- Average Mobile App Costs
- Budgeting App Development Phases
- How Features Ramp Up the App Cost
- Behind-the-Scene App Costs
- Ways to Cut Mobile App Budget
- Wrapping Up
- Request Your App Quote!
The mobile app economy is burgeoning. The summer of 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of the App Store and the Google Play Store. Both app stores grow by 300 apps per day, and their future looks even brighter.
“App Annie expects worldwide gross consumer spend to surpass
$139 billion in 2021″
The company goes on to report the growth of spending on regular, non-gaming apps. All this data screams: now is the time to invest in mobile apps. What you need to do before tapping into this lucrative app market is to get your mobile app budget straight.
Read on to learn about:
- Average mobile app development pricing
- Cost of an app per development phase
- App cost per feature
- Behind-the-scene app cost aspects
- Options to optimize app development budget
Reading Time: ~20 min
It may cost from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a mobile app, depending on what the app does.
The short answer is a decent mobile app can cost $10,000 to $500,000 to develop, but YMMV.
Believe me, I get your urge to facepalm right now, and no, I won’t be throwing another car-dealer analogy at you. We’ll spend some quality time reviewing why your mileage may vary in a minute. Meanwhile, please take a look at some real-life app-development budgets:
Cost of a mobile app developed by an agency with a US-based management and a distributed team:
- Offline standalone app cost: $12,000 to $25,000
- App with moderate online connectivity: $5,000 to $45,000
- Chatbot app development cost: $20,000 to $50,000
- IoT or wearable application cost: $20,000 to $60,000
- Messaging application development cost: $30,000 to $70,000
- Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality app cost: $40,000 to $70,000
- On-demand app development cost: $50,000 to $100,000
- M-commerce app cost: $30,000 to $80,000.00
- Mobile social networking app cost: $30,000 to $90,000
- Enterprise mobile app cost: $50,000 to $120,000
Cost of a mobile app developed by a US-based agency:
- Offline standalone app cost: ~$50,000
- App with moderate online connectivity cost: ~$80,000
- Chatbot app development cost: ~$90,000
- IoT or wearable application cost: ~$1,350,000
- Messaging application development cost: ~$300,000
- Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality app cost: ~$400,000
- On-demand app development cost: ~$800,000
- M-commerce app cost: ~$600,000.00
- Mobile social networking app cost: ~$350,000
- Enterprise mobile app cost: ~$500,000
Cost of developing a mobile app with an offshore team:
- Offline standalone app cost: ~$5,000
- App with moderate online connectivity cost: ~$12,000
- Chatbot app development cost: ~$19,000
- IoT and wearable application cost: ~$28,000
- Messaging application development cost: ~$35,000
- Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality app cost: ~$45,000
- On-demand app development cost: ~$50,000
- M-commerce app cost: ~$40,000
- Mobile social networking app cost: ~$50,000
- Enterprise mobile app cost: ~$60,000
These price points show the cost of developing a single app for one platform: iOS or Android. The cost includes integration of an app with a server, but not the development of a server component here.
As you can see from the chart, the range is humongous. Let’s take a closer look at why your mileage with budgeting app development may vary. Continue reading to learn what makes up the cost of a mobile app. I’ll also share some tips on how to keep your app cost under control.
The app development process consists of several distinct phases. Each phase will take a piece of your app development budget. The knowledge of budget allocation standards will influence how you budget each phase.
1. Cost of Business Analysis in App Development Budget
Your brilliant app idea needs verification, market analysis, and requirements documentation. An experienced mobile development team will ask you a myriad of questions to prepare an accurate app development quote.
A good rule of thumb is to allocate at least 10% of the whole app development budget to the business analysis phase. Business analysts will participate in all phases of the app development project. Their job is to make sure that what you request:
- is achievable and clear to coders;
- follows Apple’s and Google’s best practices;
- relies on the most effective technology stack.
Business analysis budget share in mobile app development cost: $1,200 to $11,000.
