“How much does it cost to build a custom app” is the number one question we receive from business owners and wannabe app entrepreneurs. Our response to this epic question is pretty simple – “It depends.”
You see everything has a price tag, but it’s not always the case with mobile app development. There’s no fixed price when it comes to developing a fully functional mobile app.
Just think of any product or service that you’ve recently purchased. Whether it’s a smart TV, a cell phone, or a car, there are several elements that decide its final price. The same goes for mobile apps.
The answer to “how much does it cost to build an app” depends on a great number of factors. But, in general, the rule of thumb is – you get what you pay for.
You can’t expect to have a fantastic app in just a few dollars (even a few hundred dollars). At the same time, spending thousands of dollars on app development doesn’t mean the ultimate success.
So, how do you estimate the cost of developing a mobile app, especially when you’re doing it for the first time? In this article, we will be discussing the different factors you need to consider while estimating the mobile app development cost.
Before starting, let’s check out some key statistics that estimate the average mobile app development cost in the US.
How Much Does it Cost to Build an App: The Estimations
According to a number of surveys, the average cost of building a mobile app often ranges from $100,000 to $500,000, sometimes more. A fully custom, feature-rich mobile app can cost more than half a million dollars.
- A survey of app development agencies done by Clutch estimated $171,450 as a median price for app development.
- A VDC survey of enterprise app developers estimated an average cost of mobile app development to be $140,000
- A survey of CIOs done by Kinvey estimated the average cost to be $270,000
Let’s see the factors that affect the actual mobile app development cost.
Factors that Determine the Mobile App Development Cost
Some of the major factors that determine the cost of a custom mobile app:
1. Application development partner (freelancer or development company)
2. Location of the development partner
3. Features and complexity
4. Platform (Android or iOS)
5. Design complexity
Let’s discuss each of these factors in detail.
1. Development Partner: Freelancer vs. App Development Company
Choosing the right type of development partner is very important. You can hire freelance app developers or an app development company to build your app.
To be honest, neither of the above is a bad option. But, there are certain advantages of hiring a professional app development agency over freelancers.
The main benefit of hiring freelance developers is affordability. Yes, you can find freelancers who can develop your app at a rate of as low as $20 per hour. There are some online platforms like Freelancer.com or Upwork.com, where you can find freelance app developers.
But, there are some serious disadvantages to hiring freelancers.
Why? Because building an app isn’t just limited to writing a few hundred lines of code. There are a lot of things that need to be looked into, such as design, UI, and UX.
If you decide to hire freelancers, then you’ll need to find freelancers for all the different aspects of your project. You might also need to manage the team all by yourself. With freelancers, you can save some bucks for sure, but you won’t receive high-quality work and on-time delivery.
On the other hand, a local app development partner can provide you with a slew of benefits. The main advantages of working with a mobile app development agency include:
- Quality assurance
- Efficient project management
- All-inclusive services
- Schedule and discipline
- Deep involvement
- Ease of communication
As for the cost, freelancers generally cost less but take longer, while the local development firm may cost more, but produce higher quality and faster results.
If we categorize mobile apps based on their complexity – simple, moderate, mid-level, and full custom, then the cost of app development is approximate:
|Complexity||What You’ll Get||Estimated Time||Freelance Cost||Local US company Cost|
(Basic MVP, 1 Platform)
|Standard UI elements, and simple backend||3 to 4 Months||$15,000 – 25,000||$40,000 – 60,000|
(Medium Size, 1-2 Platforms)
|API integration, custom UI features, simple design||4 to 5 Months||$30,000 – 40,000||$70,000 – 100,000|
(Large size, 2 Platforms)
|Professional design, pro features, high-quality animation||6 to 7 Months||$50,000 – $70,000||$110,000 – $200,000|
(Enterprise, Very Large, 2 Platforms, Fully Custom Native)
|Custom and professional front-end design, robust back-end features, and integrations||8+ Months||$80,000+||$200,000+|
*Note: The number of hours and time frame may vary from company to company.
2. Location of the App Development Partner
The location of an app development agency plays a vital role in deciding the final cost of development. Some popular mobile app development destinations include North America, Australia, UK, South America, India, Ukraine, and Indonesia.
