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What's included in my app cost report?

Minimum and maximum cost, and time estimates for the full development process.
Minimum and maximum cost, and time estimates for the full development process.
Detailed explanations covering how the time and cost estimations for each featured were calculated.
Detailed explanations on how the time and cost were calculated for each feature.
Downloadable App Specification Document that you can use to request proposals from dev companies.
Downloadable App Specification Document that you can use to request proposals from dev companies.

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The Definitive Guide to Understanding App Development Cost

Have an app idea? With the average American spending more than four hours per day on their mobile device, there are compelling reasons to expand your brand’s reach and make a mobile app. A mobile app reaches across all parts of your business, forms a key piece of your marketing and brand strategy, offers superior engagement than other digital products, and satisfies your customers’ needs for a mobile app on the go.

The benefits of building a mobile app are apparent, but how much does it cost to develop an app and what does the development process look like?

In the article below, we’ll provide a walkthrough for estimating the cost of app development. We’ll start high-level with the basics–what are the key variables that go into developing an app, such as app features, maintenance costs, quality assurance, and what do your users need–before diving into the specifics of the data.

Calculating Key Inputs For Mobile App Development Cost

The cost of app development relies on a wide variety of factors but, at its simplest, app cost can be understood as the product of two key variables: project complexity and app developer rates.

Project complexity
Hourly rates
App development cost

1. Calculating Project Complexity For Mobile Apps

Project complexity depends on a number of factors:

  • Kind of app you aim to build (social networking, gaming, lifestyle, etc.)
  • Type of app you want to create: simple app, mid-tier or a complex app
  • Maintenance costs
  • Platforms you wish the app to run on ( iOS, Android, cross-platform, native, hybrid app)
  • App design (custom or template, user interface, and user experience)
  • Features (basic features, login, media, utility, admin, or some other development area)
  • The number of estimated users

When thinking about app complexity and systems, there’s a single figure we’re trying to determine: An estimate for the total number of hours needed to build the mobile app.

2. Calculating Average Hourly Rates For Mobile Apps

Hourly rates and the average costs for mobile apps depend on several factors, including:

  • Type of hire (in-house or external, freelance developers, or an app development agency
  • Skill level of your developer or designer
  • Front-end and back-end development
  • Hourly, part-time, or full-time work
  • Hiring platforms and freelancer websites (Different platforms and systems will charge different premiums based on the level of talent screening and customer support they offer)
  • Logistical information and location of the development team

Mobile app developers and app development companies will often make quotes on an hourly basis, although some may be able to provide an estimate for the cost of the project in its entirety.

App Development Cost Breakdown

The below section provides detail on all of the pieces of the development process that may influence the app cost, including mobile app platforms, the mobile app designs, app security, and more.

Each of these elements will affect the total cost of your app.

1. Choose Your Mobile App Platform

Mobile App Platform Development Costs
iOS
Android
Web Mobile App
Hybrid App
Hours
160 - 190
120 - 140
80 - 120
190 - 230
Cost
$10,000 - $15,000
$10,000 - $13,000
$8,000 - $14,000
$15,000 - $18,500

iOS apps

iOS apps are built for all Apple smartphones and mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. A pure iOS app is considered a "native app" as it creates the best experience for users and can use a variety of APIs, but will only be supported by the iOS platform. iOS has roughly 23% of the world's smartphone systems (compared to ~74% for Android), although you must be cognizant of how your target audience divides along platform lines (i.e. perhaps your target users skew heavily towards iOS rather than Android).

Want to appear in the app store? Expect to spend roughly 160 - 190 hours setting up the environment for an iOS app, for a cost of $10,000 - $15,000.

Android apps

Android is the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, with just more than 50 percent of the market. However, what makes Android different than iOS apps is the number of phones that use Android. Native apps for Android are built for the operating system developed by Google for smartphones and can be found in the Google Play app store. Based on the Linux kernel, these apps are primarily made for touchscreen tablets and smartphones.

Expect to spend roughly 160 - 190 hours setting up the environment for an Android app, for a cost of  $10,000 - $15,000.

