How much does it cost to outsource app development in 2017?

ThinkMobiles Team 21/03/2017

Outsourcing app development and in-house app development have its advocates, ready to tell you their pros and cons. And that is great news, as one has plenty to learn from before deciding to pay someone to build an app. Why outsource, how to outsource development, and how much does it cost to outsource app development – is our subject of scrutiny this time.

Everything supposes preparation. Before sending some agency or a developer the I want to develop an app offer, your personal checklist should be something like:

  • Is my app/product idea clearly outlined?
  • Are all mobile app features and functions defined?
  • MVP or a full feature app?
  • What platforms? (iPhone and/or Android app development)
  • Do I have clear UX/UI design, QA, marketing etc. requirements ready?
  • What is my end-game with an app?
  • Do I know my criteria for choosing candidates for app development?
  • What is my budget and what is average outsource app development cost?

You know the benefits of mobile app outsourcing – cheaper cost, no long-term commitments, wide field of options. On the other hand, there are many risks, starting from language to logistical challenges. Let’s walk through all of it.

App development outsourcing guide

So, you as an entrepreneur, at some point say to yourself: I want to build an app. You did your research, allocated $10.000 and concluded to go with Android outsourcing. Good. You found out how much apps cost on average:

  • Messaging app like Whatsapp – $50.000 to $130.000
  • Dating app like Tinder – $80.000 to $200.000
  • City guide app – $25.000 to $50.000
  • Networking (social) app – $25.000 and up
  • Banking/payment app – $40.000 to $70.000
  • Taxi booking app like Uber – $25.000 to $100.000

From our previous post, you know how to find and hire an app developer. Now, what is key to productive app outsourcing? Once you have the accurate project description with all features and design requirements, it’s time to contact app programmers. Is your shortlist ready?

First, look up their website/portfolio, check references, testimonials, case studies. Then conduct interviews in person or via Skype. How do they communicate? A good developer would be keen to explain everything, and any troubles in your talks are potential red flags. Are they experts at what they do? Check their recent projects, pay attention to design and all tiniest details, ask how they fix bugs. Do they deliver on time? You should be able to see proven records of making apps on time.

So how much does it cost to outsource app development actually? Below we’ve collected average hourly rates of iPhone and Android outsourcers by location. Note, these are general figures and exact rate you will get only directly from your developer.

Outsource iPhone development cost



Hourly rate (avg.)

North America iOS $150
Australia iOS $110
United Kingdom iOS $70
South America iOS $50
Eastern Europe iOS $35
India iOS $20

Outsource Android development cost



Hourly rate (avg.)

North America Android $170
Australia Android $110
United Kingdom Android $70
South America Android $40
Eastern Europe Android $35
India Android $25

Stages and supervision

Generally, application development outsourcing is the process consisting of:

App How-To Tips

How much does it cost to hire an app developer in 2017?

It seems that in 2017  every brand and every business has its own app. Probably even your ...

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  • Discovery – communicating about goals and deadlines, terms;
  • Scoping/evaluation – full range of apps’ features and capabilities, mock-ups. etc.;
  • Development – actual creation (coding) of an app;
  • Control and production – ongoing cycle, as there’s always something to update or remake.

Also, before starting app development outsourcing, you should grasp: a) the downsides of outsource, b) technical details, c) fixed bid or hourly, d) agency or independent developer, e) need for NDA, f) establishing regular checks, g) list of vital features and nice-to-have ones.

The main risk of outsource app development cost is quality. So control and supervision are absolutely mandatory. You should examine the code regularly and ensure it meets your app project goals. Examine a demonstration of features, try it out for yourself, ask to elaborate if there’s a need. Sound your concerns, it’s your money to lose.

Now, let’s go through each stage and elaborate.

#1 Identify the purpose

Meaning the accurate definition of what the app would do and what would you do with it. Free app for entertaining purposes and, say, fitness app with paid subscription are two universes. Any topic of how to outsource app development starts with this and helps to hire offshore developer(s) with relevant skills.

Popular app monetization methods. Credit: Sweet Pricing.

#2 Outsource app development risk assessment

There’s a legion of risks, among which: poor product quality, delays, bad communication, unreliability, source code insecurity. Limit database access, divide the code, weigh in all possible legal issues, etc.

#3 Do the homework

Clearly, telling a dev team to build you an app and wait is not enough. You have to direct and supervise. For that you need to prepare project description, list of features and screens, user flow and UX basics, wireframes, tech stack, etc.

iPhone wireframing kit. Credit: Tony Thomas.

#4 Interview and select a developer

Talk to a person and see if you can understand each other easily. Ask some specific things, like experience in outsource Android development to see if he/she is confident about skills. Check or ask for portfolio. Call unexpected to see how a person reacts. Also, consider time zones you’ll be working with.

#5 Project plan

You should establish milestones and checkups and agree on those mutually. These are your short-term goals, or stages. Common practice is to pay after each stage is completed. Use of project management tools (Asana, Trello, Basecamp…) is of benefit as well. If you can assign a project manager to control your offshore app development, it would be an ace up your sleeve.

