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How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?

Precisely determining the cost of creating a mobile app is quite difficult. There are a lot of different variables to take into account while preparing your budget. It can be the functionality within the app, the level of complexity or the number and type of platforms for the app to be released in. A couple of changes in the mobile app’s specification can change your estimated cost from $1500 to $150,000. Thus, to allow you to correctly estimate your future expenses, we have prepared a list of factors to take into consideration while designing mobile apps to be able to estimate their cost. We also want to show you how important it is to have a properly designed specification.

Which mobile app developer should you choose?

The first determining factor of the price of developing a mobile app is the choice of developer. While looking at the prices of a freelancer, a small studio and a big agency, you will notice big differences. Sometimes, you might not even have a choice – if the idea is very complex, it can only be undertaken by a big developer studio with the right tools and resources. Freelancers, on the other hand, are the cheapest option. It is usually the price difference in relation to a well-known agency that you will find most attractive in this solution. Finding the right developer can take a lot of time – verifying the capabilities and identity of the developers can often be difficult. You can of course always choose to work with well-known specialists, who, besides working for an agency, take up additional tasks. In this case however, you have to take a risk similar to one connected to employing someone for your company.
All delays and mistakes can have a big impact on the work. What is more, it is rare for a freelancer to be able to cope with more complex tasks – this solution only works for simpler projects. Naturally, the market is also full of rather expensive specialists, who will do exactly what you need. We however also need to consider a risk here – while working with freelancers, after an unsuccessful project it can be difficult to get any of your funds back, losing you not only money, but also valuable time.
A small software house can often prove to be a more versatile and a safer solution that working with a freelancer. A creative team of specialists can give us exactly what we need, while offering additional services that are impossible to get from freelancers. It is a good idea to search for companies with experience in the category of our envisioned app. While working with a relatively small firm, we can still spend less than with bigger studios, while keeping the flexibility that bigger studios can often not deliver. Even though there is not such a huge technological gap between smaller studios and bigger companies, in some aspects the relation is similar to freelance workers. Small studios sometimes cannot cope with more complicated projects due to their lack of such experience.
Big agencies are often comprised of a larger number of specialized teams with hundreds of monthly working hours and terabytes of completed code. They often have experience with large companies and projects. This however comes at a large mobile app development cost, which we need to be able to handle in exchange for such high quality. If you wish to bring a big, complicated project to life, big agencies are often your only way of making those plans come true. Unfortunately, you can never be guaranteed that you will receive what you paid for in the agreed upon timeframe. Even the biggest companies have their mishaps – normally however, those companies, after accepting your order, will do everything in their power to keep their good reputation.

Mobile app development cost – what influences the price?

While trying to write your vision in code, to be able to fit into a given budget, you need to consider whether the app should work locally, on the device, or need a connection to external servers and integration with other services. Right after the right developer, the back-end and required API libraries are the most expensive element, sometimes even doubling the costs of the whole development.
Let’s go through the whole process. The main factor determining the details of our app’s development is its monetization model​.​ Depending on the chosen business model, the cost of development changes. It is the business model that will tell us which clients to target and which devices to support. Monetization through paid apps makes the evaluation easier to carry out, since the purchase is conducted from the store of a platform and the revenue is sent directly to your account. However, if the app is to be monetized through in-app purchases or ads, there needs to be more functionality, which then in turn increases the costs of development.
As an example, the implementation of in-app purchases can take a lot of time, especially for typical e-commerce stores and services like Wish, Zara or Allegro, where you can order physical goods to be delivered from a storage facility and pay in many different ways. Depending on the way the platform works, we might have to deal with a mix of ERP and CRM systems. We also have to add an option to pay by credit card, which requires additional security systems and social media integration. Each of these functions makes a big difference in the evaluation of your mobile app.

