How long does app development take?
When entrepreneurs decide to get their own commercial app, they ask themselves, "How long does app development take?" And it’s not without reason, as the development length directly affects the app’s price and determines whether it is worth developing at all. After all, development is a long process, and by the time it is completed, the app may already not be relevant. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how much time development will take and how to estimate a rough timeline.
To give you a clear understanding of the time required for custom mobile app development and answer the question of how long app development takes, our team has created a guide that covers various factors affecting the timeline of app creation, including some of the latest tech trends.
Factors affecting how long it takes to develop an app
Creating an app from scratch consists of several crucial steps: the discovery phase, interface design, coding, architecture build-up, testing, and release. The smooth collaboration and efficiency of several specialists during these stages significantly impact the speed of app development. We have gathered the key components that influence the app development timeline.
The complexity of an app is an important point that can greatly influence the app development timeline since a more complex app typically takes more time and resources to develop compared to a simpler one.
The complexity of the app depends on the number of roles and the number of features that need to be implemented during the project work. For example, an e-commerce app with features like product listings, shopping cart, payment integration, and user reviews will take longer to develop than a simple note-taking app.
The duration of app development also depends on the approach chosen by the development team and the client, ultimately determining how long the app development takes. Entrepreneurs can opt to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or a fully-fledged product from the start. Developing an MVP allows for a faster time-to-market as it focuses on essential functionalities. On the other hand, developing a fully-fledged product from the start may take longer, but it provides a more comprehensive user experience right from the beginning.
Here’s the table provided by Goodfirms, it reflects how long it takes to develop applications of different levels of complexity.
|Simple App||Basic User Features & App Admin||240–560 hours|
|Complex App||Complex + Basic User Features & App Admin||640–1120 hours|
|Advanced App||Advanced + Complex + Basic User Features & Admin||1040–1520 hours|
If you have an app idea but feel unsure about how long the development may take, we’ll help you with the estimate.
Platforms and different screen sizes
The number of platforms and devices on which an app needs to be developed and supported can impact how long app development takes. Each platform like iOS, Android, and the web has its own set of guidelines, coding languages, and frameworks, requiring IT engineers to adapt the digital product to meet these requirements. As a result, extra time needs to be allocated to ensure the app functions seamlessly on each platform.
More than that, sometimes there is a need to adapt the app for various screen sizes. The diverse range of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches, with varying screen sizes, resolutions, and performance capabilities, may need the app to be adapted to each of them, which adds to the time needed to create an application. So, if there is a need for that, it will take some time to ensure that an app provides a consistent user experience across all these devices.
Although it might not be obvious at first, the thorough planning of the project flow process deeply affects how long app development takes. According to a McKinsey survey, 17% percent of IT projects go so badly that threaten the existence of the organization. That’s why, to understand all the pitfalls that may occur before the beginning of the project, the project team and their customer need to invest time in planning.
Effective planning involves defining a clear scope of work and researching the project requirements before the development starts. By investing time in upfront planning, the team can spend less time remaking design mockups and bits of code because of the unclear tasks and overall scope. Therefore, thorough planning saves a lot of time. According to Clutch, the stage of idea formulation and research typically takes 2–3 weeks.
According to Clutch, normally it takes 2–4 weeks to design a mobile interface unless the application is too complex. The time spent on design can increase if, in addition to interface design, the client decides to order custom illustrations or a logo and incorporate it into the app design. Although this will definitely enhance brand recognition, it will also increase the time spent on design, ultimately influencing how long the app development takes.
Building app architecture and coding usually parallels design and takes 3–6 months, as said by Clutch. It can also take longer if the digital product is big. The complexity of the features is a factor that can influence how long the app development takes. If the app requires intricate algorithms, integration with third-party systems, or complex user interactions, more time may be needed to develop and test these components.
For instance, let’s consider an example of an app that requires an intricate algorithm for analyzing and recommending personalized workout plans based on user data such as fitness levels, goals, and health conditions. Developing and fine-tuning such a complex algorithm would require additional time and expertise to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness.
To make an answer to the question of how long app development takes clearer, let’s have a look at the table provided by Goodfirms that reflects what user features can be considered to be simple, complex, and advanced in terms of development. The table also provides an estimate of the approximate time needed to develop these features.
|Level of complexity||List of features||Development timeline|
The expertise of the IT agency or a freelancer you hire also plays a crucial role. A knowledgeable and experienced team can work more efficiently and may release the product faster than a less experienced team.
