Breaking down mobile app development prices: Insights for 2023–2024
App development can be incredibly profitable, though it involves initial investments. The actual price for crafting an application can greatly fluctuate based on the intricacy and magnitude of the final product. While some applications might demand a minimal expenditure of $5,000, others could reach a cost exceeding $1 million! This article explains how much it costs to create a mobile app for business use in the years 2023–2024. Here, we tried to cover everything that can affect the app development price, including how complex the app is, whether you make it yourself or hire outside help, where your development team is located, and how different stages of building the app can change the cost.
Factors influencing the app development cost
Some apps can be built in a few weeks, while others require months or even years. How long your project takes depends on the complexity of your future app and the size of your development team.
On Clutch, the typical cost to hire an app-making firm ranges from $25 to $49 per hour. Since app creators charge hourly rates, the project’s extent and the time needed for completion can greatly affect the overall app development cost.
According to GoodFirms, a simple app can cost anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000. An app of medium complexity can set you back between $61,000 and $69,000, while a high-end, feature-laden app could range from $70,000 to $100,000.
Complexity and size of the app
An app’s complexity comes from the number of features it has and how detailed they are. For instance, a basic note-taking app costs less to make because it’s simpler than a banking app. The banking app needs secure transactions, data encryption, and biometric checks, making it a complex one to build.
Simple features, such as authentication, push notifications, reviews, and user profiles tend to be cheaper. More complex features, such as payment gateways, integration with native functions of smartphones, unusual third-party integrations, and security and privacy features increase your project’s cost.
The app’s size boils down to the amount of screens and functions it has. An app may be small, like a one-page app or a simple website. Large apps, like social media platforms and e-commerce apps, have lots of pages and complex logic, needing robust programming and designing skills to ensure they work well, that’s why building them costs more.
The chosen platform for your app, either Android, iOS, or cross-platform development, significantly impacts the app development cost. As each platform has a distinctive development process, technology stack, and user interface, this choice plays a crucial role in the cost calculation.
- Android app development
Android app development typically takes more time because developers must design and test the app across several different screen sizes and Android versions. The development process involves coding in Java or Kotlin. More time equates to more cost. However, the cost of publishing an Android app on Google Play Store is relatively less, compared to Apple’s App Store.
- iOS app development
The iOS platform is slightly less fragmented than Android, which means developers generally spend less time adapting the app for multiple devices. However, it’s important to note that coding for iOS apps is done in Swift or Objective-C, which are higher-paying skill sets in the developer market, potentially increasing the app development cost. Plus, the cost of deploying an iOS app on Apple’s App Store is more expensive than Google Play Store.
- Cross-platform app development
Cross-platform development involves writing a single codebase that works on both Android and iOS. This can potentially reduce the development cost as developers need only write, test, and maintain one application that works across multiple platforms. However, the downside here could be that cross-platform apps might not deliver the same degree of optimization or ’native feel’ as a platform-specific app.
According to research compiled by Clutch, the hourly charges by app developers don’t usually differ based on the chosen operating system for the app. However, if you decide to develop a separate native app for both iOS and Android, your total app development cost will likely double. As an alternative, businesses aiming to launch their apps on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store could opt for a cross-platform app.
|Operating system||Hourly rate|
|Hybrid & cross-platform apps||$25–$49|
The decision to develop an Android, iOS, or cross-platform app should hinge on factors such as who your target customers are, the timeline for your project, the range of features you want to incorporate, and the resources your business has at its disposal.
In-house development vs. outsourcing
1. In-house development
In-house development means employing a dedicated team within your company to develop your app. The costs involved include recruitment and training, salaries, benefits, office space, and the purchase or licensing of necessary software or hardware.
Moreover, maintaining an in-house team means ongoing costs, even after the development phase. You’ll need to handle updates, troubleshooting, and innovation continuously. These costs can rack up, especially if your project requires highly specialized skills or technologies, which may mean higher salaries or extensive training.
