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How Much Does it Cost to Build an App?

Posted by Sygma Technology on Jan 21, 2019
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There are more than 2 million mobile applications available in Apple’s App Store. Even more in Android’s Play Store with 2.1 million. Clearly, there’s a great demand for app development, but this volume of tech begs the question, how much does it cost to make an app?

As you may have guessed, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question.

There are many factors influencing app development cost. Costs fluctuate based on app functionality, the app’s platform, who designs it, and more.

Here, we’ll provide an app development cost breakdown so you can learn what factors impact app development cost and what you should be prepared to pay.  

App Development Cost Breakdown

The biggest factor influencing app development costs is functionality. We’re talking about features, complexity and platform. To determine how much your app will cost, you must first consider how you want the app to function.

What kind of app do you want to build? Are you creating a retail mechanism for your business? Maybe you need a simple, streamlined app to complement your website? Or maybe you’re creating a new mobile game? Whatever it is, consider what type of application will best serve your purpose.

Features are equally important. Will there be a point-of-sale within the application? Does the app need to integrate with your business’ existing tech? The possibilities are endless. Getting a solid idea of what your application will cost depends on your ability to clearly hone in on what you need your application to do.

You should also consider the infrastructure needed to support the application. Apps with back-end servers and/or application programming interface (API) integration will almost always cost more initially but can actually save money in the long run as you centralize common code.

If all you need is a simple application with a few bells and whistles on a single platform, expect your investment to start at $25,000.

Know that some apps, despite appearing externally simple due to their lack of a back-end server or API integration, can still be quite challenging to build. For example, mobile game development costs can easily skyrocket into six figures, despite their lack of API integration or other expensive features and infrastructure.

The platform is another important consideration.  You can develop your app using one of two approaches: native and hybrid or cross-platform.

Native apps are written specifically for the platform for which the app is designed (Swift for iOS and Java/Kotlin for Android). These apps are typically faster and more reliable because they can tap into each phone’s tools and gadgets like the camera and address book. Native apps are also more expensive.

Hybrid/cross-platform apps are simultaneously built for both Android and iOS. They don’t take the programming of each phone into account, which often prevents them from running as well as their native counterparts.

Bottom line: functionality plays a huge role in app development costs, but it isn’t everything.

iPhone app development cost

When creating an application, the rule-of-thumb is to begin with the iPhone version. These take less time to develop than their Android counterparts and, as a result, are cheaper.

Interestingly, iPhone users are statistically more willing to pay (or pay more) for an app. This means that their lifetime value to your business is far greater than an Android user.

Unfortunately, Apple’s more stringent guidelines and quality control can hinder development and pose some unique challenges. In the end, it usually results in a higher quality app.

Android app development cost

If an iPhone application proves successful, the developer will usually begin work on the more complicated and time-consuming Android application. Apps for the Google Play Store usually take two to three times longer to develop than apps for Apple’s App Store.

The reason for such a significant time difference boils down to the many nuances that come with running one set of software on many different types of hardware. Android software simultaneously runs on the likes of Samsung, LG and Motorola products, to name a few. What’s more, the software usually runs on various stages of updates. With Apple, you have one set of software and one set of hardware, making development far easier and far quicker. The additional time needed to develop a quality android application increases development costs.

On the bright side, Android users dominate mobile web traffic, so you’ll capture more customers in this market. The cost per install is significantly less for an Android app over an iOS app. These applications also require far fewer updates than iOS apps, keeping your maintenance costs low.

Whatever platform, or platforms, you choose, who designs your app is another major expense to consider when determining app development cost.

App Design Cost

The cost to create an application also depends on who builds it. Just as there are endless features available to incorporate into your application, there are just as many app developers out there eager to win your business.

App developers cost anything from $25,000 all the way up to $1,000,000, depending on who you hire. These technological dynamos typically fall into three categories: freelancers, offshore development teams, or agencies.

Freelancers can be the cheapest, depending on who you hire. They are also the biggest gamble. You may find a diamond in the rough who is able to create a fantastic application, or you may end up with an application that’s a total dud, be out a couple grand, and have to start over.

Let’s say you find a solid freelancer who is able to deliver. Think about the maintenance and upkeep needed for the application. Will they be there when you need to troubleshoot or do an update? Maybe, maybe not.

Offshore development teams (usually in India or Russia) are another affordable option, but they present their own set of unique challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is the language barrier. This may hinder communication and, ultimately, negatively impact the final product.

Timezone differences are another factor that may impede progress. Using an offshore development team that is eight to twelve hours off your schedule can hamper any opportunity to collaborate in real time. Will they align their work schedules to overlap more with yours?  Or will you have to work with your development team at 7 am? As a result, you typically have to specify all your features upfront because they will follow your instructions to the letter.

Agency apps are as close as you can get to a sure thing, but for the highest price. In fact, some of the largest firms won’t even consider taking you on as a client unless your budget is $500,000 or more.

On the whole, these large agencies will charge anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000 to develop an application. An app developed by a medium-sized agency like Savvy Apps will cost between $150,000 to $500,000. Smaller agencies with fewer resources will usually charge $50,000 to $100,000 to develop an app. The differences in these costs boil down to expertise, team size, and team time spent on developing your app.  

However, these costs are primarily dependant on your app’s functionality and infrastructure needs. As you begin to think about who should develop your app, remember you get what you pay for!

So how much does it cost to make an app? It depends. The average cost of an app hinges on many factors including functionality, platform, design, and more.

As you think about how much you want to spend on developing your app, you should also consider the app maintenance costs, ongoing updates and, if applicable, server costs.

Do your homework. Speak to a software development company that knows app development.  Learn what type of application will suit the needs of your customers and your business, find out who can deliver, and make it happen.


Connect with us to help you scope your app development.


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