The first question any business planning to develop an app has is how much app development costs. This is an important part of planning your app development project. The cost of an app can depend on many factors depending on the complexity of the app development project. More businesses want to create their own apps and the market size is increasing quickly.
According to eMarketer, almost 90% of the time people spend on apps. Soon, people will use a mobile device for 4 hours a day, and 88% of this time will be for the activity in applications. As businesses enter this market, budget is their main concern. In this article, we will discuss various factors that impact the app development cost and how much you can expect to spend.
Many factors influence the price, depending on the complexity of the app you want to build. Here is how much you can expect to spend:
- Simple App Development Cost – $50,000 to $80,000
- Average App Development Cost – $80,000 to $150,000
- Complex App Development Cost – from $400,000
How The App Market Has Changed
We’re living in an age where we can order groceries, turn on the lights in our house, or get in a workout from the convenience of our phones, tablets, or other devices. Apps are a part of our everyday lives. They are increasingly giving us more free time or vying for more of our attention, depending on how we choose to use them.
For those of us building apps, there’s an increasingly larger burden on us to meet the expectations of our users. We’ve outlined the considerations of what makes a great app in the past, which are more relevant than ever. Users simply don’t have the patience for apps that are overly complex, slow, or buggy. Meeting those user expectations is significantly challenging.
Thankfully, the tools we use continue to get better and more app specific. For example, Sketch lets us design more efficiently with its focus on creating user interfaces. Marvel helps us craft better prototypes with it being specifically for apps. Swift has been a revelation for the Apple ecosystem and has expanded developer interest considerably. Android Studio and now Kotlin are doing the same for Android apps. Firebase and yes, even Parse, now as Parse Server, helps developers build app-focused backends to bring apps to the market more quickly. App-specific tools such as Sketch have gained popularity since 2015.
Similarity of platforms
Android and iOS have become more and more similar in their approaches. The “Android tax,” as we’ve referred to it in the past, no longer exists. Generally, Android and iOS apps can now be built with the same quality, with comparable timelines, and budgets. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we suggest building platforms in parallel, it’s a huge relief for people creating apps.
Further separation of quality
Although the market has even more options to build apps now than in 2015, there’s also clearly more of a distinction in quality. The best app firms and app developers have further honed and distinguished themselves. They have more awards, stronger portfolios, better team members, and more specialized skills. The tools available have made it easier to build apps though, so there’s also many more mediocre or low-quality options to build your app.
What Factors Affect App Development Cost?
These are some factors that can impact the app development cost.
Type of app
Before you get started with your app development process, you will need to figure out which type of app. The two main types of apps include native apps and hybrid apps. Native apps are built for a specific operating system. You can choose if you want to develop your app for Android or iOS platform. If you choose to develop your app for both platforms, then your cost will be higher.
Hybrid apps can support multiple operating systems. They use a single codebase and can be built for multiple platforms like Windows, iOS, and Android. This can cut down on development and maintenance costs.
If you plan on including advanced functionality and features such as third-party integrations and push notifications, then the base price of the app will increase. A business can include many sophisticated features in their app that can cost them more. When deciding your budget this factor needs to be considered as well.
If you design a complex user interface, then the cost of developing would be higher. For example, it can take about 20 to 220+ hours to create an interactive UI that can contribute $2000 - $19,000 to the development cost of the app.
Another factor that adds to the development cost estimate is the development team. This depends on the staff you hire such as an app development company or freelance professionals.
How Much Does Android App Development Cost?
According to 42Matters, new Android apps are being published at a rate of 2.5 times greater than iOS apps. Android apps are built for a variety of devices, whereas iOS apps are limited to iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Building an Android app can cost anywhere between $50,000 to $300,000.
How Much Does iPhone App Development Cost?
The estimated cost of building an iPhone app is between $55,000 to $300,00. The language used for building iOS native apps is Objective-C or Swift, which can mean a high app development price.
App Cost By App Type
App Costs for No Network Access
We define “standalone” apps as apps without server components or apps that need no network access to function. They are not very common today due to the pervasiveness of network connectivity and lower data costs.
