In our world, 48.33% of the whole population owns a smartphone. This device is already not just an accessory, but an essential and inseparable part of our lives in some areas. We communicate with each other, order food and taxis, shop, learn, receive healthcare services, and often do our jobs through mobile apps. Modern businesses, regardless of their size, already use—or seek to use—mobile solutions as part of corporate systems. In the current environment, it’s a must-have rather than an additional capability to stay competitive in a given market. Moreover, many companies build their business solely around mobile applications.
How much does it cost to make an app? This question comes to top management among the first when it comes to developing and using mobile applications in a company’s processes.
This article is a compressed guide made by certified and experienced software engineers for business people, and full of links to useful content. After reading this, you will understand the principles of mobile development price formation and know why one app may cost $50,000 and another $150,000. There are also transparent and straightforward recommendations that help you plan how much the app will cost that can address your business needs.
A mobile application is a complex product, consisting of many components. There are numerous factors and variables that impact the final price of app development. For clarity, we divide them into two large groups and analyze them. The first group contains tech factors directly related to what’s under the hood. There are features, tools, and technologies used in the development or by app features platform. The second group contains factors related to the service provider: their qualification, company size, location, etc. Let’s review each of them in detail and determine their degree of influence on the final cost.
Building mobile apps is easy compared to building toys. The more elements in the box and the more variability to play, the higher price you have to pay. The cost to make an app increases with the same principle.
Even the development of simple mobile apps is an already multilevel process. It typically includes the following stages: business analysis, UI and UX design, code programming, quality assurance, and project management. Some applications can also require the implementation of additional security measures, back-end and API development to integrate with external systems. The presence and work scope of these stages directly impact the final cost of the project.
Word of advice:
You of course can decrease the development cost by bypassing business analyses, testing, project management, or other services that seem supplementary and unnecessary at first sight. However, we don’t recommend doing this. Remember: a miser always pays twice.
When answering the question, “How much does it cost to make an app for my business?” it is essential to have strict functional requirements to understand what features should be staffed in the app. Deployment of each function requires expert hands, i.e., additional expenditure. The solution is cost-effective when each button and function addresses a particular business task. If you wanted to sketch something in black and white, you wouldn’t buy a box of colored pencils, because all but one of them would be useless.
Let’s take a few food delivery apps and approximate how much each app will cost to make depending on different feature sets.
More helpful insights in our articles How to Develop a Modern Food Delivery App and The Hidden Cost of Food Delivery Services – Why You Need Your Own App.
The second aspect is the fact that different features require different efforts to deliver. Applications based on only native components and typical solutions need less time to code than software using custom API and features written from scratch. For example, the implementation cost of push notifications and video calls is considerably distinguished from complex, real-time data analytic abilities with multiple permission levels.
To determine exactly what functions the application needs to cover all your business tasks effectively, we recommend consulting with a qualified business analyst. At first glance, it may seem that there is nothing complicated to determine the list of key features on your own. Still, professionals see the picture from a different angle and notice vital subtleties and nuances that you may miss. Their experience and skills will help you include all the necessary features and not forget anything or add unnecessary things, for which you would have to pay.
Although native mobile apps for iOS and Android are built using completely different tools, technologies, and SDKs, there is no considerable difference between the effort required to make a mobile app for each. However, suppose you plan to use the app on both mobile platforms. In this case, you will pay to develop two separate applications which double the price of the entire product. An alternative way is to use cross-platform technologies such as ReactNative or Flutter. In this case, developers create a single codebase that runs on iOS and Android, thus cutting the cost dramatically.
Despite cross-platform solutions providing a significant reduction in the cost to make an app, this is not the solution to all problems and has disadvantages compared to native development. Far from all mobile apps, it is recommended and possible to build based on Flutter, React Native, or other cross-platform technologies.
To learn more about the most popular cross-platform frameworks and their use cases, read our articles Why Use React Native for Mobile App Development and What is Flutter and Why Use Flutter for App Development.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the answer to the question “how much does it cost to make an app?” rests on two pillars: the app’s complexity, its implemented functionality, and who builds the app.
If you don’t have mobile developers in-house, you need to find experts who develop the app for you. There are several options to choose from in terms of local software development companies, outsourcing software engineering powerhouses, and freelancers. Each variant has advantages and disadvantages accordingly.
In comparison to middle- and large-sized offshore and local companies, hiring freelancers is the cheapest way to create an app. However, this is a suitable variant only if it’s about a small or simple app with basic functionality.
You already know that large and complex applications require the involvement of different specialists to cover all development aspects such as design, backend, testing, and others. A freelancer can be a Jack of all trades, but more likely, you have to hire a few specialists; thus, more management burden will be put on your shoulders.
Suppose you create a mobile app to boost business performance and harness new capabilities. In that case, basic features are unlikely to cover your business needs and achieve desirable results. You probably need a custom, feature-reach mobile app which development by one expert may take a long time. In such cases, it’s recommended to go to a proven software development company specializing in creating one-stop solutions and cover all aspects of the development process. The core question is then between local contracts or outsourcing companies.
Our experts wrote a detailed guide on How to Outsource App Development and Succeed. The summary inside answers all the most frequently asked questions related to software development outsourcing.
A mobile developers’ salary directly impacts the app development cost. Let’s see how much iOS developers earn in different countries:
Based on Glassdoor and Payscale data
Given different stages of economic development around the world, developers’ annual income can vary up to ten times, depending on the country. The price of mobile app development grows proportionally to salaries.
To view the research in detail, see our article Average iOS Developer Salary in the US and Worldwide, 2020
In addition to the main factors that impact the cost to make an app, there are a few aspects that can be not obvious for ordinary people. They are not mandatory, and you may not face them during your app development; however, we can’t ignore them. All of them can be divided into four groups: functional services (SMS, push notifications, chatbots), app infrastructure (servers, CDNs), and IT support services (app updates, bug fixes, new feature implementation).
Suppose you want your app to send SMS messages to your users, notify via push notifications or email, and communicate with them using a chatbot. In that case, you need to buy a subscription to special services that provide this functionality. Many communication platforms deliver these services and provide special APIs that are integrated into the app. Twilio, MessageBird, Plivo, Infobit, and many others, offer different pricing plans depending on the required features and quantity of messages per month.
This is about servers where the app is hosted, data storage, and other external services that the app can leverage. The best example is Amazon AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platforms. These cloud computing platforms provide various tools and services to equip the app with advanced features and capabilities. Some of them are relatively expensive. You should consider their integration and regular payment for their use, in addition to planning the app development budget.
Mobile applications are not static objects. They require constant updates and new feature implementation. The market changes every day, and it’s crucial to keep pace and implement innovative solutions to be competitive. Another case is when you are limited in budget, and the first version of the app is the MVP and has only the main features necessary to work, but you plan to develop other functionality further. Also, mobile platforms, third-party tools, and technologies continuously develop. After some period, the app may become obsolete and unusable without major updates.
We hope this article sheds light on the situation a bit clearer for all people looking to answer the question “How much does an app cost to make?” Now, you know about the main factors that impact app development cost and a rough estimation to develop analogs of popular mobile apps.
Our last word of advice: every mobile app is always a unique product. Only qualified experts can precisely estimate their development cost. NIX is a software development powerhouse with 50+ mobile development engineers on board who are ready to help you create mobile applications for any business domain. Contact us to receive highly qualified support and services regarding the building of efficient mobile solutions.
With a vast background in business analysis, Roman is keen on identifying actual business challenges, defining tailored software requirements, and navigating IT projects to market success.
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