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How Much Does It Cost To Maintain An App?

Table of Contents

  • How Much Does A Mobile App Cost in 2021?
  • Factors that Determine App Development Costs
    1. Type of App
    2. App Functionalities
    3. App Features
    4. Hiring App Developers
    5. Cost of App Development
    6. App Design Costs
  • App Startup Costs
    1. Marketing
    2. Type of Startup

Congrats! You’ve finally reached that critical point of walking the talk and implementing your genius mobile app idea. The only thing that might be holding you back is the capital. So, how much should you expect to pay your mobile app developers? And how much does it cost to maintain an app?

Ok, I know what they say. Mobile app developers don’t come cheap at all, especially when you’re building a solid piece of software. You’ve also possibly heard that the whole process might take quite some time, plus an insane amount of resources.

Now, it’s totally understandable if you’re worried about the whole mobile app building and maintenance process. It might seem like a very complicated undertaking, especially when you read about all the trouble that Silicon Valley app startups went through in their home garages.

So, does mobile app creation and mobile app maintenance always have to be that expensive? And just how much does it cost to make and maintain an app?

This article comprehensively answers all these queries by:

  • Exploring the fundamental factors that determine your expenditure- from mobile app development, to design, and app maintenance.
  • Giving you a rough idea of your possible mobile app development and app maintenance costs.
  • Breaking down the mobile app development and mobile app maintenance costs.

How Much Does A Mobile App Cost In 2021?

Here’s the thing. The cost of a mobile app depends on numerous factors relating to app development and app maintenance.

According to a report from Savvy, a good mobile app will cost you anywhere between $100,000 to $1,000,000 – with most estimating the average to fall around the $270,000 mark. Much of the app development pricing is dependent on the complexity of the app, while mobile app maintenance costs depend on how you choose to run everything.

Now, let’s be honest here. The problem with the market estimates is that they’re pretty inconclusive. The median price is barely sufficient info to go by. Besides, mobile app development is only a part of the whole process of building and maintaining an app.

To budget and manage your finances accordingly, you have to plan beyond the mobile app development stage.  Let’s start by going through all the factors that determine your final mobile app development and app maintenance costs.

Factors that Determine App Development & App Maintenance Costs

Mobile app development and mobile app maintenance costs principally depend on not just the type of app, but also its functionalities, features, developers, and OS platform.

1. Type of Mobile App

The fact is, you wouldn’t expect to see a Lamborghini rolling out of a bicycle factory. Those are two distinctly separate worlds. And that’s pretty much how the mobile app development process goes.

Basically, each app type has its own unique set of development resources and processes.

Consider Native Apps, for instance. Since they are programmed in OS-specific code, developers are forced to build a different version for each smartphone platform. And that essentially means additional app development and app maintenance costs.

Cross-Platform/Hybrid Apps, on the other hand, tend to be a lot cheaper since they run universally on multiple platforms. Yes, that’s right – they happen to be developed on common technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5.

But, here’s the kicker. Typically, hybrid apps are not as reliable as their native counterparts, which are renowned for integrating seamlessly with their respective ecosystems.

It’s worth noting, though, you could still take advantage of both worlds by going for a web app instead. It’s like a native app that happens to be based entirely on the web.

And when it comes to mobile app beta tests, you’d be much better off running them on mobile websites. Their responsive CSS structure makes the website costs conveniently cheap. Besides, website maintenance is much simpler than app maintenance.

2. App Functionalities

In addition to the type, it just so happens that your app’s functionalities will also influence its development and maintenance costs.

The reason is quite simple – the volume and complexity of the functionalities largely determine the amount of time, effort, and resources it takes to develop and support the mobile app.

I’d say the cheapest when it comes to that are Simple Apps, which cost between $20,000 and $40,000- over a 2-4 week development period.  They are normally designed to provide a single function across 3-4 screens, without necessarily storing data.

Simple Apps
Simple Apps. Source: Pixabay.com

If data storage is completely unavoidable, you’re going to have to pay your app development company about $70,000-$100,000 to perhaps come up with what we call a Database/API App. It takes 2-3 months to set up its rather complex network of servers.

But, that’s nothing compared to Multi-Featured/Enterprise Apps, which consume at least $120,000. They require extensive infrastructural development to offer multi-channel data access. And that generally keeps mobile app developers busy for 3-6 months.

Now, I know what you’re probably wondering at this point. What about the game apps?

Well, game apps cost anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 and more to build. It all depends on the corresponding functionalities.

3. App Features

To understand how the whole structure impacts the cost of app development, let’s break down the functionalities into their distinct features.

So, how much does it cost to develop the primary features?

Well, an Email Login, for starters, usually costs between $2,000 and $2,500. If you’d prefer a more streamlined option, a Social Login would be just perfect. But, it would come at an additional cost of $3,000-$4,000.

App Login
App Login. Source: Pixabay.com

Now, make no mistake about it. The Social Login doesn’t comprehensively embed your mobile app with social networks. Social Integration is, intrinsically, a separate feature that app developers charge an extra $1,000-$3,000 to create.