Apps in this scenario would be able to fully function without any sort of network connection. Historically, examples of standalone apps might be your settings app or the camera app that comes with your device. Even today though, those apps usually have some interaction with the network. For example, you can share a photo from your camera via messaging.
- Type: Standalone
- Cost: $50,000 to $80,000
- Examples: Calculator, Clock, Camera, Settings
App Costs for Data Consumption Only
Today Weather consumes data from third-party APIs but has no authentication.
The next kind of app involves apps that need network connectivity but solely consume data. That is, they don’t need any sort of authentication or login to work. Again, these kinds of apps are not as common today, but they still do exist.
Examples of these types of apps might include the stocks or calendar apps that come with your device. Third-party developers, however, build much more extensive versions of those apps that include logins, syncing, and other features. Keep in mind that the data-consumption apps may require a lightweight server aspect to be built as well.
- Type: Data-consumption only
- Cost: $50,000 – $100,000
- Examples: Calendar, Weather, Stocks
App Costs for User Authentication / Login
Users can browse the Bible app or log in for advanced features.
Apps begin to get more complex—and costly—once user authentication is involved. The main reasons for that are all the other expectations that come with user authentication. Typically, they include interacting with data (e.g., favoriting an article), syncing data across devices, push notifications, and perhaps collaborative features (e.g., inviting a family member).
Example apps might include ESPN or the Bible App. Both of those apps follow the best practice of being able to use them without user authentication. They become more useful, however, once a user account is created. There are many more apps that could fall into this category but will be reserved for the next one.
- Type: User Authentication
- Cost: $100,000 – $300,000
- Examples: ESPN, Bible App, Google Drive
Costs of Social and Social Networking Apps
Many of the top apps today are driven by social features. This means that users interact with each other and each other’s data, such as a text, photo, or video. They can also friend one another and otherwise create their own network. Hence the term “social network.”
The kind of apps that fall into this app type are extensive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples. Remember that some of these apps have been worked on for many, many years. Thus, a v1.0 social app or social networking app will likely not offer all of the same features. For instance, Snapchat did not start with videos, filters, or their “Stories” functionality. A social app would, however, include user authentication, friending, favoriting (or other data interaction), some sort of messaging, and comparable “baseline” functionality.
Although not explicitly mentioned above, dating apps can also be included in this category. Dating apps would have the additional features of being able to more extensively search, filter, and interact with profiles, a matching algorithm, and advanced permissions that limit interaction until a match occurs.
- Type: Social Networking, Dating, “Matching”
- Cost: $150,000 – $500,000
- Examples: Facebook, Snapchat, Tinder
Costs of Ecommerce Apps
Ecommerce apps include many of the same features as apps that require logins (user authentication) or social networking features. They go a step further, though, in two ways. Ecommerce apps require integration with inventory systems, as well as payment processing.
The first is that they will need to be powered by a product catalog. Many times that already exists and an app will just leverage APIs or web services to pull back products. If it doesn’t, however, it will require either a custom buildout (beware!) or leveraging platforms like Shopify, Magento, or comparable solutions. The strength of these tools include providing the administration interface to add new inventory, APIs or SDKs, ways to store items in a cart, and similar features. The downsides are that you’ll be limited by their workflow and customizations.
The other aspect that separates the cost of ecommerce apps is the payment itself. As users add products, they’ll need to check out and perform a payment transaction. Some of the tools above bundle in payment solutions. Alternatively, you’ll have to integrate with payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree, Authorize.net, etc. Ecommerce apps that fall into this category include Amazon, Stitch Fix, Honest, and many others.
The costs in this case assume that an ecommerce system is either already in place or an off-the-shelf system is used. The variability of costs results from how complex an existing system might be, as well as the extensiveness of the product catalog. Not included in these costs would be the required shipping logistics.
