How much does it cost to make an app? Likely, this is one of the first questions that app brands and developers need to know an answer for, when they launch an app development project. An app development cost estimate is the most basic and yet crucial component of a budget for any mobile app development project. Quite often a company owner finds herself trying to answer these two questions – how much does it cost to creat an app for my business via hiring an app development company versus how much does it cost to develop an app internally.
Both approaches have their pros and cons. To shed some light on how each impacts an app development cost, let’s review both.
After operating a number of years on a market, app development companies can build the right set of skills to tackle multi-platform mobile app development projects efficiently, often app projects can be quite complicated, they may involve advanced mobile tech, including Machine Learning to power sophisticated computation, augmented reality as well as Blockchain, IoT and more.
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Leading app developer companies beat competition quickly learning from their mistakes and so working with such experienced team would protect you from repeating the same mistakes. App development is a multi-step process that involves careful planning with a proper timeline – again, based on a previous experience.
If you choose the path of creating a mobile app in-house, you can certainly decrease an app development cost, at least initially, because over time, going through fixing bugs caused by lack of experience, you can actually catch up with a price tag you would get from an app development company, should you decide to hire one.
As much as we would like to put a finger on the app development cost, we can only come up with an estimate, simply because each app development process involves many factors that collectively influence a final cost figure. Luckily there are several app development budget forming factors that will help you to come up with an app development cost ballpark.
App Development Influential Factors:
- App functionality and purpose – what an app will actually be capable of doing for its users.
- Mobile platforms and devices supported – whether an app will be developed for iOS only or has an Android version as well. What specific devices hardware will it support, e.g. iPhone 13, iPhone 12 Mini, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, and so on.
- Integration points – will an app be integrated with third-party apps that will be the source of its content.
- Use of visual objects – complexity of visual objects inside of an app will significantly influence the cost.
- Use of smartphone hardware features – whether an app will be using such smartphone features as GPS navigation, NFC technology, motion co-processor, Augment Reality tech, and other technologies that are packed into smartphones or tablet computers.
- Maintenance plan – once an app development project is over, certainly it will require technical support from its developer to provide updates that patch bugs or introduce new features.
Having said that, there are some typical or average benchmarks for app development project costs that we can apply to different types of apps. These benchmarks range quite widely, based on data from multiple companies that have deduced these app development costs based on their customer projects research.
App Development Benchmarks:
- Simple app development price tag – $16,000 – $32,000
- Medium complexity app development price tag – $32,000 – $48,000
- Complex app development price tag – $72,000+
- Cost of hiring a US app developer ~$105,000 / year
In the rest of this research, we set out the available data on the development cost for apps using a range of different sources and methodologies.
App Development Cost Benchmarks
Since the inception of major mobile platforms, the app development cost for iOS and Android was significantly different. As of 2022, according to the multiple pieces of research, conducted by established app development companies, the app development cost of making iOS and Android apps is virtually identical. At this point, the major factor that defines the app development cost is its sophistication, which arbitrarily can be defined as – Simple, Medium, and Complex.
According to SPDLoad app development company, it takes 2-4 months to develop a simple app, 4-6 months to make a mid complexity app and 9 months and up for a complex one. Certainly, these are just estimates, because ultimately actual app development timeline also depends on a quality of coordination and level of productivity of an app developers team.
According to Salary.com app development hourly rates, which currently hovers around $50 / hour, the US app development price cost for a app with a basic user interface and a set of basic features ranges from $16,000 to $32,000, Medium complexity app development project costs between $32,000 and $48,000 and, finally, a Complex app project would require at least $72,000 investment, if not more.
US App Development Costs ($k)
Source: Salary.com, SPDLoad.com
Again, keep in mind that above numbers are just a ballpark, the calculation is based an approximate number of hours that app development team dedicates to a single app. They are meant to give you a bird’s-eye view on what would be the size of your app development budget based on the app’s complexity. These numbers don’t include costs of the app updates, that are part and parcel of any mobile app life cycle, and they significantly vary based on the app’s v1.0 and how significant is a particular update.
App Development Cost [stages]
Having a ballpark for how much different stages of app development may cost is what allows companies to allocate properly the venture capital they manage to raise along the whole cycle of the mobile app development.
Back in 2017, research conducted by Clutch – B2B analytics company outlined the data collected from more than 100 app development companies. It provided a percentage for how much companies spend on one of the following app development stages – Discovery, Design, Development, and Testing & Deployment.
