App Development Costs: What Should You Expect?

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post

If you’re having an app developed for the first time for your business, it can seem like an extensive code to crack in order to ensure you get what you need.

With a huge number of options for development available, questions tend to abound for businesses. How will I find good quality developers? How will I know that? What will all this cost me?

The answer to that last question will vary depending on where you look and the variables which make up your particular app.

Here are some of the considerations that go into app development and some averages when it comes to development costs.

Type of App

The type of application you want to build plays a factor in overall cost as each type has its own complexities and nuances for developers to navigate. Do you want a mobile app? A web app? A hybrid of the two? A plugin created for an existing platform? (WordPress is a good example of this).

Complexity usually comes down to how long it takes to create the app, including how many lines of code need to be written, debugged or maintained in the app type you have chosen.

Joe Stangarone created a useful chart which helps to explain how the choice between web app, native mobile app or hybrid app can affect your development costs. One of the key takeaways from this is that whichever way you look at it, building a “native” mobile app (such as specifically for iPhone or Android) is the most expensive option due to a number of factors, but primarily because they take longer to develop and are more complex to maintain.

He also points out a risk factor involved: a native app is at the mercy of the owners of the platform it sits on, so if Apple or Google decide the app isn’t up to scratch, it can be removed without notice. As the owner, you have more control over web or hybrid apps.

Sept 5 Image 1

Source: Mr C Productivity

On the other side of that risk, mobile apps can deliver a much better customer experience through faster load times, better graphics and features such as push notifications. If your aim is to deliver a top of the line, customer-centric experience, then a native app just may be your answer.

Scope of Your App

This is one of those “how long is a piece of string?” questions. Some people are very clear on the exact scope and features they would like developed from the beginning, others take an ever-evolving approach which sees new iterations almost every week.

The number of features needed and the complexity of those features play a role in the final costs to develop your app. Some development firms are creating calculators to help give a rough estimate based on features for what final costs will be, but even these aren’t necessarily accurate.

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

Some features which can tip your app toward the more expensive end 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. (E-commerce apps usually tick the box in this case).
  • Building for more than one app platform.
  • Requiring user registration.

Type of Developer and 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:

  • A freelancer hired from a site like Upwork is often cheaper, however it is more difficult to ensure 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 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.
  • Agencies will manage your project themselves, saving you time. Offshore agencies will tend to have lower costs of labor, however you may encounter communication issues.
  • Onshore agencies might cost you more, however they tend to be a lower risk option because they fall under your local consumer laws, you can often deal with them face to face, and they have vast resources at their disposal.

If you’re very concerned about hiring the best to develop your app, look for agencies which have good 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. This type of agency will cost you, but your app is likely to be in safe hands.

Some Cost Averages

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.

The following information was taken from a Clutch survey:

  • 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 each rate were $25,275 to $114,300 at $100 per hour and $37,912.50 to $171,450 at $150 per hour. This is based upon development of an iPhone app.

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 somewhere such as Eastern Europe, or Asia may be significantly lower. Tech.co gave an example of development costs in India, stating that a simple app may cost $5000 to $8000 to build, whereas a more complex app might cost $40,000 or more.

Post Development Costs

A key to remember if budget is a significant factor in your decision-making is that costs don’t usually end with version one of your app being built. 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 now is “cost of developing an app”, however, there is no one right answer. 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.

Koombea has built a vast array of apps for big brands. Talk to us today about how we can help with your app creation.

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post