Creating mobile apps on different platforms

While considering what you want to earn, you also have to decide which platform will enable you to reach that goal. After choosing a model of monetization and determining the market of interest, we can make a decision about the platform. It might be that iOS seems more fitting or that the target audience uses mostly Google systems. There is nothing stopping you from creating an app for both systems – except that it can double your expenses. Developers have to spend an average of 30% more on creating an Android app than an identical iOS app. Apple’s system boasts greatly reduced fragmentation and higher profitability of its mobile apps. Developers of Android mobile apps can however follow the instructions of Google Material design, a concept which unifies the UX and design across the platform. Additionally, the higher grade of openness of the system gives access to internal functions which do not even exist in iOS. This is why the Apple App Store does not have launchers, themes or floating widgets – iOS simply does not support them. The differences don’t end here. To publish a mobile app, you need to pay the stores. In the case of Google, it is a one-time payment of $25 for developer registration. The App Store requires a yearly subscription free of $99. Without the subscription, you will not be able to publish another mobile app. The verification process of mobile apps is more restrictive on the side of iOS, which poses a greater risk of having to implement some changes after the first try at publishing the app.
If you decide to publish the mobile app in both stores at the same time, only some of the content can be used in both of them. The programming language of iOS apps is completely different from that of Android. This is why preparing an additional version usually increases the cost by an average of 75%.

Mobile app functionality

No matter who the developer and the chosen monetization model is, the biggest mobile development cost might actually be the implementation of certain functionality within the app. While choosing a certain type of mobile app, we should prepare a set of essential functionality options.
The first and simplest type of mobile apps are web apps. They are usually designed to display information. This type of mobile app is the least expensive. A more complex model of such mobile apps are ones based on big databases. Since they are designed to connect with servers and deliver specific results, even though they might seem simple, they require work in multiple fields.
Another category is comprised of dynamic apps. This type requires integration with external APIs – they are most often designed to connect with other platforms. Depending on the level of complexity of the API, this can substantially increase the difficulty and timeframe of the development of an app, also costing you more of your budget.
A completely different category, games, can be very different from one another. The simpler ones are not that much more complex than simple apps. However, console-grade games are also getting popular, with their rich worlds of advanced graphics, polished physics and adjusted gameplay. This type of apps can use up much more resources than regular apps.

The aesthetics of mobile apps – the importance of design

It is said that a client buys with his eyes, which is why the packaging is often just as important as the product itself. In the case of mobile app development, the design of your product should be at least as important as its functionality. The look of icons and screenshots is not only an essential part of mobile app positioning (ASO – App Store Optimization) in the store but also an element required to surpass the competition of the crowded market. This is why graphical elements can sometimes cost a lot. In this field, it is also very easy to notice big price differences. Finding the right offer can be time-consuming, and the services of well-known designers are not cheap – here, it is a good idea to identify your priorities. If you plan on publishing an app which will have a target audience of users who seem to care about design, there is no cutting corners.

MVP Mobile App – Minimum Viable Product

This term is relevant not only in mobile app development but also in all other industries where you wish to make your vision into reality. The easiest example with MVP is a situation when you take up a new hobby. Not many people who want to take up climbing start with buying equipment. We usually rent it first and train with an instructor to see if we even like the sport. Only when we are sure that we do, we start investing money.
This is exactly how MVP works. In this case, we supply the market with a solution in its simplest form. Preparing a mobile app MVP should not be too expensive – all you need is to test the idea. This does not mean that it should be low-quality, though – the purpose is to present the clients with our idea.
Depending on the type of mobile app you plan on developing, the MVPs complexity will differ. What is the most crucial here is the feedback of the market and the users. While creating a mobile app MVP, we simply intend to check whether we are able to reach the right market with the product. If you assume your app is fit to solve some problem, you can this way check how many users even encounter said problem. Your solution should be later modified according to the feedback of the market. Dialogue with the users is a source of valuable information and ideas we would otherwise not have thought of.
It should be mentioned that MVP is not a beta version for your mobile app, but more of a prototype. This is best shown by an MVP strategy called Fake door. This strategy is about aggregating all of our principles and identifying as many unknowns as possible to create a “fake” solution. This way, you can test your principles by measuring real-life results.
To make this concept clearer, we have found a couple of additional examples. A store named, except for the usual sale of clothes, delivers ready-made sets composed by its creative workers and outfits based on celebrities and the current trends. Its MVP was as follows: after making a purchase by a user, an employee of Polyvore prepared additional orders from other shops, manually complimenting the main order and sending it to the user – without any storage facilities or contracts with clothes companies or logistics companies. A company named took a similar approach. Its founder had a wide offer of shoes on his website – after a purchase was made, the founder simply went to the right store to buy them and sent them away.
The examples above had a purpose of testing the idea without paying too much, while still giving the customer what he needs. A classic example of this could be one conducted by an IT giant in the 80s, who checked whether users would be fond of giving voice commands to their computers. The technology was not there yet, so the interface was comprised of hidden employees, manually carrying out the tasks of the unknowing users.
In the world of mobile apps, there are lots of good examples of MVP. The creators of Dropbox had an idea which required a huge amount of work. They wanted their app to be integrated with multiple platforms – they did not start with writing the code, though – they prepared a promotional video. This one video got them 75 thousand subscribers in a very short amount of time, which then allowed the start-up to contact investors, collecting 250 million dollars to make the vision come true.
Another similar example comes from Airbnb. It is estimated that the start-up will soon be worth up to 10 billion dollars – and, interestingly, has actually come to existence after its creators made a webpage where you could rent out their apartment – they did not have enough money for rent themselves.
Not every MVP story is a success, but most of them are not failures. After previously preparing a solution to test our idea in the market, we can prevent ourselves from spending much more money on an app which could have ended up being unsuccessful.