Advice on how to trim the business analysis budget:
Find other apps with the exact features that you want to replicate in your app. Clarify how this functionality will differ in your app.
Provide UML diagrams for the development team.
2. Cost of Design and Clickable Prototype in App Development Budget
As soon as the requirements document is ready, it is high time to start on the user interface. Flawless UI and UX are a must in today’s apps. So, you should be ready to cash out for the design.
A lot will depend on whether you already have a brand book, but usually, design makes up 10-15% of the total app cost. Make sure you get a clickable prototype as a part of the deal.
A click-thru prototype lets you check out the UX before the most expensive phase – app coding – starts. Some of the most popular tools for creating click-thru prototypes are:
- Adobe XD
Here’s a great video from Invision on how these prototyping tools work:
Design budget in app development cost: $2,500 to $10,000.
Advice on how to trim the app design budget:
Grab some screenshots from the apps you like and explain why you selected them;
Use stock UI elements provided by Apple and Google;
3. Cost of App Coding per se
The app coding costs more than all other app development phases. Imagine thoughtful developers sitting in front of shiny iMacs writing strings of code. This image is only a part of the big picture.
To make the image more real add daily stand-ups with the development team members. App development is a collaborative process: even a small app will need two or three team members.
App architecture & functionality development cost: $2,000 to $60,000.
Advice to trim the app coding budget:
Cross-platform development frameworks like Xamarin or PhoneGap can save up to thirty percent of the budget. The app must be simple for you to take advantage of these app development frameworks.
Select your team or developer with care. For example, if you switch to an agency after working with a freelancer, remember that this will be a fresh start.
Choose a development team that offers an agile approach with weekly deliveries.
- Use off-the-shelf mobile SDKs for some standard functionality, for instance:
- Chat SDK for integrating a chat module
- Twilio for voice & video chatting or SMS verification
- Pushwoosh for push notifications
Here’s an exhaustive list of the third-party SDKs you can rely on.
Research what technologies your competitors use with App Explorer, SensorTower, or MightySignal.
Never buy off-the-shelf app code templates if their developer doesn’t offer customization.
Build an MVP version of the app with an online app building tool — there’s plenty of those — to test the idea.
Don’t support older mobile OS versions, unless you 100% sure you need to cover them.
Make sure the requirements fully describe your app’s functionality. After coding begins, any new feature requests can make a dent in your app development budget.
4. Cost of Project Management in App Development Budget
Project management is an essential part of the mobile app development process. Usually, a project manager controls development process from start to finish. His efforts take up to 10-15% of the total app budget.
Project management budget in app development cost: $1,200 to $12,000.
Advice to trim the project management budget:
You should never trim the project management budget, period. A project manager can make or break your project, but there must be a project manager on your project.
Get rid of a project manager that does not respond within 10-24 hours. He’s not worth the money.
A decent project manager is worth every penny.
5. App Cost thru Lens of Development Phases
Let’s calculate the cost of an abstract app based on the development phases that I’ve just described.
$12,250 will be the minimal cost of our abstract mobile app.
Yet, your mileage will vary depending on the features that your iPhone or Android app will have. The app cost can go as high as $93,000 on the high end.
Continue reading to learn how various features influence the mobile app budget.
Mobile apps have come quite a way from being accessories or marketing stunts in their early days. Remember I’m Rich app at $999,99 from the App Store when it opened? Now we have such feature-rich apps as Slack, Gmail, Uber, YouTube, you name it.
These apps come with lots of features. The more functionality you plan for an app, the steeper becomes the cost of building the app. Let’s go through a list of features that will affect your app development budget.
1. UI Optimization for Tablets
If you expect your app users to enjoy working with the app on their tablets, the app must adapt to large screens. Such optimization will push your app development budget up.
In practice, many iOS and Android apps launch on tablets. But, without a UI that takes into account large screens, the user experience is downright poor.
To have your app support tablets you should account for up to 1.5x app development budget increase.
The high cost of optimizing apps for tablets is the main reason why so few apps support tablets.
