How much does it cost to develop a mobile app: A complete guide

The first thing that comes to mind while developing a mobile app is “How much does it cost?” “ Will I be able to complete everything within a fixed budget?”

The first thing that comes to mind while developing a mobile app is “How much does it cost?” “ Will I be able to complete everything within a fixed budget?” 

For a starter, estimating a cost can be difficult, because not only are you new to the market but also due to several factors like change in economy, technology and demand and supply forces, your expected budget can exceed.

There is no fixed cost to develop an app, as the entire process is based on each stage of developing the app and the factors on which an app is developed.

Formula to Calculate App Development Cost:

In order to come to a rough estimation of the app development cost, you need to consider the factors of total development time and the hourly rate.

Number of development hours depends on certain factors of the app. For instance, it will depend on the complexity, features, functions, design and size of the app.

Hourly rate will be determined by the development team you hire. They will give you a value depending on each hour they will invest for developing a particular feature of the app. 

The simple formula of app development cost is:

Factors on which app is developed:

The factors on which  the app is developed is further divided into 4 categories:

  1. App Complexity
  2. Platforms
  3. Types of Mobile Apps
  4.  Development Approach
  5. Hiring a Development Team


1. App Complexity: 

The complexity of all the features of your app determines the cost of development. The more complex the features are, the higher the cost. Adding certain features in your app determines whether the app is simple, basic or complex.

a. Simple App:

Simple app is created with only a limited number of necessary features, i.e. without any additional benefits. It consists of low-tech screens( 3 or 4 screens at most) having only some simple functions.

The features of a simple app includes:

  • User login and sign up
  • Profile making
  • Messages
  • Notifications
  • Search
  • Dashboard

Examples of simple apps  are notes app, calculator app, etc.

b. Basic App:

Basic app consists of more features and databases. This app is much more complicated than the simple one resulting in an increase in the cost of development. It has more screens with custom User Interface (UI) and can get integrations with API.

The features of this app (including the previous ones) consists of:

  • In-app purchases
  • Payment portals
  • Social media integration
  • Security
  • Geolocation
  • Push notifications

These apps require more synchronization, data storage, database retrieval from more than just one database. Examples of these apps are photo sharing or editing apps (Snapseed), food delivery apps (Zomato or Swiggy), etc.

c. Complex App:

Complex apps consist of even more additional and complicated features. The budget for developing a complex app can exceed your expectations. These apps are usually made by big companies. The planning of the mobile app is also complex and requires a lot of intricate details and resources before moving further. The features that these types of apps consists of:

  • Data synchronization
  • Data encryption
  • Video and audio streaming
  • Sensors usage
  • Offline mode
  • In-app calls
  • Ads

2. Platforms:

There are two versions of OS- iOS and Android. The cost of developing your app depends on which platform it will use and which one it will support. Android is much more popular than iOS, but it is important to see how technically advanced your app is, in order to perform in Android or iOS.

a. iOS: 

iOS is less costly than Android but the hosting cost is more than Android. Paid apps are much more successful here as compared to Android because the audience is generally opulent so they have more purchasing power. But, Apple has its own strict guidelines and is not so flexible as compared to Android. So, it takes time and a lot of effort to get approval.

b. Android:

Android has more users in Asia which is not the case for iOS and it has a lower cost per download. The guidelines for Android are not as complicated and strict as iOS and do not take much time to get approval. In iOS, paid apps are popular but Android users prefer free or low-cost apps. So paid apps are not very popular on Android platforms. Android apps have low maintenance cost, but it takes a lot of time to develop.

3. Development Approach:

Each app has its own development approaches. The most effective development approach would be the one where you can accommodate all the requirements with features within a specific period of time and cost. 

Here, we will discuss three types of development approaches:

a. Native App:

Native apps are developed specifically for a single platform, i.e. either for Android or iOS. These apps will be developed separately for each platform where the codes are not reusable and the function and features cannot be exchanged. Native apps are secure, and highly responsive and reliable. Even though these apps are complex to develop, it gives a great user experience.

Examples: Whatsapp, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc.

b. Web App:

These apps are made specifically for smartphone users. Users can perform all its functions from both web browsers and other devices. It is easy to maintain and has a mobile- friendly UI. However, people are much more inclined towards apps rather than sites. 

Examples: Netflix, MS Office, etc.

c. Hybrid App:

Hybrid apps have both the features of a native app and a web app. It is cheaper to develop as compared to Native apps. It is loaded rapidly and is quite economical. 

Examples: Instagram, Twitter, Gmail, etc.

