Being a digital transformation service provider, we often get hit up with questions about the total cost of mobile app development, for both iOS and Android. Companies as well entrepreneurs ask for a ballpark cost for app development so that they can work on their budget accordingly because having a mobile app for a business/brand is no more an option but a necessity.
This article covers everything that you need to know about the cost of getting a mobile app developed, serving as a complete guide to help you set a budget!
App Development Costs:
As you have now realized how important an app is for you in the world today, the next step is to gather everything that you need to know about how much does it cost to make an app to work out a realistic plan, before you proceed.
Before jumping right into getting an app developed for your business, it is best to first analyze how much does it cost to make an app and then decide on a budget. This is the wisest approach, as you might end up investing way more than you can afford in the whole app building process, and your failure becomes inevitable.
Therefore, to know exactly how much does it cost to build an app, you need to understand certain aspects including the process, steps and the talent required.
The process of building an app usually comprises of several steps the number of which may vary with the type of app being developed. Each of these steps requires different conditions and specialized personnel.
Step 1: App Visualisation
The first and the foremost step in the app development process is wireframing, and to save the costs, this phase has to be completed before the development starts. It all begins with a thorough brainstorming process and discussion among the app developer, UX specialist and the project owner over how the app is going function and design. The time required for the completion of this phase depends upon the scale of complexity and the number of screens the project requires.
The estimated cost of this phase for a small size cross-platform app may fall between $2,000-$4,000. However, it can also vary from $5,000 to $12,000 depending upon the size of the enterprise.
Step 2: UX Design
The second phase after the wireframing is the screen design, which requires the expertise of a creative designer who has experience with all operating systems including Android and iOS. For a native as well as a mobile app, the cost for this step may range from $5,000 to $10,000 for a small to medium-size app, while for large workflows it can go as high as $30,000.
Step 3: Programming
The programming phase a crucial step and the front-end programmer for the screens must have experience with Java, Swift, Xcode or Objective-C.
Application Framework, Server-Side Application programming
The next step in the development process is the setting up of the server-side framework of the application along with the structuring of the database and coding for the functionality of back-end. The programmer responsible for this stage must be proficient in maintainable code.
Development of APIs
This stage involves the writing of APIs to connect the server-side application and database to the app screens and this stage requires the expertise of a programmer that knows how to write code for best performance and security.
The usual costs of development for a small-to-medium sized app ranges from $20,000 to $60,000 whereas a complex enterprise-class app can be estimated around $75,000 to $90,000.
Step 4: Testing and QA
The testing and quality assurance of the apps is carried out on different platforms and is done under the supervision of QA specialist and a tester, the cost of this stage may vary between $7,000 to $42,000.
Step 7: Cloud Setup
This stage includes the deployment of the developed server-side application to the cloud and the cost for this stage ranges from $350 to $1,400.
These are the steps involved in the process of app development and the type of specialization each of these require, along with the cost required for the completion of each of these steps which differ with the operating system for which the app is being developed, whether it is android or iOS, native or hybrid app.
Mobile App Development Cost Factors:
App building is not a simple process, rather it consists of several steps and technicalities as discussed, making this process a complicated one. That is an important reason as to why various aspects have to be considered and some factors have to be understood before the total app design cost can be calculated.
The development cost of apps depends upon a number of factors, each of these has a major impact on the value. So, if you are thinking as to how much does it cost to design an app, you will have to go through all the factors that affect it.
(i) Type of App and the Environment:
There are different types of apps being developed all around the globe, including native iOS, Android and hybrid apps that work on both these operating systems. The cost of app development significantly depends upon the type, this is because each of these types requires coding in different languages such as for iOS, Xcode, Swift or Objective-C are preferred while for Android Java programming language is required.
(ii) Choice App Widgets:
When building a mobile app, an important question arises whether the app needs to be fully customized or it can be developed by incorporating the standard widgets and conventions. This decision is entirely up to you based on your requirements, if the services you provide need a fully customized app or not. This is an important factor because a fully customized app may cost more while an app that has been using the standard widgets will prove to be way more cost-effective, but then again, this is entirely based on the type of your business and the services you provide.
(iii) App Screens:
Another factor that has an impact on the overall mobile app development cost is the number of screens you require in your app. The more screens added into an app, the more work, time and effort are required, hence adding to the total amount of the app development. The more screens being added, the higher will be the cost.
The best approach while building in-app is to go for simple and cleaner apps, fewer screens and easy navigation. Not only will it enhance the user experience but it will lower the total cost of the development process. And more complexity in the apps, with busy screens and complex navigation, the cost will be higher.
Talking about e-commerce, the apps developed for retail stores are costly to build. This is because, these apps require the option of in-app purchases and safe handling of monetary transactions and in such a case, a developer needs to be precise and an expert in this field. These apps require more time to build and require a higher level of expertise which in results increases the cost of the app development. Even after such apps have been created, extra effort is required for proper testing because a slight glitch may lead to a great loss.
Things get even tougher and complicated when third-party APIs have to be integrated into the apps. In order to do so, a developer has to spend time learning these third-party APIs, this requires time and a lot more effort, resulting in higher mobile app development cost.
