Factors That Impact The Cost Of An App

App Builder Appy Pie, December 13: We need not emphasize anymore on the kind of advantages that come with having a mobile app for your business. The world is depending on mobile apps to make most of the purchases, hence for a seller of any sort – products, information, services or anything else under the sun, it might make a lot of sense to have a mobile app of their own.


As a small business owner, or even as a startup, one of the questions that looms large before going ahead and getting a mobile app is – How much does it cost to get a mobile app made? It is a valid question, and definitely a wide one, especially because the decision to go or not go for an app is quite largely dependent on the economics of it.


The question might come across as a simple one, the answer however is a lot more complicated than you’d think. The cost of making a mobile app depends on a lot of factors. Hence, to actually get a clear idea of the costs involved in getting a mobile app made for your company there are two fundamental things that you must know first a very clear scope of the work that you want to get done, and second the questions you must ask the developer or the agency before asking for an estimate.


Through our experience and understanding that we have garnered through dealing with clients from different demographics, industries, and other different paradigms that we have compiled a list of factors that one must consider before you go hunting for a quote. This will help you get an accurate estimate and also save you a lot of precious time and money in the long run.


1. Choosing The Right App Platform

The cost of a mobile app is heavily dependent on the platform that you choose for it as different platforms have different costs attached to it. Some platforms have different costs attached to it, for example when you are developing a native app for both iOS & Android, there would be two independent teams working to meet each of their development requirements and that essentially doubles the cost of development. Another factor that rides up the cost for Android platform is that there are more than 18,000 different kinds of Android devices or screen sizes. It is because of such diverse Android fragmentation that it becomes tough to ensure smooth working of the app on each and every one of them, whereas iOS platform is catering only to a chosen few styles from Apple

2. Research & Analysis

For any kind of product development it is essential that a certain amount of research and analysis is conducted before taking any kind of solid decision. The world of mobile app development is no different. There is a definite need for a thorough research of potential market, existing market and the chosen or target market in addition to researching the end user through their reviews and expectations, etc. In order to identify the target audience sometimes there is a need to look into the demographics or some other suitable kind of research based survey. The cost incurred in this matter is equivalent to the time resource of somewhere around 20 to 40 hours.

Apps that cost less than $10,000 to build would be the ones that are quite simple and probably have one screen and one function like Flashlight App, Bubble Level, or Coin Flip

3. App Features & Functionality

Mobile apps are often serving a broad spectrum, however, the budget of development of the app depends largely on core purpose of the app, which finally helps determine the total cost of the development of the app. As an example consider a small calculator app which may be used for a particularly niche business function – it follows in such cases that the app development budgets would be a lot lower than let’s say a support app for the whole company which has a global sales force. Before determining the total budget or cost of developing the mobile app, it would be a good idea to sit with the team, and consider the following:

  • Would the app be used by the public at large?
  • If not for public, then which target group would be using the app?
  • Would the app only be used internally?
  • In that case, who would be these internal users?
  • What would the users be trying to achieve as they interact with the app?

4. Devices Supported

It is important to define the kind of devices you would be developing your app for, as the different devices bring in different kinds of costs along with them. Whether it is one of the thousands of devices using Android, iOS device, Windows device, tabs, iPads or any other kind, building apps for them would be different for each of them with a unique set of integration. Adapting an app or tweaking it to support different generations of the same device is also a factor that adds to the total cost of the device. Another factor that comes into play is building landscape and portrait versions of the app. Keeping the provision of both the versions of the apps for the mobile phone version of the app goes on to increase the complexity of the information being displayed to the user at any point in the app, this further goes on to drive the cost higher due to the smaller screen sizes of a mobile phone. In bigger screen tablets however, making adjustments to the interface is relatively easier and both the orientations may be supported at marginally lower prices.

5. Native App Or Cross-Platform App

While developing a mobile app one of the first questions to pop up between the companies and the developers is whether it should be a native app or a cross-platform app to manage the finances in a better way. A native app gives you the advantage of a 100% hardware support fulfilling all possible requirements for maximum functionality, whereas a cross-platform app gives you an app with a more uniform look and appeal for the users across different platforms and devices. The costs associated with the two are definitely different too. Hence whether you choose a native app or a cross-platform app is also responsible for the total cost of the app.

