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App Development
8 minutes read

App Development Cost: What Should You Expect?

by Jonathan Tarud
App Development
8 minutes read

If you’re managing an app development project for the first time for your business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to understand the app development cost structure while ensuring that you get all the app features you need.

With a huge number of development options available, businesses interested in having an app developed tend to have plenty of questions about the app development process, such as:

  • How will I find a qualified development team?
  • How will I know that they are indeed qualified? 
  • How much does it cost after it’s all said and done?

The answer to this last question will vary depending on how you choose to go about developing the app and the variables which make up your particular app.

In this article you’ll learn the basics to consider in order to understand app development costs. This will give you an idea of the elements of an approximate app development cost breakdown and the app development process workflow you need to take into consideration.

What Affects App Development Costs?

The Type of App 

The type of application you want to build plays a major role in the overall app cost, as each different type has a unique app complexity and nuances for development teams to navigate. It is not the same to build a sophisticated FinTech app as it is to build a basic eCommerce app. 

Do you want a mobile app? A web app? A hybrid app? An API integration for an existing platform (for example, WordPress)?

Complexity usually comes down to how long it takes to build the app, including how many lines of code need to be written, debugged, or maintained in the app type you have chosen. It also depends on whether you choose to add services related to DevOps or Quality Assurance.

If your aim is to deliver a top of the line, customer-centric experience, and your budget is less of an issue, then a native app very well may be your answer.

The Scope of The App

Some people are very clear on the exact scope and features they would like developed from the beginning of a project, while others take an ever-evolving approach which entails new iterations almost every week.

The number of app features needed and an app’s complexity play a role in the final app development cost. Some app development companies are creating calculators to help give a rough estimate of cost based on features, but even these aren’t necessarily accurate. Each project is unique. 

You might need third-party API integrations, which are relatively complex and require more time for development. You might need payments or memberships to be incorporated into your app architecture. How many functions does your app have? Two basic functions might even cost you less than one relatively complex function.

Some features that can tip your app toward the more expensive end of the spectrum include:

  • Dynamic content, where the app content needs to be able to be updated by an external source. Weather or news apps are good examples of this.
  • Location-based features, which allow for push notifications and mobile moments.
  • Extra security features. (eCommerce apps usually tick the box in this case).
  • Building for more than one app platform.
  • Requiring user registration.

The Type of Developer and Development Team Location

The field is wide open here. The internet gives you access to thousands upon thousands of possible developers depending on what your app needs are. Do you go for a freelancer? A local consultant? A development agency either locally or offshore?

Here are some of the factors affecting cost and results for each type of app developer:

  • A freelancer hired from a site like Upwork is often cheaper, however it is more difficult to ensure that you are really getting someone who knows what they are doing and isn’t passing the work to someone else.
  • A local consultant can be a good option, however they will tend to have more limited experience and resources available to them. There is only so much that one individual can do (which might suit you fine if your app is within their usual wheelhouse). The local consultant will usually cost more than your online freelancer.
  • Agencies have a wider range of talent available to them, but also have higher costs to run. This will add to the cost of your development but can help guarantee your project’s success.
  • Agencies will manage your project themselves, saving you time and rework. Offshore agencies will tend to have lower costs of labor, however you may encounter communication issues if they don’t have the appropriate language skills.
  • Onshore agencies might cost you more, however, they tend to be a lower risk option because they fall under your local consumer laws, so you can often deal with them face to face, and they have vast resources at their disposal.

If you’re concerned about hiring the best to develop your app, look for agencies that have reputable credentials. This should include a vast body of work you can look at, good reviews from past clients, or even mentions such as rewards or write-ups on tech sites. Even better if you look for award-winning app development companies. This type of agency will cost you, but your app is likely to be in safe hands.

Average App Development Cost Estimate 

By now you’ve figured out there is no one right answer to how much it costs to develop an app. You’re going to get a different answer depending on all of the variables discussed above, so what we can do here is look at some averages.

These are some numbers you probably want to keep in mind: 

  • Average hourly rates for development in the USA are $100 to $150 per hour.
  • Maximum costs at those rates were $485,000 to $727,500.
  • Medians for mobile projects with low rates are somewhere around $100,000-$200,000. So keep in mind that your project can easily be above that. 

Enterprise level apps range from $50,000 to over $1 million, with the average cost being $271,000.

Put another way, here are some average costs if you were to build an app similar to these popular ones:

  • Uber – $1.5 million (more for second or third versions).
  • Instagram – $500,000.
  • Small e-commerce site (up to $1 million in revenue) – $100,000.

Bear in mind that the average costs above are all based on getting work done in the US. Your costs to develop in places such as Eastern Europe or Asia may be significantly lower. However, and this is something you should definitely consider, your chances of success with such rates are very low. 

You want to make sure that your project is done by a professional app development company, and building a quality app costs money. When it comes to building a world-class app, cheap is expensive.

Post-Development Process Costs

A key to remember if budget is a significant factor in your decision-making is that costs don’t usually end with an early version of your app. If you want ongoing updates, new features, or tweaks later on, these will cost you.

Forrester research found that the average amount spent on developing an app was often just 35% of the true two-year development cost. If you’re having an app developed, you need to be prepared to commit budget to maintenance and any iterations wanted on the app.

Final Thoughts

One of the most popular Google searches today is “cost of developing an app.” However, there is no one one-size-fits-all cost. You’re going to get different quotes depending on where you look for a developer, the type of app you want built, and the complexity of the features you need.

If there’s one thing that still remains true though, it’s the mantra “you get what you pay for.” There are too many stories of companies opting to take a cheaper route, only to find they need to hire someone else to fix their app later. Look for examples and credentials when shopping around for a developer.

Lastly, remember to factor in ongoing costs such as maintenance or any changes needed. App platforms such as Android and iOS are updated from time to time, which can result in apps also needing to be updated in order to keep up. Remember that you may want these changes later and look for a developer who will be available to make them.

Want a ballpark estimation of what your app development project might look like? Contact Koombea for a free consultation and find out.

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