How much does it cost to make an app? is a common question to ask your software development company. It’s your right to know where your money goes when crafting your mobile solution. In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about mobile apps development costs.

Factors that influence the app development cost

There are several things that significantly affect typical app development cost:

  1. Features and functionality
  2. App types, platforms, and devices
  3. Backend infrastructure and admin functionality
  4. Design
Factors that influence the cost of app development
SOURCE: STEELKIWI.COM

Features and functionality

Features are what make each application unique. They’re a huge part of the custom app development process and need a lot of attention. A well-chosen set of features will resonate with users and encourage them to come back to your app. The secret behind what makes features so valuable is how they deliver the value that your application offers. If you want to build an app that helps users connect with each other, you should first consider developing features that will help people make connections, for example real-time chat, smart search, file sharing, and personal profiles.

Every application has must-have features. Additional features can increase user engagement but aren’t required at the start.

Must-have features

We’ve prepared a list of questions you should answer to know how many hours are required to build your must-have features.

Do users need to log in?

Some platforms require users to log in to view content or get access to particular functionality. Others make registration optional or let users use an application without logging in. A login feature is best for applications that enable private messaging, chats, and loyalty cards. The best practice for login is to support email login as well as social login using Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

LOGIN FEATURE

Hours

LOGIN FEATURE

Email login

Hours

8–12

LOGIN FEATURE

Social login (per social network)

Hours

4–8

LOGIN FEATUREOTP loginHours8–16 
Dribbble shot. Log in page
SOURCE: DRIBBBLE.COM BY KRISTINA MALIK

Do users have to create personal profiles?

It’s common practice to let users create profiles after they’ve logged in. Some applications can pull information from social networks such as Facebook and automatically make a personal profile. When it comes to personal profiles, you should also know that there are two types 一 simple and complex.

The simple profile 一 User name, short bio, and profile picture.

Dribbble work with simple log in page
source: dribbble.com by Sarpreet Kalyan

The complex profile 一 Information about user’s interests, skills, education, and more. The platform can also give data on the number of followers and recent activity.

Dribbble shot. Personal profile page
SOURCE: DRIBBBLE.COM BY MARIUSZ NOWAK

PERSONAL PROFILE

Hours

PERSONAL PROFILE

Simple

Hours

8–16

PERSONAL PROFILE

Complex

Hours

24–40

Do you need to integrate a payment system in your app?

If your app is free to download, you don’t need to integrate any payment gateway. However, if you’re going to take a commission from sellers (for example, in eCommerce apps), you need to consider implementing an online payment system in your application. 

There are lots of payment gateways. The choice of payment method depends on your target market. Datanyze reports that Paypal is currently the most popular method of payment, with almost a 56% market share and 457 thousand companies using it. The other leading payment gateway is Stripe, which accounts for 17.2% of global payment solutions. There are also some other popular payment gateways you might want to consider, including Amazon Pay (3.9%), Braintree (2.2%), Stripe Checkout (2%), and Square (1.9%). 

payment processing technologies and their number of website

The time necessary to integrate mobile payments varies greatly, depending on different factors. This includes:

  • Complexity of the functionality
  • Frontend vs backend workload: who’s responsible for what and how much work needs to be done by whom
  • Quality of a payment gateway’s documentation
  • Presence/absence of a reliable SDK/libraries 
  • Ability to use sandbox for testing a payment processor 
  • Technical support response time

PAYMENT

Hours

PAYMENT

Stripe

Hours

16–100

PAYMENT

PayPal

Hours

16–100

Is it important for your application to let users rate businesses and leave feedback?

One of the ways to control quality and build trust on a platform is through feedback and ratings. This feature helps customers make informed decisions when thinking about what producer or service provider to choose. Some applications offer a dual rating system, where both consumers and producers or service providers rate each other after the service or goods have been delivered. Uber asks both riders and drivers to rate their experiences after the ride. On Airbnb, travelers are supposed to leave feedback for hosts, and hosts are required to leave feedback on whether guests respected their rules and left the accommodation clean and on how clearly they communicated their needs.

RATINGS AND FEEDBACK

hours

RATINGS AND FEEDBACK

Rate business/service

hours

6–12

RATINGS AND FEEDBACK

Dual rating system

hours

12–20

What about social integration? And how will you drive user engagement?

To increase user engagement in your app, you can build handy features such as messaging, forums, and social sharing. Have a look at how much time it takes for a Steelkiwi developer to implement these features.

SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND USER ENGAGEMENT

hours

SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND USER ENGAGEMENT

Messaging

hours

40–80

SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND USER ENGAGEMENT

Forum or commenting

hours

12–40

SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND USER ENGAGEMENT

Social sharing

hours

2–12

Additional features

Push notifications help you keep in touch with users. Notifications provide essential information on updates, offers, changes, alerts, and more. Anything you want users to be aware of can be delivered via push notifications.