Apps that cost a little more, maybe between $10,000 and $100,000 have slightly more complex interfaces and integration into the data systems like Yo App, Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, Tasker etc.

6. Projected & Real Timeline

“Time is money” indeed. Time plays out as one of the key factors in determining the cost of developing an app. One of the most trusted ways to control the project budget is by sticking to the timelines. It is important that the timelines are set realistically as well. In case you have put in too ambitious a timeline, there are chances of you driving the costs up by having to cough up for rush charges and these can considerably drive up the costs of developing your app.

7. User Experience & Visuals In The App

There are times when a barrage of high quality visuals o0r enhanced UI elements for a better user experience are necessary. This especially holds true in case of gaming and other such apps. If your app needs elements like real time 3D graphics, complex visual transitions, animations, and simultaneous animation of multiple objects, the costs are going to be higher than the one that doesn’t need it. The decision to go for these elements will also affect your decision to choose between native and hybrid app. This is because quite a few of the hybrid app frameworks wouldn’t be able to utilize hardware-accelerated user interfaces.

8. Specialized App Elements

One mobile app is vastly different from the other in its constituent elements and the offerings it has for the users. Well, that’s the idea at least. Among the constituent elements that make up the app there are certain special ones that might be responsible for driving the cost of your app up.

  • Admin Panel
  • Project Urgency
  • Server Backend
  • Social Media Integration
  • Optional Hardware Usage
  • Integration With 3rd Party Services

9. Analytics

Before, during, and after the app development the analytics are of a great importance. They can give you an understanding of the current performance but help give you an overview of the projected performance as well. It helps you understand the user behavior and their interactions within the app while giving you an idea about the expectations of the users in future. Analytics are especially helpful in determining the contributing causes to the less than satisfactory performance of the app. This is one of the crucial factors that must have a certain proportion of funds allocated to it.

10. App Infrastructure

In determining the cost of developing a mobile app, we must understand that the app features and elements are not the only drivers. The app infrastructure plays an important part as well. Infrastructural factors like the fundamental controls, data storage, scalability, third party integration, data encryption, access to enterprise data, and more determine the cost involved and impact the budgeting of the app development.

11. Data Integration

Some apps need integration with one or multiple database. These apps might depend upon data combined from different sources before being converted into meaningful information for the app to be functional. Various functions like discovery, monitoring, transforming, as well as deployment of data from myriad sources is one of the drivers in the budget for you app development.

12. App Security

There are millions of apps being offered through multiple platforms. The users are required to put in quite a few details in addition to accessing the apps through their personal devices which contain intimate information too. It is for this reason that mobile apps are presenting a lucrative target to the hackers and concern for protecting the app users is prime among the developers. In order to create a secure app, it is important to find tools that can help you identify the vulnerabilities in your apps. The concern and importance of security becomes even higher in case of an enterprise mobile app where the security of sensitive data pertaining to the organization is the stake including documents & unstructured information, records of financial transactions, user location, and more. The security aspect of the mobile apps, thus should not be ignored in any case and be included in the factors that determine the budget and cost of development of the app.

13. Exploiting Phone Sensors & Other Hardware

Some of the most interesting and successful apps are unique in the fact that they make good use of the smart bits of your smartphones. The smartphones today are loaded with sensors and advanced pieces of technology. An app that integrates the phone’s salient parts like GPS, functionalities based on location, accelerometer, gyroscope, camera, etc. would incur additional costs as well.

Apps that cost anywhere between $100,000 and $500,000 have a lot more complex screen flows and feature data synchronization and greater security controls e.g. Slack, Nest Mobile, Beyond Pod etc.

14. APIs

In order to ensure a rich user experience, it is imperative that the app interact seamlessly with other applications which is accomplished by incorporating app features that allow your app to forge collaborations with other software platforms through API. API functions in the background and is independent of the user and creates a seamless and discrete interaction channel between apps. Whether you do this in-house or employ external APIs, there is a cost involved in it and must be factored in while determining the cost of development of the mobile apps.

15. App Prototyping Or Demo Versions

Prototyping or creating interactive demos can take up anywhere between 40 to 80 hours including UX design, concept validation and usability testing. The costs associated with this part of the design is determined in the number of man-hours, that can ride higher up when the number of screens on the app are more. The requirement for interface design that varies according to the varying screen sizes needs to be factored in for the total cost as well.