You can check the yearly salaries of software development specialists on Stackoverflow and compare them across different countries:
Outsourcing involves hiring a third-party company or freelance specialists to carry out your app development. The cost will depend on the complexity, size of the app, and location of the service provider. Typically, outsourcing can be a cost-effective route, especially for complex, one-off projects or businesses without in-house tech expertise.
Since outsourced developers often work on multiple projects, they bring a breadth of experience and may even suggest new ways to accomplish your objectives more efficiently. Moreover, when the project ends, so does your financial commitment. However, keep in mind potential additional costs, like those for communication, coordination, and potential cultural or language barriers.
It’s important to note that a professional development company comes with a team of specialists, each with its own area of expertise, which includes designers, developers, project managers, testers, and more. A single freelancer may not fully match the range of expertise that a full company’s team offers. That’s why if you opt for hiring freelancers, you’ll need to gather a team.
According to Upwork, a typical mobile app development team consisting of freelancers might look something like this:
Location of the development team
A lot of businesses prefer hiring app developers from various global markets due to their ability to offer top-notch services at lower hourly charges. Most of these overseas development firms have a wealth of experience working for international clients. With the use of modern communication tools and technology, they can efficiently work and interact with clients, irrespective of geographical location.
Location is a significant factor influencing your app development overall costs. The geographical location of your development team directly correlates to the wage expectations, cost of living, and economic condition of that region.
Typically, app developers based in developed countries such as the US, Canada, and Western European countries tend to charge higher rates. Conversely, developers from emerging economies like India, Eastern Europe, or Southeast Asian countries typically charge less due to lower living costs in these regions. According to Clutch, these are the average hourly rates of development companies from different countries:
|Country||Average cost per hour|
The survey from Business of Apps shows that among the six countries on the graph below, India has the lowest hourly rate — $7 per hour, while the US has the highest — $47 per hour.
Even though in some countries the app development price can be very low, you shouldn’t overlook quality. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs who fell prey to a low project cost and had to rebuild the app completely. As a result, the final price can end up higher, sometimes even twice more expensive than your initial expectations.
“When it comes to app development, you get what you pay for.“
Stage-wise breakdown of app development cost
Developing an app is a comprehensive process that involves several stages. Each stage is crucial and helps ensure the app turns out as high-functional, user-friendly, and successful. Let’s look at the average costs and meanings of each stage.
The discovery stage is the first and fundamental step in app development, where developers understand the end goal of the application. It involves conducting market research, identifying the target audience, competition analysis, and understanding the client’s vision for the app. This is crucial for defining the app’s functionality, features, and overall structure. The information gathered in this stage lays the foundation for the rest of the development process.
In the past, companies were so eager to have apps that they would often develop them without fully understanding their value. Nowadays, businesses are more discerning about whether or not they genuinely need an app. Clutch says, around 70% of app development firms polled insist on a discovery phase prior to commencing a project.
The UI/UX design phase concentrates on how the application will look and feel to users. The User Interface design includes creating an attractive and interactive interface, ensuring the app is visually appealing. The User Experience design, on the other hand, focuses on the users’ interaction with the app, making sure the app is easy to use, intuitive, and user-friendly. Wireframes, prototypes, and mockups are typically created during this phase.
Here are the average costs of the UI/UX design stage according to Clutch:
The average price of the design stage, according to surveys, falls under $5,000, yet the cost is contingent on the number of screens within your app. The average number of screens for the surveyed companies’ projects is 11–20.
The development stage is where the coding happens, and the necessary features and functionalities are added in line with the app’s requirements. The frontend development involves building the interface that users interact with, while the backend development includes creating server parts and connecting APIs and databases that power the app’s functionality. This stage also involves integrating third-party services if required.
Several factors can influence the time and financial resources needed for this stage such as the number of functionalities, the platforms for which it’s being developed, and the expertise level of the development team. The price of the development phase is usually 50–70% of the overall app development price. Here are the average costs of this stage:
During testing, the application undergoes various procedures to identify and rectify any bugs, errors, or usability issues. Different types of testing like functional testing, usability testing, performance testing, and security testing are conducted. This phase aims to ensure that the app works flawlessly across different devices and meets the quality standards set at the beginning of the project.
