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App development costs are quite difficult to evaluate. Of course, you can check the rates of developers around the world. But how could you tell for sure how many working hours will be required to create a web or mobile app you dream of? The average cost for mobile app development goes up to 100,000 USD, even with pretty basic projects and simple UX. What factors affect the total mobile app development cost? Are there ways to save some money without sacrificing end-product quality?
While googling how much does it cost to develop an app, you might risk severe shock, especially if you are located in the US or Canada, where a man-hour of developer costs even over 200 USD. Given that even a simple app can take several hundred working hours and requires additional expenses on a custom logo, marketing, quality assurance, Project Manager and so on, it is a good option to search for some cost optimization.
You can choose to concentrate on a minimum viable product to begin with. It is always good to prioritize on functions you want, to focus on those that users really need first, and add more later if market requires you to. Check out our brief on software development costs and how to optimize them in a clever way, while still providing a cutting-edge design and perfect functionality of the end product.
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What determines app development costs?
The costs of app development depend on four general factors: the number of platforms, design requirements, project complexity and developer location.
In the case of the platform, you have two options to choose from: a native application and a cross-platform application. What’s their app development process? Native applications are written in the same programming language as the platform they are designed for. For example, for iOS it is Swift and for Android it is Java. Such programs are often a bit faster and more reliable. They also have access to hardware resources and phone functions, such as the camera and address book.
Cross-platform means that the application has been built for multiple platforms – usually Android and iOS, but there are also desktop and web solutions. From a user’s point of view, they may not differ from native apps, but app developers build it using a combination of different technologies that are distributed via the native app store. The fact they run on multiple platforms does not necessarily imply a lack of access to phone features, but this may translate into some design difficulties as the platforms have different conventions and functions. In case of cross-platform, the cost of mobile app development is slightly higher than that of a native app, but in turn you get an important advantage of supporting both leading platforms.
In terms of design requirements, there is one predominant principle: the more customization you require, the higher is the cost of developing an app. By choosing a generic visual design and ready-made icons, you save a lot, but your application may not stand out of the crowd. It is similar with UX design. While relying on common solutions can be a good compromise, researching user behavior and using such data to create a unique UX can make your application a daily part of the user’s life.
Branding is another design requirement that can be your great asset. There are cases when an already recognizable brand gets a better market position due to its associations and loyal user groups, as is the case with Apple. An investment in an aesthetic and unique icon and logo design is an absolute minimum. Of course, it increases app development costs, but the icon is what catches the eye in the app store and has a big influence on the user’s decision to download the application.
A logo design can cost anywhere between a several hundred to several thousand USD apiece. In turn, a professionally designed UX during app development process can cost you up to tens of thousands of USD per project. For this reason, many developers have their own project team. If a designer is hired, the rates can vary considerably. Expect to pay about 45-60 USD per hour for an experienced UX designer. It is worth considering to include such software development costs to give an app a better chance of success in a competitive market.
Project complexity is one of the most important factors affecting app development costs. If you want to build complex, unique functions, the programming and quality control process shall be more time-consuming – which has a significant impact on costs. If you want to use data from third parties, provide in-app purchases or integrate payments, be prepared for even larger app development cost.
As we explained in our outsourcing destinations explained article, the location of app developer is absolutely crucial from a financial point of view. Estimated hourly development costs in 2022 are:
- US and Canada: 150-250 USD,
- South America: 35-70 USD,
- Western and Central Europe: 65-100 USD,
- Eastern Europe: 45-70 USD,
- Africa: 25-45 USD,
- Asia: 15-45 USD.
Selection of a good outsourcing partner can not only save you a lot of money, but also allow you to utilize the experience and expertise of developers. Check our tips on how to choose the best software development company if you are interested in outsourcing.
What increases the mobile app development cost?
The above-mentioned factors are not the only ones that shape the final price of creating your dream web, desktop or mobile app. There are other aspects to the issue of complexity that must be taken into account at the planning and cost estimating stage.
