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 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 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 development costs to make an app. . We’ll start high-level with the basics–what are the key variables that go into developing an app and what do your users need–before diving into the specifics of the data.
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)
- The number of estimated users that need your app
an estimate for the total number of hours needed to build the app.
Hourly rates will likewise depend on several data points, 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 and systems 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 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).
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.
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.
TemplateTemplate designs are cookie-cutter design frameworks that require minimal IT and development skills to implement. Template designs are advantageous in that they let you get the app off the ground 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.
Expect template designs to take between 20 - 40 hours, for $1,200 - $2,400.
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.
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 4 times longer than a custom designer.
Expect professional designs to take 160+ hours, for a total cost of over $9,600. 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.
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.
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 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.
According to our app development calculator, 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.
Based on our app cost calculations, expect between 20 - 40 hours per media feature, for a total of $1,400 - $2,600 per media feature.