In most cases you want a tablet-optimized version of your app when:
your app is so popular users want it everywhere
you can introduce extra meaningful features thru a tablet version
you need to gain a foothold with your brand on every single platform
Usually, only big brands have a universal app that offers separate UX for phones and tablets.
2. Landscape & Portrait Mode
A portrait mode is when you hold your smartphone as usual, and a landscape mode is when you flip it horizontally. The majority of mobile apps work only in the portrait mode, while few apps adjust their UI to the landscape mode.
Adding support for the landscape mode will increase the total app budget by 30%.
Rainmachine mobile app in the sample below shows ~2x more data on the same screen in the landscape mode:
3. Mobile OS Versions and Device Models Support
One thing you need to know: support of old devices and OSes is going to increase the cost of developing your app. As of April 2018, it makes sense for an iOS app to support:
As of April 2018, it makes sense for an iOS app to support:
- iOS version 9.3 and higher
- iPhone 5S, iPhone SE and more recent models
As for Android, Velvetech recommends supporting:
- Android OS 5 and higher (4.4+ only in rare cases)
- Specify particular device models whenever possible
The app development budget may grow 2x times if a mobile app must work on an outdated OS, or on an old device.
The good news is the market share of these old devices is tiny. You don’t need to support them unless you are working on an enterprise app. Businesses update their device pools at a slower rate.
4. Offline Mode
If you want your app to work without network connectivity, it must have cache algorithms in place. This functionality provides outstanding user experience, but at a cost. Things get even more complicated if you decide to sync the app data across many devices.
App architecture with local cache and cross-device sync features will ask for: $8,000 to $12,000.
5. Push Notifications
Notifications are an indispensable part of a modern mobile app. Companies use notifications to keep users engaged: read news, download episodes, subscribe, etc.
The cost of implementing push notifications varies from one app to another. It depends on how elaborate the notification system is going to be.
Will your app have only cloud-based notifications?
Will your app also rely on local, on-device notifications?
How many triggers will there be for firing off notifications?
What will be the logic behind notifications: location- or time-based; some user actions?
Will you be tracking what happens with notifications?
Will you support 3D Touch and include custom elements in your notifications?
Expect to spend somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500 on adding basic push notifications.
Here’s a video by MacRumors that explains rich notifications in iOS:
Make sure your development team is not reinventing the wheel. There are many off-the-shelf solutions for push notification: Urban Airship, Pushwoosh, OneSignal, etc.
Cost of custom-built push notifications may soar to $4,000 – $5,000.
The cost for implementing custom notifications includes a server component and integration.
6. User Profile & Social Login
A user profile is where users fill in their details, set preferences, etc. It’s a common feature for all social networking mobile apps.
The cost of implementing a user profile in an app should be around $2,400.
Social login allows users to log in via Twitter, Facebook or other social network accounts.
The cost of integrating a social login feature is usually around $500 per social network.
Custom-built registration, authorization, and a full-featured login should fit within $1,800.
7. Localization and Multi-Language Support
If your app targets users from different countries, it should support appropriate languages. Depending on where in the world your users live, their interfaces will be in Chinese, Hebrew, etc. This functionality is pretty basic.
The cost of app localization rarely goes over $500.
Developing a chat feature is almost like building another app inside your mobile app. Why, there are standalone chat apps we all know and use every day — Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to name a few. These apps provide only the chatting functionality.
Google Play chart below paints a vivid picture of chats popularity in apps: four out of top ten apps are chats.
Source: statista.com, prioridata.com
The cost ranges from several teams will show if they developed any chats from the ground up before. Find out if your developers have integrated any third-party chat SDKs.
- group chats
- public chat rooms
- one-to-one chats
- profanity filtering & spam protection
While using a third-party chat SDK may cost about $2,400, development of a custom chat module can go as high as $12,000.
9. Adding Mobile Ads
Displaying mobile ads in your mobile app is a viable monetization strategy. The major mobile ad market players are MoPub, Facebook, and Google’s AdMob.