Dribbble shot. Push notification animation
SOURCE:DRIBBBLE.COM BY ANDREW MCKAY

Geolocation gives users information on their current location, the locations of nearby objects, or objects at a particular location. For some applications, geolocation adds additional functionality; for others, such as Uber and Lyft, geolocation is a must-have feature that allows customers to find the nearest drivers and share their whereabouts with them.

Dribbble shot, geolocation page
Source: dribbble.comby Sergey Shevchenko

A calendar is a good option for travel apps, planners, doctor on-demand apps, and many other apps. Calendars help users search for flights, trips, and doctor appointments, show upcoming events, and do much more.

Dribbble shot. Calendar page
Source: Dribbble.com by Sergey Shevchenko

Online booking makes sense for a variety of niches in the on-demand market, such as travel and tourism, food and beverages, home services, and dedicated delivery. This feature lets users make orders and bookings right in the application.

Dribbble shot. Online booking page
Source: dribbble.com by Sergey Shevchenko

Audio and video functionality is a good option for social media apps, allowing users to send video or audio messages and share media files.

Dribbble shot. Audio and video functionality page
Source: dribbble.com by Paperpillar

News feeds provide users with a constant flow of content — news, articles, pictures, or anything else that’s important for your industry 一 to drive user engagement and retention.

Tags are relevant if you want users to arrange information in the app into categories or if you want to make search more relevant and let users quickly find information.

Source: dribbble.com by Vlad Fedoseyev

A search engine makes it easier for users to quickly find the content they want within an app. Lots of content is great only when users are matched to relevant content. Applications that provide users with the best answers encourage them to participate on the platform on a regular basis. You can also use push notifications to inform users about new content that may be relevant to them.

Source: dribbble.com by Steelkiwi Inc.

App types, platforms, and devices

App startup costs also depend on the type of application and the number of platforms you’re building it for.

What type of an app are you building?

Mobile applications generally fall into one of two types: native apps or cross-platform apps. The right type depends on what you want to use it for.

  • Native applications are built for a specific operating system: Android or iOS. These apps show a high level of performance and benefit from access to hardware like GPS sensors, cameras, microphones, the touchscreen, and more. They’re best for complex projects full of functionality and ever-changing features.
  • Cross-platform applications function on both iOS and Android. They’re best for projects that don’t need to support complex features and platform-specific functionality.

Developing native apps is more costly, as you need to build an application for each operating system. Cross-platform mobile development is cost-effective since you can use the same code base for iOS and Android. 

Unfortunately, cross-platform development won’t save you 50% compared to building two native apps. To illustrate this, let me give you an example. Say that your native apps for iOS and Android took you 2,000 hours in total to create. Developing a cross-platform app for this project would take you no more than 1,500 hours. 

How to decide between Android and iOS

If you’ve decided to build a native application, you need tochoose the right platform to build it for 一 Android, iOS, or both.Your target audience will give you a clear picture of which platform is better for you. 

Globally speaking, Android, according to Statcounter,had a bigger market share (72%)than iOS (27%) throughout July 2020 and July 2021. 

 Statistics on mobile operating systems market share

But even though Android dominates the market, some successful apps like Instagram and Periscope came out on iOS first. So why do some companies decide to launch iOS apps first? There are many answers to this question, but we’re convinced that one of the main reasons is that iOS users spend more money on apps than Android users. Lots of businesses think they can recoup their investments quicker with iOS development. But it might not be the case for your app. In different countries, people prefer different operating systems. In Germany, for example, Android-powered smartphones are preferred, with a 68% market share. In Australia, 56% of people choose iOS over Android. Additionally, building an app for iOS is a less demanding process and usually takes less time. That’s why many companies find the iOS app development cost more attractive than the Android app development cost.

Most companies don’t decide between iOS or Android, however, and build apps for both platforms. Twitter, Airbnb, Uber, Instagram, Snapchat, and dozens of other apps are available for both Android and iOS to attract a larger audience.

Backend infrastructure and administration

The majority of applications need a backend with APIs that ensures data sharing between the app and a database. The backend typically generates, processes, stores, and modifies data.

To manage the content of an app, certain admin possibilities that can be of great use:

  • User admin page — Manage users by adding, removing, suspending, or restoring them.
  • Content moderation — Enables admins to accept or reject content before it’s published.
  • Users analytics — Understand users by getting insights into how they behave on your platform. The best analytics tools are Google Analytics, Clicky, and Kissmetrics.
  • Crash reporting — Find errors and crashes that influence the user experience.
  • Application performance monitoring — Troubleshoot problems regarding app performance and get performance metrics to find the root of the issue.
  • Multilingual support — Offer your app in various languages to achieve a larger audience.

