Figuring Out the Cost of
Building a Mobile App


A mobile app can be a powerful tool for any organization. It is a great way to engage customers, get feedback from users, improve organizational communication, or sell products and services. However, the cost of creating an app can be pretty high. That’s why it’s vital to have an estimate of the expenses before starting the process.

If you’ve looked anywhere online for a general estimate of the total cost of developing an app from scratch, you’ve probably seen one answer again and again: it depends. That’s all well and good, but “it depends” is not especially helpful when you’re trying to construct a budget.

So, let’s start by talking about the price range of building a mobile app for your organization.

GoodFirms has found that:

A bare-bones app can cost from $24,830 to $59,150

An app with an average amount of features can cost from $36,107 to $85,150

An app with experimental features can cost from $59,507 to $137,150

Having an accurate budget for the mobile app you want to make will help you avoid surprises and ensure you’re adequately prepared for the process. Otherwise, you may find yourself with an unbalanced product, where you spent too much upfront and ran out toward the end.

That’s why we’ve constructed our free mobile app cost estimation tool! Because honestly, there’s no one answer to how much it costs to build an app. Our tool will walk you through each significant factor that affects the overall cost and give you a pricing estimate.

Use our tool and go into the mobile app development process prepared!

Why having an accurate estimate is essential for building an app

It is not uncommon for an app development project to exceed the original budget by 30% or more. This is especially true if there are changes in the scope of work or delays and unexpected roadblocks. Having an accurate estimate before starting the development process will keep you from being blind-sided.

To avoid unpleasant surprises near the end of your project and keep your costs under control, gather all the necessary information before you estimate the cost of an app. You need to plan ahead and know your budget for each app development phase.

The Top 10 Factors That Affect the Cost of an App

We’re going to break down how our wizard makes its estimates in more detail, but these are the three broad factors that affect the cost of your app:

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Complexity

There are many different types of apps, and each one has its own set of complexities. The more complex your app is, the higher the price will be. For example, creating a simple chatbot with basic features would be much less expensive than developing an augmented reality game with complex 3D graphics.

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Features

The number of features included in your app is also a significant factor. For example, a simple app that only does one or two things will usually be less expensive than a simple app with ten plus functions. Additionally, a mobile game can be cheaper to build than a social media platform or enterprise application if it has fewer features.

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Timeline

The timeline of when you need to launch your app can heavily affect how things are priced. A rush job will always be more expensive than one where you can take your time. In addition, there may be additional charges if developers need to work extra hours to hit your deadline.

So if you’re looking to do things as cheaply as possible, you’ll want to plan a simple app that only does a couple of things over a long development period. However, if you’re looking for a complex, fully-featured app, and you want it now, prepare yourself for prices on the higher end of the spectrum.

1. Your App Development Team

The size of your development team and their location will also affect the price of your app.

The larger the team, the more you’ll pay. However, if your group is too small, you may run into timeline problems, making it a moot point.
At a minimum, you’ll need the following people on your mobile app development team:

Developer

Your developer is the heart and soul of the app. They’re the ones who’ll take the concept and make it a reality. A developer writes all the code for a mobile app and fixes bugs. They also add all the functions that you want for your app.

QA Engineer

Quality assurance engineers are there to make sure that everything works as intended. They should be making sure that the app is stable under a battery of tests. They’ll also make sure that the user experience is going as intended.

Project Manager

Your project manager is in charge of ensuring everything is going as planned and making any modifications necessary to reach goals. They also keep the other team members on track. Choosing a good project manager will positively impact your bottom line since they’re essential to making sure you hit your timeline.

Back-End Developer

While the back-end of your app may not be super complicated, depending on your app, it’s a super important element of app development. They’re in charge of data processing and storage, syncing, authentication, business logic, and content updates.

UX/UI designer

This position is one of the most important for attracting and retaining customers. They’re essentially in charge of the curb appeal of your application and its ease of use. They ensure your app stands out from others in the field, both visually and in terms of the overall experience. If something is consistently annoying for users of a rival app, you can woo them to your side with improvements.

If you want to expand the team, you should look at hiring more app developers, back-end developers, and a system administrator. Another huge factor that affects cost is where your team is since the median salary varies a lot across different parts of the world. For example, North America is the most expensive, while Indonesia is the least.

2. Your App Platform (OS)

The first thing to get out of the way when planning your application is how you want to distribute it. Because although it’s not the most significant budget factor, it affects your team composition significantly.

The reason is that—except for specific programming languages like Kotlin, where you can double up on some of the coding—you’ll have to hire developers who are versed in that platform’s programming language. If you decide to do both platforms, it’s a good idea to try to use a multi-platform programming language so you can reuse code.

iOS is More Affordable Than Android

The iOS mobile app development process is more affordable than the Android mobile app development process for several reasons.

