How Much Does it Cost to Maintain an App in 2021

How Much Does Mobile App Maintenance Cost in 2021?

App maintenance is a lot more than it meets the eye. But how much does it cost to maintain an app? Let’s find out.

Updated on :
January 18th, 2021
Twinkle Kalkandha
Twinkle Kalkandha
Product Strategist

The elation of your app going live after days, months, years (maybe) is a feeling that cannot be essayed in words. That’s a sign of a start— a great one indeed. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as the real grind comes with app maintenance.

The number of smartphone users is expected to reach 3.8 billion by 2021. This is a gargantuan option for app creators and developers.

People usually associate coding as the most integral part of the development which is not arguably false but what people should give more preference to is the ‘magic I of Innovation’.

Maintenance of an application goes beyond the confines of coding. You had a successful start, the download figures exceeded your expectations, your app brought significant RoI but this is all for a short run. Remember Yik Yak, the social media app for community discussions? The app had a market value of $400 million in 2014 which it created in just a year of doing business. By 2017 it was extinguished as it faced constant bans from schools and couldn’t create group messaging.

cost of maintaining an app

For effective maintenance, innumerable updates, upgrades and bug fixes are planned by developers. Experienced digital partners help companies to forge ahead. A majority of the agencies propound a maintenance clause in the contracts. This includes a chargeable sum. The market norms are usually 15-20% of the original development costs. So if your app costs $80,000 for the build, you have to pay $12,000-16,000 per year as the maintenance fee. But this also depends on what all construes the maintenance. To understand app maintenance costs in detail, let us have an understanding of all the nitty gritty.

Importance of Mobile App Maintenance

To understand the importance of app maintenance, it’s essential to understand what all constitute app maintenance. Since it’s all pervasive and neverending process, there are various elements which need to worked upon consistently. They are

  • Bug Fixing
  • Upgrading to the latest OS version
  • Synchronising and synergizing with the latest trends in technology
  • Updating the content
  • Newer push notifications
  • Creating a strong robust backup
  • Improving app analytics

As the owner of a business you have to bear mobile app maintenance costs. Investing on long-term maintenance is beneficial and will save your app from getting moth-eaten. Let’s discuss how it can be done.

Providing regular updates and lowering uninstalls

It’s prudent to feel the pulse of users and curate features that reflect their likes and dislikes. Take a moment to reflect on this: in 2017, over 20% of millennial smartphone users uninstalled apps simply because they didn’t like the way the logo looked on their screen. It means that users are micro-aware of functionality and benefits, and if something doesn’t fit their expectations, they might delete your app. So, the bottom line is that you need to be continually monitoring user preferences and expectations—and updating your app.

Even the app stores maintain strict quality guidelines, and if your app listing doesn’t meet their standards, then they may reject your app listing.

If you find a dip in your app rankings, then the platforms may choose to go on a cleanup drive and remove your app from their stores. It would be prudent to consider updating your app with new features and APIs.

Reducing downtimes and loss of revenue

Any downtime could spell substantial revenue losses. Big companies like Bank of America Online Banking, Blackberry, and Amazon Web Services have suffered significant revenue losses due to downtime. When your team proactively handles such downtimes, it’s quite simple you’d have curtailed heavy losses and also earned happier users.

Surge in RoI

When you regularly update your app, you can get plenty of financial benefits, such as maximizing ROI. It will also help to continually look for innovative ways to decrease costs and acquire new users. How can regular maintenance help? It’s quite simple! When you fix that occasional bug, you can spread the costs of fixing bugs over a more extended period.

Creating a stronger shield to dodge cyber attacks

With the growth of the mobile app, there’s also an increasing quest for cybersecurity. As an app developer, you are responsible for the security of apps and websites.

When hackers are continually searching for loopholes and finding new ways to steal your personal and financial information—you can continuously look into app maintenance and update apps with the latest security protocols.

Improvement in UX

There is no secret key to your app’s success and growth. You need to provide better user experiences (UX).

Elegant user experience helps you to:

  • Develop long-term relationships with users
  • Get better feedback and positive reviews
  • Improve user retention
  • Increase customer loyalty

With such benefits, it’s reasonable to put in more effort and provide users with incredible experiences.

Types of App Maintenance

types of app maintenance

Application development and maintenance is a continuous process and keeps going on unless your app ceases to exist. The better the maintenance, the more are your chances of profitability. A study revealed that if you can increase your app retention rate by 5%, your profit margin will increase by 25-95%. There are various types of app maintenance which work on different principles. In this section, we’ll explain what are those types and how each type takes care of your app differently.

Emergency Maintenance

This implies that an emergency can occur at any given circumstance. This tells a lot about the ilk of grievances which implies that the issues or faults can be unforeseen, unexpected and unanticipated. Under such situations, the concerns need to be addressed right away in order to continue a coherent app experience.

Preventive Maintenance

The interference or ejection of error taking place defines preventive maintenance. The emphasis is on decreasing the volume of jargons in your app and enhancing the maintainability clause via code restructuring, optimization of code and updating the documentation.