Design

No two snowflakes are alike. It’s just the same with applications. Each and every one of them is a unique product and has a one-of-a-kind design. For this reason, it’s impossible to say exactly how much you’ll pay to design your application. However, we’re not here to leave you in the dark, so we’ll provide examples of three different projects we’ve built and show you what it took us to create the designs for them.

Possio

Design hours: 300

Possio is a GPS tracker app with quite a simple design that we created following Google Material Design guidelines. Our design team made 140 artboards with various features and dealt with statistical data, maps, zones, and customized settings. The only unique things we designed were custom illustrations created for empty states, which took us 20 to 25 hours.

Source:dribbble.comby Sergey Shevchenko

Alias

Design hours: 140

Alias is a unique application in terms of design and animations. The peculiarity of the app is its bold design, which is a perfect match for what the Alias application is 一 a word guessing game.

Source: GetAlias.co

Google started off as a search engine, Amazon as an online bookstore, and Snapchat as an application to send pictures that soon disappeared. As you can see, these billion-dollar apps started off their journeys by delivering one real value at first. Since we also concentrated on one feature only, we ended up building a unique and beautiful application with custom animations. It took us 60 hours out of 140 total design hours to create custom animations and prepare inputs for development.

Spotvice

Design hours: 190

Spotvice is a great social media network with a custom app design. The Spotvice app helps users find great places to travel to based on advice from friends and lets users create destination wish lists. This application provides lots of functionality, settings, custom animations, and empty states.

source: dribble.com by sergey shevchenko

The time spent designing your app can vary greatly based on different factors. It depends first on the number of screens. You may need to build five or six custom screens, which takes around the same time as making 140 artboards while following Google guidelines. This is because creating custom animations requires using only your own ideas. The other reason why hours vary is the software that designers use. Some new programs let you create features faster than older versions but can take some time to learn. Finally, the time varies due to the complexity of animations and a developer’s competence to quickly translate animations to code.

Other costs of developing an application

In addition to expenses of app development and design, there are other things you’ll have to pay for.

Marketing

How will people get to know about your app when there are over two million apps on the market? The answer is marketing! Today, advertising is as important as the product itself. To effectively market your app, you should speak to your target audience so they’ll become interested in your application. You can promote your product through social media, paid ads, app marketing agencies, and other channels.

Support and maintenance

Application development isn’t a one-time project. Constantly updating your app is key to remaining competitive. Maintaining your application doesn’t mean only updating it; it also includes fixing bugs, adding new features, providing security updates, and upgrading with new operating system releases. All of this costs money.

Hosting costs

If you decide to store data in the cloud, you’ll have to pay for your hosting server. Hosting costs vary depending on how much data you need to store and the price of the provider.

Third-party tools

When making an app, most companies implement some functionality such as online payments, messaging, analytics, and testing using third-party solutions like Twilio, Google Analytics, and Crashlytics. Some third-party solutions like Mixpanel and Woopra offer free trials; others don’t charge unless you use them beyond a certain point. You can use Google Analytics at no charge for up to ten million hits a month.

Average hourly rates for custom mobile app development services by region

A no less important factor that influences the start up costs for app development is the country your software team is from. We’ve studied the most preferred offshoring destinations 一 India, Ukraine, the USA, and Australia — and calculated their average hourly rates on the basis of Clutch rates.

Average hourly rates for offshore development services in India, Ukraine, Australia, and United States

Read also: Reasons to Hire Ukrainian Developers

Putting it all together: A typical app development cost

To make it easier to get a rough estimate of the cost of development, we’ve divided applications into three groups — simple, medium complexity, and complex — depending on the complexity of the functionality and the design you want to implement in your application.

Complexity

Simple app

Medium complexity app

Complex app

Time

〜 up to 800 hours

〜 800–1600 hours

1500+ hours

Functionality

One platform only, basic UI design with standard elements, simple features (social/email login, calendar, notifications, user profiles, list of feeds, email subscriptions, map markers), no API integrations, no backend infrastructure

Multiple screens, custom UI design, search functionality, in-app payments, APIs, real-time messaging, support for different screen sizes, simple backend

High load, real-time data synchronization, advanced animations, user-generated content, GPS, ratings and feedback, video and audio processing, multi-language support, in-app purchasing, complex backend infrastructure

Know what you’re paying for

App development is a demanding process that includes costs related to each element in an application 一 features, platforms, backend infrastructure, and design. In addition, you’ll have to pay to market your app, maintain it, host your data, and use third-party tools. Remember that much will depend on the country you choose to outsource your app development to.

We hope that our “How much does it cost to develop an app” guide has given you a better understanding of what influences app development costs. Get in touch with us if you have any questions or want to get a free consultation from Steelkiwi. Our company was the best software development company according to Clutch.co, Goodfirm, and ITFirms.