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How Much Does it Really Cost to Build a Mobile App?

So, you’ve done the hard part, and figured out a groundbreaking idea for a mobile app. You’re excited to find a developer, start construction, and release this masterpiece to the world. What’s next? Well, in order to do this right, you need to create a product of value and think through the steps that is going to result in the best app possible.This is a very crucial process, and can make the difference between producing a quality app to launch successfully and paying way too much for a subpar product. You want to keep in mind that a superior product may cost more up front, but, in the long run a great app is going to make you more money. Let’s take a look at how you can create an app of value.

Getting Started

Whether you are a lone entrepreneur with a new start-up or with a well-funded growing business, you still have to make some crucial decisions to make before you start the app development process. If you’re exploring the development of a mobile app, you likely know the first undeniable fact: mobile apps for smartphones and tablets are the future. Year after year, it’s clear that people are using mobile devices to communicate, shop, and do business in exponentially growing numbers. If you aren’t representing your business in the best possible way on these devices, you (and your business) are at a significant disadvantage. You need to get mobile-ready now.

But you almost certainly already know that, so let’s look at the initial choices you have to make. The first thing to consider is what type of app you want to develop:

A web app is simply a mobile version of your existing website, and is the bare minimum that a business should have. If you don’t at least have this, you’re way behind, but almost all businesses do.

The next type of app is called a native app, and this means it’s specifically designed for mobile IOS and/or Android devices to be downloaded by those users. Due to the superior performance and various features of native apps, an overwhelming percentage of users prefer them over web apps.

Last, we have hybrid apps, which are basically apps written in a single code for use on multiple OS systems and standard web pages. These typically take less time and money to develop and launch, yet can sometimes lack in UI quality for specific platforms.

Writing specific code for use on individual devices can be more expensive and take longer, but, depending on the size and scalability you want, you may find the best value one way or another.

Design Goals

Now that you’ve decided to build a native or hybrid app (because you did, right?), it’s time to classify your app, put some thought into design, and choose the right developer. These are all big topics, but we’ll break them down as simply as we can.

There are several types of app you can create, depending on your idea, and several different ways to categorize them.


  • Social Media: Examples include Facebook and Instagram. We wouldn’t recommend going up against these giants with your app, but any social networking or easily shared information should be considered as part of your app, if it’s applicable.
  • Lifestyle: This covers a wide range of topics, like food, movies, fitness, and travel. If you make your app fun, informative, and easy to use, you can get thousands of loyal users, as TripAdvisor and Fandango have.
  • Games: We all play them, and many feel the need to play multiple times daily, making in-app purchases and advertisements a very real monetizer. Obviously, the more addictive and original the game, the better it will perform.
  • News/Information: These apps curate and display various news and entertainment stories, like Buzzfeed or Newsify. The trick to competing here is to find an original way to present these articles in a customizable and engaging way.
  • Productivity: Apps like ApplePay or Google Docs are powerhouse examples, but they simply just help you get work or other tasks done quickly and efficiently.

So, put your app in one of those categories so you know how to approach a developer with it. Next, you should consider the basic ideas about graphic design…everything from your icon on their phone to color schemes to what your buttons on screen look like. People eat with their eyes first, and this approach is no different. It’s got to be inviting, easy to identify, and memorable among the thousands of apps out there, and, just like anything, you get what you pay for there.

You should also consider your user experience and user interface (UX and UI) goals. If you want users to navigate your app more than once, both of these designs need to be top notch. Obviously, the more complex the app, the more UX will need to be explored, but make sure your app has been examined for these factors from beginning to end.


These are the guys that will do it all. From ideation to strategy to all the quality assurance it needs, these are the folks that you’ll depend on to do it all. Do plenty of research before you even contact them. There’s plenty of testimonials from businesses that have worked with these companies, so look those up.

Also, make sure to check out apps that these developers have previously produced. Download them, use them, play around with them, and check the reviews. Developers have unique styles and looks, so the one you choose should align with yours. You also want to consider the pros and cons of working with different sized agencies. Ostensibly, bigger agencies have more resources and skilled employees to get the job done quicker and better, while smaller agencies offer more personal attention and individual flexibility. The cost of hiring these agencies typically follows a fairly linear scale, based on the complexity and time needed to complete it.

Clearly, you’ll need to examine these ways to add value to your app to identify cost, and there are so many variables that should factor in. But, considering how important quality development is, you should probably plan on spending somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%-45% of your initial startup budget on your developers. Again, you may be able to find a bargain, but you’re just as likely to run into an overpriced agency that might not deliver on budget. Take your time, do all of the research and categorization needed to step into a meeting with solid ideas, and find that developer that resonates with you. Trust us, it’s worth all that hard work.

Are you ready to take that next step to get your app developed? Learn more on how we develop apps here at Koombea.

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