App Development Costs Across Different US States

Estimating the costs of app development is a tricky task. The distinctive set of requirements for each project and the multitude of variables involved make computation of cost of developing an app highly complex.

While it is common knowledge that there is a huge variation in app development costs across the globe with the prices skyrocketing in the US and becoming increasingly cost effective in countries like India, most people don’t know that there is sizeable variation in the app development costs between the different US states as well. 

Survey Methodology

Calculating the app development costs is extremely complex due to the multitude of variables involved in computing the same. There are a number of app costs calculators like Otreva and Kinvey available in the market that give the approximation of tentative development costs but they often end up being too simplistic. 

Certain attributes like the experience of the development teams, the finesse of design team and the overall quality of app development cannot be quantified easily. This adds to the complexity of the overall cost computation when developing the app. 

In the process of conducting the survey of app development costs, we had to make certain assumptions to level the playing field and eliminate the effect of variables on the overall costs. 

Assumptions made in the research for this survey.

  1. The app to be developed is a basic productivity app for iOS that lets users manage their to-do lists.
  2. The app is a Native iOS app with code written in Swift. 
  3. The timeline for development is fixed- three months.
  4. The app does not integrate any complex third party APIs or social integrations.
  5. The level of complexity of the app is low and the feature list is predefined.
  6. The development team comprises one project manager, a business analyst, a UI/UX designer, an iOS developer and a quality assurance engineer. 
  7. The experience of the development team is intermediate and their remuneration is consistent with the median salaries in the industry
  8. The capital or tech hub cities in each state are considered when computing the app development costs. 
  9. There is no variation in the overhead costs and taxes levied in each state where the development is taking place. 
  10. The app does not require extensive backend support and has no storage of data on the cloud. 

Let’s talk numbers

Having eliminated the variables affecting the app development costs, let us jump right into what the actual app development costs across the different US states are. Here is a map depicting the amount of money it would cost to build the above mentioned app in different locations keeping the variables as constant. 

Key Findings

1. App development is costliest in the state of California

The cost of developing an app is highest in California which has long established ist standing as a technology hub within the US. The availability of top talent, abundant venture capital, skyrocketing cost of living and state of art innovations and research has resulted in silicon valley retaining its title of being the area with costliest development.

However, there are significant differences in the cost of developing an iOS app even within California. The development costs in San Francisco and Palo Alto are the highest and it costs upwards of $45,000 to develop a simple productivity based iOS app here. Interestingly, as we move away from the Bay area, the prices drop to $30,000 in the city of Sacramento.   

2. The tech hubs with the highest app development rates 

Apart from California the states with highest app development costs are North Carolina, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.  The up and coming technological hubs are the areas which have proven themselves to be epicentres of technological prowess and innovation. The app development costs at these locations is among the highest in the USA. These include

  • Silicon Hills in Austin, Texas
  • Silicon Forest in Portland, Oregon
  • Silicon Prairie in Dallas, Texas
  • Silicon Slopes in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Silicon Canal in Seattle, Washington
  • Silicon Alley, New York 
  • Silicon Anchor, Virginia
  • Research Triangle in North Carolina

3. The variation in app development costs in the US is huge

The cost of developing an app in the technologically advanced states is 2x more than what developing the same app would cost in other states with lower cost of living. A similar iOS app would cost nearly $49,000 in Palo Alto whereas in states like Alabama, Kentucky and Montana would cost only $22,000. 

Some of the underrated gems with plentiful tech opportunities and yet lower cost of app development are cities like Huntsville, Raleigh, Atlanta and Colorado Springs which have abundance of tech talent yet affordable development rates. 

4. Ten states with lowest app development cost in the US

The states on the lower end of the spectrum where the app development costs are in the range of $25,000 provide vital development opportunities for startups and businesses alike. 

Here is a list of the states with lowest app development costs in the US in alphabetical order

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin 

But why do the costs vary so much?

As an app development company, one of the most asked questions we commonly encounter is “How much would developing an app cost me?”

However, the answer to this query isn’t quite straightforward.

Asking how much it would cost you to build an app is like asking what the expense of your next vacation would be. 

A camping trip to the woods nearby would for a couple of days would cost significantly less than an arctic exploration cruise that lasts for a fortnight. 

Without explicitly specifying what the destination is, how many people would be accompanying you, how long your duration of stay would be and what level of service and amenities you are planning to avail, it is going to be next to impossible to fix the budget. 

Just as the cost of these two vacations vary significantly, similarly the app development costs can fall under a wide spectrum as well. Understanding the underlying factors that increase or decrease the development costs are important in order to accurately estimate what it would cost to develop your app. 

Factors affecting app development costs

1. App builder vs Freelancers vs app development company  

Each of these approaches come with their own set of pros and cons. 

