There are billions of smartphone users around the world, and most of the time that they’re on their phones, they’re using an app. Many already leverage this opportunity to bring profit to their businesses, which is why about 100,000 apps are released every month.
If you are in the early stages of developing an app, your first question is likely, “How much does it cost?” In this article, we’re going to answer all of your questions about mobile app costs, budgets, timelines, and more. Let’s get started.
Average Mobile App Cost
In 2021, the cost of making an app varies widely. It can be as little as $10,000 or as much as $500,000 depending on your process, the features you want to include, your goals for mobile app development time, and the professionals you work with.
Features that Increase Mobile App Cost
While in the brainstorming phase, consider which features your audience needs, which they want, and which you can leave out. Take a look at this list of common features and decide whether you will offer each to your audience. From there, you can get an idea of mobile app cost.
- Adapting to Tablets: Developing apps to be used on smartphones and tablets can increase your budget by as much as 150%. To be successful on a tablet, the app must adapt to larger screens and be optimized for user experience.
- Multiple Viewing Modes: If you want users to have the option to use the app in portrait and landscape, that can increase your mobile app cost by 30%. Landscape mode shows more information on the screen at one time, but most apps don’t need this feature and offer only portrait mode.
- Supporting Older Devices: There is a wide range of devices still in use both for iOS and Android. Supporting older smartphones and tablets means that you can reach a wider audience. However, it can increase your budget up to 200%.
- Offline Mode: Cache algorithms are required for apps to function without data or a WiFi connection. This can be pricey, especially if you want your app to sync on multiple devices. Add $8,000 to $12,000 onto your final mobile app cost to offer this feature.
- Notifications: Notifications are a great way to encourage engagement. However, even the most basic set can cost you between $1,500 and $2,500. Custom ones will cost you even more — as much as $5,000.
- User Profiles: A good majority of apps require some sort of profile that the user will have to log into. For social media apps, this feature costs about $500. For more secure logins (e.g., banking), the app needs authorizations and other features that add up to nearly $2,000.
- Multilingual Options: If you have an international audience, you will need to support the languages of those areas. This feature typically costs less than $500.
- User-to-User Chat: A chat feature between users can be very expensive. It’s practically an app in and of itself. So, expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 for off-the-shelf solutions to $12,000 for custom coding for this feature.
- Ads. Ads allow you to make some extra income, but there is a bit of an upfront cost. To integrate ads into your app, expect to increase your mobile app cost by about $1,600 to $2,000.
- Analytics and Usage Information: Understanding how your users interact with your app is always useful when trying to improve your offerings. You can track information like how many users are on the app, how many make payments, where those users were sourced, and more. The more you want to know, the more you will have to budget. Even basic tracking can cost as much as $2,000.
These are only a few of the features you may consider integrating, but they are some of the most common. It should give you a rough ballpark of your mobile app cost.
Miscellaneous Mobile App Costs
Now that we’ve covered some of the features that may increase your budget, let’s look at some of the app development costs that you may not have considered. These are significant components of your budget:
- Back-End Development: If your app stores data online, syncs with the cloud or has a chat feature, you’ll need a server. Note: if you have an existing server, there’s no added cost here. Otherwise, it can increase your mobile app cost by $6,800 to $28,000.
- Marketing: Don’t forget the cost of marketing your app to gain users. It doesn’t do much good to put in all the work if you don’t have users, so add about $10,000 to your mobile app cost for marketing around the time that the app is released.
Breaking Down the Cost by App Development Phase
A great way to help you stay on track with your budget is to plan how much will go to each phase. Every time you finish a phase, check to see how well you stuck to your budget and make changes, if necessary. Here are the phases you need to plan for throughout your mobile app development time:
- Planning and Analysis: In this phase, you perform a market analysis and decide which features will be in your app. This will use about 10% of your budget. Don’t try to cut corners in this phase, even if you’re trying to cut back costs or mobile app development time. This will act as the foundation for the rest of the development process.
- Developing a Prototype: Develop a prototype that you can click through to get an idea of the user experience. At this point, you will also incorporate your brand design. This phase is another 10% to 15% of your budget.
- Coding: This is the largest portion of your mobile app development time, and it’s where the most work happens. Coding is the most expensive and will eat up 60% to 70% of your budget. Use this budget to hire, at the very least, three team members. If you have it in the budget, hire five or six team members for the best results.
- Project Management: The remaining 10% to 15% of your budget goes to project management. To keep everything running smoothly, you need a project manager who can check in on deadlines, navigate around any major roadblocks, and keep the entire process on track so that you meet your mobile app development time goals.
Developing an App on a Small Budget
If the cost of developing an app is beginning to feel overwhelming, there are some things you can do to create your app on a smaller budget. Here are some tips to help you cut corners without compromising quality:
- Speed up the Process with Cross-Platform Development: If you offer your app for iOS and Android devices, develop the two apps side-by-side to save time and money. It can decrease your mobile app cost by 10% to 30%.
- Start with a Bare Bones App: Release the minimum viable product (MVP) with only the required features. This bare-bones version of your app will give you a sort of test run to see whether your audience is interested in what you’re offering (before you shell out six figures to build the full app).
- Work with Teams that Develop and Design: Sometimes, apps are passed back and forth between a development team and a design team. By working with an agency that offers both services, you decrease your mobile app development time and cost.
- Consider Software Development Kits: When you can, use software development kits (SDKs) as an off-the-shelf alternative to custom features. It saves time and money, and SDKs often come with official support services to answer any questions.
- Support Only the Latest Devices: Remember in the features section where we mentioned that supporting old or outdated devices can increase your budget twice over? You could simply choose to launch the app on only the latest devices instead. You will have a smaller audience reach, but it could significantly cut back your mobile app cost.
How Long Does It Take to Develop an App?
Understanding mobile app development time is a key part of planning your budget. If you’re creating an MVP, you may only need a couple of weeks. Simple apps take a bit longer — about a month. For apps that have more advanced features, plan for two or three months. As you can see, mobile app development time depends on the features your app will include (and the size of your development team).
There are a lot of things that go into determining the cost of developing an app. If the cost range we mentioned at the beginning of the article ($10,000 – $500,000) seemed ridiculous, I’m sure you can now understand why the range is so wide.
While you’re in the planning and analysis stage, be very mindful in selecting what needs to be included in your app and what doesn’t. Take your time in the early phases and set a good foundation. It’s the only way to accurately estimate your costs, create a reasonable budget, and set realistic expectations for mobile app development time.