Mobile App Development: How Much Does It Cost?
If you want to make an app for your business or make the app your business, you’re probably wondering how much it is going to cost to build it. The short answer is: anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. The figure depends greatly on the app’s features, chosen technologies, location of the development team and other factors. In the article, you’ll find app development cost breakdown and an approximation of how long it takes to make a mobile app.
What goes into the price?
The average cost to develop an app includes expenses during the first development phase, from the initial planning to the app’s public release, which can be divided into four main categories. They are listed below along with their approximate costs.
Business Analytics. $1,000 to $12,000. Business analysis is the initial stage of building any mobile app. It defines: the app’s target audience; functional and non-functional requirements; screen flow and design specifications; business goals. When done properly, the analysis provides an in-depth roadmap, which will help to budget other expenses and plan the development process.
UI/UX design. $2,500 to $15,000. Beautiful design and a smooth user experience is paramount for any modern app. Designing a user interface and creating a clickable prototype before app coding usually takes about 15% of the budget.
Code and app architecture. $3,000 to $70,000. Salaries of developers, QA engineers and testers amount to about half of the initial expenses. Their work includes: writing app’s features, testing how it works and bug fixing.
Project management. $1,500 to $15,000. A project manager controls the whole app development process and oversees that every stage is completed in time and delivers expected results. That’s why it is important to invest into a competent specialist, although at first glance it may seem they don’t bring any actual value to the app itself.
What affects the cost?
To understand more clearly what goes into the average cost of building a mobile app, and why one app costs only $10,000 and the other $200,000, let’s talk about factors affecting the price of the final product.
App’s functionality is the crucial factor defining mobile app development cost. Implementation of authorization, messaging, maps and integration with device’s microphone, camera, or a smartwatch — every feature adds to the development cost. Here are approximate prices (based on $40/hr) rate of developing the most popular features and how many hours it takes for developers to program them.
Login. $1,000 – 2,000. 25–40 hours. This feature allows users to login into their account with email, social media profiles, or phone numbers.
Profile completion and editing. $1,000–3,000. 25–50 hours. Allows to fill in profile details: add a birth date, choose region, set name and profile picture.
Push notifications. $1,000–1,500. 25–30 hours. With this feature users can receive push notifications from the app and, by tapping on them, open specific app’s screens (deep linking support).
File uploading. $1,000–1,500. 20–30 hours. Such a feature allows users to upload various media files and view them within the app.
Messaging. $6,500–7,000. 160–170 hours.This is a functionality to send text messages and media files and see offline/online status for profiles and sent/read status for messages.
Local cache architecture. $3,200–4,800. 80–120 hours. This allows the app to store data locally and work without a stable network connection.
Payment integration. $1,000–3,200. 25–80 hours. With this feature users can pay in the app by credit cards or Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Video player. $3,000–4,000. 70–100 hours. A built-in video player with controls and preview functionality.
Support for tablets. 50–100% app’s budget increase. Because tablets have completely different screen dimensions and resolutions, UI redesign will make an app much more convenient and useful for people with this type of device.
Landscape mode. 20–50% budget increase. While some applications require landscape mode for better user experience (reading apps, maps & navigation), others will do just as well without this functionality (for example, social media and food delivery apps). Therefore, a complete study of user flows is required before adding this feature.
Support for older OS versions. 50-100% budget increase. If you want to broaden your user base, it is wise to include support of older iOS and Android options, but be aware that this may come at a substantial cost.
The location of your company or development team plays a significant role. For example, hourly rates of software developers in the US are over $100, while developers in Ukraine or Russia write code for $35–45 per hour without any decrease in the code’s quality. For a US-based startup or company, it is a wise move to hire developers abroad, as this will save a remarkable part of the budget. Read more about the best places to hire developers in our dedicated article.
If your app stores any user data (and today even the most simple apps store some user information in the cloud) you’ll have to rent a secure server. Depending on the server’s size, the annual fees start at around $1500.
To publish an app on Google Play you’ll have to pay $25 once, while Apple Store has an annual fee of $99.
The expenses don’t end completely after release: every app requires updates and bug fixes to maintain full compatibility with the newest devices and keep users satisfied. Maintenance can roughly be estimated at an annual 15-20% of the app’s initial development cost.
Below we provide average costs and timeframes to develop mobile apps of various types.
Ways to drive down the costs
Today, rates for writing code in Dart language are slightly higher compared to native development, but if you plan to have apps for both Android and iOS, it becomes cheaper with Flutter — the code is written only once. For example, when Surf developed 6 apps for “Rigla” pharmaceutical chain (Android and iOS app for each of 3 brands), we reused a single code base, which saved 40% of the project’s initial budget.
Start with MVP
Starting with a Minimal Valuable Product allows you to test the app’s concept with real users on a small scale and a small budget. Build the prototype around the most distinguishing features of your app. The feedback will help you to optimize the budget of the app’s full version.
Limit support of old devices and OSes
While the support of old models extends the app’s user base, it is recommended to find a balance, because supporting an extensive number of legacy operating systems comes at a cost, often not justifiable by the potential increase in users.
Hire developers offshore
Since code can be written from anywhere, when hiring programmers you have the whole world in the palm of your hand. Searching for talents in other regions may prove beneficial in terms of quality-value ratio, although time zone and cultural differences may require some time to streamline the working process.
To sum things up
When estimating costs and time to build a mobile app many factors come into play: app’s features, UX and UI design, post-release support. A super-simple app can be built for $15,000-20,000, but as the required functionality grows, so does the final price. The good news is there are always some ways to cut down the costs. If you plan to release app for both iOS and Android, consider building it on Flutter cross-platform framework, which can potentially save a big part of the budget by using one code base for both apps. And hiring an offshore development company with lower rates might be a good alternative to your local developers.
At Surf we’ve been developing apps for 10 years for various businesses and would be happy to assist with your app estimation. Kindly fill in the form and we will return to you shortly.