics

Google-analytics
Mixpanel
Other

13. Mobile payments

Paypal
Stripe
Bitcoin
Other

14. Ecommerce integration

None Basic Advanced Enterprise
In-app coupons
Loyalty coupons

15. Users

Accounts
Email login
Social login
Privacy settings
Activity feed
Feedback
Group calls

16. Extra features

Audio
Camera
3rd party API
Dashboard
Task list
Search
Rating system
Chat
Gallery
QR code
Calendar
Social sharing
Push notifications
Ads
Multilangual
Data collection
Geo location
Offline capabilities
Activity tracking
Augmented reality
Virtual reality
Data export
Maps
Backup
         

Average cost to make an app highly depends on what type of app you choose to develop.

  • Native apps

Large and heavy apps that aim at best user experience, optimization and fast work. May use various device’s APIs and process wide range of features at the same time. Native apps would get as expensive as a number of platforms you want to support because more people would be involved in the app development process then. Native apps usually are business apps, entertainment apps, education apps.

  • Hybrid apps

Or cross-platform apps, that best suit to reach a bigger audience from the start. It costs much less to develop and maintain if a team is involved and a single code that works for all platforms. Meantime cross-platform apps are less optimized, lack access to APIs and can’t provide the native user experience. They are suitable for small and medium communication apps, lifestyle apps or game apps.

  • Basic functionality apps

Fast to develop and including very few or even no features at all. Mostly developed for personal use and you probably won’t find something like this in any app store. Usually, it’s made to display a list of topics – by clicking on one of them user can view info about it, or open a new list.

  • Database-driven apps

More complex apps with massive data to operate, stored directly on device memory or on a web server . To work as desired, additional features like camera, internet connection or access to the gallery may be required. Examples of such native apps that use device memory to store data library are various mobile dictionaries or encyclopedias.

  • Apps that rely on device firmware/hardware

These types of applications access a mobile device and aim at enhancing its functionality. It could be camera, flashlight, alarm clock or any other function. For example, AlarmMon allows users to customize the alarm clock, while also adding extra functions, like a puzzle to solve to disarm the alarm.

  • Mobile games / Game apps

Games may be both simple and advanced, with 3D graphics and physics, global ratings, AR support, even social media integration. Obviously, a more complex game would cost more, so it’s hard to tell exactly without estimate how much to make an app may cost. Gaming apps are the most popular category of application worldwide and usually the most profitable ones. Take Angry Birds, that cost near $140,000 to develop and made $70 million in the first year.

Who can develop my app idea?

Basically, we have 2 options: mobile app development agencies and freelance developers. Let’s look into each of them. Hiring a professional agency surely seems to be a more expensive choice. But the reliability is much better, and a developer team would assist you to get the best app from your idea. Designers, programmers, project managers – all of them are skilled and used to work in the team with each other.

Hourly rates differ greatly around the globe, independent of the end product quality. So, if you have a good concept and clear strategy, there is no need to pay more, because high price doesn’t mean high quality.

Advantages of hiring an app agency:

  • All in one – good companies have full staff, everyone you need. No need to seek programmers, designers or testers separately.
  • See what you pay for – portfolio, project estimate and hourly rates, you know everything you get before paying.
  • Discipline and skill – companies ensure that employees do their work on time and do it well.

As a disadvantage one may state a higher cost, as for obvious reasons developer companies charge higher prices among other alternative options.

We offer best quality for optimal costs!

Now let’s review the cost of freelance app developers. Good freelancers still may build superior apps not worse than developer companies. They would have same quality though at lesser cost. So we may assign the biggest pro to freelance coders the cheaper cost compared to software companies.

Cons of hiring freelancers:

  • Find them all – unlike agencies that provide full development team;
  • No project manager to control the process, so be ready to coordinate the team, deadlines and budget;
  • Communication issues between members of project;
  • Lack of skills.

Extra options for a D-I-Y approach

App templates or starter kits. If you have an idea similar to any popular app, there is a high chance to find the source code of it for $25-200 per license. Though, you still need designers to change how things look in the app, and programmers if you want to change how things work.

