The Definitive Guide to Understanding App Development Cost
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 to the palm of your customers’ hands. A mobile app reaches across all parts of your business, forming a key piece of your marketing and brand strategy, offering superior engagement than other digital products, and providing an automatic customer loyalty program (after all, every time the customer opens their phone, there you are).
The benefits of building an 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 app development cost. We’ll start high-level with the basics–what are the key variables that go into developing an app?–before diving into the specifics of these variables.
The key inputs to estimate the cost of your app
The cost of making an app relies on a wide variety of inputs but, at its simplest, app price can be understood as the product of two key variables: project complexity and developer rates.
Project complexity depends on a variety of factors:
- Type of app you aim to build (social networking, gaming, lifestyle, etc.)
- Platforms you wish the app to run on (iOS, Android, etc.)
- Design (custom or template, number of pages)
- Features (related to login, media, utility, admin, or some other development area)
an estimate for the total number of hours needed to build the app.
Hourly rates will likewise depend on several variables, including:
- Type of hire (in-house or external, freelance developers or app development agency)
- Skill level of your developer or designer
- Hourly, part-time, or full-time work
- Hiring platform (different platforms will charge different premiums based on the level of talent screening and customer support they offer)
- Logistical information (particularly geographic location of your developers or development team)
App Development Cost Breakdown
iOS apps are built for all Apple Inc. mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. A purely iOS app is considered “native” as it creates the best user experience 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 market share (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).
Expect to spend roughly 160 - 190 hours setting up the environment for an iOS app, for a cost of $10,000 - $15,000.
Also native, Android apps are built for the operating system developed by Google for mobile systems. 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.
Hybrid app (Android + iOS)
A professional design team will take significantly more time (and thus cost more money) compared to the type of junior developer you might hire for a custom design, but 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 4x the time of custom designers.
Level of security
Basic Security Measures
Type of database
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 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 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.
Unsurprisingly, UX features 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.
These features will take between 55 - 80 hours per media feature, for a total of $3,800 - $5,600 per media feature.
General features 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.
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.
Expect between 40 - 60 hours per media feature, for a total of $2,600 - $4,400 per media feature.
We consider “additional features” to include things like two-factor authentication, offline mode, and multi-language support.
Expect between 20 - 40 hours per media feature, for a total of $1,400 - $2,600 per media feature.