The charges of mobile app development greatly vary at these locations. How much does it cost to build an app in these regions? Here are the average rates:
|Region||iOS ($/hour)||Android ($/hour)|
App development rate in Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Indonesia ranges between $25 to $35 per hour. Whereas, you might be charged anywhere between $40 to $110 in countries like Australia, UK or South America.
Being the most popular development destination, agencies in North America tend to charge between $130 to $160 per hour to develop a mobile app.
3. The Size of Your Development Team to Build an App
The size of your development team depends on the scope of your project. While complex applications MUST be handled by a dedicated team of developers, simple apps should also be done by the team.
A standard development team includes:
- Project Manager
- QA Engineer
- UI/UX Designer
While an extended team consists of:
- Project Manager
- Two to four App Developers
- One Back-end Developer
- One to Two UI/UX Designers
- A QA Engineer
- A System Administrator
So how many resources does it take to build a high-quality app with a full-scale development team? Here’s the breakdown:
|Person||Roles & Responsibilities|
|UX/UI Designer||Design the app layout, look and feel of different screens, perform optimization tasks|
|Developer||Write the code to create app functionalities, perform data integration, fix bugs|
|Back-end Developer||Ensure smooth communication between the application, the server, and the database|
|QA Engineer or Tester||Check every functionality of the app, check the quality of code, design quality, and ensure the app fulfills the main purpose|
|Project Manager||Efficiently handle the project, ensure deadlines are followed by everyone, ensure there is discipline and proper communication within the team|
4. Cost to Build an App Based on the Key Features & Complexities
On average, it takes over 3 to 6 months to develop a mobile application.
More complex applications may even take up to 8-12 months to hit the market. So why does the app development take up so much time?
It’s solely based on the features that you want in your mobile app.
(Basic MVP, 1 Platform)
(Medium Size, 1-2 Platforms)
(Large size, 2 Platforms)
(Enterprise, 2 Platforms, Fully Custom Native)
|Time||~2-3 months||~4-5 months||~6-7 months||~8+ months|
Some typical features like user sign-in, push notifications, primary navigation, etc. won’t take much time. However, features like credit card payment, online streaming, offline mode, etc. may take more time.
Let’s see the cost of developing each feature in detail:
- Registration and Login
Do you want users to register and login to use your app? If yes, then you’ll need this feature in your app. Some of the popular options include sign-up via social profiles such as Facebook account, or via email.
Signing up via social login is a user-friendly option where users just have to grant access to your app to access the necessary information from your social account.
App navigation is all about developing the flow of users throughout your app. It defines how users switch through different screens, access various features, how they go back and close the app.
The complete user flow has to be thoughtful and should be laid out before the development begins. UI architecture is the foundation of mobile apps.
- Push Notifications
Push notifications are a standard feature found in today’s mobile applications. It helps businesses to share real-time updates with their customers. There are multiple options you can try – simple text notifications or the ones with images and action buttons.
If you are developing a chat application like Whatsapp, then the implementation of push notifications needs to be done carefully. The notifications should be delivered to the appropriate person.
Media content is an essential asset for any mobile application. Your app should have attractive images, videos, and audio to optimize the overall user experience. Depending on the scope of your app, you might also need to integrate certain filters, effects, smileys, and so on.
Geolocation is one of the crucial features for apps like Uber, Airbnb, or restaurant apps. Even business apps can use the maps feature to help their customers easily find the shop.
Developers may need to integrate services like Google Maps into the app to enable this feature.
- In-app Purchases
Do you want to sell your products or services right from your app? Whether you wish to sell a product, a course, premium features or subscriptions, you need to integrate payment gateways to accept the payments.
The feature is pretty common, and it won’t take a lot of time to integrate payment gateways within your app.
The media streaming feature is suitable for apps like Netflix, Hulu or HBO GO, Twitch, etc. The time and cost of development depend on the scope of this feature.
Do you want users to access the content in real-time or you want the “record-and-send” option where users need to download a local file? You will need to consider the video or audio file format too.