Web app

Web apps are typically coded with JavaScript and HTML, and rely on the browser to render the data.

Expect to spend roughly 190 - 230 hours of development time setting up the environment for a web app, at a cost of $15,000 - $18,500.

Hybrid app (Android + iOS)

Hybrid apps (also referred to as cross-platform apps) are less optimized for specific platforms and systems; what you gain in expanded accessibility, users lose some of the more premium features that you’d get with native apps (such as the ability to access APIs). These apps are typically better for lifestyle or gaming apps.
Expect to spend roughly 190 - 230 hours of development setting up the environment for a hybrid app, for a cost of $15,000 - $18,500.

2. Choose Your Mobile App Design

Mobile App Design Costs
App Design Template
Custom App Design
Professional App Design
Hours
20 - 40
40 - 80
160+
Cost
$1,200 - $2,400
$2,400 - $4,800
$9600+
App Design Template

App Design Template

One option to start at reasonable cost is to use a template for an app. Template designs for mobile apps are cookie-cutter design frameworks that require minimal IT and development skills to implement. They usually have basic features and are advantageous in that they let you build an MVP app (minimum viable product) with minimal expense. If you don’t have an in-house design team, templates might be preferable as they can be easily updated by the client without significant technical knowledge or design skills. While template designs typically offer a small degree of customization, this is usually quite limited, and could ultimately get in the way of providing the optimal user experience.

The app development process with template designs will take between 20 - 40 hours of development time for $1,200 - $2,400.

Custom App Design

Custom App Design

If you have a longer development timeline or the app will need to support a wide variety of uses, you’ll want to hire a custom designer for your app. Unsurprisingly, apps featuring custom design will usually come off looking much more polished to the users. Outside of pure aesthetic differences, customization allows for enhanced functionality and added complexity (as you add third-party integrations and more premium features, custom design becomes more and more of a necessity). A custom design is best suited for companies with the design resources to support the app well after the initial launch.
The app development process with custom app designs will take between 40 - 80 hours of development time for $2,400 - $4,800.
Professional App Design

Professional App Design

A high-quality app development agency or top mobile app freelancer will take significantly more time (and thus cost more money) compared to the type of junior app developer you might hire for custom mobile app design. Remember, these companies are employed to build the most popular apps in the world, and their cost breakdown will be much higher than others. But they are worth every penny. The most complex projects will need experts in both UX and UI design. Professional design teams can take anywhere from 2 to 4 times longer than a custom designer.

The app development process with a professional app development company or a high-quality freelance app development team will take 160+ hours, for a total cost of more than $9,600. The app development cost could be way higher, depending on the app complexity. The extra hours are needed as the feedback process between project manager, designer, and client requires more cycles. These cycles are necessary to get the design (and seamless integration of features) perfectly right.

3. Choose The Security Level For Your Mobile App

App Security Costs
Basic Security
Data Encryption
Advanced Security
Hours
12 - 18
24 - 32
64 - 86
Cost
$720 - $1,080
$1,500 - $2500
$4,000 - $6800
Basic App Security Measures

Basic App Security Measures

At the very least you should aim to have your dev team secure the source code. To accomplish this, your dev team will repeatedly scan the source code for any vulnerabilities.
Expect basic security measures to take between 12 - 18 hours of development, for a cost of $720 - $1,400.

Data Encryption

Higher-level security involved implementing security measures to protect data and deny unauthorized access. This could involve taking a hard look at the APIs being used in order to prevent the mistaken transfer of sensitive data. The dev team may also create encrypted containers to store data safely.
Expect data encryption to take between 24 - 32 hours of development, for a cost of $1500 - $2,500.
Advanced Security Protection

Advanced Security Protection

The highest level of app security will involve more stringent identification and authentication and more thorough testing to help identify any vulnerabilities.
Expect advanced protection to take between 64 - 86 hours of development, for a cost of $4,000 - $6,800. The extra time is needed for both the integration of extra features and

4. Choose Your Mobile App Database

Type of Database
Internal Database
Cloud database
Hours
44 - 60
28 - 36
Cost
$2600 - $4800
$1,700 - $2900
Internal Database

Internal Database

Internal databases involve installing and maintaining physical infrastructure to store user data. These are typically set up through a company’s internet local area network (LAN).
Expect an internal database to take between 44 - 60 hours of development, for a cost of $2,600 - $4,800.
Cloud database

Cloud database

Cloud databases are convenient in that you eliminate physical infrastructure, which results in significant cost savings.