Check out some of the ad formats you can get with Google’s AdMob:
Integration of a mobile ad SDK is a relatively simple task and usually adds $1,600 – $2,000 to the total app budget.
Our recommendation is to avoid complex logic when integrating mobile ads.
10. App Analytics and Usage Tracking
It’s like web analytics where clicks have become taps, with funnels, goals, and conversions. The general features that mobile analytics services provide include:
The general features that mobile analytics services provide include:
showing number of users and their characteristics
measuring in-app payments and revenue
showing sources that users came from
visualizing user navigation paths
measuring what actions users are taking
Depending on how many events you want to track, implementing analytics can start with $2,000.
11. Intelligent Product Feedback
Gathering users’ feedback is as important as studying your audience thru analytics tools. It’s even more important to provide users with instant answers to their questions via FAQ or a live chat.
Platforms like Apptentive and UserVoice help you automate working with your customers’ feedback. Both platforms are paid, with per-customer, individual pricing. But, the value these tools provide is 100% worth requesting a quote.
After integrating these platforms you can:
prioritize user requests;
automate knowledge base creation;
share users’ feedback with your team members.
12. Integrating Payments, QR Codes, Navigation, OCR, and More
Adding these and many other features into a mobile app may prove a challenging task:
location-based services, like Google and Apple Maps
payment gateways, like PayPal or Skrill
cool animations (drive the cost right up)
optical image recognition
The cost of adding such functionality starts at $2,600 per feature.
Remember to consult with your app development team as there are many caveats. For instance, did you know you need to pay for using Google Maps in your app when reaching a large user base? Again, remember there may be ready solutions on GitHub and other resources.
A mobile app is more than an attractive icon you download from an app store and tap waiting for a miracle to happen. The app is more than combined efforts of the app developers, and it’s more than your idea. What is it that usually goes unnoticed by the user, and at the same time is expected by default?
1. Factor Development of Back End into Your Mobile App Budget
If your mobile app loads content from a server or syncs with a database, you need to plan for the server component. Sometimes it can be an existing server, e.g., a news website from where you want to fetch news. In this case, there is no need to develop a server as the mobile app will connect to the site through an existing API.
In most cases though, a server will be required:
to store data online;
to sync with cloud data;
to allow communication with other app users;
to offload images, videos, etc. from a mobile device.
There are many off-the-shelf server solutions on the market that can help you set up a backend in a snap. However, it’s enough if you know just two — Firebase and AWS. Firebase is Google’s renowned product that is a universal back-end platform. And Amazon Web Services is Amazon — everything they touch turns into gold.
The average cost of the server component that will work with your mobile app via an API varies widely: $6,400 to $28,000.
Opt for Firebase, AWS, or similar backend services to keep the cost of server development in a safer zone.
2. App Patenting Cost
Getting the legal paperwork in order is often overlooked. We recommend protecting your intellectual property rights from the start. It may turn out helpful when your mobile app becomes a hit.
As an alternative, you can find templates on the web and edit them according to your app specifics.
3. App Marketing Budget
Once you have developed your app, it’s time to submit it to the App Store or Google Play.
Strictly speaking, your marketing budget goes as an extra to the development budget.
The minimal app marketing initiatives include:
getting app reviews with top publications;
App Store Optimization (ASO): description, user reviews, etc.;
Even though app marketing budget is a separate thing, you should plan for it within the total app budget. The days of amazing applications that sell themselves are gone. With so many apps in the app stores, marketing is vital to your app’s success.
It can cost $200,000 in ad expenses to push an app into the top 25 ranks in the US, according to a mobile marketing firm Fiksu.
According to a survey by AdColony video ads will play a significant role in mobile app marketing in 2018:
You may find a wealth of information on app marketing, including DIY workarounds, on this incredible app marketing resource.
4. App Updates and Maintenance Cost
For some reason, all top articles on app cost claim you need 20% of the budget to maintain your app on a yearly basis. What does it even mean – to maintain an app?