Online “app makers”. Constructing an app without any knowledge of programming sounds wonderful. To be honest, most apps of such kind are limited in options, tools and even types and genres. It may be buggy, badly optimized and lack in features you’ve planned. Subscription costs to use such tools start from $10 per month or may cost $5,000 initially.

Partnership to create an app and split profits. Two words: too risky.

Quiz: How well do you know mobile apps?

To mix thing up a bit, we have prepared a little quiz to check your knowledge about mobile app development and see how ready you are to invest into an app. Answer ten little questions and then let’s get back to the issue of app development cost again.

Cost of developer team to create an app

Even a small application should be done by a team, not by one person, so it will provide better user experience. It would be much faster and much more qualitative in the end, because everyone is engaged and responsible for their own part of the project. Surely, complex applications require more people to be involved in the development process.

Basic development team would include:

  • Project manager
  • Programmer
  • UI/UX designer
  • QA engineer

Extended development team:

  • 1 project manager
  • 2-4 app developers
  • 1 back-end developer
  • 1-2 UI/UX designers
  • 1 QA engineer
  • 1 system administrator

Duties and cost are represented in the table below.

Team member Duties Hourly cost
Project manager Prevents any miscommunication and misconduct within the team, to avoid pitfalls and abide by deadlines. $20+
Developer Writes the code of an app, integrates it with data source and fixes bugs. $30+
Back-end developer Ensures that an application, database and server communicate with each other in a right way and the whole app works correctly. $25+
Designer Works on how app interface would be laid out and how it would be felt by users. Solves different optimization tasks. $15+
Tester Monitors each part of the app,  controls code and design quality, ensures the end-product meets all project requirements. $20+

Looking for an app development team?

How to make an app: stages and average timelines

When talking about the cost to build a mobile app, we cannot omit to explain the basics of app development. It all, of course, starts with someone’s brilliant idea and then goes through various stages until realized. You can find many tips online to the likes of how to make an app in 10 steps, or 5 key stages of app development. And these stages/steps are the following:

  1. Idea & goals: Not just en Eureka moment with the great idea for an app, but also a real and detailed business strategy. Why do you think people will use your app? What does your app do, basically? What problem would an app help to solve? All should be clear.
  2. Research: including the overall market research, competitor research and especially user/customer research. There are two ways to identify your target audience: Who and How many. Then, identify your top competitors analyze their products, compare their strategies. Try to come up with something they are missing.
  3. Wire-frames & UX: First mock-ups of your app to understand the user flow and what the app should be doing. This is also called an information architecture – a scheme reflecting all possible user actions. A wireframe is a rough template which you can edit and correct at early stages. Helpful tools – Mockingbot, Axure, Sketchapp, etc.
  4. Back-end construction:or the app architecture, for which you should choose the platforms and the set of tools, technology stack, programming languages, services. How to make an app is the question that in most part assumes building a backend, an app structure. There are two main ways of developing a back-end: SaaS as the back-end – e.g. Firebase, AWS Mobile Hub, CloudKit, or a custom developed back-end. The latter is preferable in case you predict your mobile app to grow in new features and number of users. Adding more functions or customizing it would be easier with the own backend system.
  5. Visual design: produce several versions of design. Typically, a designer produces 3 screens, i.e. three versions of the application visual concept. All other screens further on are then based on the visual concept of your choice. The app’s color matters too. Most major apps are made in a blue-green range of colors (Skype, Twitter, WhatsApp, Shazam).
  6. Coding & bringing it all together. This is the most crucial stage when your developer team sits down and writes the code. Under a strict guidance of a project manager (software companies practice) developers complete the tasks.
  7. Testing: Afterwards, quality assurance engineers test the app. Software testing plays a considerable role in mobile app development, improving and cleaning the final product. All the bugs should be squashed.
  8. Release: after all tweaks and improvements are done and dusted (and tested again) the final chapter in app development saga arrives. Check submission policies of the app store of your choice to minimize time and effort to comply.

