The Ultimate Guide: How Much Does It Cost To Develop A Mobile App In 2018

If you are planning to have a mobile app designed for your business, this article is for you!

Quite naturally, one of the initial and most important questions you would ask is- how much does it cost to develop an app? This article will put forward real and practical figures prevailing in the current market.

You are already ahead of a lot of businesses in the game if you have thought of translating your business into a mobile application. The mobile app industry is exploding with opportunities for you to grab. The amount of revenue generated by this industry is surely surprising. In 2015, global mobile app revenue amounted to 69.7 billion USD. Looking at the way this industry is booming, it is expected that by 2020 revenue will amount to 188.9 billion USD!

Source: Statista.com

Having a mobile app for your business is a golden opportunity to let the money flow in. Chances are that, all the money and time you invest into creation of the mobile app; they will all pay off.

As the wind of technology has swooped across the entire planet, millenials are more than willing to try out new things (thanks to FOMO). In 2017 alone, there have been 197 billion app downloads!

With these kind of figures, anyone who is not even thinking of getting an app for their biz might end up changing their minds!

In 2018, it is not at all tough to get a customised app built for your business. You can easily catch up with the market trends in no time. The critical question: “how much will it cost me to get a mobile app” has no definite answer. However, the range is: $0 to millions!

It really depends on how much you are willing to spend, what kind of an application do you expect, how stellar do you want your app to perform, what kind of talent you acquire, from where does the talent come from, what features do you wish to add, how quickly do you wish to launch the app, ….

First things first: How to get an app for $0

A lot of you might be surprised to see that you can actually get it for negligible price. If you wish to go forward with app development this way, you would have to do everything yourself. It may sound like a challenge to some, it may be a piece of cake for someone else.

Here are different ways to develop a mobile app at “almost-zero” cost:

  • Code it out yourself! :

Word of caution! Only if you have a knack for technology, go for it. Otherwise it might lead to serious never-ending frustration.

There are plenty of good resources available over the internet to teach you how to get started with mobile app development. Multiple educational websites guarantee you make you a hero from zero! If you have time, energy, passion; this is most likely the best way to proceed with it. It will be fun, you will learn a lot. You can even some earn money by making apps for others!

  • Use custom app builders:

There is absolutely no upfront cost and none of the above mentioned technical expertise is a requirement. With an “almost-zero” or zero monthly fee, you can build up your own app from scratch. Some famous app builders are Appy Pie, Shoutem, Swiftic.

If you have the budget and require great expertise put into action, then the best option for you would be to outsource the work: get the experts! The aim is to assemble a team of experts. A typical mobile development team would have the following roles:

  • Enterprise architect: Connects dots between business capabilities and technological functionalities of the mobile app.
  • Project manager: Supervises the entire development of the mobile app
  • UI/UX designer: Have the responsibility to add aesthetics and smooth user experience to the mobile app.
  • Software Developer Engineer: Codes the application.
  • QA Engineer: Tests the quality of the code generated by the engineers.

In a team, a single person can have multiple roles, or multiple people have responsibility of a single role. This depends upon the complexity of the application to be built. Some simple applications may take only 100 hours to build and some applications may even take 1000+ hours to build.

To decide the complexity and cost of the mobile app, multiple parameters have to be taken into consideration. (This is not an exhaustive list. There can be more hidden costs depending from one business to another.) For example:

  1. Type of application to be built
  2. Platform to be used
  3. Genre of the application
  4. Features in the application
  5. Talent acquired
  6. Analysis of miscellaneous costs

Let us go through each parameter individually to get a profound idea about the costs associated with mobile app development.

Complexity depending upon type of application to be built

An application can be of 3 types, each depicting a different level of complexity:

  1. Web app: It is simply a mobile version of a website. The core feature which encompasses all other features in a web app is “mobile-friendliness”. Most users expect more than a web app because of limited features and lower performance as compared to native apps. These are least complex of all.
  2. Native app: Large applications which aim for utmost perfection when it comes to user experience and performance make use of native apps. These are built for specific operating system like iOS, Android, Windows. These apps have ability to directly communicate with the smartphone’s hardware like camera, GPS etc. These can be downloaded from app stores. These are most complex of all and hence the most expensive ones. (This article will cover how the costs to build a native app.)
  3. Hybrid/cross-platform app: These are best suited to approach large audience from the beginning. These are built using a combination of web and native technologies. In this case, the development and maintenance cost is low. But they are not as good in terms of capabilities as native apps because they have limited access to smartphone’s hardware. Despite of that, they can smoothly run on all OS like iOS, Android, Windows.