Maintaining an app means updating it to support the latest versions of iOS and Android. Get ready for a big a-ha moment:
Each new version of iOS or Android supports all features in currently available apps.
You don’t need to spend a dime to make your app work on iOS 12 when it’s out. The only issue with iOS was when Apple asked all developers to update their apps to a 64-bit architecture.
This anomaly happened once, and Apple gave developers more than a year to update their apps. Besides, Apple had supported 32-bit apps for two years before the switch to a new architecture.
According to Clutch’s survey, you should plan $10,000 — $14,000 for app maintenance, which is still pretty high.
It’s a different story if you want some new features that come with a new mobile OS version: Face ID, ARKit, Core NFC, etc. Implementing this functionality may cost a lot.
Our experience says 10% of your app development budget is enough for maintaining an app on a yearly basis.
There are numerous ways to optimize your app development budget. Keep in mind that you need to balance between an optimal budget and a feature-rich app with potential. Let’s summarize some of the variants to trim the cost of mobile app development.
1. Cross-Platform Development
Use PhoneGap, Xamarin, or a similar framework to speed up your app development. This way you are simultaneously developing iOS and Android versions of the app.
Cross-platform approach saves you 10-30% of your budget, compared to native apps development.
Native app development pricing:
Apple Developer license costs $99 per year for individuals and organizations. Enterprises pay $299 for the same license.
Google developer license costs $25 per year
Swift, Kotlin, and Java are free programming languages
Cross-platform mobile development pricing:
PhoneGap is open-source
Xamarin is free to use
Monocross is open-source
Appcelerator offers a basic free tier and paid plans
React Native is open-source
Kony offers paid plans
You will find even more reasons to use the mobile cross-platform development approach to cut the app development costs in our recent blog post.
2. MVP First
Starting with an MVP may sound like giving up upfront. However, it’s a viable way to test your idea in the field, with the real users — on a small budget.
The initial feedback will help you plan an optimal budget for a full-featured app version. You will focus your efforts on features that your users crave.
Get the details on how to build a successful MVP app in our separate blog post on why most MVP apps fail and what you need to do to get a solid MVP version.
3. Design and Development by Same Agency
Instead of being a middleman between a designer and developers, find an agency that can do both. It will save you a lot of time.
4. Use Off-the-Shelf Solutions
As I mentioned, developing a custom piece instead of an off-the-shelf solution is not the best idea. The mobile economy is so strong that you can build an entire app using various SDKs. However, you should be able to tell code templates (aka code snippets) and mobile SDKs apart.
Never buy code snippets. Your development team will ask you to throw these away or will ask for a pricy refactoring phase.
Code snippets, from sites like codecanyon.com, are not like mobile SDKs at all. SDKs come with official support — they are a safe bet, whereas code snippets are sold as is.
5. Avoid Supporting Legacy OSes and Device Models
Support only up-to-date versions of iOS and Android and recent device models to save up to 1.5x – 2x times of app budget.
As you can see, defining the cost of mobile app development is not a trivial task: too many moving parts. It depends on whom you ask, when you ask (high or low season), etc. So it’s not like I am reluctant to let the cat out of the bag. It’s just a different story with every app.
I haven’t covered some extreme variants, like partnering with a developer who agrees to do an app for equity. Those are awkward situations, and I haven’t heard of one that turned out well in the last five or so years.
I advise you to do due diligence and pick a trusted software vendor with proven expertise in mobile app development.
Your partner should be flexible and work as a part of your team, genuinely interested in your app’s success. Such vendor is hard to find.
According to Clutch, “The average minimum project size is $5,000 – $10,000. However, the typical cost to build a meaningful app will likely be significantly more than $5,000 – $10,000.”
In a nutshell, with Velvetech you can get a mobile app developed for as low as $4,000 and all the way up to $120,000. The only word of advice is let the features drive the budget, not the other way around.
Oh, and trash the $10,000 quotes for an Uber-type app from certain mobile development companies. Your time is money, and you know better than that.