Evaluating Your Budget: How Much Will It Cost to Build Your App?

Customers always wonder how much it will cost to make an app (at least approximately). Relatively low prices and high quality are what everybody is looking for when hiring an app agency, whether that agency is in the UK, the US, India, or Ukraine. We know this very well, as we develop web apps and Android and iOS mobile apps for startups and established companies all over the world.
 
Needless to say, the cost of software development varies widely. Nevertheless, let’s try to figure out how much you might expect to pay for your fancy new web software, iOS app, or Android app and what that money actually pays for when working with an outsourcing company.

What influences the cost of app development?

The cost of app development doesn’t only hinge on development time and hourly rates. It depends on a number of factors, including the difficulty of finding talent, the complexity of the product, and post-release support expenses.

App development team

Depending on the project requirements, an offshore or local development team can be basic or extended. An app development team typically includes a business analyst, a solution architect, one or more developers (depending on the platform), a project manager, a quality assurance specialist, and a UI/UX designer. And even if you’re going to save money on the user interface (no bright colors, no fine-featured menu, no eye-filling animations, just the basics), you’ll still need a proper user experience. Therefore, you’ll have to hire a UI/UX designer at least part-time.

Technical complexity

There can be millions of features that add technical complexity to a project. For instance, we built a platform for last-minute hotel room bookings with a sophisticated search filtering algorithm that’s connected with real-time discounts. When we built it, there was no available filter integration we could use, so developing the algorithm on our own was the only possibility. This led to extra development time and, as a result, a higher cost for the app. Some other common examples of technically complex elements include:

Backend development

You might be planning a big dynamic app for millions of users who will exchange a huge amount of information in real time and will definitely want their data to be synchronized across platforms and stored in the cloud. In this case, you’ll surely need a backend that can withstand huge loads and work smoothly under any conditions, which will entail more time spent on designing and building a complex app architecture. Moreover, you’ll require multiple programming languages to create your app’s backend, which means you’ll need to pay for a more diverse team of professionals. 

Niche third-party integrations

There are plenty of third-party integrations that can boost your development speed, including niche-specific ones. However, third-party integrations, especially niche ones, sometimes provide inconsistent and complicated documentation. This can lead to additional time spent puzzling out how to integrate them into your app. In addition, you’ll likely have to pay a fee to use these services.

In-app purchases

In an attempt to cater to the needs of their entire audience, business owners tend to integrate as many payment options as possible. And it’s a nice approach. The thing is, you should be prepared to pay extra for each additional payment option you implement: in-app purchases, PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc. 

Hardware components

Say you’re working on an app for shipping that uses an electronic logging device (ELD) to accurately track driving hours of vehicles in your fleet. Or say you want to build a smart home system that relies on Internet of Things devices. To do this, you’ll need to purchase or rent ELD or IoT devices for software testing purposes, so you’ll have to account for the cost of this hardware as well. 

Read also: Move your app from iOS to Android easily

Supported browsers, devices, and operating systems

When developing a web app, you should make sure it supports the latest versions of the top browsers such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. Otherwise, there’s a risk that you’ll get fewer users for your web application.
 
An iOS app should ideally be compatible with the latest and the previous versions of iPhone (e.g. iPhone X and XS) and support the latest and previous versions of iOS (e.g. iOS 10 and iOS 11).
 
For Android apps, the number of devices is much greater. There are three factors that influence our decision about which Android devices to support:

  • The size of the market share for each Android device manufacturer

  • Devices popular on the market the app is being developed for

  • Our client’s preferences

These considerations also apply to Android operating system versions. We currently support versions from Lollipop (Android 5) to the latest for the majority of our projects, but a client can specify the exact versions to be supported.
 
Obviously, more devices will mean more time spent adapting the application for various screen sizes, resolutions, and hardware specifications. It will also mean more time spent testing. However, if you choose to support only the most popular Android devices, the cost the developing for Android will be essentially the same.
 
Read also: Diversification of iOS and Android platforms
 
Given the fragmentation of the Android market, it takes longer to build an Android app than an iOS app, and so the cost may be higher.

Custom designs and animations

Custom user interfaces are rather complex to implement, so the cost of a custom interface will be higher than the cost of an interface built from standard components or without a design at all. You can check out our case study that explains three approaches to UI design and suggests where you can choose custom and standard UI components.
 
When it comes to custom animations, you can use one of ours. Seriously. We’ve got various open-source projects that can fit different types of apps. For example, one of our animations, called Eat Fit, is designed for activity tracking apps. You can check out our GitHub repository for a full list of our open-source projects.

Post-release expenses

The average app development budget isn’t solely comprised of the cost for actual programming. You should also take into account the money that goes into growing the product. Just like with any business, an app needs updates, customer support, backend server maintenance, cloud hosting, and even legal support, not to mention application marketing and promotion, which have a huge impact on the product’s success. We recommend checking out our guides on app marketing and promotion and understanding app analytics and AARRR
 
Oh, and another one. If you integrate any third-party tools in your app, you’ll have to pay to use them. For instance, Stripe charges 2.9% + 30 cents for any credit or debit card payment that you accept in your app. Keep these costs in mind when evaluating your app support expenses.
 
