How much does it cost to make an app?

Page reviewed by: Abhinav Girdhar | Last Updated on October 30th, 2023 2:37 pm

App development is a complex process and involves a considerable amount of cost. It requires substantial time, effort, and resources to develop an app successfully. The cost of app development depends on the app’s complexity, the features and functionalities you plan to incorporate, and the platform you choose to develop your app.

Generally speaking, developing a mobile app will involve design, development, testing, marketing, and maintenance costs. These costs can range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, some apps may require ongoing costs for hosting and other services. It is essential to factor in all potential costs when planning an app development project.

Apps, apps, and apps. These days wherever you see, you will find almost everyone engaged on their smartphones using any app. Undoubtedly, apps have emerged as the next frontier of talent promotion; still, only business personnel or self-employed professionals are hugely investing in making an app for their organizations or showcasing their skills to the world. To create the best app for their needs, they not only take a deep dip to understand the app’s functionality but also look beyond to have a clear insight into app development cost. However, a few create apps to earn money, while others simply access apps for various tasks, such as communication, entertainment, food, sports, music, etc.

Before we delve into the app development cost, let’s take a look and discuss why you need a mobile app for your skills or business needs.

How much does it cost to build an app? In this tutorial, we’ll discuss the costs of app development and what factors determine the cost of building an iOS app. Whether you’re buying or selling – here’s how you can get a reasonable price for your app.

Here’s what we’ll get into:

  • How your app’s features affect how much the app costs
  • Why you should actively engage an app developer while making a budget
  • How prices differ between freelancers, dev shops and in-house developers
  • Why an app’s price depends on who you hire for your app development project
  • Development costs you need to consider, such as updates and maintenance.

  1. Costs Involved In App Development
  2. How Much Does It Cost to Make an App?
  3. App Costs: Freelancers vs Dev Shops vs In-House
  4. How Features Affect an App’s Costs
  5. Why Does App Development Cost So Much?
  6. Factors Affecting App Development Costs
  7. So How Much Does it Exactly Cost to Make an App?
  8. In Conclusion

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Costs Involved In App Development

The cost of developing an app can be divided into four major categories:

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1. Design Costs

These include designing the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). The design costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the complexity and quality of the design. Design costs include hiring a designer, prototyping tools, and other related expenses.

2. Development Costs

This is the most expensive part of the app development process. It includes the cost of hiring a developer, developing the app’s code, and other related development costs. The development cost can range from several thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands depending on the complexity and features required for the app.

3. Testing Costs

App testing is one of the most essential steps in app development. It ensures no bugs or issues in the app before it is launched. Testing costs include the cost of hiring testers and testing tools. The cost of testing can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the complexity of testing required for your app.

4. Maintenance Costs

Once an app has been developed, it needs to be maintained regularly to ensure that it runs smoothly and that all bugs have been fixed. Maintenance costs include hiring developers for bug fixes and updates and other related expenses such as hosting and storage fees.

5. Marketing

Marketing an app can be expensive and time-consuming. Depending on your budget, you may need to hire a professional marketing team or use digital marketing tools such as social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.


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How Much Does It Cost to Make an App?

It’s the ultimate question if you want to have an app built. How much is this app going to cost? Any decent developer or agency will tell you: it depends.

Here are a few factors an app’s cost depends on:

  • The complexity and size of the app’s features
  • Does the app need to integrate with any 3rd-party services?
  • Whether it’s an offline-only app or if it’s cloud-based
  • Do you need an administrator environment or back-end access?
  • iOS versions, device models, backwards compatibility, etcetera

On top of that, many app development projects require additional services, such as graphics design, UI/UX design, prototyping, user testing, and input from subject-matter experts (think chef for a recipe app).

How much it costs to make an app also depends on who will develop it. The exact app costs differently depending on who you ask. A small dev shop might charge more than a freelance iOS developer, but that higher price comes with advantages.

Your geographic region matters too. The cost of living in North America is typically higher than in some European countries, which also factors into the price you pay for app development services. This is why app development is often outsourced to countries with a lower cost of living.