Testing and debugging
When an app is almost ready for release, rigorous testing is necessary to identify and fix any bugs or usability issues. It’s worth investing time and resources at this stage, as it ensures that app users will have a good user experience and use services without any friction. This phase is crucial for releasing a high-quality app. The stage of testing and finalizing usually takes about 3–6 weeks according to Clutch.
App Store review
Once the app has undergone comprehensive testing and any necessary fixes have been implemented, it is ready for deployment. This involves uploading the app to the respective app stores and making it available for users to download. The time required for this stage varies based on the app store’s review process, which can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Post-launch updates and maintenance
App development is an ongoing process, and it’s essential to provide regular updates to improve functionality, fix any issues, and introduce new features. The time needed for these updates and maintenance depends on the frequency and complexity of the changes and can range from a few days to a few weeks.
How long does app development take: Exploring the timeline for 3 different types of apps
As we mentioned earlier, we can develop various types of applications: separate native applications for iOS and Android, cross-platform applications that can run on both of these platforms, as well as web applications that users access through a browser. Let’s discuss how long it will take to develop each of these types.
Native apps are known for providing users with a particularly smooth user experience. However, developing such apps can have its challenges. If you decide to build separate apps for iOS and Android, you will need to hire two teams — an iOS dev team and a separate Android dev team. Working with two teams will be necessary at all stages of development, from writing code to maintenance, which will double the cost and hustle.
Popular native apps include Spotify, WhatsApp, Tesla, and others. On average, creating a native iOS app and a native Android app takes around 4 to 6 months or more if the digital product includes unique algorithms and features or if the team does not follow the MVP approach.
Four months for two native apps seems a realistic estimate for us. To answer the question of how long app development takes in the case of native apps, let’s take a brief look at our Noah farmer marketplace. Its ecosystem consists of native iOS and Android apps as well as a web admin panel. Our team has managed to develop this entire ecosystem within 4 months. Here are some short statistics about this project.
Cross-platform apps may have slightly slower performance compared to native apps, but this difference is often unnoticeable to users, as it has little impact on the overall user experience. Additionally, cross-platform development usually involves fewer challenges. These apps can be developed and maintained by a single team. Various technologies, such as React Native, Flutter, or Xamarin, are available for building such applications.
Popular cross-platform apps include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Airbnb, Skype, Uber Eats, and many others. Typically the development time for cross-platform apps is around 3 to 6 months or more, depending on the complexity of the functionality. It is believed that developing with frameworks like React Native can save 30–40% more resources compared to native development.
Three to four months for a cross-platform on React Native also seems a realistic estimate for us since our team managed to develop several mobile apps within this period. One of them is a Lainappi rental app that was created in the form of a marketplace, where users can take and give items they own for rent. Here’s a brief overview of the Lainappi project to give you an understanding of what is the scope of work and how long app development takes in the case of cross-platform apps.
Popular web applications include Google Docs, Trello, Slack, GitHub, and Netflix. Some sources say the average timeline for web app development is 4 to 6 months. This estimate for web app development can also be influenced by points like integrating APIs, ensuring responsive design for various screen sizes, and implementing robust security measures.
From our experience, the timeline of how long app development takes, particularly for web apps, is accurate around 4 to 5 months. Once we have managed to develop an Oddscrowd betting app within 14 weeks or 4.5 months. Our client contacted us 5 months before the Super Bowl, and we needed to fit into this tight timeline. Here are the features that we managed to implement during this period:
If you need to develop an app within a very tight timeline, fill in the form, and we’ll help you to solve this problem.
Current software development trends that affect how long app development takes
In recent years, there have been several prevailing trends in the IT field that affect the quality and speed of development. Let’s take a look at a couple of key trends.
Trend 1: Adoption of generative AI for coding
According to the results from Statista, approximately 37% of workers in the technology industry use generative AI in their work. This trend can affect how long app development takes.
Developers working on application development can utilize generative AI technologies for code generation, as well as for accelerated testing and bug detection. They can make an AI request, and AI provides them with sections of code that can be edited and adapted to the application’s needs. This allows IT engineers to reduce manual work and quickly identify flaws in the code, which speeds up the development process during the coding and testing stages.