How long does it take to make an app?

As you remember, the cost of making an app basically equals developer rates multiplied over time. Here are the average times required for various functions when making an app.

Planning stage

  • Research and discovery – size of the project, number of features and screens, tools and technologies, client owned APIs, market research, etc. 8 to 40 hours average, 200 hours maximum.
  • Scoping – documentation, legal agreements, project plan creation. 8 to 30 hours average, 150 hours maximum.

Application design stage

  • Wireframes – with about 5-10 app screens. 20 to 50 hours average, 150 hours maximum.
  • Visual design – images, icons, layers, etc. 20 to 100 hours average, 200 hours maximum.
  • User Experience (UX) design – the logic of screen layouts and architecture, OS/device standards. 10 to 25 hours average, 200 hours maximum.

Features

  • Login -70 hours max
  • Location data – 150 hours max
  • Payment integration – 200 hours max
  • Multi-device sync – 200 hours max

App infrastructure

  • Setup & basic controls – up to 50 hours
  • Data storage – up to 200 hours
  • 3rd party APIs integration – up to 120 hours
  • Access to enterprise data – up to 400 hours
  • Encryption – up to 100 hours
  • Scalability (big number of users) – up to 800 hours

App administration

  • Analytical tools –  up to 80 hours
  • Web portal or CMS – up to 600 hours

Testing stage – 30 to 150 hours average, 300 hours maximum. It usually takes about 20-30% of total hours required for app development.

Deployment stage – i.e. licensing, packaging, submitting to app stores. 50-100 hours average.

The cost of app design

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction – this is what we find in Wikipedia. A famous quote from Steve Jobs adds that design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works. In mobile app development design implies aspects like visual design, user interfaces and UX, logos, icons, branding, wireframes, etc.

App design is an integral part to the question of cost to make an app. What are the factors impacting it?

  • Designer
    If you want to hire a professional senior designer,  be ready to pay up to $150 per hour or even more. At the same time, the less experienced designer can take only $45/hour.
  • Geography
    The cost of designers for hire in different parts of the world varies: USA & Canada – $50-250 per hour, Australia – $50-$150, Western Europe &UK – $35-170, Eastern Europe – $25-150, Asia – $10-80.
  • Complexity
    Simple app design from $5,000 (examples Pomodoro Timer, Flashlight), median app design from $10,000 (examples Journey, WhatsApp), complex app design from $25,000 (examples Facebook, Evernote).
  • iOS or Android
    iPhone only varies from $3,000 to $10,000, while design for Android phones would cost about $4,000 to $12,500.

app design cost

Chat Concept animation from ThinkMobiles

You can find great examples of apps designed by our team on Behance account or in Cases.

App maintenance costs

Unfortunately, your expenses do not end on application release. But why should you invest in app maintenance? The moment when you publish your app in the App Store and/or Google Play is not the happy end. It’s just an end of the chapter. Actually, it’s just a beginning. By the way, it isn’t the end when you get a few hundreds thousand downloads either. You should target your DAU (daily active users). In other words, you want to make people download your app and keep using it as often as possible.

The average cost of maintaining an app is about 20% of the development cost per year

For example, if your app cost $200,000 to develop, you can estimate that app maintenance will cost you around $40,000 per year. Additional features may drive the cost to maintain an app up, which may be:

  • powerful servers – $20-$60/month
  • push notifications – $10/month
  • payment gateways – up to $150/month (plus a fee on each transaction)
  • emergency maintenance – depends on the nature of emergency
  • third party APIs charges
  • bug fixing
  • app stores developer fee – $25 at Google Play, $99 at Apple App.

Conclusion

So, how much does it cost to build an app depends on many factors. Development charges, application size, complexity and newness of technologies are included. We hope our little research will help you find answers of your own. If not, we are always ready to help you estimate your app idea.

To summarize everything that impacts the cost of app development but in a more fun way, we recommend watching this video where Dan and Logan from Apps, Beers & Disruption talk through 11 key considerations for those curious about the price to create a mobile application.

app cost considerations video

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