The most significant reason is that Apple provides a free IDE, Xcode, making it much easier to develop an iOS app. In addition, many third-party tools help developers build apps for the App Store and make it easier to find bugs and fix them.

The other element is that iOS is a closed system, where most users have the most current operating system. In contrast, Android is an open-source ecosystem where the user base has a vast range of operating systems.

This means that there are many fewer variables when you’re working with iOS. So, for example, you don’t have to worry about backward compatibility and the differences in launchers.

You’ll have to invest more time in squashing bugs and creating different variations of your app for the Play Store than for the Apple App Store.

Consider your user base

You may be wondering if it’s even worth it to develop an Android app, but there’s an important thing to realize. While the market is more split in the US, globally, Android is far more dominant than iOS. That means both a more extensive and a far broader audience for your app. So there’s a fair argument for all options, but you need to decide what you’re willing to take on.

If you only want to choose one, consider your audience. For example, suppose your app is aimed chiefly at a US-specific audience. In that case, it can be worth it only to develop an iOS app. But otherwise, it’s probably wiser to choose Android.

3. Do People Need to Login to Use Your App?

When you’re thinking about budget, this probably isn’t a question on the forefront of your mind. But it’s a significant cost difference that can take you by surprise if you aren’t careful.

If users don’t need to login into your app, then it’s not an applicable cost. But adding it can quickly add thousands of dollars to your projected budget. So why is that?

Associated costs

There are many more steps involved in creating a login, which increases the cost of development.

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One big reason is security. The more personal information you ask of someone, the more secure your app has to be. Think of the consequences of asking for people’s emails and social logins, only for your security to be breached. And the reverse is true as well since relying on the security of another social app can leave you vulnerable.

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The other problem with social logins is that you’re at the mercy of constantly updating an often buggy SKS. Businesses have reported issues with app crashes caused by bugs in the code that the social sites give out.

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There are also more minor considerations that can add up. For example, the developer needs to design and develop a custom login screen. You’ll also have to handle issues with people losing their login information.

Benefits of login options

Like all the other choices, just because there’s a higher price tag doesn’t mean it isn’t worth having a login option. Some app types—ones that store information—will require that you have a login option. But even if you don’t have to, there are some pros to having a login option:

4. Email or Social?

Many applications have options for creating an account associated with your email, social media, or both. Only providing an email login can be less of a hassle for you, but people may be more willing to sign in if they can create an account and log in with only a few taps.

In addition, providing several social login options can be helpful for customers who want to create an account and log in to save time and information.

5. Will Users Need to Create Profiles?

While account creation is one step, you’ll have to decide whether you want to have your users create profiles.

Again, some mobile apps will require profiles. Almost every app with a social feature has profile creation. It allows your users to feel like they have a personal space on your application that they can customize to fit themselves.

So if you’re wondering whether or not your mobile app should include profiles, think about how popular social elements of apps have become. Even apps for working out or food can include social elements.

What having profiles entails

Every option for customization will take your developer time to program. In addition, you’ll have to have storage for profiles, which is a back-end issue. The cost will also depend on how complex these profiles are. Things like:

  • Profile pictures

  • Usernames

  • Region

  • Profile settings

  • Verification

  • Information

  • Editing options

All of these settings take time to design, program, and refine. The UX design must be top tier since the user will interact so much with this application element. Like with account creation, you’ll have to invest in security features. People want to make sure that their data is protected and only visible to those they want it to be.

6. Is Your App a Moneymaker?

Now let’s be honest. You’re putting this much effort, time, and money into making a mobile app. And you probably want to see some returns on that investment. But there are a few options for making money with apps with some pros and cons.

Luckily, this isn’t an expensive feature to implement, whatever you decide. There are a lot of integrations and programs available to make the process easier.

Upfront pricing

The big pro with upfront pricing is that it’s no hassle. With either Android or Apple, the app store will handle purchases.

As we’ve mentioned with security previously, this can be a big relief. Payment information is some of the most sensitive data that users input. Of course, you can avoid that by using payment partners like PayPal, but it’s still easier to use upfront.

In-app purchases

However, there’s a big reason to think about using in-app purchasing. A study discovered that people spend 24% more on in-app purchases in the long run than with upfront costs.

There’s a simple reason for this. People want to know if your app is worth it before putting money down. Of course, you’ll probably have people who are happy to shell out a dollar for something well rated. But more often than not, you’ll probably be passed by for a free version of what you’re offering.

Android app users are less likely to pay for apps upfront, favoring free options. So the platform you’ve chosen can affect your choices.

