App Development Cost (2021)

Artyom Dogtiev

Updated: March 26, 2021

How much does it cost to develop an app? Perhaps this is one of the first questions that app brands and developers ask when they launch an app development project. App development cost estimate is what sits at the very bottom of any mobile app development budget. Quite often a company owner finds herself trying to answer these two questions – how much does it cost to make an app for my business by hiring a professional versus how much does it cost to make an app by myself.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. To shed some light on how each impacts an app development cost, let’s review both.

After a number of years on a market, an app development company accumulates extensive experience of mobile app development for multiple platforms, when app projects can be quite complicated, involving AI, ML, IoT, and other advanced mobile tech. Being smart, they learn from mistakes that occur on app projects and so working with such a 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 a bug fixing 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 cost of app development, 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 shape a development cost of an app.

So an app development cost breakdown comes down to:

  • 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 will it support, e.g. iPhone 12, 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.

Having said that, there are some typical or average benchmarks for app development project costs that we can apply for 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:

  • Simple app development price tag – $40,000 – $60,000
  • Medium complexity app development price tag – $61,000 – $120,000
  • Complex app development price tag – $120,000+
  • Cost of hiring a US app developer ~$90,000 / 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

Several years ago, there was a significant difference in app development cost between two major mobile platforms – iOS and Android. Right now, according to the multiple pieces of research conducted by established app development companies, this difference is not significant. Today, the major factor is mobile app complexity, which can be arbitrarily defined as – Simple, Medium, and Complex. A price tag for a simple app with a basic User Interface and a set of must-have features ranges from $40,000 to $60,000, Medium complexity app development project costs between $61,000 and $120,000 and, finally, a Complex app project would require at least $120,000 investment, if not more.

App Development Costs (US $k)

Keep in mind that these numbers are just a ballpark. 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.

Top App Development Companies

  • Promatics - Top Rated Mobile App Development Company
  • Netsells - Building Something Better
  • RV Technologies - Your Trusted Mobile App Development Partner
  • Apadmi - Restlessly Mobile
  • Uinno - Trusted Extended Team that Solves Technology-Related Challenges. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • 360 Degree Technosoft - Mobile App Development Company You Can Rely On
  • GeekyAnts - We are a product studio transforming ideas into reality
  • OpenXcell - Build your own offshore software development team
  • The NineHertz - Smart & Robust Mobile App Development
  • HQSoftware - Value-driven Digital Transformation. IoT, AI, AR, VR, and end-to-end custom software development
  • Mtoag Technologies - Designing technology for today’s mobile generation
  • Intellectsoft - Engineering Your Vision
  • VironIT - custom software development company
  • Bright Brains Information Technology - Digital Business Aspiration
  • hedgehog lab - We help global brands solve their problems with digital products on mobile, web and connected platforms.
  • Quantum Mob - We help ambitious companies build successful digital products.
  • Sonin - A Decade of Award-Winning Apps
  • NMG Technologies - US BASED AWARD WINNING Mobile App, WEB & ECOM
  • Tech Exactly - We translate your ideas into futuristic apps and immersive mobile experiences.
  • Intuz - Consulting Beyond Technology
  • Quy Technology - Mobile Apps for Startups and Enterprises
  • App Maisters - Trusted Digital Transformation Partner for Startups, Growing and Enterprise Companies
  • Rantmedia - Think. Make. Innovate.
  • Orangesoft - We build mobile & web apps that people love
  • Konstant Infosolutions - Top Mobile App Development Company
  • Light IT - Reliable technical partner for more than 500 companies since 2006
  • Emizen Tech - Mobile app Development Company
  • Cleveroad - Proven Mobile App Development Partner! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • eleks - Your Technology Partner for Software Innovation and Market-leading Solutions
  • Simform - Your Extended Team of Tech Experts
  • Mutual Mobile - End-to-end development, strategy and design
  • VERVE LOGIC - Turning Vision Into Success Stories
  • 3 Sided Cube - LET'S BUILD TECH FOR GOOD
  • SEM Nexus - Startup App Experts
  • Auxano Global Services - Leading Mobile, Web & Game App Development Company
  • The Distance - Leading UK Mobile App Development Company

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 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 from $10 to $25k. Clearly, compared with other app development stages, Discovery is the cheapest one.

