People have the misconception that apps, or any software for that matter, can be made cheaply. Well, they can, but don’t expect a quality result!
Much like any product, apps take time, effort, and money to create successfully. The problem is that apps, being intangible, are trickier to price compared to a physical product like, say, an iPhone.
So, how much does an app cost exactly? And how do you know if a developer is pricing it right or ripping you off? In today’s post, we’ll discuss mobile app development services, solutions, and more.
In a nutshell, how much an app costs will largely depend on how long it takes to develop. The longer the development time, the more you need to pay for the app as the hourly rates of your developers will add up. It’s that simple.
Except, it’s not really that simple. Pricing an app exactly is challenging, especially at the beginning of a project. Development time and cost depends on many factors, from app complexity to the platforms that you want to publish on. We’ll break down some of these individual factors that influence cost in a later section.
However, to give you a rough idea, we’ve classified pricing and development time according to the app’s complexity.
These apps have only simple features like log in or social sharing with no back-end integration or support. It uses standard UI elements from the platform to make app design easier. Often only built for one platform.
Average development time: 500 - 1000 hours
Average cost: $80,000 - $150,000.
Most mainstream apps fall into the intermediate category. It might feature a custom-designed UI, more complex features like payment gateways, or a back-end server integration. It’s also often cross-platform.
Average development time: 1000 – 2000 hours
Average cost: $150,000 - $300,000
Complex apps feature rich functionality, sophisticated animations, and UI elements, and real-time app performance. It’s also often not only cross-platform but multi-language as well. Examples include 3D and AR games, e-commerce, and ride-hailing apps.
Average development time: 2000 - 10000 hours or more
Average cost: $300,000 - $2,000,000+
Once you’re ready to turn your app into a reality, you need to think about who will actually write the code for it. Unless you’re a developer yourself and your app idea is simple enough, you’ll most likely need to hire a development team.
And when hiring one, you have two choices: you can either hire local or outsource the work to a remote team. But how do you know which one to pick?
As always, let’s start with the pros and cons. The best reason to hire locally is that you can work much more closely with the dev team. Communication is straightforward – after all, you’re doing it face-to-face. You can also supervise the team’s progress much more quickly if you’re the type who needs constant feedback.
Depending on where you’re located, however, a local team will most likely be more expensive. Your choices will also be more limited; you might not even find the right talent required for the job.
In contrast, an outsourced team will give you a much bigger talent pool. In theory, you can hire at whatever skill level and price range you require. And contrary to what most people think, communication with a remote team isn’t that hard or challenging, thanks to today’s video and voice communication tools.
The problem with an outsourced team is lack of control and accountability, especially if you’re working with foreign developers. In addition, there are time zone differences that can make coordination incredibly tricky.
Nevertheless, making an outsourcing arrangement work is possible. The key is to find the right team and set the right expectations. The higher quality output and lower cost to develop an app can make the added effort worth it.
Even if you know the logic behind the cost to build an app, it doesn’t make the process any easier. Many factors influence pricing, and some are challenging to estimate at the beginning of a project. To give you an idea, here are some of these factors:
• Features and Functions
One of the most significant factors that influence the cost of making an app is how simple or elaborate you want it to be. Every additional feature and screen will take both time and money to create. These will cause your costs to skyrocket.
Even something as simple as a login page (which is basic functionality for most mobile apps) takes more than a day to code and has an average price tag of around $1,400. Seemingly basic features like messaging cost the most to develop, taking over 160 hours and $8,000 to realize.
The good news with features is that you can make a rough price estimate at the start of the project. Despite this, sudden changes or unexpected problems can make that app cost fluctuate wildly throughout development.
• Look and Feel of the UI
The user interface is another area of app development that has a significant impact on costs. Fortunately, OS developers like Apple and Google provide default widgets and UI elements that make creating simple interfaces pretty straightforward and inexpensive.
However, if your app requires complex UI elements or customized animation and graphics, then it will increase your costs dramatically. Not only would you need more time from your programmers, but you’ll most likely need additional experts to join your team. Graphic artists, animators, and UX designers don’t come cheap, after all.
• Cross-Platform Development
Want to develop for both iOS and Android? That’s going to cost you more, depending on whether you’re doing a native or hybrid app.
Deciding to launch a native app on different platforms is going to add a pretty hefty chunk to your development bill. Every mobile OS has its own development tools, libraries, and SDKs that will require you to hire separate teams for each of them. This effectively doubles or even triples the cost to create an app.
You can cut your costs down significantly if you use a cross-platform development tool like React Native or Flutter. These allow you to write code once, then publish on each respective platform. Since you’re only working on one code base, you don’t need to hire multiple teams and can, therefore, halve your development costs.
In the end, it’s cost-efficient to deploy your apps only on platforms that will have the most impact on your bottom line. If you want to prioritize a broader reach on developing countries in Africa or Asia, Android is a good pick. If user engagement is your top priority, iOS is the better platform.
• Size and Location of the Development Team
Because it’s a digital product, nearly all of the cost to build an app goes toward the dev team’s salary. Your payroll cost is determined mainly by two factors – the size and location of your team members.
The location will dictate the average pay because, let’s face it, we don’t live in an ideal, equal world. Talent from North America, Europe, and Australia will command higher prices on average (around $80-$150 per hour), while those from developing countries like India and Indonesia will cost much less (typically less than $25 per hour). Quality will vary greatly as well. An Indian developer isn’t necessarily inferior, in the same way that a US programmer won’t always guarantee stellar work.
The size of your team can also balloon your payroll, and the size is closely linked to your app’s complexity. The more features and capabilities it must have, the more talent you need. On top of developers, these can include software architects, UX designers, QA professionals, and business analysts.
Lastly, the experience and tools used by the development team matter, as well. Developers with a good track record will often have ready-made modules for common functionalities like a login page or subscription. This can cut development time significantly. In addition, if the team prefers to use proprietary tools or open-source components, that can lower costs as well.
Making your apps up-to-date and stable is a crucial part of the development process and one that, unfortunately, not many developers allocate a budget for. Today’s apps are always a work in progress, and developers often add new features to adapt to user’s needs continually.
Even the simplest app will require maintenance tasks like fixing bugs or optimizing the code to comply with new OS updates as they come out.
A rule of thumb is to allocate around 50% of the total development costs toward maintenance for the first year, then lowering it to 15% - 25% for subsequent years. That means the more complex your app is, the more expensive it is to maintain.
As you’ve seen, the best way to save on app development costs is to find the right developer to partner with. As Los Angeles’s premier digital product studio, Expedition Co. is a web development services company with a track record of creating app experiences that deliver fantastic ROI. Contact us today, and let’s have a conversation.