Cost depending upon platform to be used

The most prominent platforms of today are: Android and iOS. Android is fairly more popular in South America/Africa/Asia. iOS is more popular in the USA/Europe.

iOS apps can be built faster than Android apps. As compared to iOS, Android apps take 2x to 3x more time. Therefore cost to build iOS app is less than Android. This is also the reason why most businesses launch iOS app first to check the response of the users. If it is positive, only then the businesses invest in creating Android application of the same.

For Android apps, cost ranges as follows:

  • Elementary apps: $25,000 to $35,000
  • Standard apps: $45,000 to $55,000
  • Complex apps: $55,000 to $100,000
  • High-tech apps: $75,000 to $150,000

Estimated costs for iOS apps (for Apple devices) are as follows:

  • Simple, table-based apps: $1,000 to $4,000
  • Database apps: $8,000 to $50,000
  • Games: $10,000 to $250,000

Cost based on genre of the application

Applications can be categorised into following categories depending upon the dynamic nature of the application:

  • Table based: These are simple apps where the core function is to display a collection of data. The user can browse through the collection and the app may give new information to the user based on their choice. Such apps practically have no features and the time taken to develop such apps is very little. Typically, such an app can be expected within $1000 or even $4000.
  • Database based: These apps go one step ahead of the table based apps. Such apps are expected to manipulate data by pulling it out of large data sets. These databases have to be connected with apps/websites to maintain the consistency of data. Retrieving information, updating information, manipulating information is complex which is why more time goes into development of database based apps. Examples of such apps can be dictionaries, encyclopedias. These can be built anywhere between $8,000 to $50,000.
  • Dynamic: These apps take database based apps to next level. Not only these apps require database connectivity but also integration of 3rd party APIs to fetch or post information. For example, use of Instagram API to fetch images or Messenger API to create a Facebook chatbot. These are expensive apps which may start from about $10,000 and go up to $50,000 or more.
  • Apps that rely on firmware/hardware: Such apps aim to make use of smartphone’s hardware to the fullest. Examples of hardware features can be: GPS, Camera, Clock, Flashlight. These apps are not very tough to make. A basic app that relies on firmware/hardware can be built within $10,000.
  • Game: These are the toughest apps to make. They may use functionalities from all of the above mentioned apps and additional features like augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D graphics. A basic racing game may take about $125,000 to be built.

Cost depending upon features in the application

There can be a plethora of features that can be added to a mobile app. Let us take base hour price as $25 and maximum hour price as $50. Some of the features can be:

Cost of talent

This makes up the most crucial bit of app development. People from all over the world charge varying amount of money to develop applications. The following graph summarises annual salaries of app developers in different countries.

Source: indeed.com

It can be seen that talent is most expensive in the USA and the cheapest in India. In general, hourly rate in North America is around $150 and $11 in India. A simple formula to calculate the overall cost of a mobile app can be:

Cost = Features x Time x Hourly rate

To clone an app like WhatsApp, it may take about 1500 hours. In India, it may take about $16,500. The same app would take about $2,25,000 in North America. The difference can indeed be shocking.

You may approach large and small app agencies to outsource your app or you may contact in-house or remote freelancers to get the work done. The options are plenty.

Analysis of miscellaneous costs

The costs incurred after the development of application can be termed as miscellaneous costs. For example: cost to maintain the application. The average cost of maintaining an app is about 20% of the development cost per year. For example, if your app development costs $100,000, you can estimate that app maintenance will cost you around $20,000 per year. Additional features may drive up the cost of app maintenance. Other costs associated with maintenance are:

  1. Hosting
  2. Monitoring
  3. Engagement and marketing
  4. App update
  5. Licenses

There could be other hidden costs associated with an app like copyrighting, patenting etc. These actually depend upon the novelty of your app idea.

All these costs have to be taken into account before proceeding further with development. For convenience, there are various app development cost calculators in the market. A simple form has to be filled which solicits basic information about app like complexity, features, platform. Depending upon the fields, a rough estimate it chalked up by the algorithm. The popular ones are:

  1. Estimate My App
  2. Build Fire
  3. How much to make an App
  4. Otreva calculator
  5. Imason calculator
  6. Kinvey calculator

Final Thought

According to the report by Kinvey, businesses may spend about $270k to develop an app.

In terms of time, the whole process typically takes about a year for most businesses.

With this, we wind up our guide. We hope it helped you realise the costs of your business app idea.

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