How Much an App Development Cost in 2021 – A Detailed Overview

How Much an App Development Cost in 2021 – A Detailed Overview

Mobile app development cost totally depends on the type, scale and demand and the team behind developing your product. What other factors come into consideration? Let’s find out.

Updated on :
November 25th, 2020
Twinkle Kalkandha
Twinkle Kalkandha
Product Strategist

App development is an art and there is no perfection in art. However, it is a lengthy process with a lot of complexities. Nevertheless, it’s always a learning experience. There are so many factors that concern an entrepreneur when he/she is getting his/her maiden mobile application made and one such factor is the cost.

The average cost to develop an app can never be a particular sum. It varies widely. To give you a vague estimate, it may cost you somewhere around $15,000–$250,000. The minimum can be reduced to (maybe) $10,000 and the upper limit can go higher as well. But all of this is dependent on a wide variety of factors. It all depends on the kind of mobile application you wish to develop, the features you want it to possess and the development team that will mould it.

mobile app development cost

Let’s have a look at the above image. This may not give you any insight on the cost of app development but it does give you a fine picture of mobile applications being the clear winner of websites or web apps. It also explains where and which genre of mobile app gets how much time. This is your first step in determining the cost. Another critical aspect is time. Outsystems Survey (2018-19) predicted that it takes approximately 3 months (at least) for over 80% of the apps to be developed. The more time taken, the more money required.

Therefore, it is clear that the mobile app development price ranges widely. So let’s find out how much you’ll be shelling out for your swanky new application and what value for money you’ll be reaping when you hand over the job to an outsourcing company.

Fact of the Matter: In the first two years of a typical mobile app, development only represents 35% of the total cost.

Cost to Build an App: What Factors Influence It?

The average cost of mobile app development is just latched on to the time taken for development or hourly charges; it hinges on to an array of intrinsic factors which includes the travails of finding skill, product complexity and expenses for post release support.

App Development Team

Your team of developers can be local or offshore, depending on your project requirements. It can also be a combination of both. Now the thing is who all comprises your team. An atypical example would consist of project manager, a solution architect, UI/UX designers, developers (number depending upon the platform), a quality assurance specialist and a business analyst.

Normally, aspects like colours, featured menus, cool transitions, graceful animations, etc. are compromised for cost-cutting purposes with the intention of making a simple interface. Despite all odds, you have to hire a team with at least one UI/UX designer who knows how to give a visual structure to the app.

Technical inclusions and nuances

There are uncountable features which formulate the technical complexity of an app development project. For instance, there are applications for hotel bookings at the eleventh hour with a complicated search filtering algorithm that is bridged with real-time discounts.

An app development team which had developed an app of similar nature, had once said that there weren’t any filter integration available during the building phase, so it took the manual way of composing an algorithm as it was the only option left. This increased the development time along with increased expenses (for the owner). The chosen app development platforms, development frameworks, their toolkits, expertise for the same; all fall under this category.

Backend development

You might picture your plush mobile application that will be used by millions of people. This will lead to a gargantuan amount of data processing in real-time in exchange, users will yearn their information to be synced across platforms and cached in cloud. Under such circumstances, you’ll need a brute backend team that will hold out against such mammoth leviathan loads of data compilation and maintain an unwrinkled flow of work.

This also means that you have to give more time to front-end development that requires a sophisticated architecture. Additionally, you’ll be required to remunerate more professionals as your app’s backend will require myriad programming languages.

Niche third-party integrations

The market is filled with umpteen third-party integrations that will bolster your time taken for development including the ones pertaining to your niche. But here’s the catch — niche third-party integrations are not reclusive of erratic and perplexing documentation. This implies that there are huge chances of added time consuming on simplifying integration possibilities with your app. Furthermore, these services do not come for free and you’d have to shell out more.

In-app purchases

To cater to the needs of their target customers in entirety, entrepreneurs/app owners, apply more and more payment options as per will. Even if this comes off as too ambitious, it actually can be a binding approach if you promise to provide more ingenious options to the users for premium usage. Along with your mobile app development cost estimate, you too have to pay for each paid option that you implement.

Hardware components

Let’s take an example — suppose you are a shipping company owner and are creating an application that uses ELD or Electronic Logging Device as a primary feature to meticulously track the driving hours of the automobiles within your fleet. For this, you are required to acquire or rent ELD or IoT devices for software testing purposes. Thus, you have to take the cost of all such hardware components and equipment also into consideration.