For example, simple applications with three or four screens that have one primary function and do not store any data, such as a calculator or a timer, are a relatively easy endeavor. However, even in such a case, the mobile app price may amount to at least several thousand USD. Quotas grow rapidly if your application needs to store certain data on a user’s device or remote server, requires users to register and log in, or sync data across multiple devices. Additional mobile app development cost is also boosted by a completely customized interface design.
When determining how much does it cost to develop a mobile app, in addition to the basic design, you must also take into account other, additional functions that you would possibly want to include. The most common are:
- Login via e-mail – a very simple, common function. Collecting e-mail addresses is extremely useful in marketing activities. This task adds about 110-150 working hours to the development process.
- Social login – using Facebook, Twitter or Google. Very important from a marketing point of view, as social logins provide important user data. They are also great regarding UX design, since they shorten the registration path. This feature takes about 40-60 working hours.
- Social integration – a feature that allows applications to publish on the user’s social media. Adds to app development cost about 40-300 working hours.
- Rating system (thumbs up/down, stars, etc.) – especially useful for a restaurant review app or recipe app with a lot of user-generated content. Takes about 110-400 working hours.
- User Profiles – essential for a social, sports, or ride-sharing app. You should have for it about 150-190 working hours in your app development budget.
- In-app purchases – user fees for additional features, downloads and services from within the app itself. Takes about 110-300 working hours of app development.
- Geolocation – collecting data about the geographic location of users allows you to improve their experience and collect valuable data. Takes about 150-340 working hours.
- Data synchronization on different devices – typical for task or note management applications that your customers will use on both a desktop computer and a mobile device. In mobile app development, this means about 110-150 working hours.
App development – examples of costs
It is estimated that app development of a simple, native application with only a few screens and very limited back-end takes around 300-600 working hours of the development team and 50 hours of QA specialist per month. Such a development process usually takes up to 9 weeks and amounts to around 15,000-50,000 USD depending on app developer and project details.
A medium complexity app that includes a few more advanced features, more screens, limited localization or some custom UI elements is, of course, more time-consuming, which directly translates to increased average cost of developing an app, which can amounts to 50,000-150,000 USD.
In terms of complex, cross-platform projects that are used worldwide by millions of users – sky is the limit.
How much does it really cost?
It is often not so easy to precisely define if your app is still simple or already of medium complexity. Even with precise planning during the lifespan of your product, it evolves and needs further funding. Since developing an app doesn’t end when it is deployed to the application store, there is no surprise that there still are further app development costs present. You need to take into consideration app maintenance costs or the need of adding new features.
It is estimated that average cost of developing a simple app, when accounting not only for developers, but also UX designers, business analysts and Project Manager, on average consumes around 80,000 USD, while medium complexity app can cost in total even up to 200,000 USD.
Why are mobile apps expensive?
Although it is not always obvious at first glance, the cost of developing an extensive, innovative application that will change the world, like Uber or Instagram, is definitely much higher than the average cost of creating a simple application based on third-party APIs. Uber may seem simple from the user’s point of view, but its success was determined primarily by what is invisible – the back-end and all related infrastructure (which has a huge impact on app development cost, of course).
The high software development costs and the difficulties in accurately estimating the costs of this process are mainly determined by three factors:
- Applications are immaterial – their screens are usually viewed as software products. However, in order to show some information on them, a lot of work takes place in the background. A Kickstarter campaign analysis shows that hardware projects tend to receive more funding than software ideas. It is understood that the hardware remains more noticeable and tangible, while most of the software components are out of sight, making them more difficult for the investor to judge.
- The immeasurable value of intellectual capital – the creativity and ingenuity involved at the beginning of the project are difficult to measure and value. Typically, this stage involves the work of an interdisciplinary team, whose role is to ensure that all aspects of the future application are covered in the planning. End-users do not see most of the results of such work, as it does not give any tangible results, it remains only a concept. Therefore, many people get confused about the final price for a custom software development service.
