The short answer is – the costs vary a lot.
But you already know that, right? That project quotes you’ve got ranged from $30,000 to $150,000 for the same set of specifications and left you completely smitten.
How to create an app when you don’t know what it may cost you?!
Alty team likes to keep things transparent and in today’s guide, we’d like to present a very detailed breakdown of how much does it cost to develop an app. But, first things first:
Why Good Apps Cost Good Money
Robleh Jama promptly compared the app development costs to car prices. However, while a top price tag for a Jaguar doesn’t seem to baffle some of us, the same figure in a custom quote for a mobile app development project may sound outraging.
“While they both transport people: airplanes and cars are not the same things. They are two different modes of transportation and have extremely different abilities and capacities. Software is the same way.”
Robleh Jama “Why apps cost the same as cars”
Software is intangible. Unless you are a developer yourself, it may be tricky to estimate the exact amount of work that goes into building something like Candy Crush. After all, it’s just a gaming app, not some rocket science – you may think.
Yet, putting all the software components together, mapping out the ultimate UX and UI design, crafting custom graphical elements e.g. animations and assembling all the pieces together in one bundle, powered and interconnected by various APIs isn’t a piece of cake either.
To understand how much does it cost to make a mobile app, you need to carefully assess all the components that the final result will contain.
Now, let’s have a detailed sneak-peak into the mobile app development cost and how it’s being formed by the company you hire:
What Kind of an App Do You Need?
Huh, a great one! The one that users adopt fast and that can boost my brand and earn me profits.
We really wish we could snap our fingers and say something like “One awesome app coming up in three months”. But sadly that’s not the case.
Our “chefs” will need a bit more instructions to cook a gourmet experience for your users.
Here are the most important questions to ask yourself before starting the development project:
- Can I list all the required app features and functions?
- Do I want an MVP (light app version) or a complete product?
- Do I want a mobile app or a website or both? (This guide will help you decide).
- Do I want to make an app for iOS or Android? Or for both platforms?
Now here’s how your replies will correlate with the costs of an app.
Simple vs. Complex Apps
So what’s a simple app? A currency converter for instance, or a gaming app like Lines. It does one function perfectly, requires no API integrations or complicated design elements (e.g. transitions or animations). Usually, it’s made just for one platform/device e.g. iPhone, iOS or Android. Most native apps also fall into this category.
- Basic UX/UI based on the standard components.
- Custom minimalistic design without complicated graphical elements.
- Simple user feed and profile registration
- Map makers
The development timeline goes under 500 hours and the final product can cost you $5,000 to $20,000 (depending on the final list of features).
Medium Complexity App
In this case, we are talking about a more complicated solution for your business e.g. an app to boost customer loyalty or spread your brand further. For instance, that could be a simple banking app, which allows users to check their balance in real time and transfer funds from one account to another in a few clicks. It’s adapted for a range of device sizes (especially in case with Android) and iPhone/iPad.
- Custom UI/UX components.
- Payment integration.
- APIs integration.
- Backend database integrations and a simple admin web panel.
- Advanced security and connection encryption.
- Custom login/register page with social media integration.
The development timeline is between 600-800 hours and the final price tag can be around $35,000 – $75,000.
These are the products that do a lot of things at once – social networking apps, dating apps like Tinder and text messaging apps all fall into this category. The product supports real-time updates, allows a large number of simultaneous user interactions, includes geo-location features and is capable of processing a lot of user requests at once. UI and UX design includes multiple screens and custom animations, along with other graphical elements, which bring those screens to life.
- Real-time data sync.
- High-load processing.
- Multiple APIs integration.
- Custom animations and transitions.
- Integrations with 3rd party services (including payment gateways)
- Live streaming
- Video/Audio/VoIP calls support.
The development timeline goes beyond 1,000 hours and the price tag can hit somewhere between $60,000 and $250,000 for a Facebook-ish social networking app, for instance.
Bottom line: the more features you wish your app to have – the more it will cost you to develop a mobile app.
A lot of mobile application developers (our agency including) base their quote on the amount of user stories, which are needed to be solved.
* User story – a one-two sentence summary of an app feature. “I want users to receive a list of suggested connections pulled from their Facebook profile”.
That’s exactly why you need that list of desired features ready in the first place.
You can break down the app types even further using the following categorization:
Table/List-based Apps: These apps store and present simple information. A user can browse and refine various options using the available selectors and dig deeper into the topic e.g. this could be an offline city guide app.
Database Apps: These apps are connected to your website/admin panel or a 3rd party web service where they take the data for display. There’s more depth and functionality variations available in such app. For instance, that could be a native mobile app for ordering sushi online.
Dynamic Apps: These apps are capable of extracting and rendering data from external sources through API integrations e.g. Twitter/Facebook API to login in using a social media profile. All the in-app information is constantly updated in real time.
Games are a separate category as they can range from the simplest offline ones like Lines to more complex, graphical and multi-user real-time games (with VR elements) if we think of something like Pokémon Go.
Each project will require the respective amount of hours from each professional on board.
