Image source: Adobe Blog

App Development Cost: Uncover the Truth Rarely Told

Have you ever wondered how much it would cost to develop a mobile app for iOS or Android? Everything has its price tag and the app is not an exception. Let's read on to figure out your own answer!
By Kaley Nguyen | 10 min read
on November 26, 2019
Image source: Adobe Blog

Undoubtedly, mobile apps have become a “need of the hour” to capture the huge market that is rapidly going mobile. Whether it is about booking a flight, reserving a cab, ordering food or simply chatting with your friends, the one thing that probably comes to the mind is your smartphone. It is the same for the rest of the world, too! So, if you've ever thought about making your own app to reach out to your customers, that completely makes sense.

“How much does it cost to develop an app?” This question is among the initial ones that are being asked when any app development project begins. Obviously, you must not prefer a cost-to-cost price list that is grosslyexorbitant. So, let’s go through our article to figure out exactly which major factors shape an app development cost and decide on the smartest budget for your own business app.

Before diving into the key app development cost breakdown, it’s essential to first take a look at the fundamentals of app development.

App Development Cost: Outsourcing or Local Development?

When you are planning on building a mobile application, not only the average cost of developing an app matters. Should you not have a team to make it happen, you are probably thinking to hire someone to make an app. So, the question comes up around what to choose: outsourcing or local development.

Rather than hastily making up your mind, you’re better off making an informed decision after carefully weighing out the pros and cons of both two options.

App Development Cost The Must-Follow Guide In Digital Era - Fig 1
Image source: Cleveroad

To be more specific, one significant argument in favor of local development is physical proximity to the development team, which presumably simplifies communication. It goes without saying that it is much easier to explain your requirements face to face and “feel” the product before paying for it.

Outsourcing your app development is, on the other hand, not as troublesome as it may appear. Detailed conversations with your team overseas seem to be hard - but not impossible. In fact, several remote teams eagerly make advances and spare no efforts to meet any organizational requirements, especially with the aid of Internet-based business communication tools.

App Development Cost: Time & Money Concerns

To answer our initial question "how much does an app cost to create", let's always bear in mind that not all mobile apps are the same or equal to the others. Such inequality is not only on the platform that it is developed for. The lowdown of iOS application development, as well as an Android one, is counted with the time needed to perform certain app features.

Now, let's create a classification based on the moderate time needs to clarify this concern:

  • A basic application with simple functionalities will require approximately 500-700 hours on development.
  • A moderate or medium-complexity app takes from around 700 to 1000 hours. 
  • A complex time-consuming app, in most cases, exceeds 1200 hours on development.  

App Development Cost: Main Cost Drivers

So, what does affect mobile application costs?

The moment you set out to develop an app, you cannot expect your in-house team or any software development company to inform you about the app development cost estimate right off the bat. Actually, there is no fixed rate list for the applications' development - and everything does depend on various factors. For most of the cases, before sending you a bill, the team of developers will estimate how many hours would be required to implement your specifications.

App Development Cost The Must-Follow Guide In Digital Era - Fig 2
Image source: eGrove Systems

Still, the most notable factors influencing the average app development cost are:

  • Features and functionality
  • Customization of visual design
  • Platforms
  • Backend infrastructure and app administration
  • Location and structure of a development team
  • App maintenance costs

Once you've grasped the key components of app development costs, it's high time that you went into great detail and tried to yield further insights for a smart budgeting decision.

#1. Features & Functionality

In fact, functionalities, as well as the number and the complexity of implemented features, are the biggest cost drivers in app development.

App Development Cost The Must-Follow Guide In Digital Era - Fig 3
Image source: SoftwareSuggest

No matter how “basic” they seem to be, screens, buttons, fields involved, coupled with the amount of logic required, do matter a lot. Well then, it's time to discover which specific features influence the complexity of the whole app. In practice, the implementation of some features can be significantly lengthy, whereas others are relatively short and simple. Depending on the complexity of solutions, developers will decide whether to use a third-party API (Application Program Interface) or code from scratch. Simpler solutions, in turn, require standard instruments and engage native features.

To be more specific, let's cast a glimpse over the Cleveroad’s approximate development time and cost required for basic features and then move forward to more complex ones.

Cost Breakdown by Basic Features

Feature Description Approximate time Approximate cost with back-end (based on $50/h)
Login - Login with email
- Login with social media
- Forgot password option
- Log out
28 - 42 hours $1,400 - $2,100
File uploading - Upload photo
- Upload video
- Video playback
- Photo view
20 - 30 hours $1,000 - $1,500
Profile completion - Set region
- Add info
- Add photo
23 - 29 hours $1,150 - $1,450
Profile editings - Edit profile
- Change password
- Change email
- Add/remove credit card
47 - 62 hours $2,350 - $3,100
Search - Basic search with suggestions 13 - 18 hours $650 - $900
Basic messaging - Conversation details
- Online/offline status
- Typing status
- Read/sent status
- Send media files and documents
160 - 170 hours $8,000 - $8,500
Push notifications - Users can receive push notifications 25 - 32 hours $1,250 - $1,600
Basic admin panel: User management - See the list of users
- Edit user
- Delete/block user  
- Create user
66 - 90 hours $3,300 - $4,500
Basic admin panel: Payment management - See payments
- Refund payments
23 - 44 hours $1,150 - $2,200
Basic admin panel: Push notifications - Send custom push notifications 8 - 14 hours $400 - $800

Cost Breakdown by Complex Features

Feature Description Approx time Approx cost with back-end (based on $50/h)
Map - Detect user's location
- Search on the map
- Set pickup point on the map
75 - 111 hours $3,750 - $5,550
Payments - See balance
- List of transactions
- Add card Add PayPal
60 - 78 hours $3,000 - $3,900
Streaming - Start/stop broadcast
- View broadcast
- Switch between broadcasts
90 - 140 hours $4,500 - $7,000
Calls - Audio calls
- Video calls
- List of contacts
257 - 365 hours $12,850 - $18,250

Besides those above-mentioned features, quite often you may require other company-specific functionalities or bring about some unexpected changes during the development process. As a result, you need to take such costs into account and plan the budget with an added expense line. Let’s estimate how much is it to create an app with these features!