Testing usually takes around 15–20% of the total app development price tag. Here are the average costs of this stage:
Release and maintenance
Once the app passes the testing phase successfully, it’s ready to be released on the app stores. However, the app development process doesn’t end here. Post-launch, the app requires regular updates, performance monitoring, and bug fixes, which fall under maintenance. Also, as the market trends and user preferences change over time, the app might need feature updates and enhancements.
It’s vital for a business to realize that collaborating with an app development company could potentially span several years if the company continues with the app’s maintenance. Here are the average costs of app maintenance after one year:
At Ronas IT, we always provide our clients with an approximate project estimate after the first discussion and with a detailed and precise estimate after we finish the design. We do it this way because design changes can affect the time needed to implement it, therefore, it affects the development costs.
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Does the app development cost depend on the industry?
App developers typically maintain the same hourly rate, regardless of your objectives. However, this doesn’t imply that all apps, regardless of industry or market, have the same price. For example, gaming apps are costly to create. This is partly due to the complex app structure or coding logic often required for games. As we’ve already mentioned, the complexity of the app directly affects its cost and can significantly inflate the budget. High-end animations and abundant content can also drive up the app development price. In other sectors, features such as in-app transactions, push alerts, shopping cart capabilities, and compatibility with wearable technology can escalate the costs of app development.
Below you can see the approximate time and cost needed to build an app based on its industry according to Couchbase.
|App type||Estimated time to develop||Estimated cost|
|Social media||6–12 months||$50,000–$500,000|
|Gaming||2–12 months or more||$10,000–$500,000 or more|
|Health and fitness||4–6 months||$50,000–$250,000|
|Travel and hospitality||3–8 months||$25,000–$300,000|
Pricing models in app development services
Understanding various pricing models can aid in making informed decisions that can optimize both your resources and your app’s potential. Let’s delve into the three most popular pricing models in app development: the fixed price model, the time & material model, and the dedicated team model.
- Fixed Price model: This model is the joint expression of simplicity and predictability. The fixed price model is ideal for projects with clearly defined requirements and scopes. Here, the total cost and delivery date are settled at the very beginning of the project. Any alterations or unexpected work are handled through additional invoices. This model’s allure lies in its straightforwardness, with no hidden app development costs and a guarantee of project completion within a predetermined budget. However, the lack of flexibility is its downside as any deviation from the initial plan may lead to delays or additional expenses.
- Time and Material model: This pricing model is synonymous with flexibility and adaptability. The Time and Material model works seamlessly for projects that don’t have a rigidly defined scope and may require some changes during the development process. Here, clients pay for the time developers spend on the project and for the materials used. One can always adjust the project scope, add or remove features, and consistently review and assess the work being done. This model promotes a more engaged and collaborative client-developer relationship, but it also means that the final project cost may differ from initial estimates.
- Dedicated Team model: This model represents collaboration and consistent results. The dedicated team model can be seen as an extension of your own organization, where a team of professionals is exclusively allocated to your project. You pay a monthly or bi-weekly fee for their expertise, which includes their wages, overhead, and a margin for the provider. This model gives you direct control over the team and the development process. With direct access to resources, you can manage tasks and establish your workflow. While this model allows high flexibility and control, it also implies significant responsibility for managing and motivating this team.
Each of these pricing models in app development offers unique advantages and trade-offs, depending on your project’s characteristics, your organization’s resource availability, and your risk tolerance level. Therefore, it’s essential to scrutinize each model and understand which aligns closest to your needs, before making a decision.
Examples of project costs
Based on data from Goodfirms, developing a big project like Uber, WhatsApp, Instagram or Tinder will cost between $100,000 to $185,000. These apps are household names with millions, if not billions, of users worldwide. Nevertheless, these apps weren’t born overnight. They’ve been evolving over many years, and their app development cost mirrors this extensive timeline. They started with a set of basic features and gradually added more functions based on the users’ needs and market trends.