- Security and Data Encryption
Today, hackers and cybercriminals are using advanced techniques to steal user data and crucial business information. With growing popularity, mobile apps are becoming more prone to security attacks.
According to the report, more than 80% of the mobile app vulnerabilities can be exploited using malware.
Providing necessary data encryption can prevent unauthorized access to the app data.
App Development Cost for Each Phase
An efficient app development process spans six key phases. Regardless of the size and scope of the mobile app project, the stages remain the same:
- Business Analysis
- UI/UX design
- App development
- Project management
- App testing and deployment
- Ongoing support and maintenance
As an appreneur, it will help to know the costs at each phase, as it helps plan your budget.
1. Business Analysis
You may have a champion mobile app idea. But the idea needs to run through market analysis (competitor analysis), the app needs verification, and requirements (functional and non-functional) documentation.
A mature app development team will plot down various facets at this stage before deep diving into development. The team will rely on asking innumerable questions to get a precise app development quote.
Costs at Business Analysis Phase
- Typically, the business analysis phase could cost anything from $1,200 to $11,000 with a timeline of 2-4 weeks.
- Experienced appreneurs allocate around 10% of the whole app development budget to the business analysis phase.
2. Prototyping and UI/UX Design
First impressions are essential! When it comes to your app, you will want a flawless UI/UX design to create that exceptional first impression.
The design should be an experience that appeals to users, getting them hooked. It’s also a great idea to get a clickable prototype once your app requirements specifications are in place.
You can get your click-through prototype with tools, such as:
- Adobe XD
The prototyping tools are based on a subscription model. And they can seamlessly fit in your team’s workflow.
Costs at Design and Prototyping Phase
- Typically, the design costs in mobile app development range from $2,500 to $10,000.
3. App Coding
The costs associated with programming and coding are more than all other mobile app development phases. You will find that there are usually two or three members of the coding team.
Yes, you’re right! The stage needs a lot of collaboration.
Costs at Coding Phase
- The app architecture and functionality development costs range from $2,000 to $60,000.
4. Project Management
Another critical phase in the app development process is project management.
If you look at it, a project manager controls the development process from start to finish. The manager’s efforts take up to 10-15% of the total app budget.
Costs at Project Management Phase
- The project management stage in app development costs ranges from $1,200 to $12,000.
5. App Testing and Deployment
Testing is a crucial facet of your app development, as it upholds the quality of your product. You will need to incorporate precise testing protocols throughout your app development process.
After building your app, needless to say, you will need to test it again to determine if it’s ready to be launched. An in-depth testing stage ensures that your users face minimal issues in terms of lags or glitches.
Costs at App Testing and Deployment Phase
- Usually, the app testing and deployment phase costs less than $5,000.
6. App Maintenance
Developing and releasing your app on Google Play Store and App Store doesn’t mean your expenses are over.
It’s essential to consider the cost of maintaining your mobile application in the overall development cost. Your app should be available for users to download and use as many times as they want.
Even though you don’t have any plans for adding new features anytime soon, you should have a maintenance plan and budget to keep your app up to date.
Mobile app maintenance usually includes:
- Fixing bugs
- Updating your app to the latest OS versions
- Upgrading app to make it compatible with new technologies
- Code optimization
- Improving app stability
- Scale up the server infrastructure as the number of users grows
- Mobile app development is an ongoing process, and you should keep upgrading your app to reap the benefits of advanced technologies.
Costs at App Maintenance Phase
- Based on our experience of developing and maintaining mobile apps for several businesses, the app maintenance cost is typically 10-20% of the development cost.
You can find out more details about app maintenance costs in this blog.
Turn Your Amazing App Ideas into a Reality with Imaginovation
Developing a mobile app is an exorbitant process. And you must know that it takes specialized skills and experience to build a successful mobile application.
If you seriously want to boost your business through a mobile app, you need an experienced technology partner to bring your ideas into digital reality.
We, at Imaginovation, are an award-winning team of web and mobile app developers. We have helped a lot of businesses, from startups to Fortune 500, grow their business with our innovative mobile app solutions.
If you have an awesome app idea, get in touch with us.