The cost of developing a mobile app

Even after presenting the exact same idea to a couple of different agencies, we can still receive very different price tags. A report published by Kinvey suggests that the average cost of development of a mobile app for its clients in 2014 was equal to 270 thousand dollars. Studio calculated that preparing the first version of an app can cost from 90000 to 210000 dollars. Their webpage also tells us that an app called Twitterrific developed by an external studio has cost the creators 250 000 dollars, while creating an app similar to Uber can mean a price tag of up to 1 500 000 dollars.
Generally, apps developed by the largest studios cost up to 1 000 000 dollars. Smaller agencies will present us with a price tag of 150 000 to 450 000 dollars. Renting out a small developer studio of up to 4 employees is a cost of 50 000 to 100 000 dollars. Even the simplest of apps developed by a professional studio can cost around 25 000 dollars.
We can also look for companies which develop mobile apps through clutch​.co​ (there are currently 1933 of them). The minimum price tag of a project where we can still find potential developers is around 1 000 dollars. All projects are settled hourly, with an hourly rate of around 25 to 300 dollars. The results can be filtered by the preferred project size, company hourly rate, amount of employees, location or type and size of target sector. This way, we can try to grasp the cost of our project beforehand.
Clutch mobile app developers
If the plan is to create a very simple mobile app, we should estimate a timeframe of around 200 working hours. This time will double if the app comes with a custom-made back-end.
The next threshold are simple apps requiring CRUD-operations such as:
Creating and adding new information
Reading and displaying information
Modifying and edition of information
Deleting existing information
In this case, we should estimate up to 400 development hours. The complexity level of the back-end can double the timeframe here, too.
Complex projects with higher levels of interaction and personalization require a workload adequate to the complexity level. If our plans require a panel to manage content, integration with other systems or advanced e-commerce functionality, the development of the app and its complete back-end can take up to 1400 hours.
The most complex mobile apps using many different APIs and connecting to social media or CRM systems while requiring many calculations and data processing on secured servers can take up to 2000 working hours to develop.
It is very difficult to estimate the price of developing a mobile app without previously preparing a detailed specification. It is also quite difficult to convert all your expenses into hours of code writing. The amounts here described, although they may be a bit imprecise, are adjusted for the American market. Fortunately, we are no longer restricted by any borders – we can work with anybody, anywhere. The lowest hour rates can be found on the Indian freelance market – they start at as low as 12 dollars. Cooperating with a professional studio in this country can cost you up to 35 dollars per working hour. Companies in regions like Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa or South America, offer prices ranging from 15 to 25 dollars. Closer to us, in Eastern Europe, those expenses can range from 25 to 45 dollars. Western Europe and Australia is priced at 30 to 80 dollars. The biggest fluctuations and the highest prices are however found in the US: from 40 to 130 dollars.
When designing a mobile app, it is a good idea to try to save money not only through the developer. Instead of looking for the cheapest and often incompetent workers, we could divide the workload into stages. When the MVP process is done, you can gradually add additional functionality to the product. You should start with what is most essential – then, as new sources of finance are made available, proceed to add the other options in the following versions. It is however not a good idea to create solutions that have already been pre-prepared before.
A good developer will tell us which ready-made technologies, libraries and services to use instead of writing new ones. Spending some time to asses a thought-out and well-prepared project and present it to the right, proven developer will save us the most.

