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What's included in my 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 covering how the time and cost estimations for each featured were calculated.
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

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
Hourly rates
App development cost

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)
When thinking about app complexity, there’s a single figure we’re trying to arrive at:
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)
Developers will most often provide 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 final cost of your app.

Platform

iOS apps

iOS apps

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.

Android apps

Android apps

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.

Web app

Web app

Web apps are typically coded with JavaScript and HTML, and rely on the browser to render the program executable.
Expect to spend roughly 190 - 230 hours of development time setting up the environment for a web app, for a cost of $15,000 - $18,500
Hybrid app (Android + iOS)

Hybrid app (Android + iOS)

Hybrid apps (also referred to as cross-platform apps) are less optimized for specific platforms; what you gain in an expanded accessibility you lose in the some 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.

Design

Template

Template

Template 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.
Custom

Custom

If you have a longer development timeline or the app will need to support a wide variety of features, you’ll want to hire a custom designer for your app. Unsurprisingly, apps featuring custom design will usually come off looking much more polished and differentiated from the competition. 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 initial launch.
Expect custom designs to take between 40 - 80 hours, for $2,400 - $4,800.
Professional

Professional

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.

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 PM, 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

Basic 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

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.
Advance Protection

Advance 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 additional testing.

Type of database

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.

Features

Login Features

Login Features

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

Media Features

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

Utility Features

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 Features

UX Features

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

General Features

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.

Admin Features

Admin Features

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.

Additional Features

Additional Features

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.

Additional Factors in Time and Cost Estimation

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 fidelity, and your own experience in app development.
Current Project Status

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 to making sure you
Level of Fidelity

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 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.
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