Lastly, how much an app costs also depends on culture. A prototype built by a sole developer may be “cheaper” than that same app built within a corporate organization. You might pay more for a similar app built by a prominent or popular agency. It’s counter-intuitive, but some corporations will not consider a quote or tender (RFP) below a specific price – even when the proposal is better but cheaper.

Before we continue, there are two principles you need to understand:

  1. The price of a product or service is based on its value, not on its Bill of Materials. A $1.000+ iPhone costs about $370 in materials. Do you pay a premium for the Apple logo? No. People pay more for an iPhone because they tell a story to themselves about what that iPhone means to them. If the value they place on owning an iPhone is more than $1.000, getting one is a steal. This is why pricing and buying decisions are irrational.
  2. There’s no such thing as a “market rate”. The “market rate” makes freelancers and businesspeople feel safe. If everyone charges roughly the same price, it must be good, right? Every iOS developer, dev shop or agency works differently, though, and quality should be reflected in the price they charge for app development services.

Let’s move on!

Just so you know, monetary values listed on this page are in US Dollars (USD).


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App Costs: Freelancers vs Dev Shops vs In-House

The cost of app development depends on who will build your app. Let’s discuss how that works. We’ll differentiate between

  • In-house development
  • Small dev shops and agencies
  • Freelance iOS developers

In-house development

Making an app in-house is undoubtedly the most expensive of these 3, even though development shops and agencies charge a higher price for an iOS development project. Wait, how’s that even possible?

When you hire and employ a software developer in-house, you have to pay them a salary (obviously!). App developers are currently hired at a premium because demand outstrips supply. On top of that, you’ll need to provide a workspace, pay taxes, pay for insurance, etcetera.

Depending on your geographic location, an excellent in-house developer costs between $50.000 and $150.000 yearly. Once you’ve found an app developer, you’ll want them to stick around for as long as possible, possibly offering them a contract indefinitely. This makes the cost of building an app in-house an expensive option.

Development shop or agency

Another way of developing iOS apps is outsourcing development to a development shop or agency. A dev shop has hired its development team and provides iOS app development as a service. Their services are typically priced hourly or per project. Typical costs of an app built by a dev shop range from $25.000 to $100.000.

When outsourcing with a dev shop, app development costs are affected by the features you want to build into an app. We’ll discuss how in the next section. If hiring a dev shop, you must define a clear project scope.

Freelance/sole iOS developer

Hiring a freelance iOS developer is an excellent option for small-to-mid-scale apps with a clear project scope. You can outsource to a local developer or work with a remote developer and can potentially benefit from geo-arbitrage. You can find developers for hire via platforms like Upwork, Toptal, Freelancer or Codementor.

The price ranges, skills and app costs differ significantly between freelance app developers. It’s wise to hire a developer with a good track record and optionally hire them for an initial paid try-out project first. Depending on the iOS developer, a prototype app can cost as little as $10.000. Larger, more complete apps can easily cost between $25.000 and $50.000.


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How Features Affect an App’s Costs

It’s a simple rule: the more features you want, the higher the cost of the app. In general, more complex features take more time to build, and as a result, the price of the app is higher.

  • The biggest obstacle here is that you, the person who hires the app developer, may not have a complete or accurate idea about how much time it takes to build a particular app feature.
  • While adding a Login/Signup UI to an app may sound easy, depending on the back-end or web service APIs your app uses, this can be quite a complicated task. Moreover, the developer who takes 4 hours to build this feature might not do as well as the developer who takes four days.
  • This characteristic of app development projects makes it difficult to estimate fixed-price projects accurately. It’s also challenging to work with developers you don’t yet know, e.g., the quality of their work and how they price their services.
  • It’s wise to get to know your developer or team of choice before signing off on an app project. It also pays dividends to outsource any future app projects to a developer or team you’re familiar with. It’s a win-win when you both invest in your relationship, which affects the costs of (future) apps.
  • Did you find a potential developer or team? It’s a brilliant idea to start with a discovery phase. You set up an initial meeting with the developer (or team) and walk them through your requirements for the app.
  • Your developer can comment on your ideas and help you decide which features are worth keeping. A good developer can explain to you what goes into building a particular feature so you can determine what features to keep or discard.
  • Based on this discovery meeting, the developer can estimate how much the app costs, create designs or mockups, and provide you with a project quote. You can negotiate the quote, accept it, or take the project elsewhere.
  • A skillful, trustworthy developer (or agency) will charge for this initial discovery phase because they provide valuable insights. You know what they say about free advice!