Wondering what exactly goes into those timesheets? Clutch.co has made an excellent cost breakdown for mobile application development pricing:
This should shed some light on what the developers are actually doing at their desks ☺
MVP vs a Full-Feature Product
An MVP is obviously cheaper to develop. Basically, it’s a “half-cooked” version of your final product – with truncated functionality, simplistic design and without database integrations. An MVP can take numerous shapes e.g. product wireframe or mockup, product landing page/promo website, mobile/software MVP.
It’s worth opting for an MVP over the finished product when:
- You still need to validate your idea and assumptions with the target market, gather actual feedback and explore the market depth.
- You are actively seeking to close another (or the first one) investment round and need to present your concept.
In both cases, an MVP minimizes your risks of failure. More information on the matter in our previous guide: How Much Does It Cost to Build an MVP for a Startup?
Android App Development Costs vs. iOS App Development Costs
The iPhone app development cost is usually at least 10-20% lower compared to Android. The reasons are rather simple. When you make an app for iOS, you have to support a smaller range of devices and screen resolutions (as those are pretty standard). The majority of users diligently upgrade to the latest iOS version as well (again, less hassle involved with supporting older versions).
Yet, when you decide to create app for Android, you are forced to deal with a much wider variety of screen resolutions and device types (especially when it comes to tablets). Android users also don’t feel that compelled to update their devices regularly)
Android apps also require at least 30% more testing compared to iOS apps due to the open-source nature of the OS and that large device variety.
Usually, we suggest choosing the range devices you wish to support based on the following criteria:
- The size of the market share of each Android device manufacturer.
- Regional user preferences.
What Team Do I Need for an App Development Project?
The answer largely depends on the complexity of your product. Simple and medium apps usually require the next folks on board:
- 1 UX and/or UI designer
- 1 iOS or Android developer
- 1 Backend developer
- 1 QA
- Project Manager
A larger project obviously requires a larger a larger team. For instance, to build a chat app like Whatsapp, you’ll need to hire at least:
- 1 UX and UI designer
- 1 iOS developers and/or 2 Android developers
- Senior backend developer
- Senior frontend developer
- Project manager
Hiring “Big Guys” vs. “Boutique Agencies”
Apart from the technical components and manpower required, the average cost to develop an app will largely depend on the type of company you’ll choose to partner with.
This could be a so-called “enterprise-style” agency with a fancy office, large staff, corporate perks and peeps with six-figure salaries per year. They have some big brands in their portfolio (e.g. Disney or Nestle) and feel confident to command the top rates.
- The pros – your product will likely end up being awesome.
- The cons – the development timeline may be extended due to their inner bureaucracy, and you will be charged the top rates all along the way.
If you like a premium executive service – that’s your way to go.
Choosing to hire a smaller, boutique-style agency will likely cost you less. The teams are usually more nimble and can accommodate your changes. Besides, they are likely the folks, who already worked with other startups and can give actionable suggestions on your product roadmap and timeline.
In our previous guide, we’ve already outlined how to find a reliable and awesome mobile development team.
Domestic or offshore? Over 38% of decision makers chose to outsource their development last year due to the fact that outside partnerships guaranteed access to the desired skillset and innovations. For a startup – hiring an in-house development team may be out of the budget question.
Do you feel perplexed with the regions available? Here’s a closer look at how far your dollar can go in different regions:
Feeling reluctant about outsourcing app development? We’ve got a detailed guide on how to do it right without screwing up on a single stage.
So, you’ve talked so much about all the considerations and aspects of app development price formation, but I still want those numbers on how much does it cost to build an app!
I know you do, that’s why we’ve saved the best for desert. Here are the average app development costs for different types of solutions:
- A taxi booking app like Uber: $100,000 to $150,000 and a simpler version for $25,000 to $40,000.
- Mobile game development: $5,000 – $15,000 for a simple game with some lovely custom animations; $50,000-$70,000 for poker/casino styled games with animations and multiplayer support; $100,000 and beyond for 3D, multi-player, online games with VR elements.
- A text messenger the size of Whatsapp can cost you between $150,000 to $200,000, while a simpler clone supporting just texting and nothing else can be priced at $30,000 – $40,000.
- A cool mobile version of an online marketplace like Etsy will set you back for $35,000 to $150,000 depending on the end functionality and outsourcing region.
- An interactive city guide app with GPS integration, offline and online mode costs around $25,000 to $40,000.
- Social networking apps are the hardest to price as the final tag heavily depends on a number of features, expected user load and technology stack used. In general, something close to Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest in terms of size and functionality will cost you roughly $100,000 – $250,000 to build (and that would be an MVP, rather than a full-feature product as social networks are usually developed continuously).
- A Tinder clone will cost you somewhere around $150,000-$200,000, while a less sophisticated, yet attractive dating app will set you back for $60,000 – $90,000.
- Banking apps and custom fintech solutions vary in price due to security integration considerations. A simple app that allows users to check balance/transfer funds will cost under $60,000. While a more complex solution that allows to apply for loans or request a credit score review can go up to $120,000 and more.
And if you need something beyond that or want to talk real action, get in touch with us! Alty team is happy to walk you through the exact project timeline, budgets, and development roadmap before signing the deal!