- Type: Ecommerce, Transactional
- Cost: $200,000 – $1,000,000
- Examples: Amazon, Stitch Fix, Honest
Costs of On-Demand Apps with Two Versions
As I mentioned back in 2015, we often received requests to create an “Uber clone.” Uber, Instacart, Postmates, and apps like them are all considered “on-demand” applications. They allow users to immediately fulfill a need or want, whether it’s hailing a ride, getting groceries, or having a meal delivered. Instacart needs apps both for shoppers and customers.
On-demand apps incorporate many of the elements seen in apps with logins and social features. Like ecommerce apps, they also include a transactional component, because users need to purchase goods and services. Unlike social and ecommerce apps, however, on-demand apps essentially require two completely unique user experiences. For example, an Uber driver needs advanced mapping and routing functionality while a rider doesn’t. Similarly, the driver doesn’t need to do a payment while a rider does.
For this reason, on-demand applications can get very time intensive. Consider building on an on-demand platform on both iOS and Android. A typical app on a single platform would require one experience to be designed. In the case of an on-demand app on two platforms, four would be required. That’s one experience for each user in the system (i.e., two per platform) plus each platform (i.e., four in total). On-demand apps also often require a number of administrative interfaces. The only way to reduce the cost of an on-demand platform is to streamline the typical feature set included. For example, you could remove in-app payments or administrative interfaces while doing market validation.
- Type: On-demand
- Cost: $100,000 – $1,500,000
- Examples: Uber, Instacart, Postmates
Costs of Two-Sided Marketplace Apps
Apps that require a two-sided marketplace tend to share many of the same characteristics of on-demands apps. In fact, on-demand apps are actually a more specialized version of a two-sided marketplace.
A two-sided marketplace app or platform consists of supply and demand sides. The business is able to bring value to both sides, which is a direct result of network effects. That is, the suppliers are attracted to the growing stable of demand and vice versa. Therein lies the problem: scale.
Two-sided market platforms need scale on both sides of the equation. If Angie’s List, for example, has no electricians available in Washington, D.C., then people there won’t use their app. Without a significant number of people needing services in that location though, their platform won’t attract electricians to join.
Because two-sided market apps lack the specificity of on-demand apps, usually more features need to be built. More significantly though, it’s much harder for a company to build each side of the market. Uber, for example, is focused on driving. Angie’s List, on the other hand, has hundreds of different kinds of service providers. If it wasn’t clear from the examples, both on-demand and two-sided marketplaces also have a geographic component. This means that they often start in one area or a subset of areas like Uber did in San Francisco.
- Type: Two-sided marketplace
- Cost: $200,000 – $1,500,000
- Examples: TaskRabbit, Wag!, Care.com
Costs of Internet of Things (IoT) and Hardware-focused Apps
Eero is a great example of a physical product that has an app counterpart.
Since 2008, apps have become increasingly more interconnected. IoT apps are one such instance. These apps generally focus on communicating with objects that exist in the real world. These objects could include a toothbrush, doorbell, medical device, lights, home assistant, or any other number of products.
Often you’ll hear the word “smart” associated with the physical object when it is IoT-based. Instead of just lights, you get “smart lights.” Instead of just a doorbell, it’s a “smart doorbell.” These kinds of apps require an initial setup via Bluetooth or WiFi, so that you can check your house while on vacation or start your coffee while in bed.
IoT apps often require fairly low-level interactions with firmware to control the hardware itself. They need ways to send commands and pull data, requiring close collaboration with whoever is building the hardware. They also may even require specialized ROMs or very precise device requirements due to being computationally intensive.
- Type: Internet of Things, hardware-focused
- Cost: $200,000 – $2,500,000
- Examples: Automatic, eero, Nest
The costs of apps continue to vary dramatically in the marketplace. That’s why we keep providing data-driven resources like this one. Don’t be surprised when you go to reference this article and a developer, company, your neighbor, or a person you just met on the street suggests, “Yeah, I can build that for a few thousand dollars.”
What we’re trying to do in providing these ongoing app cost resources is to frame the conversation for you. As noted earlier in this article, we’re not suggesting that any of these different app types can’t be lower than the lowest range shown or higher than the highest one. We are, however, trying to give you a sense for what a quality app built by seasoned professionals would look like.