App Development Costs to Consider

The cost of building an app isn’t the only cost associated with your project. Depending on your app project, app costs can also include:

  • Maintenance costs, i.e. updating an app continually for software and security updates and iOS/iPhone upgrades
  • Ongoing costs, such as subscriptions for web services, 3rd-party tools and usage-based APIs
  • Costs for licenses and compliance, i.e. a privacy policy at least, or things like PCI DSS for data security

Other Critical Costs To Consider

On top of that, you may want to continually expand your app and build new features for your users, affecting the app’s total price. It’s best to start an app project with a fixed scope, and once that’s built, continue building the app with a sub-project per feature.

You must ask a developer or team up-front about additional costs associated with the app. For example, you’ll need to pay for the $99/year Apple Developer Program. You may need to pay for usage beyond their free tier if your app uses a paid 3rd-party API or SDK, like Google’s Cloud APIs.

Most apps today rely on a cloud-based tech stack, which isn’t free. The basic plan for Firebase costs $20/month, and a simple DigitalOcean virtual private server (for back-end hosting) starts at $10/month. Depending on the number of users your app has, these services can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.

Investigate these cost factors up-front, so you can choose a vendor with a good balance between price, quality and ease of development. For a simple app, it’s likely cheaper to use a ready-made cloud back-end provider such as Firebase than to build a back-end infrastructure from scratch.

A good, skillful developer will be able to guide you through these decisions and help you understand how they affect the cost of the app project. Is building an app cheaper or more expensive than you anticipated?


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Why Does App Development Cost So Much?

Once you have the concept or app idea in front of you, you still have a long, long way ahead. You need to understand that it will not be one guy with a laptop but an entire team of developers who will work to build your app.

Some multiple processes and tasks go into the whole project. These processes and activities are behind the scenes (much like a film or a play).

The project can cost you about $149,000 if you want it to be any good. Yup! It is expensive, but I promise to break it down into smaller costs that will help you understand the extravagant price tag.

Let’s look at the key players in an app development project.

  • Developers any app development project requires at least two developers working full-time. This means 40 hours a week for at least two weeks making it 80 person-hours.
  • Designer(s) depending on the app’s complexity and nature, a designer or art director would be working on the visual aspects of the app. It may take about 20 hours of design work, at least.
  • Account Manager(s) the account managers have various responsibilities, including working with clients, product managers and producers.
  • Product Manager(s) the product managers are responsible for an app’s overall direction and vision.

They also coordinate with the account manager and can take up to 20 more hours. Even the most basic mobile app would need 120 hours of work. Now, if you want your app idea to be able to make any kind of impact in the market, you will naturally have to at least double these hours. In addition, the cost of resources and facilities tends to vary from company to company.


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Factors Affecting App Development Costs

Mobile apps are used for various purposes, making them different from one another. Today, you can find millions of apps on app stores in various sizes, and functionalities, but when it comes to developing an app for your needs, each and every aspect, from size to content, is considered to calculate the actual cost of app development.

Here are discussed the primary factors that directly influence the app development cost:

  • Business Model
  • Platform
  • Functionality
  • Design

Business Model

You must first sort out your requirements if you are into any business or simply want an app for your specific talent. Before even giving it a try, you must ask yourself a few questions:

  • Where is your targeted audience spending their time?
  • What device and platform your customers are using?
  • Will your app be listed as free or as a paid app?
  • How you will monetize the app?
  • How many features do you require in the app?
  • Do you want to connect your website with the app?
  • Will you earn money via in-app purchases?
  • Will your app be used for promoting your products and services?
  • Do your customers care about cutting-edge design or simple functionality?
  • Are you creating the app based on access to information or a unique experience?
  • Will your app be used for 3rd party ads?

