The growth of mobile apps seems to be unstoppable, with businesses in all industries – lifestyle, finance, and food to name a few – adding apps to their offerings. However, as with any business addition, it’s important to understand the financial commitment involved. When it comes to apps, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as different features and functionalities can add to the bottom line.
The general cost to create a mobile app is between $100,000 and $500,000, although simpler apps can range from $25,000 to $50,000.
These are wide ranges and you may find yourself in or out of them rather quickly. The key thing is to know what you need, separating those concerns from the things you want, and making sure you control costs along the way. As you build success and engage users, you can add features through regular app updates
To get a better understanding of what you can expect to pay for the app of your dreams, keep reading. Keep in mind that all costs listed below are broad ranges and should be used for general information only. If you want to learn what it would cost to make your app, contact us and we can provide a detailed estimate and timeline based on your specific requirements.
*None of the numbers below are guaranteed by Inventive, they are for educational purposes only.
Types of Apps to Create
While app users categorize the apps they use one way, app developers categorize them as follows:
Basic Functionality Apps
The simplest (and the most affordable) app you can create is a basic functionality app. As the name suggests, these apps have very few features; because of their simplicity they’re usually developed for personal use and are rarely found in the app store.
Native apps are the app that most users are familiar with. These apps are large, can handle many functions, and offer a wide range of features. Because they use various device APIs and support multiple platforms, these apps can get pricey. Native apps are the entertainment, education, and business apps you will find in your favorite app stores.
Looking for something a little less expensive and time-consuming to build than a native app? Consider a hybrid app. Hybrid apps cost less because only one code is used across all platforms. Because only a single code is used, they’re less optimized and lack access to APIs, but still provide a quality user experience. Hybrid apps work well for small and medium lifestyle and game apps.
The most common example of database-driven apps are mobile dictionaries and encyclopedias. They contain huge amounts of data that are stored within the device’s memory. Oftentimes camera access and internet connection are needed to take advantage of additional functionalities.
Device Firmware Apps
These apps are used to improve the functionalities of your mobile phone. Whether it’s a camera, flashlight, or clock, device firmware apps have become very common.
Last, but certainly not least are mobile game apps. Game apps are often the most expensive to create, but they do have the highest profit margins. These apps have a wide range of complexities and associated costs.
On top of the cost associated with the types of functions you want in your app, another consideration in your final app cost is the design. App design involves everything from branding, to logo design, to UX, and although it’s an additional cost, it’s not something that can be avoided when building an app.
The final cost breakdown of app design can be impacted by the designer’s experience, the location of the designer, the complexity of the design, and if you’ll be designing in iOS or Android.
Designers: The hourly cost of a designer can range between $50 to $250 an hour.
Location: The cost of designers in Asia range from $10 to $80 an hour, in Australia from $50 to $150 an hour, and in North America from $50 to $250 an hour.
Complexity: The complexity of the app design (look and feel, UI/UX) drastically affects the bottom line. Simple designs like Flashlight start at $5,000, but more complex ones like Facebook can go upwards of $25,000.
iOS vs. Android: When building native apps or using tools like ReactNative to build a shared code base, app designs for iPhones range from $3,000 to $10,000, while Android can range from $4,000 to $12,500. But using tools like Flutter can help you wrangle that down to one design shared across the platforms more completely.
Now that you understand the difference app types and app design can have on your final cost, let’s discuss features. Of course, some features will cost more to make than others, so ensure you have your need list and want list sorted out. For these pricing estimates, we will use the average of North American hourly rates (about $150 an hour).
Besides the effect on the final cost, these features may contribute to an extended build timeline. In fact, 80% of apps take over three months to be developed, while 40% of apps built take at least six months.
One of the first screens within an app, a login page is an essential component for many businesses. Taking around 20 hours to develop, and around $3,000, typical login pages give users the option to use their email address or social media accounts to create a profile. Another option for a login page is an opportunity for customers to log into their existing profiles to manage their accounts. Adding these additional login options will increase the price because the developers have to deal with ever changing APIs from the different social platforms.
Consider the unexpected costs of one of our clients. They simply wanted to allow their existing users to log into the application with the credentials they already had. Unfortunately, the existing authentication mechanism did not support modern techniques for allowing a user to log in. This in turn, meant that the credentials had to be migrated to a new authentication service, adding additional costs. We knew that users would eventually have to reset or change passwords, which meant that the migration had to be permanent or risk falling out of sync. Because three other custom software systems were using that older authentication service, they required minor changes as well, incurring further expenses to the project.
All of this underscores both the clarity of vision for the project, the importance of allowing your development team to help you with readiness assessment, and the challenges that may arise with peripheral costs.
A large portion of an app’s success is dependent upon the user experience and app navigation. Even seemingly simple features like scrolling, CTA buttons, and screen flow can impact the cost and development time. Luckily, for most apps the cost is fairly low, with developers charging about $1500.
Another aspect of user experience you may be interested in is switching between portrait and landscape mode.
Normally, it’s a trivial task to allow an application to be used in portrait or landscape mode, but one of our clients came to us for assistance as their app contained a custom interface and it did not allow their users to turn the phone sideways. Simply enabling screen rotation was easy – however, creating an entirely new experience for the user when the phone was in a different orientation required planning, design, user testing and more adding to the overall cost.