Kamil Rzeznicki – CTO of All in Mobile

Mobile App Developers
What does a mobile app evaluation depend on?
There are multiple factors that influence an evaluation. To put it simply, a mobile app evaluation is a display of the workload connected to developing the app and a safety buffer. This safety buffer is definitely something you should focus on. We often receive evaluation requests for projects described using 3-4 sentences. While evaluating such a request, you need to make a lot of assumptions, which is why the safety buffer becomes far greater. This is why it is important to give the developer as much information as possible. If I was to point to the elements that make up an evaluation, I would definitely mention things like graphical complexity, use of animation, server communication methods, offline capabilities, methods of synchronization and whether the app should also work on tablets/iPads.
What are the difficulties a client can cause during the development of apps and how do you tackle them?
The biggest problem is always communication. Clients often do not know to or want to tell the developers updates regarding events like a meeting with investors. A developer will actually always try to help you with them and make the presentation look as good as possible. Not informing a developer about an event like this, informing too late or setting short deadlines can often be a cause of unnecessary stress, quality issues and an increase in costs and development time. We try to build partner relationships with our clients and be fully transparent in our correspondence – it is a big part of who we are as a company.
What should the client pay attention to while designing a mobile app MVP?
It is essential for the client to specify what he intends to achieve and what the main function of the MVP is. In the specifications, there should also be a description of the business model. This information will enable us to suggest solutions that will meet his expectations and help him achieve his goal while not breaking his budget and time constraints. I recommend taking a look at this article ​​and really decide whether what we are trying to develop is an MVP or an early version of the final product.

Lukasz Mosdorf, CTO of N7 Mobile

Mobile App Developers Poland
What does a mobile app evaluation depend on?
Just like with any other company selling services, a development evaluation is directly proportional to the predicted completion time of the task. This prediction comes from experience in other projects and a risk analysis. The client is always given an estimate for each function of the proposed app. This functionality specification is very important – at this stage, the vision should have become quite clear. Thanks to said detailed evaluation, the client can add and remove the vision’s functionality as he pleases. Complete transparency is what we are based on.
What are the difficulties a client can cause during the development of apps and how do you tackle them?
The clients often underestimate the cost of developing apps that have the potential of succeeding within the Polish or Global markets (we can boast about developing a few of them). In such a scenario, our job is to present complete transparency of the working process and the development. This generates trust and enables us to cooperatively create great products. Additionally, a detailed technical specification sheet, prepared before the start of the project can prevent most communication problems throughout the development.
It is also common for the graphical side of the vision to be different from what we can offer. Our solution here is to conduct a series of project meetings with the client and UX N7 Mobile specialists. It is during those meetings the best ideas are formed.
What should the client pay attention to while designing a mobile app MVP?
This of course is different depending on the app type. If the app is made to monetize an existing service or create new sources of income for an existing firm, the strategy of the MVP should definitely include a business model (which will be the point of verification). In this case, we can help the client estimate the income the app will generate. We disclose how other products performed and, together with partners and monetization specialists we can help you develop your strategy. Personally, I recommend placing this activity on a canvas.
It is however very common that the client’s initial vision of the app has a huge range of functionality, which can blur the accuracy of the evaluation. In this case, the estimate is hugely imprecise and you should focus more on the exact specification of the MVP. The key is to make a set of functionality that is already by itself a valuable asset for the target audience.
As an example – apps who have seen gigantic success in the last years (like Instagram) were initially only a fraction of what they are now. It was the correct set of initial functionality that enabled them to gain millions of users. There are a couple of methods of choosing the right minimum functionality set. During meetings with the client, we usually complete a couple of exercises to get on the right track.

