Like the Internet transformed the world a couple of decades ago, mobile is changing how we live, work, and engage with each other. The booming mobile economy is also driving entrepreneurship and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Digital media time reached 5.7 hours per day last year and mobile now represents approximately two out of three digital media minutes (an increase from .3 hours in 2008 to 3.1 hours in 2017). This suggests that desktops are now officially a secondary touch point.
This makes it important for businesses both large and small to invest in their own mobile apps to stay relevant. But how much will it cost to develop a mobile app?
The cost of mobile app development comes down to the man-hours required to build and launch the app. But this process isn’t straightforward, so it’s extremely difficult to provide rough estimates (but I will a little later).
To simplify, the total cost of developing app can be broken down as follows:
- App development costs (front end, back end, and testing)
- Design costs (UX/UI, visual design, content)
To make an educated guess about how many man-hours it would take to successfully complete an app development project, we have to first decide what kind of app you want to build.
Android, iOS, or Hybrid?
Native Android and iOS apps are usually large, fast, and optimized for the best UX. They’re also built using various processes and APIs that offer a wide range of features.
Depending on how many platforms you want to support and how many people you want to hire to work in your development team, native apps can quickly get expensive.
Cross-platform or hybrid apps aim to reach the largest audience. As it works with a single code that can function on all platforms, development, and maintenance can cost a lot less. However, these apps aren’t highly optimized and lack access to APIs that deliver an enhanced UX.
For example, if you’re going to build a native eHealth app for both Android and iOS, it can easily take 1,041 man-hours for Android development and 3,138 man-hours for iOS development. UI/UX design will add up to 184 man-hours, project management/analysis 409 man-hours, while QA will be approximately 442 man-hours.
Hybrid development, on the other hand, will take 1,616 man-hours including PhoneGap development hours of 1,002 man-hours, UX/UI design 113 man-hours, project management/analysis 211 man-hours, and QA will be around 290 man-hours.
Regardless of what you decide to go with, ultimately it’s the app’s features that will determine the final cost. In the U.S., the average cost to build an app can be anywhere from $80K to $250K+ depending on the platform, quality, and features.
Additional features can be broken down as follows:
- Email Login ($5,500 - $7,500)
- Social Login ($2,000 - $3,000)
- User Profiles ($5,500 - $7,500)
- Social Integration ($2,000 - $15,000 +)
- Rating System ($5,500 - $20,000 +)
- Geo-Location ($7,500 - $17,000 +)
- In-App Purchases ($5,500 - $15,000 +)
- Synch Data Across Devices ($5,500 - $7,500 +)
For a simple app without many features you can expect to pay around $80K. For a basic database app you’ll be looking at paying $100K to $150K. For a multi-featured advanced app, you’ll be looking at paying $150K to $250K+.
The design is just as important as functionality, it’s essentially the first point of contact and what the end-user interacts with. So you have to invest a considerable portion of your resources in this part of the process as well.
App design cost:
- Branding ($2,500 - $10,000)
- UX Design ($10,000 - $25,000)
- Visual Design ($5,000 +)
- Copywriting ($1,000 - $5,000)
Where your app is built can also have a significant impact on development costs. For example, an app developed in Canada will cost a little less than one built in the U.S.
However, working with an offshore team of developers will probably be your cheapest option. This means that you can hire a team in countries like Ukraine (where hourly rates start as low as $50 per hour) and have them work remotely.
Developers based in countries like South Korea, on the other hand, will cost as much as app developers in the U.S. However, this approach eliminates the overhead expenses of having your development team in-house.
Putting together a team of offshore freelancers can be a highly risky endeavor, that is why it’s better to hire an established app development company with a team made up of a product manager, developers, designers, and so on.
How to Find a Trusted App Development Partner
Before engaging and committing to an offshore app development company, you have to do your homework. This means looking at their reputation, awards, reviews, and their track record. With the amount of money involved, it’s important to make this decision carefully.
It might also be helpful to reach out to their past clients and discuss their experience. You can even take it a step further and fly out there to meet the team. When you meet the development team, make sure that you meet the designers as well.
When you decide on an app development provider and get an estimation, add 15% to 20% on top of that to lower your level of risk. This is because the process of developing mobile apps isn’t straightforward and unexpected hurdles can always pop up along the way.
An experienced IT consulting company or app development provider will always offer you flexible project options suitable for your business.