For simple apps, this can be native to the app framework, but with added complexity and technical unknowns you could be within the $3000 – $7500 range.
For many apps, media content is a large differentiator. Image files, videos, audio, emoticons, and other effects all take time to both create and code into the application. If media files are a large portion of your app, the development team will want to discuss plans for managing app size, the type of media needed, and is media being generated, consumed, or both. The average time to add media files is around 20 hours.
Geolocation and Maps
If your app requires the user’s location, or you want a convenient way to provide your local location, you may need to implement geolocation or Google Maps integration. Both integrations are reliant on real-time user permissions to access the user’s location. If you need further location integration, the task can become very time-consuming.
The time estimate to add geolocation is 50 hours, and about $7,500, while the map integration will take a minimum of 20 hours and starts at $3,000. Depending on your needs, some tasks may be combined to reduce the total cost.
Even if you’re not trying to create the next WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you may still want a message functionality within your app. The specifics of your messenger will affect the development time. For example, if you want to add emoticon functionality or the ability to see if your message was delivered, you should expect to pay a little extra.
To add a chat function to your application, estimate your development team will spend at least 80 hours working and around $12,000.
Ads, In-App Purchases, and Payment Integrations
If the main goal of your app is to bring in revenue, you will likely want the ability to present ads to prompt your users to make purchases. Luckily, these capabilities have become extremely popular, so there are outside resources like Google AdMob to ease the development resources needed. To add advertisement capabilities, it will require developers at least 20 hours and $3,000.
However, for in-app purchases, there are a few more varying factors to consider.
- How many products, services, or packages are you offering?
- How will payments be processed?
- How secure should the payments be?
- How is the data stored?
- Will you be using a payment integration like PayPal or GooglePay?
- Does the information need to be synchronized between devices?
In-app purchases on the other hand will take at least 30 hours and a minimum of $4,500. To add payment integration on top of that, expect to spend about $7,500 and 50 or more hours.
Planning on taking your app internationally? Adding multi-language support will create a more scalable application but can be difficult to estimate. Ideally you would want to build in multi-language support from the beginning, but oftentimes businesses don’t decide they want this functionality until after the app has been built and deployed to users. Other important considerations when developing a multilingual app are the amount of data to be reworked and any UI changes needed. This will be something you will need to flesh out with your dev team for a detailed estimate.
Offline Mode and Database Maintenance
If you want your app to be usable without an internet connection, you’ll need to rely on a database to store data locally on the device. Most developers use open-source software to manage the databases, but task management is largely dependent on the type of data involved.
An optimized offline mode will also implement local caching, cookies, and shared preferences. The most time-consuming portion in developing offline functionality is setting different groups of data and their rules.
To create a usable offline mode, developers need around 40 hours to dedicate to the task and you should budget at least $6,000.
There are dozens of phone sensors that can be developed to improve the functionality of mobile apps. Examples include a digital compass, GPS, light sensor, fingerprint sensor, and proximity sensor. Of course, the phone’s functionality also plays a large part in which sensors can be used; because of that, development frequently relies on functionalities already built into the phone. Incorporating app logic with sensors takes at least ten hours and a budget of $1,500.
Keep in mind that not all phone sensors are available for a hybrid app, some would force the app to be native and double the cost of the entire project!
If your app has a lot of information or a ton of features, you may want to add search functionality to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for. The extent of detail you want your search to have will play the largest part in your final price, but you can assume that at least ten hours will be needed, resulting in $1,500 minimum.
Want to take your user experience to the next level? Consider adding customization functionality. Whether its changing list view to a tile view or switching your language, the time it takes to code these customizations varies as much as the customizations you can add.
A good rule of thumb with app customization is that if the elements can be reused, you should expect to pay at least $5,500 for a minimum of 35 hours work. However, of all the items on our list, this one varies the most.
Many business apps, specifically any app including financial information, should have data encryption enabled within their app to safeguard locally stored data. While all data that flows between the app and any back-end services will be encrypted with HTTPS, local data can be vulnerable unless additional precautions are taken.
Data encryption takes at least 20 hours of work and costs around $3,000.
Although most apps don’t need streaming functionality, it is certainly popular, which is why it made our list. App logic, data processing, video and audio files, and phone and internet settings all impact the amount of work it will take to customize streaming functionality.
At least 30 hours of work are needed and you should expect to pay at least $4,500.
Many app novices assume that once the mobile app is up and running, the development time spent on it is complete. However, mobile apps require regular maintenance and updates to keep them in running order.
The average annual cost of app maintenance is about 20% of the original cost. Regular maintenance covers bug fixing and API changes, while extra features like push notifications and payment gateways require a little extra love (and time).
There are also costs to running an app, including but not limited to the cost to host any back-end services, database, storage fees, etc. These costs will vary quite widely depending on the technology used to host the API, the amount of traffic, and the type of data being stored. A simple back-end managing user accounts could be less than $100/month, while redundant database servers for reliability and large amounts of storage for images can easily be $1000-$2000 per month.
We threw a lot of numbers at you, but remember an enterprise app will cost between $100,000 to $500,000. However, you can expect to pay much less if your expectations and requirements are lower.
Although developing an app may seem daunting, our team of developers, designers, and project managers at Inventive are here to manage the process from start to finish. Set up a consultation to walk us through your project requirements and your mobile app needs, and we will collaborate with you to develop your project timeline. Reach out to us today!