How Much Should An App Cost – All You Need to Know

Congrats! You’ve finally reached that critical point. That moment when you start implementing your genius mobile app idea. But then again, the thought of the potential mobile app development cost is almost holding you back.

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

Now, it’s totally understandable if you’re worried about the whole app building 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.

The scariest bit, however, has got to be the ridiculously huge amount of money that investors reportedly injected into some of the projects.

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

Well, here’s the thing. The app development cost breakdown depends on numerous factors. When it comes to its structure, for instance, you find that cost varies based on the typical features that come with each app model.

According to a report from Savvy, app launches cost anywhere between $100,000 to $1,000,000 – with most estimating the average to fall around the $270,000 mark. Much of the pricing is dependent on the complexity of the app of course.

Now, let’s be honest here. The problem with such market figures 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.

To budget and manage your finances accordingly, you have to plan beyond the app development stage. In essence, it starts with a holistic assessment of how each component of the pipeline affects your final app cost.

So, join me as we explore the fundamental factors that determine your expenditure- from app development, to design, and eventually startup.

Factors that Determine App Development Costs

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

1. Type of 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 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 costs.

Well, you can bet Cross-Platform/Hybrid Apps would be cheaper because, contrastingly, one version is good enough to run on multiple platforms. They are 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.

Interestingly, you can 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 app reviews, you’d be much better off with Mobile Websites. Their responsive CSS structure makes them exceptionally cost-efficient for running tests.

2. App Functionalities

In addition to the type, it just so happens that your app’s functionalities will also influence the development costs. And the reason is quite straightforward – the amount of time and effort it takes to develop a standard app is substantially dependent on its operational framework.

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

Simple Apps
Simple Apps

If data storage is completely unavoidable, you’re going to have to pay about $70,000-$100,000 to develop 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 developers busy for 3-6 months.

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

Games cost anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 and more. 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’d come at an additional cost of $3,000-$4,000.

App Login
App Login

Now, make no mistake. That doesn’t comprehensively embed your app with social networks. Social Integration is, intrinsically, a separate feature that 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 throw in about $3,000-$7,000.

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

And to top it off, you might want to add an attractive 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 developers’ fees may end up being about 30% more.

4. Hiring App Developers

Instead of static averages, I’ve used ranges on the feature prices because the fees can be very diverse. App Developers usually quote varying figures based on the type of work required and their team setup.

From my 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 app developers in the US is between $150 to $168 per hour. However, developers in countries like India and Indonesia charge a significantly lower rate.

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

The problem with that, however, is the lack of physical contact. Consequently, the risk of being ripped off is substantially high.

Thankfully, you can always get a Freelancer based in your country. A tech-savvy friend or maybe a student might do a decent job at a reasonable fee. However, 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 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 professional firms, 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. Cost of App Development

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 shares the same price range with iOS, I’d prioritize the latter. The average revenue per download rate for iOS apps is nearly double of what Android apps generate. As of late 2019, Apple’s iOS apps earned $14.2 billion while Android apps generated $7.7 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 Costs

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

Closely related to that is the 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.

App Startup Costs

App startup comes when everything is ready to roll. In a nutshell, your development team has collaborated accordingly with the designers and managed to come up with a robust app. As they continue working on their final tweaks, you can proceed to the marketing and startup processes.

1. Marketing

Marketing your 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 $10 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

There are different costs associated with various marketing strategies, too. Market research agencies charge up to $25,000 per app, influencers can charge between $10,000 to $18,000 per month, and PR outreaches can exceed $300 per hour.

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

The best approach here would be seeking app marketing services from a reputable agency. PreApps, for example, is renowned for successfully promoting over 3,000 apps on the App Store. We consistently capitalize on tested and proven strategies across multiple channels – from prelaunch app marketing to App Store Optimization and post-launch app marketing.

App Marketing
App Marketing

That said, 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.

2. Type of Startup

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

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 app itself comes at a price. While Google Play charges $25, the App Store fee 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, and continuous App Development ranges between $50,000 and $100,000.

Other than that, you should have a miscellaneous budget of about $5,000-$10,000. That can come in handy for things like travel, conferences, business cards, equipment, 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.
  • 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 app development costs, such as the type of app, app functionality, and app features.
  • The cost of development 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.
  • There are other startup costs to consider, including marketing services.

Conclusion

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

App Development CostsType of AppNative 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.

FunctionalitiesSimple 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.

FeaturesEmail 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 DevelopersThe 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 CostsThe hourly wages for developing a typical iOS or Android app are about $50-$250. Windows and BlackBerry ecosystems are costlier.
App Design CostsHiring Designers and Type of DesignUX 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 Startup CostsMarketingYou can start off with a budget of about $250-$1,000 per month as you progressively extend to the $1,000-$10,000 range.
Type of StartupServers 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

The app development cost breakdown can vary quite a bit depending on numerous factors – most significantly in terms of the overall complexity of your app design. There are costs associated with hiring app developers, designing an app, app marketing – and the list goes on and on.

Want to plan everything accordingly? Feel free to get in touch with us. A quick consultation would go a long way toward 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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