Using Trello management tool for app outsourcing

#6 Oversee

But do not micro-manage too much. Oversight of app development doesn’t mean everyday calls and feedback. You have the milestones put in place, so better not distract an outsource developer(s) by chatting too much. The general rule here is not to interrupt the process.

#7 Adequate tests

Ensuring the app works is not enough. You have to ensure it works well. The more types of testing and scenarios of user behavior, the better. Go through every possible user action, your developer should do the same and even more.

#8 App release

Experienced app developers have published dozens of applications to Google Play and/or App Store, so they should be able to help.

How to outsource app development – Best practices

You’ve seen this question in many forms on Quora or Reddit, as well as articles naming 5 to 10 best practices. There’s no need to invent a bicycle with outsource app development. So we’ll name general rules of thumb and then how to avoid mistakes.

Beware of trends but stay unique. Flat design, skeuomorphism and everything intuitive is alright, but shouldn’t you distinguish your app? Be inspired but stand out. Bring added value, bring something new to community.

Security in mind. With hackers active as never before, it is equal to Russian roulette not to invest in mobile app security measures. Customer information should be protected even more thoroughly than your own app, at times. This suggests authentication mechanisms, and more.

Know your users. You can start by bringing them in at early stages, share your app idea. Collect feedback and start app outsourcing having this in mind.

Agreement and software documentation. This is what you preferably have to get out of person/team building your app. If you get only the app itself, later on you or your employees would not have that minimum reference of how to run and maintain the app.

Legal representation. As not every agreement goes well, it’s better to cover your bases. Inadequate end product, ownership rights, data loss…risks are plenty. It should be possible and more or less transparent to reach authorities of other country. Having or consulting a law firm in the country of your outsource app development is even better.

Keep leverage til the end. Reserving certain part of total payment until accepting the outcome is highly positive practice, leaving you with power to force a developer to fix possible post-release  issues. The cost of your project can rise up drastically if anything goes wrong.

How NOT to outsource development

And here’s how one should not outsource mobile app development. These are five most spread mistakes people fall for, especially hiring offshore developers for the first time.

Mistake #1: Outsourcing to those behind trends. Freelancers, coders, app developers aren’t designers and marketers at the same time. But they got to be familiar with best practices, app culture and trends in your region. And especially UX/UI tendencies among your target customers.

Mistake #2: Not considering time zone differences. If your overseas dev team is not online during your business hours, you’ll end up with constant delays. You’ll get your issues/bugs fixed the next day or later. Same goes for project deadlines. Add to that a project manager with bad communication skills, and you’re heading for disaster.

Mistake #3: No PM, no questions asked. Not having someone to direct all the process, to enforce deadlines and to supervise could also end in tears. If you don’t have a PM, use online management tools at least. Another bad sign is when your developer does not ask many questions regarding the project, and does the job robotically.

Mistake #4: No functional tests. How do you make sure your app works it should, then? If you and your developer(s) do not recreate user scenarios, how would you find and resolve errors? How would developers test out critical app features, like GPS for instance, from abroad?

Mistake #5: Good deal price rather than quality. You may fall for $15 per hour rate, but you’ll get exactly that in return. If you’re a risk taker and adventure seeker, fine. If your app is a serious business project, seek a proper balance of price and quality.

What about NDA?

Making a developer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or not while outsourcing app development, it depends. Of course, it is better and safer to sign it before starting the whole process, as it would protect your intellectual property rights. It would also prevent the development company or person from reusing your works, design, etc. By the way, you should check if the agreement is binding in the country where a developer (or firm) is located. On the other hand, not signing an NDA allows a developer to present his works publicly. That is beneficial to everyone. Plus, for many app project it would not be so valuable.

Best app outsourcing companies

So you want to pay someone to create an app for you. Another noteworthy issue is to distinguish good guys from bad guys on initial stages. Some of good markers and positive responses from app developers are as follows.

  1. A proper and practical bidding response.

Something like: “We are already (have been recently) developing a product with similar features. This would help us do the job efficiently and more quickly”.

  1. Written and verbal communication.

It should be fine and in line with your business culture. Timely and grammatically correct replies, though you don’t have to be a grammar-nazi. Discussing the scope of the app project via Skype, asking questions and clearing things up. This is above all crucial when outsourcing app development.

  1. Responsiveness.

A responsive candidate, an eager to communicate candidate, a more responsive that others candidate is a good choice. If he/she can reply to your requests quickly, or despite the time difference, that is great.

  1. Integrity.

High skills and competence is one thing, integrity and basic code of honor is another. These are, of course, human qualities we are talking about. If your candidate refuses to give out details on his similar project under NDA, for example, you should understand he’s doing the right thing.

Basic takeaways

  1. Start with a small project
  2. Negotiate
  3. Conduct proper interview
  4. Provide detailed specifications
  5. Work in milestones
  6. Check regularly
  7. Have legal issues covered
  8. Conduct testing
  9. Do not chase a cheapest option



Mobile app development is getting expensive.


Great guidelines, wonder where are the best developer hiring sites.