Trend 2: Cloud computing
The total spending on cloud services by organizations is increasing every year. Although the growth of the cloud services industry has slowed down in the past couple of years, their usage is still steadily growing. Here’s the Statista’s survey that proves this.
So how does this factor affect the duration of app development? First, let’s clarify that the use of these technologies is specifically relevant to the development of web applications. Leveraging cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, provides infrastructure scalability and flexibility. Developers can quickly provision resources, optimize app performance, and reduce development time with the help of these cloud computing solutions.
At Ronas IT, development teams have also standardized the launch and operation of IT infrastructure with the help of cloud computing services. Now, development environments automatically launch within 5–7 minutes after saving the initial piece of application code. Therefore, engineers no longer need to manually configure all of this but can focus on writing code instead. This saves their time and, consequently, affects how long app development takes.
Trend 3: Outsourcing app development due to IT talent shortage
In 2022, a study was conducted in which 73% of company executives worldwide confirmed that it has become increasingly difficult to find technical specialists and fill existing technical vacancies in their organizations. As a result, many companies are turning to the help of third-party tech partners for application development.
This trend directly affects how long app development takes because organizations are spending less time on recruiting technical specialists and on how quickly they can onboard and integrate into an in-house team. By outsourcing app development, organizations save time on project management and the challenges associated with supporting an in-house IT team, which results in quicker releases and less hustle.
If you need a helping hand from a software development company, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll help you to bring your software idea to reality.
Trend 4: Microservice architecture
Microservice architecture is an architectural approach where an application is built as a collection of small, loosely coupled services. Each service in the system focuses on a specific functionality and can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently.
According to the research conducted by Statista, 81.5% of companies already use microservices, and 17.5% of businesses plan to switch to this architecture type. However, only 1% of respondents are satisfied with the monolithic architecture.
Microservice architecture provides a significant impact on the development timeline and simplicity of maintenance. With microservices, developers can work on different services simultaneously and reduce dependencies, which ultimately affects how long the app development takes.
This modular approach also makes it easier to maintain and update the application. Each service operates independently, allowing developers to focus on a single service without affecting others. This isolation simplifies maintenance tasks, reduces the risk of unintended consequences, and makes troubleshooting and debugging more manageable, which results in less hustle and quicker time to market.
Trend 5: Cross-platform development
The cross-platform approach is a prominent software development trend, with a significant number of developers embracing it. According to research conducted by Statista, by 2023, one-third of IT engineers worldwide are projected to use cross-platform tools to build apps.
By utilizing cross-platform development, developers can save time and effort in writing separate codebases. Such a streamlined approach eliminates the need to develop and maintain multiple versions of the app. Instead, developers can focus on building features, enhancing functionality, and addressing bugs and issues. The ability to efficiently share code across platforms not only accelerates the speed of development but also ensures consistency in the user experience across different devices and operating systems.
Other useful materials that would help you estimate the timeline and cost of the app development
Our team has already created several articles and materials on app development pricing and timeline estimation methods. We have collected a couple of them here so that you can continue studying the topic of app development cost and delving into the factors that affect how long app development takes.
"What affects React Native app cost at each stage of development?" — In this article, we explain what factors contribute to the cost and development time of a React Native app.
"How to develop a music app?" — Here, we discuss the stages involved in developing a music app and provide a detailed estimation of the costs and hours required for development.
"How to estimate the development of a website or an app" — In this article, we explain our approach to the process of project estimation.
Urgent MVP development — We also offer an urgent MVP development service. On the service page, we describe what we do if you need to develop an app in the shortest possible time.
In conclusion, we’d like to note that how long app development takes largely depends on the team handling the project. Therefore, the best way to save development time is to turn to an experienced development team with a wealth of experience, streamlined processes, and strong project management. And you can find them on services like Goodfirms and Clutch.
Also, if you decide to develop a mobile application, it is better to choose cross-platform development, as it will save not only time but also money. We also advise adhering to the MVP approach so that you can quickly test your business hypothesis and rapidly test your application on real users spending minimum time.
And if you want to find out how long it would take to implement your unique software idea, don’t hesitate to fill in the form.