- Non-obvious benefits – some users prefer elegant, simple and intuitive products, while others look for other properties in applications they use, like having all possible settings at hand. This can be compared to Mac users and those who prefer the freedom of Linux over their sophisticated design.
How to build a mobile app on a budget?
At first glance, the cost of developing an app may seem uncomfortably high, but there are several proven practices that can help you to cut them down significantly. Thanks to early prioritization, quality control, long-term planning and the involvement of an external team of experienced developers, you will gain more control over the development process and avoid dead ends or wasting time on unnecessary little things.
It’s best to prioritize your app features before you begin building them. Just because you are currently unable to build the complete software solution you dream of, doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you are planning. However, it is worth prioritizing those application functions that will start generating business value the fastest. This self-limitation also makes it easier to accurately estimate the total cost of app development.
A well-prepared and detailed risk management plan is a good thing to have. It is a great way to lower or even avoid some unnecessary app development costs that you definitely don’t want to pay – usually being a result of additional working hours needed. They may be related to changes in requirements during the development, communication errors or usability problems, but often include also additional maintenance and bug-fixing after the release. A risk management plan helps you foresee obstacles that the app making process may encounter and will help you navigate around them. You can learn more about it from our article about software development risks.
Save items that are worth having but are not currently essential for later, and add them to your backlog. By starting your project with Minimum Viable Product (MVP), you can build a successful product quickly without investing a lot of money in a high-risk project. Gradual product development allows you to notice changing market trends and user habits and react to them with a tailored function, rather than trying to predict what might be useful.
Quality Assurance (QA) early in the application development phase helps prevent bugs and errors from accumulating before they spread throughout the entire project. By engaging QA specialists from the very beginning of the project, you will identify major problems before the development phase begins. With early QA, the answer to how much does it cost to make an app is often much better.
Remember that the costs of building mobile applications are not limited to the development and release phases. The complete project will still generate expenses related to server maintenance, debugging and adding new functions. The app you create today may look completely different in the future. For example, if you release an MVP, you can get valuable customer feedback that will inspire you to change, add, or remove certain features. Your target market can also evolve in a completely new, unforeseen direction, forcing you to make far-reaching changes to your product. Therefore, when developing software, it is good to have short- and long-term goals in mind. This can save you a lot of money. If you want to know more on how to create an app, check out our article From Idea to Product – Creating an App.
Software development outsourcing is another solution that will bring you a lot of savings throughout your project. The localization decides, how much does it cost to hire an app developer. While outsourcing, you will not have to invest in high salaries and overheads associated with hiring programmers in-house, especially if labor costs in your region are especially high. There is no need to pay wages, taxes, allowances, software, hardware, workspace and many other costs. By outsourcing your application development, you can hire teams from all over the world and benefit from their services, which are often of excellent quality and decrease the cost of app development process.
Is it possible to estimate app development costs by yourself?
It is extremely difficult to precisely estimate the software development costs on your own, even if you have some experience in the field. Of course, you can multiply the developer’s hourly stake by number of developers and working hours, but how exactly can you know the latter two? Luckily, experienced outsourcing partner can estimate the cost for you really precisely. Whether you want to develop a native or cross-platform mobile app, we are able to present you with a detailed pricing list.
It is possible thanks to our vast experience. What is more, you can rest assured that an average app development cost is not something you need to worry about. We will help you to clarify your idea and to prioritize on functions of your application. With such approach, you can expect to deploy your application as quick as possible and be sure that it meets high standard for aesthetics, functionality and stability.
Drop us a line if you need an estimation of app development cost.
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Gabriela is a lead project manager and keeps in mind that the crucial thing in project management is always seeing the business objectives. She takes care of clients' business outcomes, and that's why clients usually give her a lot of independence.
As a web developer, she understands teammates, which is an asset in project management. UX designer background is handy when clients ask her for advice or consult their app ideas. Having this knowledge, she can address their confusedness or curiosity.
Data analysis and research have no secrets from her as she's a physicist. She knows how to discover data patterns and dependencies, which brings additional value to her everyday work.