16. Deployment

After the app is ready to be launched, the deployment on any of the commercial channels does need a certain fee to be paid to the store as a developer’s license cost. This aspect needs to be factored in while calculating the total cost and budget of the app.

17. Post Production Support & Maintenance

The development of an app does not end as soon as it is deployed, but continues long after it. User feedback rushes in almost immediately after the deployment listing out the problems, suggestions and requests for enhancements. It is for this reason that you should retain the development team or agency for a little while after the deployment so that they can handle the influx of feedback with quick responses, releasing fixes & enhancements. Investment in support and maintenance is essential to avoid user attrition because of low response, technical snags, or overall poor performance.

Apps in the cost range of $500,000 to $1,000,000 would have quite complex security or data interaction functionality and a complex UI e.g. FitBit App, NetFlix, AmEx Mobile App and more.


Hidden Costs

Apart from the aforementioned costs, we are also looking at certain hidden costs which are not accounted for in the beginning. These costs often emerge as a surprise when the project is already under way and sometimes when it is nearing completion and have the potential to upturn the growth trajectory of the whole project.

1. Data Storage Costs

When planning or designing your app, one important question arises about where you would want the app to store the data. Especially if the app you are building is data driven, it is important to include the data storage costs into the plan. In case you are planning to use the cloud for data storage, it is important to include the monthly hosting costs into it. This might seem pretty obvious once you know it, but you’ll be surprised to know how many developers have missed out on including this in their budget plan for the app development.

2. App Design Costs

The user experience or the aesthetics of the app is one of the most important factors that may decide the success or the failure of the app. The features and functions are of course of great importance but it is essentially the design of the app that brings in the users increasing their importance. When the interface is not well designed or is confusing to the user, they tend to leave the app midway and uninstall it eventually. There are times when the companies have left the designing bit to the developer and failed to count it as a separate cost factor and have suffered the due consequences.

  • Testing

The companies might be aware of this cost factor, but have a very limited understanding of the extent to which it might need. The testing for mobile apps has become a challenging issue these days especially due to the wide variations in the types and size of devices. The issue of testing is far more complicated than just iOS and Android, and goes on to include different types of devices, varying screen sizes, different OS versions, network speed and more. The total final cost of this aspect might sneak up on the companies and take them by a rude surprise unless they take it upon themselves to research it and have a conversation with their developers.

3. Unforeseen Mid-Project Changes

Irrespective of where you get the app developed, in-house or outsource, the cost estimates are provided according to the initial specs provided to them at the start of the project. It is only natural that the project and the specs undergo changes all through the duration of the project.


It is quite common among the companies to underestimate the costs that these changes might incur and the extent to which they can make the project go overboard. It might appear to be a small change or enhancement to an inexperienced or a layman’s eye, but the kind of cost and effort involved in it might be of a considerable proportion.

4. Marketing Costs

It might come as a revelation to many that there is marketing involved in making the app visible to the right audience. It is true that in the initial days of the app store, there was no need for the apps to be promoted, but today the apps are competing with millions of apps, quite literally. For the users to realize that your app has something to offer to you, they need to discover it first, and that is where marketing steps in. If you allocate money only for the development aspect of the app and not work on the marketing aspect, you might end up wasting your development money too! In this day and age, good marketing is right up there with good design and development of the app.

Apps that cost on the upside of $1,000,000 have a number of hidden features and are quite complex from the functional standpoint e.g. The Home Depot App, Delta App, Ingress, Google Maps, and more.

The 25-50-25 Rule

The distribution of resources and energy in the development of a mobile app typically falls in the 25-50-25 scenario. This essentially means that the initial 25% of the process consists largely of discovery, understanding business flow, clearly outlining the functionality of the app, and in development of the screen mockups that form the base of the development of a clickable prototype. The next 50% is all about the technical design and development of the application which also includes enterprise system integration and testing by the development team in the debug mode. At this stage, it is wise to have frequent reviews from different stakeholders to make sure that everyone is in tandem. The last bit of 25% consists of full integration and usability testing and preparedness for deployment for example the creation of storefront artefacts, their description, screenshots and more.


The factors mentioned above including the surreptitious hidden costs have a strong impact on the cost of developing a mobile app. We need to understand that the cost of mobile app development cannot be determined just on the basis of the features and functionalities of the app. These factors cover and foresee all possible factors that might contribute to the cost of the development of a mobile app.

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