Supported browsers, devices, and operating systems

If your app is a web app, it’s your job to make it clear to the development team/agency that it is compatible with leading browsers including Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc. This seals the fact that you’ll get a huge chunk of followers from all over the world and need not have to worry about traffic.

For iOS apps, it’s mandatory that it should be compatible with the latest iPhones and iPads and support the latest version of iOS including 12 and 11.

In the case of Android, the total of devices is much higher in comparison to any other platform. There are chiefly three strands that affect the decision on the set of Android devices to be supported. They are:

  • The market share size of each manufacturer of an Android device
  • Favoured devices in the market for which the app is built
  • Your personal preferences

These further extend to the various Android operating system versions. The common trend is to support from Android Lollipop (5.0) to the latest versions, although it should be your call on the preferred OS versions.

Fact of the Matter: Do not try to be too old school with your Software OS versions or conform to only the latest upgrade.

It’s quite obvious the more number of compatible devices will fetch more time on modeling your application for each screen size, resolutions and hardware specifications. This also adds more time for tester(s) to ensure smooth functioning of the application. One popular hack is rooting for popular Android devices, this keeps the price of Android development mostly the same.

As per market research, the time taken to build an Android application is comparatively longer than iOS which also means the former is costlier.

Custom designs and animations

User interfaces which are more complicated to execute, cost more. Therefore, the price of designing a custom interface will be more expensive and prolonged than that of conventional components or the one which doesn’t have a standard design at all.

Speaking of custom animations, there are so many different and beautiful ones to choose from. You may find various open-source projects that are tailored to fit any type of app. If your app development offers its patented custom interface or has a GitHub repository, then it will be easier for you to choose from.

Post-Release charges

When you try to find the answer to what does it cost to develop an app, you’ll also realise that the budget required for development is not restricted to the price of actual programming. What you need to also vehemently consider is the capital that is invested for the growth of the product — a long term plan. Your app will require regular updates, bugfixes, customer support, server maintenance, cloud hosting and legal assistance. From promotional aspects, it will be needed to market through organic and paid mediums. All of this is mandatory to make certain your app’s success.

As mentioned earlier, third-party integration tools will cost you additional money for their services. To cite an example, Stripe, a famous payment gateway provider, charges a flat rate 2.9% + 30¢ per successful charge for every debit or credit card transactional acceptance in your app. It’s very useful to remember all these monetary factors in mind when you sit down to evaluate the expenses the app development phase will incur.

Your post-release support and maintenance costs aren’t included in the initial cost estimates which includes only the app development charges (by the agency/team) and the custom app components. Interestingly, they (post-release expenses) are treated as ‘additional services’ by the majority of digital agencies.

In the following section, we dive deeper into cost divisions in app development.

What Should be the Hourly Charges for Making an App?

There are ways to tackle this question. But here’s a tip – There’s no guarantee that going with an expensive company will get you an app that’s capable of giving a return on your investment. The world is infested with developers and similar to other businesses too, you’ll be attracted to a swarm of the ‘best in businesses’ types. In fact, lower-priced programmers can provide excellent results. High price doesn’t always equal high quality.

There are lots of factors that influence pricing. Experience, reliability, team size, scalability, track record, etc. are some of the important factors that matter when deciding whom to choose. Another essential factor is geography.

Let’s have an understanding by regional demands for app development

Area-wise breakdown of cost

To determine how much does an app cost, the following are the hourly charges proposed by service providers. Let’s observe:

  • Companies based in the USA and Canada charge approximately between $50 and $250 on an hourly basis.
  • Australian-based agencies are comparatively lower with their services priced at $50-150 per hour.
  • UK companies or the western European developers per hour services will cost you between $35 and $170.
  • Eastern European companies settle for $20 to $150 per hour.
  • The Eastern European counterparts will be ready to iron out a deal somewhere between $20 and $150 for an hour.
  • Indian rates are the lowest at the same time quite appealing as they offer between $10 and $80 per hour.

We got a clear idea on the hourly cost of app development. What’s the next step?

What is the Cost of Making an App?

app development cost

The cost of making a mobile app is most often based on the number of hours the project may take, and the more difficult the functionality, the longer it will take to implement. Therefore, let’s divide apps into three categories – simple, middling complexity, and highly complex – and try to give a rough answer to the question of how much it costs to develop an app. We’ll calculate the cost based on a $50 per hour rate, since it can be considered near-average.