Moving on, a Game Center itself has a price tag of $6,000-$8,000. Supplementing that with User Profiles requires an additional $5,000-$8,000, while a solid Rating System can cost anywhere between $6,500 and $8,500. Then, if you want to generate revenue through In-App Purchases, you might be forced to cough up about $3,000-$7,000.

In case you fancy Data Syncing Across Devices, you’re going to part with $7,000-9,000. That’s quite the same price range with Geo-Location features.

And to top it off, you might want to add an attractive App Icon to enhance your App Store Optimization framework. That alone comes at a cost of $1,000-$2,000.

All things considered, however, these estimations only apply to smartphone apps. To set up Native iPad Support, the mobile app developers’ fees may end up being about 30% more.

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4. Hiring App Developers

Mobile app developers usually quote varying figures based on the type of work required and their team setup.

Based on experience, the lowest quotes generally come from Offshore Teams. The web has a wide array of platforms where you can hire skilled app developers from countries with cheaper wages.

Overall, the average hourly rate for hiring US-based app developers is $150 to $168 per hour, while mobile app developers in countries like India and Indonesia charge a significantly lower rate.

App Developers Charges
App Developers Charges. Source: CleveRoad.com

The problem with off-shore teams, however, is the lack of physical contact. As such, the risk of being ripped off tends to be substantially higher.

Come to think of it, though, you could alternatively get a Freelancer based in your country. A tech-savvy friend or maybe a student might do a decent job at a reasonable fee. But then again, since freelancers typically operate alone, this option is only ideal when you have a lot of time to spare.

If you don’t, you can speed up the app development process by strategically relying on a Technical Co-Founder. Simply approach a loyal friend who happens to be a good mobile app developer, and figure out a way of partnering with them.

In case that fails to work out, you can always fall back on the traditional Dev Shop option. By engaging a professional mobile app development company, you’ll be able to leverage a well-trained team of app developers. But, it goes without saying that this is, by far, the most expensive route.

5. Mobile App Platform

Regardless of the type of developer you choose to proceed with, it’s almost certain that the cost will be further influenced by your OS platform selection.

Well, it turns out the bulk of the mobile app coding community has specialized in two of the most dominant platforms – iOS and Android. The resultant pool of professionals, therefore, is quite extensive and reasonably priced.

Mobile App Market Share Stats
Mobile App Market Share Stats. Source: IDC.com

In the US and EU, for instance, the hourly wages for developing a typical Android app are about $50-$250. Not bad at all, especially when compared with the more expensive Windows and BlackBerry ecosystems.

Now, considering Android apps have the same price range as iOS apps, I’d prioritize the latter. The average revenue per download rate for iOS apps is nearly double what Android apps generate. As of late 2020, Apple’s iOS apps earned $19 billion while Android apps generated $10.3 billion.

However, the average app spend depends on the category. Gaming apps were relatively even between Apple and Android, whereas iOS travel apps earned far more for shopping and travel type apps.

Mobile App Average Revenue Per User Benchmarks
Mobile App Average Revenue Per User Benchmarks. Source: MarketingCharts.com

6. App Design

Your app’s underlying code primarily acts as the foundation that drives all its critical functionalities. The corresponding interface then connects it interactively with app users. Consequently, your app’s overall efficacy and user-friendliness depend on how well the whole interface is designed.

When it comes to this stage, you’ll notice that the resultant costs are largely determined by the design professionals you hire, plus the subsequent types of design you select for your app.

The UX Design, in most cases, ends up being the most expensive bit because it can be very technical. Subsequently, you might pay about $5,000-$20,000 to create an engaging experience for your app users.

App Interface Design
App Interface Design. Source: Pixabay.com

Closely related to that is Visual Design, which handles things like color selection, form design, page layout, and so forth. Expect an invoice of at least $5,000 for this alone.

Fortunately, the Icon/Logo Design process is much cheaper since it’s pretty straightforward. I bet $1,000-$2,500 should be enough, followed by Copywriting for $500-$1,500.

Mobile App Maintenance Costs

App maintenance comes when everything is ready to roll. That’s way after your development team has collaborated accordingly with the designers and managed to come up with a robust app.

All things considered, your mobile app maintenance costs are heavily influenced by your marketing strategies and the whole business management framework.

1. Marketing

Marketing your mobile app is critical to its success – and it seems like app developers are starting to see its value.Mobile app advertising spend has increased by over $15 billion every year and is expected to exceed $118 billion by 2022.

Mobile App Install Advertising Expenditure Worldwide
Mobile App Install Advertising Expenditure Worldwide. Source: Statista.com

Although the costs here ultimately depend on the types of marketing campaigns you’ll be running, you can expect market research agencies to charge up to $25,000 per app, while influencers might charge between $10,000 to $18,000 per month, and PR outreaches tend to average about $300 per hour.