Discovery/Pre-Research stage

Cost range less than $5,000 $5k – $10k $10k-15k $15k-25k $25k+
Percentage 51% 22% 7% 7% 13%

Source: Clutch

When app development teams proceed to the Design stage, only 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

Cost range less than $5,000 $5k – $10k $10k-15k $15k-25k $25-50k $50k+
Percentage 32% 17% 14% 13% 16% 8%

Source: Clutch

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.

Development stage

Cost range less than $5,000 $5k – $10k $10k-20k $20k-30k $30+
Percentage 9% 33$ 25% 17% 15%

Source: Clutch

It’s impossible to conceive any app development project without testing and deployment. 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

Cost range less than $5,000 $5k – $10k $10k-15k $15k-25k $25k+
Percentage 32% 31% 14% 12% 11%

Source: Clutch

Different type of apps has a different development cost associated with it. The difference originates from the level of an app’s complexity. For example, if it has backend server support or not, whether an app has built-in user analytics, backend CMS support or not, if it has a built-in shopping cart or social media sharing features, and so on.

Because of the different states of the economy, the hourly rate for mobile app development varies in different parts of the world. On the graph below, we can see that among six regions India has the lowest rate ($10 to 50+ an hour) and the US the highest one ($60 to $125 an hour), which is not a surprise at all. On the graph, the Elite segment presents top professional app developers, Capable – companies with a high quality of app development and Upcoming – companies that have entered the market recently.

App development hourly rate by complexity and location

App Development Cost Calculators

The app industry is highly competitive, with several million mobile apps on the market, the question of how to reach your target users, how to meet your ROI objectives is really tough. Businesses are eager to find a way to calculate an app development cost upfront. To meet this demand multiple online calculators were developed and we’re going to highlight only the most popular ones.

Cleveroad calculator

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.

Buildfire calculator

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.

Estimate My App calculator

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.

Inoxoft calculator

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.

How Much to Make an App

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.

Andreasley calculator

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).

Litslink calculator

A seven-step calculator that walks you through the set of 27 questions, starting with 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.

Digitalya calculator

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.  So according to Indeed.com data, to hire a US-based mobile app developer, companies need to pay $89,000 / year. After converting from a local currency to USD, we see Australia and Germany following the US with  $76,000 and $66,000 respectively. In countries like India, it is actually way cheaper to hire an app development professional – only $4,000 a year, which we can attribute to the difference in North America, Europe, Australia, and India economies. But of course, the services price tag shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor for a company to hire an app development team, other information like previous client feedback, expertise in specific technical areas, and others should be factored in as well.

Mobile App Developer average annual salary in 2021, by country, in USD, in thousands

Source: Indeed

iOS and Android are the leading mobile operating systems that have been dominating the entire mobile app ecosystem for a number of years. 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, the leading spots belong to West Coast cities. Leading the pack for both mobile OS is San Jose with $180k+ and $160k+ for Android and iOS respectively. Here are the 8 cities where Android app developers are get paid the highest.

Highest paying cities in the US for Android Developers, in USD, in thousands

On the iOS side, the 8 highest paying cities are somewhat different from Android. San Francisco is still number two, just like for Android, but then comes Beaverton and New York, which is number 3 for Android, comes number 4.

Highest paying cities in the US for iOS Developers, in USD, in thousands

App Maintenance Cost

Like with any software, mobile apps 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, updates, and licenses.

Hosting

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.

Monitoring

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 2020 the iOS CPI (stands for Cost-Per-Install) was $2.37 per app install in the US, $0.98 in China, $0.22 in Brazil. Overall, Cost-Per-Install across Android and iOS was $2.24 / 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 2018-2019, an average app UA costs worldwide were the following – a registration cost up to $7.5, in-app purchase – up to $87, subscription – up to $46.

App Updates

Every single mobile app ever released on an app store, either iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or other platforms got subsequent updates released later on. 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.

Licenses

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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