Bartosz Kulis – iOS tech, Team leader of Iteo

Mobile App Developers in Poland
What does a mobile app evaluation depend on?
The evaluation of a mobile app depends on very many factors.
The first and most important aspect of the evaluation is the quality of the app specification sheet. The evaluation depends mostly on the information presented in the business documentation, dialogue with the customer, prototypes, mock-ups and other functionality-defining elements. Of course, the more ingredients the app has, the higher the evaluation.
There is however a common problem – the initial documentation is often very short and does not touch on many aspects. With this lacking documentation as a base, the evaluators have to guess and analyze the unmentioned elements and all the variables – for example, if a user is to have an option to log in, he will probably also have an option to register and retrieve the password – the documentation might make the project seem smaller than it really is by not mentioning those elements. We try to take those things into account, remind about them and explain them thoroughly – we are however not able to, for example, define the required registration data. If we however assume that the client’s specification is perfect, the main factor during the evaluation is the functionality (also measured in app screens). Another element that can drastically increase the cost is the platform’s amount of custom solutions, especially the borrowed ones – this can happen both while developing an iOS app while using Android solutions and the other way around. Of course, if a solution is popular and has a library to manage it, this is not a problem. It is however very common for a small detail concerning a custom method of use of the control panel to prolong the timeframe of the development of many other parts of the project.
What are the difficulties a client can cause during the development of apps and how do you tackle them?
The biggest problem are the constantly changing expectations. With Scrum projects, the problem is not as visible, since the client pays for the working hours – of course, those changes still influence the design of the solution and it is always better to prepare the optimal solutions right from the beginning. In the case of pre-budgeted projects however, all prices are determined based on initial estimates. It is common for the client not to know what he will need later – and, because of budget constraints, we can sometimes not add the needed functionality.
What should the client pay attention to while designing a mobile app MVP?
Most importantly, the client should focus on finding the simplest solution to check his business model. In most cases, a realistic MVP is much simpler than the planned final product, while still having many advantages: low development cost, easy validation and possibilities of iteration which will give the user the benefits of the idea already at its early stages.
Another important thing is to predict all the possible scenarios within the functionality, so that there is no group of users that will find themselves in a dead end, with their situation not having been predicted from a business standpoint.

Patryk Piatek – Business Developer of Droids on Roids

Droids on Roids mobile developers
What does a mobile app evaluation depend on?
There are very many factors that influence the evaluation, which is why creating one beforehand is extremely difficult. To put it shortly, costs mostly depend on the app’s functionality and their level of complexity. Also, apps that connect to hardware are usually more expensive than those that do not require device integration.
In my opinion, the most important mobile app evaluation elements are:
– Which systems it should work on – Android, iOS or both?
– What devices it should work on – smartphones, tablets or smartwatches?
– Should the orientation be horizontal or vertical?
– Does it require an API or an admin panel?
– Will the user have the option to register, log in and log out?
– Should it be integrated with a website or social media?
– Will it connect to external devices through WiFi/Bluetooth/BLE?
– Will there be micro-payments?
– Will there be PUSH notifications?
– Will there be GPS-functionality?
– Will the app use the camera or accelerometer?
– How many screens will there be?
The quality and attention to detail of the preparation of the specification enables an accurate cost evaluation of app development.
What are the difficulties a client can cause during the development of apps and how do you tackle them?
The most common problem we meet concerns the client’s engagement in the project. At Droids on Roids, we use methods called Agile and Scrum to develop products. The Product Owner (the client) gives us direction and shares a vision of the expected product. We do realize that not every client has experience in this field, and so, during the cooperation, we supply him with educational materials and broaden his knowledge about each development stage. Open clients, who are eager to learn, use the option to cooperate. Since 2011, we have developed more than 50 mobile apps for clients all over the world, sharing our knowledge with them and helping them develop products of the highest quality. The only thing we have learned to expect is trust and eagerness to learn.
What should the client pay attention to while designing a mobile app MVP?
Creating an MVP (Minimum​ Viable Product)​ requires understanding which basic functions the product should have to be released into the market and gather feedback from the clients. An MVP maximizes our client’s budget efficiency and lets us create a development plan – the owner’s vision is usually a bit different from the expectations of the end user.
We always suggest the client to create a list of all the basic app functionality and sort it from most to least important. To be able to do this, the client has to be informed about the competition (and the functionality of similar apps), along with the needs of the market. The end user and what problem the app really solves should always be kept in mind. While designing an MVP specification, the client should consider implementing ready-made APIs and SDKs instead of building them from scratch – everything that has the potential of saving the team’s time (and, thus, the client’s money) and at the same time help develop the functionality is a plus.
Apart from basic functionality, the mobile app’s UX should be as simple as possible. There is no reason to prepare time-consuming designs for an MVP. This can all be done later, when you are confident that the end user’s expectations are met.

ARPU Brothers Founder, App marketing agency for mobile apps and games

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