Even the complex animations such as games require top-class expertise, effort and time, therefore, to save the development costs of mobile apps, therefore, you must avoid any unnecessary animations, that practically serves no definite purpose, as it not only raises the cost but hinders the user experience.
(v) Responsive App Design:
There are different types of mobile devices through which apps can be used, smartphones, phablets, and tablets. Each of these features a different resolution of the screen. To make the app compatible with each of these devices, either custom interfaces can be built which can be super expensive for any company. There is a newer way through which the design can be adjusted with the screen type and this is a cost-effective approach.
(vi) Application Add-ons:
The more features added in an app, the higher will be the cost. One such example of an add-on feature is offline support and another one is the handoff feature, through which data can be transferred between two devices. Adding these features into an app requires more effort and time, adding to the overall app design cost.
iOS Vs Android: Which is better?
The two operating systems dominating the world of smartphones today are without any doubts, the iOS by Apple and Android by Google. The debate between the iPhone users and Android users over which one is better has been long going on and no conclusion has been reached upon. According to the stats by StatCounter, almost 76% of the total mobile operating system market share is lead by Android while 22% is that of iOS. Therefore, deciding the operating system on which you plan to launch your app and working out how much does it cost to make an iOS app or an Android, the type of your business and your consumers is a critical aspect as a wrong decision might deprive you of your valuable customers.
It is hard to say which operating system is the right choice for you to launch your mobile app on as it is a choice based entirely upon the type of your business and your following. This is a decision that must be reached upon after a thorough analysis of the customers and target audience. Both of these operating systems have their pros and cons and based on these the android app development cost differs from the iOS development cost.
Therefore, when analyzing how much does it cost to make an Android app or an iOS app, you will have to look at different factors and understand how the differences between these operating systems affect the cost of making an app.
Benefits of Android Apps over iOS Apps:
First things first, the market share of Android users is much higher than that of iOS users, which means, by building an android app, a company can access a wider audience. Secondly, the cost per install at the Google Play Store is much lesser than that of the Apple Store and lastly, it has lesser updates than iOS, while iOS apps go through regular updates, giving rise to a need to update the app frequently, increasing the maintenance costs. Also, the iOS app designed must be approved by the Apple Store, which is not something of much importance at the Google Play Store.
Benefits of iOS Apps over Android Apps:
As compared to the Android apps the iOS app development cost may be far lesser, also, the development time is shorter for these apps so if you wish to know how much does it cost to make an iOS app, you should know that it is lesser than that of Android apps. This is a major reason why many companies choose to launch their apps on the Apple Store first. When talking about the type of users, the iOS users tend to spend more as compared to Android users, therefore, they are willing to pay more for an app. Another advantage iOS apps have over Android ones is that their customer lifetime value is higher, also, the Apple store has set out strict guidelines, resulting in better quality mobile apps.
Both, the iOS apps and Android apps are the pioneers of the world’s mobile operating systems, deciding to build either of these for your company or both depends mainly on the type of audience you deal with. For instance, if your target audience is majorly Americans, launching an iOS app is a wise choice, while in regions of Asia and Africa, the wiser choice is to launch Android Apps.
When comparing the iOS or iPhone app development costs with that of Android, there is not much difference. The main differing aspect here is that the complexity of the screen designs of Androids, thus, creating apps for Android devices is complex as compared to iOS. The greater amount of time required, with higher expertise, the cost increases, making iOS apps a top choice for companies launching their first-ever mobile app version.
However, companies who are investing in two separate mobile apps for both these operating systems are paying 75% extra. This is because both of these require different programming languages and different platforms. A smart approach is to make use of platforms that help in developing hybrid apps that can work perfectly on both iOS and Android.
App Development Cost Surveys:
Surveys from different companies have brought out some varied costing trends. To know how much does an app cost, these extensive surveys have the potential to provide companies with a rough idea.
In 2015, an agency surveyed the top 12 most leading mobile app development companies, found the median cost per app to be $171,450 and boasted light upon the fact that the major cost drivers were not the added features but its infrastructure including; the basic controls, integration of 3rd party APIs, access to data of the enterprise, encryption and security, storage and scalability.
In the year 2016, two surveys were carried out by Enterprise Mobility Exchange and the Gartner MADP respectively. The first one analyzed 300 senior mobile practitioners, in which it was found out that the average capital invested in mobile app development where the development time exceeds a year varied within the range of $250,000–$500,000.
According to a digital services provider, based in California, the cost to build a mobile app development does not only depend upon the time required to complete it but also the company being chosen as the developers. Such as, if a company opts for a large-scale mobile developing firm, the cost may vary from $150,000 to $450,000 and if a mid-range app developer company is chosen, the cost may vary within the range of $100,000 to $300,000.
In 2017, a research report was published by a digital transformation company in Georgia, which emphasized on the fact that the industry of app development is overwhelmed. The report stated that a total of 62% of companies have faced app development backlog and the remaining expressed their concerns about the shortage of developers in the market. According to another research survey, almost 36% of organizations were not happy with the time being taken for a mobile app to be built, which was found out to 6 months or more. It further stated that the average cost to build an app is usually $140,000.