An app builder is faster but the level of customization and innovation is limited so you may end up with a generic, templated looking mobile app which may or may not offer a memorable user experience to the users. 

Working with freelancers is comparatively cheaper but it comes with its own risks and aspects of unreliability. The costs of scaling, maintaining and updating the application also add up in the long run. 

App development companies and agencies like the industry leading Arkenea are likely the best bet for creating an engaging app that gives a rewarding user experience. Not only are the apps developed of higher quality, there is also a greater level of accountability when outsourcing the development of your mobile application. 

2. Platform of development

The first challenge when building a mobile app is deciding what platform you should be targeting first. A lot depends on the target audience and the availability of resources at your disposal. 

Native iOS and Android applications offer an enhanced user experience but developing two different applications for both these platforms is a resource intensive endeavor. It requires two distinct sets of teams working on both the applications simultaneously. It essentially is 2x the amount of efforts required thus doubling the monetary investment in app development as well. 

Conversely, hybrid or cross platform app development involves writing of a single shared codebase across both the platforms. The convenience provided by the write once, run anywhere form of development slashes down the upfront investment required making it the cost-effective alternative to native app development. 

If you don’t want to compromise on the user experience your app offers, you can always choose to tread down the path laid down by widely popular applications such as Uber and Instagram which started out as iOS apps and once the product-market fit was achieved, went on to develop an Android application. 

Since their target audience was primarily US based audience where Apple phones trump Android devices, their decision to prioritize iOS development made sense. However, if you are targeting audiences in regions such as Asia or South America, where Android devices outnumber the iPhones, you can choose to develop Android app first which can be followed by the iOS app at a later date.

Here is a breakdown of global market share of iOS and Android devices based on location that may help you to narrow down your choice of platform based on the geographical location of the audience you are targeting. 

Source: DeviceAtlas

3. Timeline for development 

The longer it takes to develop your app, the higher the development costs pile up. There are a number of underlying factors that affect the timeline of development. 

If your app involves integration of complex features, it would naturally add to the development time, bringing up the costs. A complex application like an eCommerce or a gaming app will naturally require a longer development timeline than simpler apps like utilities.

The timeline of development also depends on the number of developers you choose to have working on your application. Having a higher number of developers working on your application would effectively bring down your development timeline but allocating additional resources to the project would also increase the app development costs. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to choosing between time to market and the app development costs. If you are the pioneer of the app idea and launching first is crucial to retaining the competitive advantage, the app development timelines need to be kept short. 

However, if the competition to your app already exists in the market and launching a quality application matters more than launching fast, you can choose to have longer timelines. 

The timeline for going from an app idea to a fully developed application involves a number of steps. 

  1. Market analysis
  2. Project estimation
  3. Project planning
  4. UX/UI design
  5. Development
  6. Testing

4. Features and level of complexity

A feature rich app like Uber that requires multiple layers of complex functionalities to be imbibed within the application. You need to have real-time GPS tracking of location, the drivers and the users need to be connected with one another, and there also needs to be a secure payment gateway for processing of online payments. Such an app is definitely going to take longer to develop than a simpler application thus increasing the app development costs.

If the app involves integration of third party APIs the level of complexity remains high but the time to develop the app gets slashed down. However if custom coding of all the features is something that you require in your application, it is going to take a significantly more time, increasing the cost of development.  

An application that requires front-end and back-end development with server requirements adds to the costs. An on demand app like Uber requires separate development of the demand and supply side of the app which often necessitates the development of two different app versions at the same time, compounding the costs.

5. App developer salaries

Quality development comes at elevated costs. Developers with years of experience below their belt and who are skilled at their craft demand more salaries than entry level developers. So if the development team involves highly skilled and experienced candidates, the app development costs are naturally going to get higher. 

That being said, due to the geographical variations in the average salaries offered across different state and the differences in the cost of living across the different US states, choosing a location where app developer salaries are lower can get you the same quality of development undertaken at lower costs as compared to the states which have become tech hubs and thus have higher app developer salaries. 

The number of members in the development team also affects the overall app development costs. This also includes the design team, the business analyst, project manager and the quality assurance engineers apart from the developers. Increasing the number of developers on the team may result in accelerating the pace of development, letting you reduce the time to market but it also increases the overall app development cost at the same time. 

Conclusion 

Estimating the exact costs is a challenging task when developing an app. Even with the best of estimates, there may be a variation in the projected costs and the actual costs as so much relies on a case to case basis. However, it is always going to be costlier to develop an app in areas which have established themselves as technology hubs. 

With the rise in gig economy, location is no longer the limiting factor when it comes to hiring tech talent. You can get the same quality app developed for less than half the price just by selecting a location that is off the grid. It all depends on what the resources available at your disposal are. 

Have an app idea and want to know the exact cost of turning it to reality? Feel free to contact us and our team of experts will get back to you shortly!

Vinati Kamani
 

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.