#2. Customization of Visual Design

Within such a competitive business world, every single business would like to leave a strong and distinctive impression in their customers' minds by establishing a solid yet unique online presence, in which a website plays a vital role. But as a rule, everything comes at an expense!

Creating a unique user website interface design is a complicated deed that does entail extra costs to your project. The cheaper variant suggests using OS-supplied items and building screens of standard elements. In addition to UI-UX practices, the quantity of screens is a determining cost factor that’s worth your attention.

App Development Cost The Must-Follow Guide In Digital Era - Fig 4
Image source: TechPrevue

#3. Platforms

Let's start with one of the most controversial questions: iOS or Android – which are you going to start from? Are you thinking of creating an iOS app? Or, maybe your app is meant to work on Android OS as well?

So, you should know the cost to create Android and iPhone apps. Making a decision on which particular platform to start from, app owners try to take into consideration several factors such as iOS and Android market share, device fragmentation and prevalence. The most meaningful is, nevertheless, that developing mobile applications for these platforms differs greatly: iOS and Android do take over different programming languages, have different SDKs and utilize different development tools.

Then, another question comes up: is there any price difference in developing apps for iOS or Android?

Actually, the answer is “no”. Should you be creating an app for a single platform, there is no significant price discrepancy in the costs of creating Android compared to those of creating iOS apps. But, if you expect your application to support both two or even more platforms, get ready to pay more money for development!

Another noteworthy point is that if you're already planning on having both iOS and Android apps, cross-platform or hybrid app development is going to be a good choice. The problem is that usually, you need to have a separate team for any particular platform and of course, the app creation cost is doubled. In case an app is hybrid (and simple enough), you may have only one team working on it.

#4. Backend Infrastructure & App Administration

If you’ve been in the world of information technology for a while, you must have been heard the term “backend”.

In mobile application development, the backend is normally an OS (Operating System) that offers developers with APIs to provide data exchange between an app and a database. So as to keep close track of user activity as well as accurately assess the performance of your consumer app, it will be well-equipped with analytics. Depending on the number of parameters you are going to track and how detailed and specific the tracking will be, costs vary.

App Development Cost The Must-Follow Guide In Digital Era - Fig 5
Image source: Zoomodsplus

What’s more, the administration panel is surely an exceptionally helpful tool for managing app content, users and statistics. There remain several options to adopt existing admin panel templates for your needs, but finding a good one is a problem. Hence, it makes sense to create an adequate panel to meet your exact business requirements.

#5. Location & Structure of a Development Team

As mentioned earlier, the location of your app development team is an essential factor influencing the product’s final price. There is a large difference in app development cost when you cooperate with an offshore team compared to when you partner with a domestic app developer.

Below are the hourly rates of specialists (based on Accelerance’s research) for your further references:

Title of Employee United States Latin America Eastern Europe Asia
Business Analyst $110 - $205 $45 - $55 $40 - $63 $30 - $42
Architect $198 - $292 $60 - $72 $50 - $77 $35 - $48
Project Manager $133 - $233 $55 - $66 $45 - $70 $35 - $48
Jr. Developer $105 - $111 $35 - $44 $25 - $42 $18 - $24
Mid-Level Developer $132 - $140 $30 - $52 $35 - $56 $24 - $35
Sr. Developer $154 - $163 $45 - $55 $45 - $70 $30 - $42
Lead Developer $176 - $187 $50 - $61 $45 - $70 $30 - $42
Junior QA (Quality Assurance) $77 - $81 $30 - $39 $25 - $42 $15 - $24
Mid-Level QA $99 - $105 $35 - $44 $30 - $49 $20 - $30
Senior QA $143 - $169 $40 - $50 $40 - $63 $25 - $36
Graphic Designer $79 - $163 $40 - $50 $35 - $56 $25 - $36

#6. App Maintenance Costs

Last but not least, one of the major factors of app development cost is app maintenance.

Undoubtedly, app maintenance is a must-have service even if you have no plans scaling up and adding new features into the application. In many cases, the app maintenance cost may account for 15% to 20% of the original price of development.

Here are some maintenance tasks that you may possibly need one day:

  • Continuous bug fixing
  • Improving stability and performance
  • Code optimization
  • Adding support for latest OS versions
  • Developing new features
  • Supporting the latest versions of third-party services

These things are actually the reason why cooperation with your tech partner or development team doesn't stop right after the product readiness. It's a continuous process, and every software development company has its terms of post-release support.

In case you're looking for a specific figure when calculating your desired app's development cost, you can try some online tools such as Advanced App Development Cost Calculator.

The Bottom Lines

No matter how costly it may seem to be, a properly created app will definitely produce a great return on your investment. If you have an idea for your future app and can't wait to bring it to life, let’s hit the ground running and don’t forget to go through our article once again for crystal-clear insights in app development cost breakdowns.

Should you need a dedicated team to ignite your business or a helping hand to address your technical concerns, don’t hesitate to get an an outsourcing advisor.

This article is also credited to Nataliya Kh. and Evgeniy A.

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