How Much Does It (Really) Cost To Build An App?

Apps are now the focal point of many businesses around the world and for good reason. Apps are essential to improving your sales thanks to its ability to attract new customers and retain existing ones and the cost of app development has gone down considerably over the years.

They have become a significant sales channel that your business can leverage to increase revenue and capture user data on the product or service you sell.

Thus, it’s critical to invest in app development so you can produce a high-quality app. But, how much does it really cost to build an app? More importantly, is there really such a thing as creating a free app?

Are free app builders truly free?

Utilizing app builders seems like a lucrative option for businesses to develop and launch their apps at a low cost, but there is truly no such thing as a free app.

While certain app builders outrightly let the users know the cost of associated with app development, the ones that claim to be free have some sort of hidden charges. Some may require you to have developer accounts for the app stores while others require a subscription if you want to unlock anything more than the basic features.

If you want to successfully design, develop and launch a mobile app and expect it to yield results in the form of profits, investing in a team of dedicated developers or hiring a mobile application development company like Arkenea is a good long-term investment.

How much does it cost to make an app?

There are a host of app development cost calculators that can give you an estimate into what the costs associated with turning your app idea into reality would be but how is the cost to build an app actually calculated?

If you want to know how to create an app, it’s important to know what to expect when it comes to costs. If you’re wondering about the cost of developing an app, then you’ve come to the right place. Give your app ideas the direction they need.

Related: A startup’s guide to app development.

Here’s a quick guide to the real cost of app development:

1. Your Development Criteria Decides The Cost

The starting price for app development can range from as little as $5,000 to over $50,000 on average. However, it’s not unheard of for the price of an app to cost as much as $1 million. One of the key factors impacting the app pricing is your development criteria.

Apps are highly customizable based on your criteria, and this makes each app unique. For example, you can expect costs ranging from $50,000 to produce a single-function app to $250,000 if you are looking to create an app with API integrations. Even simple concept designs for apps can cost $5,000. That’s why it’s important to have an idea about what you want your app to accomplish.

2. Quality Impacts Pricing

One of the most important aspects to consider when you research app development prices is the quality that you’re getting. Typically, you can expect to pay more for quality when it comes to app development.

While there are options in the market to outsource app development to developers who charge rock-bottom rates, you risk getting inexperienced developers who deliver poor quality apps or even overlook implementing key security measures. On the other hand, when you invest in a developer with years of experience, you can expect a quality product.

An experienced developer knows that security is a must-have for any quality app. Enhanced security measures show your users that the app is secure for conducting transactions and that you prioritized keeping their personal data safe. The scale of the app developer can impact price, too. For instance, a large agency may cost even 4 times the price of an individual freelance developer.

On the other hand, you can expect medium-sized app development companies to cost one and a half times the rate of an individual app developer and provide far better quality and support.

3. Think About Maintenance

The cost of app development also extends to maintenance to keep your app running smoothly. The more popular your app becomes, the likelihood your users may come across bugs or errors that require fixing. Also, sometimes your code may require updating to stay in compliance with platform security measures.

So, it’s important to factor in the cost of app maintenance. Maintenance typically includes the cost of hosting and for labor to keep your app up-to-date. A general rule of thumb is to expect to pay 20 percent annually based on the mobile app development cost for maintenance to keep your app operational. For example, if you spent $80,000 to develop your app, then you can expect to pay around $16,000 each year for maintenance.

4. Give Consideration To Integration

When factoring what you need for your app you have to also consider the cost needed for the app to be integrated with other platforms via APIs, such as social media platforms or payment gateways, among others. For example, you can use app development that leverages social media integration so that users can easily share their favorite products or services from your business with their followers and friends.

This helps them to spread the word about your company and the products or services it offers. You can also request to collect data on users that volunteer to see what are the type of things the purchase on the regular. This helps give your company ideas on selling another closely related product you can produce to capture more revenue.

Similarly, if there’s any transaction that a user has to undergo in your app, you’d have to integrate with a third-party payment gateway via their API.

Platform integration pricing will depend on the platform you use, too. For example, you can expect to pay more for iOS app development than for developing an app for Android use.

5. Don’t Forget The Design

The UI/UX design of your app can impact the final price you can expect to pay. Design involves a wide variety of elements from the customization of your UI to user experience management.

The more customization that goes into your app, the more you can expect to pay. For instance, going for a flashy app, such as one with that plays custom introductory videos, may cost more than an app without one. Consider your design details and determine if your budget is better spent on optimizing the app to load quicker for a wide range of devices.

App design doesn’t always need to be flashy. It can be simplistic and highly functional. When someone says they want an easy to use app and simple designs, that’s actually tougher to achieve given the complexities of the workflow. This process also makes designing expensive if you hire someone with not just graphic design skills, but also user experience skill sets.