One way to get the best of both worlds is to have a freeware version of your app with fewer features that directs users to the paid app. If your app is simple, this could be a good solution. However, even if they’re similar, maintaining two complicated apps can quickly become more hassle than it’s worth.

7. Will Users be Leaving Ratings or Reviews of Purchases?

Reviews are a vital part of the shopping experience for both consumers and businesses.

They help shoppers make informed decisions about what to buy and what not to buy. Adding reviews to your app can be expensive and time-consuming, but it is often worth it in the end.

There are many costs involved with adding reviews to your app

1

You need to pay a developer,

which will cost you anywhere from $5,000 - $10,000, depending on your needs and the project’s complexity. You also need to purchase an API or SDK to add ratings and reviews to your app. This will cost you anywhere from $1,000 - $3,000 per year plus any additional costs if you want more features like star ratings or social media integration in your app.

2

You have to gather reviews for your app

Allowing consumers to add reviews will allow the process of adding reviews to be less time- consuming. However, you still need to have an audience willing to use your app to get more content. This audience will require substantial marketing and advertising on social media, email, and other platforms.

3

There is a legal risk

Suppose your reviews aren’t generated organically by your audience (spamming is a common issue), causing consumers to believe that the product is more valuable than it is. In that case, your app’s integrity may be negatively impacted. In addition, these fake reviews can give you an unfair advantage over competitors. Then there is a risk that it will eventually lead to legal action.

8. Will This App Connect to a Website?

There are many reasons you might want to connect your app to a website. Maybe you want to redirect users to your company’s website. Maybe you want users to be able to interact with your app on their desktops.

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are a set of standards for exchanging data between two applications. This makes it possible for mobile apps to share data with a website. It also enables websites to interact with mobile apps and vice versa.

APIs can be used in many ways, such as:

  • Sharing data between two applications
  • Integrating your website with your mobile app
  • Providing an interface to access other services and databases

APIs can be free to use or cost a fee. Companies that want to make their data available to other developers typically create free APIs. These companies usually offer their API for free as an incentive for developers to create applications with their data and as an opportunity to build customer loyalty.

However, if you want to connect to your website, you’ll have to create your own API, which can be a lengthy process for your back-end developer.

9. Do You Want Your App to be Basic or High-End?

If you look through the apps on your phone, you probably see a wide variety of appearances. Some apps are full of art, animation, and videos, and others are primarily text-based, with a simple interface.

Many people have the misconception that a beautiful design is all it takes to make an app successful. Therefore, they think that if they invest in a UI, people will automatically want to download it. However, this is not always the case.

In fact, some apps with a more basic design are more popular than their more aesthetically pleasing counterparts. This is because simple apps often lead to a better experience and are easier to use.

Of course, simplicity is not the same as a lack of design. Going simple does not mean that you should never invest in your app’s UI design. Instead, it means that you should not rely on your UI alone if you want your app to succeed.

Like many of your other choices, the appearance of your app will depend on how you want users to interact with it. If your app is focused on aesthetics (think Pinterest), you’ll want something that users want to look at. But a more practical application should invest more time into UX.

10. Will You Need a Customized App Icon?

If you’ve ever worked with designing a logo, you’ll understand the difficulty of app icon design. Every element of the design has to be perfect of it’s immediately noticeable

Your app needs to be:

  • Immediately recognizable
  • Distinct from other apps
  • Cleanly designed
  • And represent the function of your app

So it’s no wonder that having a custom app icon designed is a substantial additional cost. If this app is for an existing business, you may be able to get away with re-purposing your current logo. But you have to remember that an app icon is much smaller than many other ways your logo is displayed. So that fancy text and those clever, small details quickly turn into visual mush when shrunk down.

Getting someone to download your app is only half the battle. You want people to decide to use your app when they open their home screen.

Beyond the icon, some apps also need to consider adding widgets as an option. Widgets represent another chance at attracting users to your app since they’re generally larger.

Suppose your app contains information people will want to know at a glance when they look down at their phones. In that case, you should definitely consider the additional option of a widget.

Confianz Can Help You Build a Mobile App

Determining how much a mobile app will cost before starting can save you a world of trouble. It can also help you prioritize the essential elements of your app.

It’s vital that you know your audience, the features you want, how you want users to interact with your app, and how you plan to make money with your app before making any big decisions. All those factors determine what kind of team you need to hire, where you want to hire from, and the scope and complexity of your mobile app.

Budgeting for such a big project can be a painful process when you’re trying to factor in all the variables, but it doesn’t have to be. Our calculator tool can help you get an estimate based on the most critical factors while also walking you through some of the decisions you’ll have to make.

Use our mobile app building tool to estimate how much it will cost to build your mobile app. Then, get started on development today!

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