Unlike an app development team and costly app components, post-release support isn’t included in the initial cost estimate but rather is provided as an additional service by most software companies. Now let’s see how pricing might vary for app developers worldwide.
 
Read also: How you can build an app like Instagram for video

What hourly rate will you pay to build an app around the globe?

There are millions of great app developers on this planet, and you might wonder how they differ from one another. When you’re looking for app developers (or possibly a freelancer) to hire, try to pick those who have expertise in the industry your application targets because they probably have both the experience and assets needed to finish your project in the shortest time. To see if a development company has the right background, you can search the company’s portfolio and check out client reviews. 
 
There’s no guarantee that going with an expensive company will get you an app that’s capable of giving a return on your investment. In fact, lower-priced programmers can provide excellent results. High price doesn’t always equal high quality. There are lots of factors that influence pricing. Geography is one of the most essential.
 
Let’s take a look at the map for the cost breakdown.

In terms of the average hourly rates charged by service providers, we can observe the following picture:

  • US and Canadian-based companies charge from $50 to $250 per hour.

  • Australian agencies offer their services for $50 to $150 per hour.

  • Western European and UK-based developers charge rates between $35 and $170 per hour.

  • Eastern European companies settle for with $20 to $150 per hour.

  • Indian rates of $10 to $80 per hour are quite attractive.

Great! Now we know the hourly cost of app development. What’s next?

How much does a web or mobile app cost?

Don’t expect a professional agency to tell you the price of your product out of the blue. There’s no such thing as a price list that can help you calculate the cost of mobile app development, and price calculators you may come across on the internet are nothing but cheap marketing bait. Agencies usually charge per hour, but rates can be negotiable.
 
The cost of making a mobile app (or a web app) is most often based on the number of hours the project may take, and the more difficult the functionality, the longer it will take to implement. Therefore, let’s divide apps into three categories – simple, middling complexity, and highly complex – and try to give a rough answer to the question of how much it costs to develop an app. We’ll calculate the cost based on a $50 per hour rate, since it can be considered near-average.

  • Simple apps include some basic functionality, don’t require integration with any third-party APIs, and may not need a backend infrastructure. Features of such applications may include standard UI components, a feed list, simple filters, and map markers. Developing a simple app takes about 1,000 hours and starts at $30,000. An example of such an app is BitHorse, a Twitter for horse racing that we built for a Hong Kong-based client.

  • Apps of middling complexity may include custom UI features, real-time chat, payment functionality, tablet and handset adaptation, integration with APIs, and a simple backend server. It takes around 1,800 hours to build such an app, and the price starts at $50,000. An example of this type of app is an event planner.

  • Highly complex apps include advanced functionality such as audio/video processing, real-time synchronization, custom animations, integrations with third-party services, complex backends with several types of database relationships, and more. The timeframe for building complex apps is 2,400+ hours, and the price starts at $80,000. A full-fledged social network application, a dating app, and a video streaming app may all fall into this category.

How do we estimate the cost of app development?

Before sending you a bill, we do a free rough estimate of your project. Let’s make that a little clearer. Before telling you how many dollars or euros you’ll need to develop your app, we’ll use our three-stage framework to deliver some actual value for your business. Here’s how it goes:

  • First, you fill out our contact form. Then you schedule a call with our engagement manager. During this call, our engagement manager will confirm the details in the form and ask about your business goals and processes, possible user roles and journeys, app scalability plans, and so on.

  • Next, we process the initial requirements we’ve collected and perform basic business analysis, considering your product specifics, to offer a solution that meets your goals and expectations. Then we estimate it.

  • After that, the results of the business analysis go to our solution architect, who prepares detailed feedback with suggestions on the app structure, feasible use cases, and ideas on the technical implementation for the app.

  • After that, we have another meeting to present our feedback, get clarifications, and elicit more requirements. During this meeting, we also try to specify the scope of work for your project (the features needed to cover your burning business challenges) so we can prepare an optimal project offer.

  • At the last pre-planning meeting, we present a project offer, which usually includes hours of works, a technology stack, an application architecture approach, and a set of product features for the initial and subsequent releases.   

  • Finally, we negotiate an offer to find the best possible solution for your business.

Once you approve the rough estimate, we proceed with a detailed estimate, for which we identify the requirements for each scope of work planned, make wireframes to show you what exactly your web, iOS, or Android app will look like, and prepare project-related documentation. For more information, consult our article on app delivery management.
 
We provide full-cycle development services for mobile and web apps. This means that an app’s price covers every service related to product development, including project management:
 
Requirements analysis + Design + Development + Testing & Verification
 
Iteration by iteration, the cycle repeats until your product becomes truly successful. To launch an app is not to complete the mission. It’s just the beginning. Be ready for a long-term collaboration with your app development team. We’ll be happy to back you up!

How Much Will It Cost to Build Your App

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