Simple apps include some basic functionality, don’t require integration with any third-party APIs, and may not need a backend infrastructure. Features of such applications may include standard UI components, a feed list, simple filters, and map markers. Developing a simple app takes about 1,000 hours and starts at $30,000.

Apps of middling complexity may include custom UI features, real-time chat, payment functionality, tablet and handset adaptation, integration with APIs, and a simple backend server. Apps of middling complexity may include custom UI features, real-time chat, payment functionality, tablet and handset adaptation, integration with APIs, and a simple backend server.

Highly complex apps include advanced functionality such as audio/video processing, real-time synchronization, custom animations, integrations with third-party services, complex backends with several types of database relationships, and more. The timeframe for building complex apps is 2,400+ hours, and the price starts at $80,000. A full-fledged social network application, a dating app, and a video streaming app may all fall into this category.

Strategize Your App Development Plan

Another important thing before we proceed to mobile app development cost estimation is analyzing and understanding as to how shall you develop an app? Everything begins with a development plan. A successful development roadmap is mandatory to analyze the cost of app making and maintenance cost. To begin with, you must ask thyself a few specific questions. Take a clue from the following:

  • Which platform does your target audience prefer?
  • What’s the product that you’re trying to sell?
  • Are there any devices which are needed to integrate to make your app more responsive?
  • Is your app free or paid?
  • Does it have any in-app purchases?
  • Does your app provide any advertisement?

You should be able to answer these questions to be able to decide the course of development you wish to choose. The following is an elaboration on the same.

Who is your target audience?

At the end of the day it’s the customers that will buy or access your app. So, it becomes essential to know your target audience well. You need to identify the problem that your app is solving. This will help you to find your target audience. There are various examples where a company had failed to identify their audience and they were soon defeated by their competitors who streamlined their services specially to cater their target audience.

Free, Freemium or e-Commerce (paid)?

Talking about the free apps first, they make money through various ways such as: advertising, sponsorship, and email marketing etc. E-commerce apps make money mostly by selling their own products and by getting commissions from the sellers. Similarly, the paid apps make money directly by the no. of downloads. Moreover, it’s important to set a right price for the paid app. You can determine the right price by identifying the customer’s willingness to buy the app.

Native or cross-platform

To begin with, you can look at getting your options finalized and fix pricing accordingly. The first question that should cross your mind is – do you want your app to work in a single platform, or be a cross platform option.

cost of app development

Here it needs to be remembered that this will need to be decided on the basis of various factors. The persona of users of devices have been extensively profiled. This can be tapped into to understand the preferences of users.

OS versions

The availability of the app within each platform to different versions needs to be factored. This can be tied in with the technical requirements, and can also be used as a filter. For instance, if the app is more technical in nature and is intended to perform certain actions that can be executed best with advanced versions of OS, then it may be a good idea to restrict the availability to the particular versions and keep mobile app development cost low. Similarly, though iOS may appear as a single platform, there are various updates and versions that need to be considered.

You may choose to go with the latest versions only, which can keep your development time and costs low, or embrace all users. If you’ve a big pocket then you must go for both the platforms. However, if that’s not the case then you must choose any one out of the two.

The following table highlights the merits and limitations of both.

Android Apps and iOS Apps

Android Pros
  • The no. of users for Android exceeds that of iOS by a great number, especially in the Asia region.
  • Android has lower cost per download as compared to that of iOS.
  • Android has low maintenance cost as they are not required to be updated regularly like that of iOS.
  • Guidelines for Android are more lenient which reduces the cost of app development and hosting on the Android market.
Android Cons
  • General Android users prefer free or economical apps. Due to which the paid app may not perform well on this platform.
  • It takes a longer time to develop an Android app.
iOS Pros
  • iOS apps generally cost less than that of Android apps and are quicker to build.
  • iOS audience is usually affluent and spends more money, which means that paid apps are more likely to be successful on this platform.
  • iOS users are more loyal as compared to that of Android.
  • Apple has a strict guideline which ensures the quality of apps on the app store. iOS version of an app usually does more business than that of its Android counterpart.
  • iOS platform is more interactive and easier to use in general.
iOS Cons
  • High hosting cost for iOS. It can get close to $200 for iOS as compared to that of $25 for Android.
  • Less no. of iOS users in Asia-Pacific region.
  • Difficult to get the approval due to strict guidelines.