Factors affecting the cost of an app – The full breakdown

1. Platform chosen for developing the app

When it comes to developing a mobile app, you can either target Android, iOS or both. While Apple phones have a more dedicated user base, focus on Android lets you reach out to a wider set of audience.

Cost of making an iPhone app is greater than the cost of developing an Android app because the level of expertise required in developing for iOS is more. The Apple app store has more stringent set of rules that need to be followed before the app gets published than the Google play store.

In case of Android apps, due to the availability of greater number of devices which have different screen sizes, the mobile app development needs to undergo rigorous testing to ensure a stellar user experience across different mobile devices.

Before you start with mobile app development, you need to determine what kind of an app are you working towards. Whether it is a platform-specific native app or whether cross-platform or hybrid app development would better meet your requirements.

Native apps are specifically built for either Android or iOS. They provide an enhanced user experience but since you have to build separate apps from scratch for both platforms, the cost of development becomes double. Cross-platform app development, on the other hand, runs on a single code and allows for code sharing across different platforms negating the need to develop separate apps, resulting in significant cost savings.

Related: Flutter vs React Native – a cross-platform app development guide.

2. Technical complexity of the app

The more complex the app, the higher the cost of developing it gets. A simple app or a basic functionality app such as a calculator or a notes app is much easier to make than a complex social media or an eCommerce app. As the technicality increases, the complexity of features and the time associated with developing the app increases, resulting in the subsequent increase in cost.

Incorporation of 3rd party integrations, custom animations, backend support and API integration adds to the costs of development. Additionally, complex apps require greater amount of data transfer which increases the server requirements thus increasing the costs.

3. Freelance or Full time

Hiring a freelance developer for building your mobile app is a cheaper option compared to hiring a full-time development team but that comes with higher risk associated with it. Freelancers have low accountability and the risk of developing a bloated mobile app may end up costing you more than hiring full time ever would.

Having an in-house team of full-time developers may turn out to be a costly affair. Outsourcing the development to an app development agency safeguards you from the damage you would have incurred hiring freelancers and also ends up costing less than in-house development team

4. Geographical location of the development team

The standard costs of hiring developers for app development vary depending on the geographical location they are based in. Hiring developers in developed regions such as America and western Europe is way more costly than hiring developers in developing regions such as Asia because of the difference in hourly rates.

You could get the same level of work done if you hire an app development company based in India at much lower rates than what you would expect to pay in the USA. Working with remote workers comes with their own set of challenges. The time difference makes communication a challenge while reliability can also be an issue. Still, a bit of research on your part can result in a significant reduction in the app cost by partnering with a remote team.

5. Level of expertise and specialization required

Successful mobile applications have a dedicated team of personnel behind its development. A number of individuals need to be involved ranging from UI/UX designers, software developers, quality assurance engineers and project managers.

The greater the project requirements, the higher is the requirement of personnel on the project which directly increases the cost of making the app. Hiring an experienced team consisting of technical experts does not come cheap but it does streamline the development process and increase your chances of success.

6. Timeline of app development

Time is money and it couldn’t be more true for mobile app development. The rates of developing a mobile application are computed on an hourly basis. The number of development hours that your project is expected to require determines the final cost.

App development life cycle is made up of the following steps- Requirement analysis, Wireframing/Prototyping, UI/UX Design, Development, Testing and Launch. The longer the process takes, the higher the cost of development.

7. Additional costs incurred

The app development journey does not end when you successfully publish the app, it actually begins from there. You need to allocate a separate budget to reach out to the potential users via marketing and promotions.

There are also other costs such as server costs and other fees if you want to convert your mobile app into a successful business. The upkeep and maintenance costs also have to be factored in while discovering the cost of app development.

Tips for building a mobile app on a budget

1. Focus on cross-platform app development

Developing a cross-platform app is considerably less expensive than developing a native app. The app can be simultaneously launched for both Apple and Android making effective outreach easier with lower development costs.

2. Hire an offshore web development company

Hiring an offshore company brings in an element of accountability while keeping the development costs relatively low. It offers project management, design and development at a fraction of the cost of hiring a development agency in the same geographical space as you. Get a quote for your app.

3. Start with building an MVP

When it comes to mobile app development, the scope of features that can be incorporated is limitless. Defining a minimum viable product that has all the must-have features gives clarity to the development team and provides you with a product that you can use to test your market assumptions, gauge the user response and present to the investors, all while keeping the costs of developing the app low.

Summing up

Understanding the pricing of app development helps you move beyond wondering how much does it cost to build an app. When it comes down to it, the exact price of your app development depends on your goals for your app.

Since apps are customizable, you can expect them to range significantly depending on what you need. Whichever option you choose for app development, just keep quality and security in mind so you can avoid issues in the long run.

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.

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