Tinder, a renowned dating app, has a simple yet effective swiping mechanism, in-app messaging, geolocation, and algorithm-based matching. According to Goodfirms, developing an app like Tinder with all its features would cost around $102,688 and take about 10 months. At Ronas IT, we recommend our clients to start with creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to enter the market and validate the business idea. In this case, we develop only basic features which takes a lot less time and money — approximately, $45,000–50,000 and 3–4 months for a dating app MVP.
WhatsApp, the universally recognized messaging app, features text messaging, voice and video call functionality, group chats, document sharing, and end-to-end encryption. As stated by Goodfirms, creating a WhatsApp-like app would cost around $184,512 and take about 12 months. At Ronas IT, it would take us about 4 months and $60,000–$90,000 to build an MVP version of a messaging app.
Instagram, a leading social media platform, blends picture and video sharing, filters, hashtags, IGTV, stories, and Direct Messages. To create a fully-fledged app like Instagram, one needs around $143,728 and 13 months, according to Goodfirms. Here at Ronas IT, we can create an MVP version of Instagram for $40,000–$70,000 and 4 months.
Lastly, Uber, the giant of ride-hailing services, offers GPS tracking, payment integration, notifications, car and driver details, and a rating system. On average, the cost of creating an Uber-like app according to Goodfirms is $152,776, and the average development time is 13 months. As for our company, we estimate the development of a ride-hailing app MVP as $50,000 and 3 months approximately.
If you are planning to create an app of such scale, be prepared to invest significant time and money in its development. However, if you decide to start with an MVP and improve it in iterations, you can begin with smaller investments and test the product on real users to decide whether it’s worth further development.
Here are the MVP app development costs with Ronas IT:
Apart from regular MVP creation, we also offer urgent MVP development. For this service, we allocate more specialists for your project — they work on different tasks at the same time so that the job gets done faster. This might cost more, but it also makes the project finish quicker.
How to cut the project costs?
Reducing app development costs is an attractive prospect for any business. It’s all about smart planning and strategic choices. Here are some suggestions on how to save on your app development expenses:
- Start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP): MVP is a version of your app with the bare minimum features necessary to solve the core problem for users. This preliminary version helps you get user feedback and understand the market reactions without investing in full-fledged development. Use this early feedback to refine your idea and avoid unnecessary features, saving you both time and money.
- Plan carefully: A well-defined roadmap can prevent unexpected expenses. Before starting development, know what you want to achieve with your app. Outline your main goals, desired features, and define your target audience. Planning helps avoid unnecessary iterations and changes, saving development time and cost.
- Use third-party integrations: Often, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Available software or SaaS solutions can meet many common needs, like user authentication or payment gateways. Utilizing these ready-made solutions can drastically cut down your app development cost and time.
- Optimize design: A complex, resource-intensive design can shoot up development costs. Instead, opt for a simple, user-friendly design. An uncluttered and minimalistic design can save significantly on development while helping users easily navigate through the app.
- Test thoroughly: Regular testing throughout the development process helps identify bugs or issues early on. This approach prevents expensive fixes down the line. Automated tests can also speed up the process, reducing your overall cost.
By following these steps, you can significantly reduce your app development costs while ensuring a quality product. Remember that investing wisely is as crucial as saving costs when it comes to successful app development.
To wrap up
The app development price can differ a lot, depending on factors like how complex it is, who builds it, where they live, and what stage of development you’re in. While getting a good deal is important, the quality of the app shouldn’t be ignored. Starting with a simple first version of your app, planning ahead, using ready-made tools, choosing a simple design, and doing thorough tests can help control costs without sacrificing quality. It’s also crucial to pick the right team for the job and decide on a pricing model that suits your project best.
If you have an app idea and are searching for a development partner, you can reach out to us for a consultation — just fill in the form below.