Application Development Frameworks to choose from:

Once you are clear about the audiences and app stores you wish to cater to, you need to understand, analyze and choose amongst the available technology frameworks as to what will be the most suitable option for your mobile app. Its cost needs to be taken in account too.

Native

It is a type of app which is developed for a specific OS whether Android or iOS. These apps are complex in nature and provide rich user experience.

Hybrid

This app is simpler in nature as it functions on a single programming language. However, unlike native apps it can work on both the platforms. They are easier to manage and develop. However, their user-experience is not as good as that of native apps.

cost of making an app

Cross-platform

Very similar to the Hybrid framework, cross-platform mobile app development is the process of creating mobile apps that can be deployed or published on multiple platforms using a single codebase, instead of having to develop the app multiple times using the respective native technologies for each platform.

Hidden costs of application development

This is an interesting thing, the hidden costs of mobile application development. Given a hefty chunk of your wealth is drained out in building it, there are certain critical segments which can also pull out a lot of your money. This section mentions which are those segments and how much do they cost?**

  • Servers- $12,000
  • Development tools, libraries and support- ≥$1,200
  • APIs- $5,000
  • App update submissions- $2,400
  • Push notifications- $2,400
  • Data storage- $3,600
  • Images data- $4,800
  • Social and chat integrations- $1,200
  • CDN- $3,600
  • Android and iOS- $10,000

**Note: These are estimated per annum figures calculated on weighted average and do not specifically quote any organization/individual

How to Manage Hidden Costs

Managing individual components in the mobile app development can be arduous. Each of them costs hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, and these costs will continue throughout the life of your app. This is what prevents so many businesses from developing an app that will help them do their work better, and it’s the exact problem we want to solve.

Fact of the Matter: Agencies and developers will quote you the full cost of the mobile app development, but this will exclude the ongoing support or software costs.

Prioritizing Minimal Viable Product

MVP or Minimal Viable Product has become one of the most important steps in the app development process. To quickly encapsulate its steps:

  1. Releasing product in the market ASAP
  2. Testing an idea with real users before committing a large budget to the product’s full development.
  3. Learn what resonates with the company’s target market and what doesn’t.

Now the question arises: how do you prioritize it? The following steps roll it out.

Step 1: Realising the product vision

For this to happen you need:

  • The principle reason behind the creation of the app which is to identify the pain point of the user and ways to curb it.
  • The detailed profiles of your target audience which includes gender, age, occupation, residence, etc.
  • Estimations for success in the long run. These can be metrics for increasing conversion rates for an online shopping app, DAU/MAUs for social networking apps, premium subscribers for a music streaming/podcast app to name a few.

Step 2: The MVP prioritization

For this to happen you should be able to answer the following:

  • What are the needs of the app users?
  • What value(s) does the app offer?
  • Which are the extra features that are not important?
  • Does the app have a feedback forum?

One of the foremost ways in which MVP can be prioritized is through the MoSCoW method. It’s an acronym for Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have. The ‘haves’ are basically 4 categories where you have to deploy the features of your application to have a concise idea about your app’s purpose and capabilities.

mobile app development cost

Fact of the Matter: MVP was conceptualized by Eric Ries, who introduced the concept of the minimum viable product as part of his Lean Startup methodology.

Step 3: Post MVP adjustment plan

Post the MVP stage and with the help of the MoSCoW method, your plan will be to implement the Should have and Could have features listed in the categories. You can work accordingly as per the KPIs, user-feedback obtained through MVP, user behavioural patterned tracked, etc.

Conclusion

Now you have every bit of information on how much does it cost to build an app. At least a significant amount to take the plunge. The app development journey is a highly personal one; despite every bit of research and analysis, you’ll be your own master when you’ll go through the process. There are around 3 million apps in the Play Store and over 2.2 million in the App Store and the success rate for mobile apps is 0.01%. This means only 1 out of every 10,000 applications get to be the early bird. Here’s an interesting article that corroborates this.

An concluding tip would be to go through the top app development companies and what procedures do they follow. This will paint a pellucid image in front of you on how much does it costs to build an app.

Next up

Outsourcing gives access to experts, saves money and provides a usable infrastructure for digital transformation. With global spending making it a trillion-dollar game, everyone wants to get it right.