So when it comes to conducting a pre-research stage 51% of companies representative said that it costs up to $5,000 to come with an initial concept and do research. 22% went above the $5k threshold and spent $10k and 14% spent anywhere between $10 and $25k. Clearly, compared with other app development stages, Discovery is the cheapest one.
When app development teams proceed to the Design stage, 32% spend less than $5,000, but only 9% venture to spend over $50,000 on an app design. The majority (60%) says within $5 – $50k.
UI / Design stage
Development is the major part of the whole mobile app development process, it’s about the actual coding of every feature that an app is supposed to have. For only 9% of respondents the sum they spend on developing an app’s code was below $5,000, for 33% the money they spend on this stage was within $5k-10$k.
It’s impossible to conceive any app development project without testing and deployment stages. For 32% of respondents, it took less than $5,000 of their budget to do app testing and actually deploy it on the market. Another 31% stayed within the $5-$10k range and the rest went above $10k of their budget to complete the Testing and Deployment stage.
Testing and Deployment stage
Obviously, the core factor that defines the app development cost is an app’s complexity. For example, whether there is a backend server that provides information for the app or not, whether an app has a built-in user analytics, a backend CMS support or not, if it has a built-in shopping cart or social media sharing features, and so on.
The hourly rate for mobile app development varies in different parts of the world, it reflects a level of economy development in a particular country. On the graph below, we can see that among six regions India has the lowest average rate – $7 / hour and the US is on the highest end with $47 / hour, which is not a surprise at all.
Average app development hourly rate ($)
App Development Cost Calculators
The app industry is highly competitive, with several million mobile apps on the market, reaching your target users, meeting your ROI objectives are really tough. Businesses are eager to find a way to calculate an app development cost upfront. Aiming to address this important question, multiple online calculators were developed by app development companies, but we’re going to highlight only the most popular ones.
This calculator will guide you through 10+ questions to shape an app development price tag either for developing an app similar to apps existing on the market (Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, and others) or create a mobile app from scratch, based on specific requirements. As you’re making choices, answering the questions, you’re getting development time estimates in hours.
It’s a seven-step calculator that guides you through several filters that define a price tag for mobile app development. These are Platform, Features, Users, Integrations, Monetization, Maintenance & Hosting, and Buildfire Services.
This calculator takes a different approach – all filters to shape a price tag are listed on a single page. The filters cover the app’s size, UI complexity, account features sophistication, user-generated content complexity, mobile-specific features such as Apple Watch support, Cloud Syncing and more, as well as dates & locations, social & engagement, billing & eCommerce, admin & feedback & analytics, External API and Security.
This calculator is designed to estimate a price tag for both desktop and mobile software. In a contrast with the calculators above, this one gives you a price tag estimate range on each step of the price calculation process.
The eight-step calculator with similar to the Inoxoft one feature to provide a price estimate on each step. The final screen provides a form to fill in with contact details to proceed with the app project development.
An easy-to-use intuitive calculator designed in a shopping-cart style, when all choices are made to define an app development price tag is displayed on the right, as purchased items would in a real shopping cart system. The calculator computes the cost based on Platform, Quality, Number of Screens, Custom Controls, Device types, Screen orientation modes, Security level, Supported OS versions, Number of languages supported, Deployment, and Special functions (such as in-app payments support, stats, Push Notifications and more).
A seven-step calculator that walks you through the set of 27 questions, starting with specifying an industry a mobile app needs to be built for. Along with an app development price tag building, the calculator provides a summary of all choices made. Once the cost calculation process is over, the tool provides a contact form to fill in to receive an app development price tag estimate.
A five-step calculator that provides both app development price tag estimate and time this development will take. A ready-to-use estimate is available in a .PDF format to download. The steps to build an estimate are web / mobile / both, the app user profile, features to add to the MVP, way to generate revenue (recurring payments/upfront fees/shopping cart system), and high tech features to include (AI, IoT, VR / AR).
Cost of Hiring App Developer
If a company decides to hire a mobile app developer(s), the question – how much does it cost comes up naturally. According to Indeed.com data, to hire a US-based mobile app developer, businesses need to pay her or him $120,000 / year (versus $105k in 2021). After converting from a local currency to USD, we see Australia and Germany following the US with $94,000 and $65,000 respectively. In countries like India, it is actually way cheaper to hire an app development professional – only $4,100 a year, which we can attribute to the difference between North American, European, Australian, and Indian economies. But of course, the services price tag shouldn’t be the ultimate defining factor for a company to hire an app development team, other kinds of information like previous clients feedback, expertise in specific technical areas, how well a particular team meets deadlines and so on should be factored in as well.