4. Types of Apps:

Cost of building different types of apps differs from one another. Different apps have their unique features and requirements which fulfills a particular purpose according to the user’s demands. 

a. On-demand Apps:

On-demand apps are made to fulfill a particular purpose, according to the customers’ demands. It also has similar features of social networking apps like login, chats, calls and messages, and at the same time, these apps can also have features like purchasing and payment transactions and geolocation. The cost of developing this app is not only based on the features but also on the complexity of its design. This app requires around 6 to 7+ months to develop. Examples: Uber, Bigbasket, etc.

b. Social Networking Apps:

Social media has taken the world by storm. Social media has affected our lives too much in the modern world so apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others are widely used. Although basic social networking apps include information sharing, social interactions, chats and messaging, and others. But, there are other types of social media apps like, blogs, dating apps, media sharing, among many others. Time taken to develop this app is 3 to 6 months, 9+ months for ongoing projects. Examples: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tinder, etc.

c. E-Commerce and Marketplace Apps:

E-commerce apps should have functions, social features, user integration and user registration, detailed product catalogs with separate pages for the products. Users will be able to complete their check-out via payment transactions. Cost of developing such an app is a bit complex due to the complicated features and requires a well planned back-end and admin panel to manage the catalog pages and transactions. E-commerce apps require around 3 to 6 months (9+ months for ongoing projects) to develop. Examples: Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, etc.

Marketplace apps is the extensive version of e-commerce and on-demand apps. This app is mainly influenced by demand and supply forces. This app also takes time to develop (around 9+ months) hence the higher cost of developing. Examples: eBay, Trip Advisor, etc.

d. Data-driven Apps:

These apps consume data on the devices of the user and process only a specific type of information. It needs certain additional features like internet connection, access to gallery or files, etc. It is much more complex than basic apps. It takes around 1 to 2 months to develop. Examples: apps for calendar or stocks.

e. Authentication Apps:

For this app, users have their own account which they have to login to, in order to get the full app functionality. Users, through their accounts can interact with the data and this app can be synchronized among other devices. The cost is higher for developing this app due to its intricate features. It takes around 3 to 6 months to develop. Example: Google Drive.

f. Iot and Hardware Apps:

For Iot types, technology and equipment interconnect with each other through Bluetooth or Wifi, and as soon as they interconnect, the items or equipment are considered “smart”. These apps need to have a ready made device along with comprehensive documentation according to which the hardware can work. It requires about 3 to 6 months to develop. Examples: Amazon dash buttons, Smart smoke detectors, Air quality sensors, etc.

g.  Design Complexity:

The cost of developing an app is also influenced by how intricate your designs are and how much time it takes to design it. Design complexity is further divided into:

  • User Experience:

User experience solely tells you how the app works and the usability of it from the user’s point of view. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the user to function the app reducing complications. The cost of this will depend on how intricately you design the app. For instance, where you will place the buttons, how the buttons and fonts will look like (size and colour), how the screens will be laid, etc. The more details you give in the app, the more it will cost.

  • User Interface:

The goal is to make the user interaction as simple and efficient as possible. The more you add different types of visual elements, the more will be the cost of designing. It also includes the cost of designing MVP. UI design also depends on what type of app you are developing, i.e. e-commerce app, basic app, social networking app or others. 

6. Hire a development Team:

Hiring a development team costs a lot especially if it is a big company. But the time required to develop will be much quicker and also it can be done efficiently without much headache. The work is divided and so it won’t take much time to complete the project. Since the work is divided, each developer focuses on a particular feature for developing the app and accordingly the cost is divided on the basis of how much time they put into developing that particular feature. The following are the types of developer usually seen to develop an app:

  1. Business Analyst
  2. Mobile App Engineer
  3. UI/UX Designer
  4. QA Engineer
  5. Project Manager

The app developers not only charge on the basis of each hour they work but also it depends on different regions. Developers from countries like the United States and Canada charge more than developers from India. 

7. Maintenance Cost:

Maintaining an app is an important process. Maintaining the app can also be costly and its cost is divided into each step of maintaining the app. It takes almost 15% to 20% more than the original development cost to maintain the app.

a. Hosting:

Hosting is a place or space where all your media (video, audio, photos) and text is stored. Media-rich app would require more RAM and disk space, resulting in higher costing. There are multiple hosting companies like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS.

b. Monitoring:

Monitoring the app is vital to make sure the app is working efficiently.It is rather impossible to estimate the cost of monitoring the app as there is no fixed price of monitoring.

c. App Updates:

Updating the app is very important as thousands of apps are being developed with better features and functions. So in order to remain in the competitive market you need to update your app frequently. The cost of updating an app will also depend on what features you are updating or what additional features you are including.

d. License:

Many resources need membership fees so that the developers or company development teams can update the license so that the app works properly. 

Final Thoughts

The cost of developing the app can exceed your budget but at the same time it also can be done within your budget if you choose where to invest in your resources wisely. However, if you think you can make an app just like Instagram or Uber or even Swiggy, then you have to invest a lot more money and time to come up with something similar. 

It is also recommended to publish your app in Google Play Store but at the same time it is also preferable to publish in App Store so that your app can be accessed to a larger group of audience. It might cost a bit higher but again you might gain more profit if you do so.

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