Corrective Maintenance

Corrective maintenance helps in taking care of repairs, flaws, defects in the app functions. Inaccuracies that are pertaining to the code base, design and app logic are also covered up by the maintenance.

Adaptive Maintenance

Under adaptive maintenance, you are required to keep track of the changes that are being made in the application. This is done to keep the system updated. Adjustments are needed to be made in a working environment like the OS, hardware or software environment that can influence the operations of the app.

Perfective Maintenance

With trending mobile features and functionalities, you will find new or changed user requirements. It would make sense to proactively take feedback into account and take care of functional modifications in the source code, offering a perfect user experience.

What Are the App Development and Maintenance Costs?

Before the maintenance comes the cost of developing an application. This involves a considerable amount of investment to be made at every phase. An app can cost you somewhere between $15,000-50,000. This is a rough estimation for those who are creating an app for the first time with moderate features. The following are some points which will help you to come to estimates:

  • The actual answer to the above question depends on the build (app development) the service is using.
  • You can also get the developers at a cheaper cost, which is another concern.
  • The thumb rule says the upfront expense of maintaining the app is 20% of the total cost of development.
  • That means if your app’s total expense is $100,000, you are required to spend about $20,000 per year to maintain the same.
  • Additionally, when you are spending on the app marketing strategies, it will also be counted in the total cost of development.

How is app maintenance cost ascertained?

Design and development maintenance

The most interesting and realistic thing about this is that once your app is live on various app stores, you’ll start observing that your app needs improvement. It can be either improvement in aesthetics or performance-related discipline. Many of these tentative fixes will also be determined through feedback from customers.

Development maintenance

In the maintenance phase, you can expect your team to work on a mix of:

  • Bug fixes
  • Code refinements
  • Third-party compatibility work (e.g. adjusting code to your payment service’s updates)
  • New features (remember to rank feature requests from “critical” to “trivial” to make sure you don’t spend your maintenance budget on features that aren’t essential)

Design maintenance

Your users won’t use your app if it feels and looks obsolete – they might simply go for a competing service. Hence, you’ll have to pay attention to maintaining a flawless UI and UX as the app grows.

To ensure this, you might need to invest in usability research (for instance, by running regular surveys among users or through organizing focus groups) or reach out to an experienced external partner for a UX review.

This is critical if you introduce many new features in a short timeframe.

As time goes by, you’ll also likely need to revisit your entire branding to remain relevant to your users. While it’s not a yearly expense, it’s also worth keeping in mind.

Mobile app security

Making sure your app is secure is arguably the single most important maintenance cost you should budget for.

There are two areas to consider:

  • ongoing security optimization,
  • legislative-imposed changes

To make sure you’re not putting your users’ sensitive information in danger, your developers will need to track any privacy changes or updates of your third-party integrations. Leaving any update unaddressed could result in a security breach.

Equally so, you need to keep in mind legislative changes, like GDPR, which always shake up the way data is processed and protected globally. Hence, it’s wise to keep a security budget for events that can’t be easily predicted.

Infrastructure services

Just like you’ll need to maintain your code and app interface, you’ll also need to list down all infrastructural services, like third-party costs, as well as human work.

Consider any services like hosting, database, or server maintenance. If you’re still in the process of building your app, here’s an example of what the costs look like at Firebase – a popular solution for mobile app infrastructure.

As for your team, they will be responsible for handling any changes that need to be applied in your services’ admin panels. They’ll also need to keep track of your performance metrics, such as monitoring server performance.

Hence, remember that an infrastructural budget includes not just the invoices you pay to external companies. It can also influence the number of hours your developers will be spending on your app each month.

App Analytics

It’s important that you track and analyze how your users interact with your app. If you see, for instance, how much time they spend in your app or when they abandon it, you’ll know if there are any issues that require fixing.

Depending on your app, you’ll either need to use one or several analytics tools. We discuss more on the subject in our dedicated article on implementing mobile app analytics. Now, let’s have a look at the types of services often omitted in mobile app maintenance cost plans.

Marketing Services

Once your app is live in Google Play and/or the AppStore, you’ll also need to bring in more users. You can do this by optimizing your app’s organic reach with App Store Optimization (ASO) as well as other marketing activities best for your niche. These may include running a blog on your website, running newsletters, or investing in paid ads to target potential users via Google or social media.

The bottom line is that you need to budget for establishing your app’s position on the market.

Administrative and customer support services

As users keep coming to your app, you’ll need someone to oversee their accounts. This might mean that you’ll need to have someone organizing data in your Content Management System (CMS).

Even more importantly, you’ll need to have someone responsible for communicating with your users. If it’s a modest client base, you likely won’t need a big team – that said, make sure you have the means to scale if necessary.


To sum it up, app maintenance can be tedious and a joyous ride but it’s everlasting till your app is running. The motto is to not stop. You may get a 100 million downloads but that’s not the top you want to reach. More downloads doesn’t necessarily guarantee more visits or clicks. People may simply use your app because it’s popular but uninstall it after one use yet you still may have your millions. Go for a wider and regular audience. Increment in Daily Active Users (DAUs) on a regular basis is more important.

    Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does it cost to maintain an app?
  • Do apps need maintenance?
  • How do you maintain an app?

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