Once you have answers to all of the above questions and are optimistic about creating an app, you must invest time in finalizing platform access, functionality, design, and development. All these factors (and countless others) are crucial for determining the app development cost, so you need to move ahead only when you have sorted out these factors. Besides the above questions, you need to consider code security, as cyber culprits can modify your code if it is not hashed. App code integrity is essential to secure it, and a code signing certificate is ideal. Code security ensures end users that their software or app is safe to download.

For instance, creating and making money through an app simply by selling it for a fixed price is easy. On the other hand, making money through in-app purchases is a time taking process, which may be expensive and take a little longer to develop. And, if you want a full-fledged e-commerce app, you might need to break the bank to achieve your goals.

So, before going ahead, list your requirements, as they will be the deciding factor behind the expense involved in developing your app.

Platform: Android or Apple

Once you have determined why you need an app, based on your business model and customer behaviour, the next factor you need to consider for calculating the app development cost is the platform for its creation.

You can get an app created for multiple platforms, including Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad), Windows, BlackBerry, Amazon Kindle, etc., but the app development cost solely depends on your platform choice. So, giving a thought when deciding the platform for your app can also help you reduce the app development cost to an extent.

Apple and Android are two popular platforms that are highly regarded by most businesses across the globe.

Initially, developing iOS apps was quicker and cheaper; therefore, most businesses worldwide opted to launch iOS-only apps while giving a second thought to its Android version later on once the iOS version was successful. But, in a few years, as the Android market experienced significant growth in user base, this platform got a few advancements, making it easy for developers to create an Android app without any complexity. As a result, today, many developers no longer feel any difference between the two prominent platforms – Android vs iOS. It’s the result of the wide popularity of Android devices that today have wider penetration and reach in emerging markets compared to Apple.

At this point, your platform choice will solely depend on your app’s intended audience. Going with all of the platforms can be a risky affair as it might turn out to be quite an expensive approach. So, it’s advisable for you to get clear insights into your user behavior before finalizing the specific platform for your app.

App Functionality

By now, you might have analyzed your user behavior and decided on the platform for your app. It’s time to dive into building the app. One of the critical and most significant factors affecting your app development cost is app type and technical specifications.

To help you better understand app types, we have classified them into four categories: List Based, Database Based, Dynamic Apps, and Gaming Apps.

Let’s take a close look at each app type:

List Based

The list or table-based apps are created to showcase a relatively simple collection of information. In simple words, such apps generally provide relevant information to users who, in turn, can select the option and gain additional materials on their preferred topic. Moreover, these apps function similarly to a simple, mobile-optimized website.

Database Based

Complex than list-based apps, database-based apps allow users to easily find, sort and display data from massive records without hassle. These apps are connected with websites or other online web services to retrieve information, making them far more complex in terms of development and functionality.

Dynamic Apps

Like database-based apps, dynamic apps differ in terms of functionality. Instead of simply connecting to an online server for information, these apps are coupled with other platforms or software through APIs. For instance, if you create a third-party Twitter app, you need to integrate Twitter’s official API to import tweets and other data from your Twitter account. Since these APIs vary in quality and complexity, it will surely add up to your app development cost, which may range from a relatively small cost increase to an immensely costly undertaking.

Gaming Apps

Gaming apps are one of the most challenging apps to develop. Simple games, to an extent, can cost similar to dynamic apps. Still, with an increase in functionality, like 3D environments or advanced physics engines, these apps will surely cost heavily on your pockets, as compared to other app types.

Although the above-discussed app types incorporate most of the apps on the market, with advancements in technology, apps these days are tremendously varying like never before, making it hard to categorize them differently.

But, the most important thing you need to remember before going ahead with app development is that the cost of developing an app varies with its functional requirements. Sometimes a simple functionality app is expensive to build, while other functionalities that look complex might be surprisingly affordable. So, whatever your functionality requirements are, you need to research and solicit quotes from different companies or developers to find a rough estimate of app development.

Design

Similar to app type, design is also one of the foremost factors when evaluating app development costs.