Key Data Points List For App Marketing Costs
Key Data Points List For App Marketing Costs. Source: BusinessofApps.com

To generate the best possible value (ROI) from your app promotions, you might want to work with a reputable mobile app marketing agency.

PreApps, for instance, specializes in tested and proven strategies across multiple channels (social media, push notifications, blogs, email, etc). Our app marketing services, on the other hand, range from prelaunch app marketing to App Store Optimization and post-launch app marketing.

That said, mobile app marketing is a continuous process that should never stop. The longer you leverage effective tactics, the higher the number of app users you stand to gain over time. You can start off with a budget of about $250-$1,000 per month as you progressively extend to the $1,000-$10,000 range.

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2. Business Management Framework

Finally, we have the expenses you’ll incur as you run your mobile app business. All this depends on your support framework plus the type of business.

Setting up and managing Servers and Backend Support, for example, costs at least $500-$1,000 a month. Plus, the Customer Service that will subsequently ride on that requires an initial budget of more than $500.

Then, considering you’ll operate from a physical location, you can set aside about $500-$1,000 for an Office.

Even launching the mobile app itself comes at a price. While Google Play charges each Android app $25, the App Store fee for app submissions is $99.

As you work on that, you’re also going to need professional services to manage your business smoothly. Accounting and Incorporation for a startup cost about $500-$1,000, while continuous App Development services range between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

Other than that, you should have a miscellaneous budget of about $5,000-$50,000. That can come in handy for things like travel, conferences, business cards, equipment, hiring a web designer, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Developing an app costs around $270,000 – but if your app design is incredibly complex, it can easily go up to $100,000.
  • Mobile app developers can be quite expensive to hire, particularly in the US, Australia, or the UK. Developers in countries like India and Indonesia charge far less, but there are downsides to using foreign programmers.
  • Numerous factors determine mobile app development and app maintenance costs – such as the type of app, app functionality, and app features.
  • The cost of development and maintenance will also vary depending on the platform you want to launch it on. Android and iOS are the most popular and least expensive, whereas Windows and BlackBerry development is costlier.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, this is what you are looking at to develop an app:

App Development Costs Type of App Native Apps are programmed in OS-specific code. Cross-Platform/Hybrid Apps would be cheaper because they are developed on common technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5.

A Web App is like a native app that happens to be based entirely on the web.

Mobile Websites are cost-efficient for running tests.

Functionalities Simple Apps cost between $20,000 and $40,000- over a 2-4 week development period.Database/API App takes 2-3 months, and costs $70,000-$100,000. Multi-Featured/Enterprise Apps, which consume at least $120,000, keep developers busy for 3-6 months.

Games cost anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 and more.

Features Email Login usually costs between $2,000 and $2,500. Social Login would come at an additional cost of $3,000-$4,000.Social Integration costs an extra $1,000-$3,000.

Game Center itself has a price tag of $6,000-$8,000.

User Profiles require an additional $5,000-$8,000.

Rating System can cost anywhere between $6,500 and $8,500

In-App Purchases cost about $3,000-$7,000.

Data Syncing Across Devices costs 7,000-9,000.

Icon comes at a cost of $1,000-$2,000.

Native iPad Support costs may end up being about 30% more.

Hiring Developers The lowest quotes generally come from Offshore Teams. You can always get a Freelancer based in your country. You can speed up the development process by strategically relying on a Technical Co-Founder.

By engaging Dev Shop professional firms, you’ll be able to leverage a well-trained team of developers.

OS Platform Costs The hourly wages for developing a typical iOS or Android app are about $50-$250. Windows and BlackBerry ecosystems are costlier.
App Design Costs Hiring Designers and Type of Design UX Design costs about $5,000-$20,000. Expect an invoice of at least $5,000 for Visual Design. $1,000-$2,500 should be enough for Icon/Logo Design.

Copywriting is charged $500-$1,500.

App Maintenance Costs Marketing You can start off with a budget of about $250-$1,000 per month as you progressively extend to the $1,000-$10,000 range.
Business Management Servers and Backend Support costs at least $500-$1,000 a month. Customer Service requires an initial budget of more than $500.You can set aside about $500-$1,000 for an Office.

While Google Play charges $25 for App Launching, the App Store fee is $99.

Accounting and Incorporation for a startup cost about $500-$1,000.

Continuous App Development ranges between $50,000 and $100,000.

You should have a Miscellaneous budget of about $5,000-$10,000

Want to plan everything accordingly? Or perhaps experiencing trouble with your mobile app marketing?  Feel free to get in touch with us. A quick consultation would go a long way towards boosting your app’s potential.

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Sean Casto
Posted By

Sean Casto

I am the founder and CEO of PreApps.com, the leading mobile marketing and discovery platform. I have been a guest speaker at industry conventions for Microsoft and Samsung and lectured at Universities such as Northeastern and Harvard. I have acquired a deep understanding of the struggles developers face and a passion to serve the growing mobile app community.

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