How Much Does It Cost To Make An App?

The idea of creating the next ground-breaking app is the dream of many, from small business owners to large, enterprise companies. Creating a good mobile app is a great idea, but what about execution? After the initial ideation and creative process comes the big question: how much does it cost to build an app?

    In the past decade, mobile technologies and apps have flooded the markets in almost all industries. We’re living in an age where we can get a workout, buy groceries, or change the TV with our smartphones or tablets. Depending on how we choose to use them, they’re giving us more free time and at the same time vying for more of our attention.

    With more than 3 billion smartphone users across the globe, approximately $92.1 billion was spent on apps in 2018. $69.9 billion (76% of the $92.1 billion) were spent on mobile games alone.

    What kind of financial resources will you have to deploy and will it be justifiable to your business objectives?

    Below are a few real-life examples to give you an idea of the budget it takes to build fantastic apps:

    • Uber received $200K in seed funding to execute their ideas.

    • Instagram received $500K in seed funding to implement their elaborate updates.

    • Tinder, the famous dating app, raised $485K to achieve its goals.

    • Snapchat initially received $485K in 2012 which was later raised to over $3B.

    Factors That Affect App Development Cost

    The overall cost of app development depends on a variety of factors. Some of them are:
    • The design of your app

    • The number of features and the complexity of each feature

    • The various platforms you choose to host the app

    • The kind of vendors who will work on it

    • The geographic location of those vendors

    Before zeroing in on the total cost of development, it is important to pin down how the app is intended to be developed.

    Will you have complex account features such as with Instagram or Spotify? Or do you want a simple reminder app?

    Complexity, features, platform, and human resource requirements dictate the cost of app development.

    Research from App Development Cost shows that a simple app could take between 400 - 800 hours while more complex projects could be 1800 hours or more. And how much will that cost?

    If the app is complex, you will need senior and skilled talent to pull it off. Which means more money. Allocate at least $108 per hour on big projects and half that for simpler projects.

    Your overall cost will depend on whether you want this app to be developed by a well-established agency or development shop or can this be put together by a freelance developer you hire from a freelance tech website?

    Freelancers or Development Agencies: Who Is Best For Your App?

    To build a great app, you can either choose to work with freelancers or a development agency.

    An agency can provide better all-round support, better quality, more options, and added value.

    On the other hand, a freelancer from the right platform can do all that and not put a hole in your pocket.

    Both options can deliver results; your choice, however, will depend on your overall expectations and the length and breadth of your project.

    Mentioned below are some pros and cons of working with an agency or a freelancer that you should take cognizance of before making a choice.

    • Better cost
    • Great expertise in one area
    • Flexibility
    • Easy to find
    • Quality of service
    • Poor management
    • Lack of confidentiality
    • Lack of transparency

    Even with lower development costs, working with a freelancer means that you will have to hire different freelancers for different services such as UI/UX design, backend development, app development, and more.

    Each will come at its own cost, experience, schedule, time, and communication skills. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the work you receive will be of top-quality.

    Working with freelancers reduces the additional work of signing contracts, maintaining invoices, agreements, receipts, and all that paperwork. However, this also raises concerns about accountability and issues with quality.

    • Improved skills and technology
    • All services under one roof
    • Transparency and legality
    • Credibility
    • Higher cost
    • Risk of bureaucracy
    • Time-consuming

    Working with an agency comes with many helpful services. They have a team that helps you with useful advice and tips throughout your app development process. These people have worked on full-fledged projects and know the nitty-gritty to better advise you on what technologies and solutions would be best for your idea.

    They can also help you with the monetization strategy of your app, how to target the right audience, and how to modify the features to its full potential. Working with an agency is like working with a prestigious think tank to best assist you.

    How Features Impact App Development Cost

    App development is a delicate process, one that is majorly dictated by its set of features. According to the Kinvey survey, the median cost of app development is around $270,000.

    However, the cost here depends on the complexity of the features in tandem with the overall app design along with its functionality. The features themselves do not come with a fixed price tag. They are different for every project and follow their own logic.

    1. The platform for the app

    For your mobile app, you can either go with Android or iOS. While the user base of Apple is slightly more dedicated, Android exposes you to a wider set of audience.

    The cost of developing an app for iOS is greater than Android because the level of expertise required by iOS is more. Unlike the Google Play Store, the Apple app store has a stringent set of rules that must be followed for your app to go through.

    Android offers the availability of a greater number of devices. This means your app needs to go through a rigorous set of testing to ensure that it works seamlessly on devices of different sizes.

    Before beginning the app development process, you need to know whether this app will be platform-specific or will it be cross-platform. Native apps are usually built for either Android or iOS to provide a great user experience. Apps for each platform needs to be built from scratch, doubling the cost of development.

    2. The technical complexity of the app

    The more complex the app, the higher the cost of development. A basic functionality app such as a notes app or a basic calendar is a lot easier to make than an eCommerce app or a full-fledged workout app. The increase in technicalities and design directly impacts the complexity of features and the time needed to develop them, in turn, increasing the overall cost to build the app.

    Third-party and API integrations, backend support, and custom animations, all add to the costs of development. Moreover, complex apps require a greater amount of data transfer, increasing the server requirements and subsequently the costs.

    3. The choice between freelancers or an agency

    Working with a freelancer for your app development is a far cheaper option compared to hiring a full-time agency. However, the risks associated with a freelancer are equally higher. Your freelancer could be based in a different location which can make smooth communication difficult. They have low accountability and the risk of developing a technically complex app may end up affecting your final cost.

    Hiring an agency is a costlier option but it adds a layer of assurance and safeguards you from any financial or creative damage that you may incur working with a freelancer.

    4. The time required for the development

    • Requirement analysis

    • Wireframing and prototyping

    • UI and UX design

    • Development

    • Testing

    • Final launch

    The longer this process, the higher your cost of development.

    5. The maintenance of the app

    The cost of app development extends to its maintenance after to ensure it’s running smoothly. This primarily comprises of the cost of hosting and the labor to keep it up-to-date. The more popular your app becomes, the more bugs and errors you’ll need to fix on a timely basis. Your code too may ask for an update to stay aligned with the platform’s security measures.

    App maintenance is an important factor to consider when working on your app development budget. A general rule of thumb is to factor in 20 percent annually based on the overall development cost to keep your app operational. For example, if you spent $100,000 to develop your app, you can expect an approximate expense of $20,000 yearly for its maintenance.

    Conclusion: How Much Does It Cost To Build An App?

    Understanding the various factors that impact the cost of app development helps you move away from the guessing space to a clearer, more practical space. The bottom line that will truly define the cost of your app development is your vision of the final product. Ask yourself these questions to better frame the budget for your app development:

    • What platform will host the app?

    • Will you need to hire an agency or will a freelancer suffice?

    • How complex do you want the app to be?

    • How many features will the app have?

    • What kind of devices (phone, tablet, desktop) do you want your app to be functional on?

    • How long will it take to develop?