If you are running a business and already have your website, you know how design plays a vital role in attracting customers. The same is the case with mobile apps. You need to stand out from the crowd if you plan to extend your horizons and achieve more business from across the globe.

Yes, you got it right! Creating an app with a breathtaking design is sure to attract new customers to your products and services while forcing them to use your app more and more. To stand out from the competition, you need to create an app with eye-catching icons, an impressive splash screen, and other elements like tabs, buttons and many others, which enhances user engagement while helping you enlarge your customer base like never before.

But, a fantastic design generally comes at a significant cost. No, we are not joking. You might see a massive difference in the price spectrum of different app development companies, but truthfully, this difference is not just limited to prices; it also encompasses the quality of service offerings. So, if you want an app created with an impressive and compelling design, be prepared to shell out some serious cash to hire the best app designing company or freelancer with years of experience with an eye-catching portfolio.

Your app design depends on your target audience, as their preferences, behavior and other factors will determine and impact your UI/UX design approach.


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So How Much Does it Exactly Cost to Make an App?

One of the best ways to investigate the actual cost of developing an app is by checking some widely popular apps available on different app stores. As per the best stats available, prominent market players invest a staggering $500,000 to $1,000,000 for developing their apps, whereas on the other hand, small retail and fashion houses get their apps built for $50,000 to $100,000. These stats don’t give a clear idea about the correct cost involved in making an app, but an intelligent way that has been in trend nowadays is:

App Development Cost = Development Time X Hourly Rate

Using the above formula, you can get an approximate app development estimate. However, certain other factors discussed below can also help you identify the correct cost involved in creating an app.

Priorities Matter

Yes, the app development cost depends on your priorities, including quality, price, and speed. So you need to sort out your preferences before going ahead to get your app developed. Generally, individuals should choose two of the three qualities mentioned above for their app rather than being greedy and running after all three.

Development Costs at Various Phases

On one side, there are big market players who invest a considerable sum of money in creating their apps, while on the other side, there are many businesses whose apps cost around $150,000 to $450,000. So, when it comes to calculating the exact value of app development, considering development costs at various phases can also give you a rough idea about the cost of your app.

Apart from the above-discussed factors, there is also a median cost per hour of developing apps in different regions. According to the best possible data available, the app development cost is maximum in North America and least in Indonesia. At the same time, the Indian subcontinent comes second last in the list, with a rate just below $50 per hour. Other developed countries, like Australia and Singapore, also rank high on the list, where app development costs around $60 to $100 hourly.

app development costs

So far, we have discussed how to calculate the app development costs involved at various development phases and your priorities. But, this is not all. As developing, funding or upgrading any trending technological product is a challenging task, same is the case with app development cost. First, an agreement is signed between the app owner, and app development firm. In the next stage, the cost is determined based on app owner requirements and the framework type. Thereafter, a final estimate is provided to the app owner, including the cost involved in different development phases.

By considering above factors, you can easily calculate an approximate cost required for developing your app. But, the twist lies in choosing a reliable and cost-effective app development company, which is one of the most challenging tasks for many budding app owners in the market.

Today, there are thousands of app development companies and millions of app developers present in the industry that can help you bring your app ideas to life. But, finalizing a trustworthy app development company or app developer will also include their charges, when it comes to finding the final cost for app development.

Though, it can prove to be a challenging task to calculate the exact cost involved in app development beforehand, but considering the above listed factors, to an extent, can help you save money during different phases of app development. However, before approaching an app development company or app developer, one logically crystal clear concept that you need to keep in mind is that simple apps comprising basic functionalities are much cheaper to develop, as compared to complex apps that include high-end features, such as video streaming, real-time synchronization, offline data caching, augmented and virtual reality, and many others.

In Conclusion

The value of your app should not be underestimated. A well-developed app that users find helpful and enjoyable can be an invaluable asset to your business. It can help you reach more customers, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, and drive more sales.

In conclusion, while the costs associated with developing an app can be significant, they are often outweighed by the potential benefits of a high-quality product. By carefully weighing all of the factors involved in app development and looking for ways to save money without sacrificing quality, businesses can ensure that their app investment is worth every penny.