Adding to it was the CIO survey which stated that a majority of enterprises believe the app development process is slow, costly and frustrating. As from this study, it was found that a small fraction of companies invest larger sums into the app-building process, from the Kinvey CIO survey.
In 2018, another study was carried out in which 12 top mobile app development companies were interviewed about the main drivers of the mobile app development cost. Various responses were recorded and the top drivers of the mobile app development cost were found to complexity, the cost increases with the nature of the complexity of an app, followed by the business logic, which indirectly points to the complexity, number of features and the number of devices an app is being developed to function on.
Things you can do to reduce the end cost of developing an app:
Mobile apps are very popular today and it is what the consumers of today expect from all the brands. This is one of the most prominent of the reasons which has made every company, be that a fortune 500 or a startup to invest huge sums of capital into the development of the apps for their products, services or business.
Not all companies can afford the cost of creating an app, which is just one part of the business, there is a lot that needs to be taken care of and for a small and unstable business a mobile app can merely be just a thought. But there are ways through which you can cut down on the cost of creating an app and one such method is to carry out a mobile app development cost breakdown.
(i) Expert Help:
When it comes to app development, you may have concerns about the amount of investment it may require. To save costs, instead of hiring a professional developer, you may hire a cheap and unreliable developer. This is the biggest mistake. A professional developer is expensive to hire but by intelligently discussing the app development cost breakdown with these experts can really help in reducing the costs. It will definitely be less than the money required to correct the errors and remove the bugs from the cheaply developed app.
(ii) A Strong and a Practical Business Plan:
In the matter of app development, the trial and error approach is not a wise one. The most practical approach is to set up a detailed specification list, a plan highlighting everything that you expect from the app. This helps in keeping the discussion with the project manager focus and precise and saves the cost as a whole. This list helps in the final evaluation of the app. The specification of the app must be listed so that both the entities involved may have a clearer picture of where to start and how to proceed, saving time as well as the costs.
(iii) Be a part of the Process:
You may think that by hiring expert developers, the work has been done and they will get their perfect mobile app, but this isn’t the case. In order to achieve the best results and to avoid the chances of any misunderstandings, it is important to stay involved as much as you can. This not only helps you in understanding the certain alterations being made but it also saves the cost of evaluating.
These are the three most practical approaches through which organizations can actually cut the cost of creating an app down to an affordable number.
Comparing App Development Cost – Freelancers vs Consultants:
Another factor on which the answer to the questions as to how much does it cost to develop an app is the type of party you hire for building your app. It can either be a group of freelancers, where two to three developers work together to design apps for companies or it can be proper mobile app development companies that provide mobile app development services clubbed with consultancy. The type of developer you choose contributes to the decision as to how much does an app cost to make.
Businesses who choose freelancers may expect to spend $5,000 to $15,000. However, freelancers don’t have product managers, which is why in most cases, there is a gap between the client’s expectations and the developer’s understanding of the requirements. Likewise, these freelancers are not professional project managers. They take on new projects without considering the efforts it may take for actual development. This leads to frustrations when projects aren’t delivered on time and when they are finally delivered, there is a gap in expectations and reality.
Businesses with a slightly higher budget can assign the task to build their app to some proper app-development companies who believe in consultative selling. These companies usually start with app discovery workshops so that actual efforts and cost of development are clear before a project is started. This makes sure that a project is timely delivered and meets quality expectations. The cost for apps being built by such agencies may go as high as $200,000 and as low as $30,000.
Therefore, choose wisely. Set your budget and opt for a mobile app development company that best suits your set budget.
How much does it cost to maintain an app?
Has your app been designed? Think it’s over? Well, it’s not. Even after the app has been developed, there is some budget your company will have to set to pay for the cost of maintaining an app. Development of a mobile app is not a one-time investment process, it is a long process, which requires regular investments for ensuring that it functions perfectly and is being updated with the newer technological advancements coming with time.
As an answer to “how much does it cost to maintain a mobile app?”, it is safe to say that the cost of maintaining a mobile app is equal to three times the cost of the development, which is huge. According to a survey by Forrester Survey, the average amount paid at the time of app development is just 0.35 portion of its actual two-year maintenance costs.
Based on the study of Commentum in the year 2015, a mid-scale enterprise may expect to spend at least $5,000 to $11,000 monthly as the app maintenance costs. And for a larger company, this number may get as high as $25,000.
The more frequently an app is updated, the higher will be the maintenance costs. The result of a survey carried out by AnyPresence showed that 80% of companies update their apps twice in one year while a small fraction of companies said that they update their apps once every month.
It is clear from several studies and surveys that a high-quality app is not cheap, a huge number of companies cannot afford to invest such huge amounts into app development. If the situation of the world is analyzed, a mobile app is what the consumers demand today and that is why every business, irrespective of its size is striving to build an app for their business to provide their customers with the right type of satisfaction.
But, it is up to a business as to how much is it willing to spend upon its app building and how they plan to maintain it while optimizing the costs. Because of the higher the quality, the higher will be the app development and maintenance costs!
Note: These cost ranges are based on industry averages and the actual cost of development may vary as per the required features of the app.