2022 Average mobile app developer annual salary, by country ($k)
Assessing an app development cost, one of the first considerations is from what specific location to hire an app development team to meet both app project budget limitations and yet meet quality standards. The following two graphs bring up data for the US cities that provide the highest paying jobs for both iOS and Android app developers. As you would expect, on the top of the chart are the West Coast cities.
Because of COVID-19 pandemic and necessity to work remotely, many app developers relocated to other states to save on rent and habitation in general. This trend has a tangible impact on average app developers salary in different states and cities. As of 2022, in the US some of the top Android app developer salary cities are San Jose, San Francisco, New York, Mountain View, San Diego, Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta. San Francisco and Mountain View are on the most expensive end with $138k / year, Atlanta and Dallas are on the cheapest end with $1117k / year. Naturally, looking at the hourly rates in these cities, one would decide to approach app developers from cities with the lowest rate but you should always factor in app developers previous experience of building similar apps to your one and feedback from businesses those apps were built for.
Highest paying cities in the US for Android Developers ($k)
On the iOS side, the 8 highest paying cities are somewhat different from Android. San Francisco is still number one, just like for Android, but then follows Sunnyvale and San Jose with $142k and $133k respectively.
Highest paying cities in the US for iOS Developers, in USD, in thousands
App Maintenance Cost
Like any software, mobile app development cost has a maintenance component. The industry average accepted cost to maintain software is roughly 15-20% of its original development cost. The maintaining process cost can be broken down to the cost of hosting, monitoring, engagement, marketing, updating, and licensing apps.
The decisive factor in a mobile app backend data hosting cost calculation is what kind of data the app deals with – text or media, such as photo, video, or audio. A media-rich app would require a higher CPU web-server with more RAM and disk space. Based on these factors, an app hosting web server may cost between $70 to $320 a month. The leading web hosting solutions to choose from would be Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud.
Mobile app monitoring is really essential for its success. To monitor an app’s performance you can sign up for mobile analytics platforms we’ve listed in this guide. Because each app has its unique audience and a vastly variable number of users, it’s not feasible to come up even with an estimate for a mobile app monitoring cost but once you get in touch with those companies on the list, make sure you’ll get a ballpark range for your expenses this app maintenance cost constituents.
Engagement & Marketing
A mobile app marketing cost, which includes activities to engage a mobile app user base, consists of multiple components. Any mobile app engagement begins with an app install, a price an app marketer pays for the app’s install depends on the country, platform (iOS/Android), and specific ad unit. In 2021 the iOS CPI (stands for Cost-Per-Install) was $3.6 / app install and on the Android side was just $1.22 / app install. As we go more granular, from a generic app install instance to a desirable action the app user is expected to take, we can talk about an average mobile app user acquisition cost. In 2020, the average app UA costs worldwide were the following:
- purchase made via a mobile app – up to $75
- subscription – up to $70.
Every single mobile app ever released on an app store, either iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or other platforms needs to have subsequent updates to be released after its launch. On one hand, it’s simply not feasible to develop a perfect app with version 1.o, from the other – subsequent updates are a great tool for a continuous app user base engagement. An actual update release on an app store may take around one hour but the time that it takes to develop an update is significantly varied and depends on an app’s complexity.
If a mobile app design incorporates one or more technologies that the developer should pay a license, it may significantly increase an overall app development cost. A license fee to pay depends on annual fees to pay, a number of devices, and, for instance, may reach $120k / year for 50 devices.
When businesses estimate a development cost of their future app, first of all, they need to factor in a development team location and an app complexity – both factors have a great impact on an overall development cost. Given that both iOS and Android platforms have a high adoption rate, it is a smart strategy for businesses that go mobile to develop an app for both platforms simultaneously. Because infrastructure is the biggest contributor to an app development cost, it’s quite logical for companies to do their best to save on things like data storage and scalability, third-party API integration, if there are several options available to choose from.
On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic, because it’s triggered app developers relocation and forced them to work remotely, has a significant impact on how much it costs to develop a mobile app.