Expect an internal database to take between 28 - 36 hours of development, for a cost of $1,700 - $2,900.

5. Choose Your Mobile App Features

Mobile App Feature Costs
Login
Media
Utility
UX
General
Admin
Additional
Hours
16 - 24
30 - 55
44 - 68
55 - 80
25 - 50
40 - 60
20 - 40 hours per feature
Cost
$1,280 - 1,440
$1,800 - $3,000
$2,800 - $5,000
$3,800 - $5,600
$1,800 - $3,200
$2,600 - $4,400
$1,400 - $2,600 per feature
Login

Login

Use API from social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) or email applications.
Expect developers to spend between 16 - 24 hours of development, for a cost of $1,280 - $1,440 per 3rd-party login.
Media

Media

Media features including audio playback, video playback, audio recording, video recording, and live streaming will run you a bit more than login features.
Expect roughly between 30 - 55 hours per media feature, for a total of $1,800 - $3,000 per media feature.

Utility

Utility features can be the things that integrate with the hardware of your user’s mobile device–think geolocation, phone sensors usage, bluetooth, and QR code scanning.
Expect roughly between 44 - 68 hours per utility feature, for a total of $2,800 - $5,000 per media feature.
UX

UX

Unsurprisingly, UX (user experience) features on your mobile app are those things that enhance the user experience on your mobile app–think push notifications, portrait/landscape view, an activity feed, SMS messaging, the ability to sync between devices, shopping cart, rating system, and reservations/booking.
According to our app development calculator, this will take between 55 - 80 hours per media feature, for a total of $3,800 - $5,600 per media feature.
General

General

General features for your mobile app may include ads, in-app purchases, forms, and referral systems.
For these features, expect between 25 - 50 hours per media feature, for a total of $1,800 - $3,200 per media feature.
Admin

Admin

Administrative features are mostly for you, and will help your dev team manage and improve the user’s experience of your app. These features may include user administration, app analytics, CMS, and crash reporting.
According to our app development calculator, expect between 40 - 60 hours per feature, for a total of $2,600 - $4,400 per feature.
Additional

Additional

We consider “additional features” to include things like two-factor authentication, offline mode, and multi-language support.
Based on our app cost calculations, expect between 20 - 40 hours per extra feature, for a total of $1,400 - $2,600 per feature.

3 Other Contributing Factors For Mobile App Development Costs

Your app development timeline and the desired skill level of your development team will be influenced by a myriad of factors. Three of the biggest ones are the current state of your project, the desired level of user experience, fidelity , and your own experience in app development.

Current Project Status

You may have a vague idea of what you want to build, or a solid idea but you need help thinking through specific features. Perhaps you have the specification for every feature of the app ready, but are open to things changing during the development process. Or maybe you’re absolutely sure of what you want and expect nothing to change during the development process. No matter what stage of development you’re at, finding a developer or development team with strong communication skills is essential.

Level of Fidelity

Generally, an average level of testing is sufficient for the majority of mobile applications. If your application requires fidelity of life or death (e.g. health application) choose top quality. Think of these along the levels of MVP level, Medium quality, or Top quality.

Your App Development Experience

Your own experience in developing apps is particularly relevant to one key question–how are you planning to manage your project? If you have extensive experience in app development then you can serve as your own PM but, if not, having a project manager on your team is mandatory. This person could be someone in-house or someone you hire externally as you would a developer or designer, and will be the main point of contact for any questions related to strategy, the current project status, and how the project is tracking on budget.