How much does app development cost in 2021?
As with most things in life, app development costs depend on what you want.
A Clutch survey states median costs of Native iPhone (iOS) average app development costs vary from $38,000 – $171,000 (survey based only on average US hourly rates). They could go as high as $500,000+.
Costs depend on what you want in your app and what it takes to build it.
From a development company’s perspective, costs of app development for startups based on average Eastern European hourly rate ($50) range, as follows:
Why the wide range? No two projects are alike. The cost of creating an app depends on several factors:
- project requirements
- team or developer performing the job
- unexpected scope of work—>scope creep
Want to know more? Check out the factors below that determine how much it costs to make an app. Examples of estimates are included.
You do not have to guesstimate on your own.
Contact us and get an estimate for free. Get all your questions answered.
Content on what affects app development costs?
- App development costs based on app type and complexity
- App development costs throughout app development cycle
- App development cost drivers
- [Bonus part] Mobile app development costs: three examples of estimates
- In conclusion
App development costs based on app type and complexity
Two key criteria of app development cost formation
Provider. Costs of outsourcing app development depend on the country or region where the software development provider is located.
The cost of app development working with a software development company located in North America is 2 – 3 times more than with a company from Eastern Europe and 5 times more than with an Asian country.
Project requirements. You must provide development companies with an accurate list of project requirements for your app. This is the most important document they need to review before being able to produce a project overview and estimates on how much it costs to make an app.
In their calculations, developers consider the two following aspects:
- complexity – functionality, business logic, and server infrastructure
- details – features, integrations with 3rd-party, users, and app screens
As effort and time increase, so do app development costs.
Mobile app development costs based on eight app types
Every app is unique but the similar app types do share common functionality (e.g., sign in, payment, data encryption, etc.). They share similar complexity levels with more common features. They let users accomplish similar goals.
Knowing the app type helps the team put together project requirements faster to provide an app development cost estimate.
Let’s consider today’s eight popular app types. Key activities on these app types are as follows:
- Telemedicine app – Provide patients with remote consultations. Provide doctors with case conferences and share treatment methods.
- Fitness app – Help users stay in good shape with less stress. Provide training opportunities, nutritional information, and monitoring of water intake.
- Healthcare app – Simplify clinic workflow. Provide patients with access to their medical services from anywhere.
- Indoor positioning and navigation app – Identify each user’s location and devise the best route inside a building.
- Social media app – Connect people into a community based on common interest, professional activities, etc. Provide them with networking and content.
- On-demand app – Help users find and order different goods and services the moment they need them.
- Learning app – Ensure users can perform learning activities, e.g., complete tasks, do exercises, participate in class training, etc.
- Marketplace app – Provide a space where users can meet professionals who help them solve specific tasks in a fast and transparent way.
Below are approximate app development costs and timelines for each app type, including key features, approximate app timeline, and costs of app development needed to launch a basic feature list.
Cost ranges are based on charges in different regions (s. App development costs based on hourly rates below):
Average app development costs increase when custom features are added.
How much does it cost to make an app at IT Craft?
As discussed above, time required and development costs for mobile apps vary greatly. A basic photo-sharing app takes about 1.5 months.
Transforming custom, desktop software into a SaaS solution takes 1.5 years.
RocketRoute, a flight planner app, has a killer feature: a custom-built, auto-route calculation algorithm. Using RocketRoute, you can create a flight plan in minutes and send it to the authorities for approval. So easy. So quick.
The IT Craft team working with RocketRoute kept improving the MVP until they had integrated all APIs (weather, winds, NOTAMs, etc.) needed to process flight plans. The entire project (Web, iOS, Android apps) took approximately 8 months to launch.
Two more examples of how IT Craft helped create an app:
OrderPortNative iOS app
The OrderPort app transforms a common iPad into a full-fledged POS (Point of Sale). Customers can purchase wine using any payment type and get their receipt printed or sent to them via email.
The client already had source code developed when he first approached IT Craft to make a mobile app. The IT Craft development team started with a thorough code inspection. Based on the results, the team fixed bugs and added features. It took about a year for IT Craft developers to launch a SaaS solution. The team continued working on maintenance and expansion.
The app turns an iPad into a full-fledged POS (Point of Sale). Customers can buy wine anywhere it is permitted..
The IT Craft development team started with a thorough code inspection. The team fixed bugs and added features. It took about a year for IT Craft developers to launch a SaaS solution.
- WorldPay API
99CoachesHybrid mobile apps
99Coaches helps basketball trainers organize and plan team training, manage squads, and monitor progress of single players. Available for other sports also.
Initially, the 99Coaches startup had the app prototype developed by another team. But the IT Craft team spoke to the product owner and suggested starting afresh using a Hybrid approach with Ionic framework. This ensured a fast development pace for an app fine-tuned to many smartphone models, including old devices. The same source code became available for many user devices. The development team redeveloped all app components, including server logic, database structure, mobile app, etc.
99Coaches helps basketball trainers organize and plan team training.
Initially, the 99Coaches startup had the app prototype developed by another team. The IT Craft team suggested to start afresh using a Hybrid approach. This ensured a fast development pace for an app fine-tuned to many smartphone models, including old devices.
App development costs depend on app complexity
Everyone asks, “How much does it cost to develop an app?”
To give you a crystal clear understanding on basic app development costs, we devised a basic formula to calculate how much it costs to make an app.
How do features determine scope of work?
It depends. Below are some of the most common features.
The above list is a possible basic application feature list.
Now let’s determine the average app development costs for development based on app complexity.
Estimated average app development costs based on geographical region:
As the above table indicates, average app development costs fluctuate within each category. Does this mean that by choosing wisely you can save on mobile app development?
Yes. It all depends on your requirements.
Do you want to know how you can save?
Send us your request and get a free consultation giving you insight on possible implementation paths.
A basic app has five to eight screens. It can neither exchange nor synchronize data with a database. This means no data analysis. Basic apps provide some static data such as business cards. They enable making one or two very easy actions, such as choosing an item and adding it to a user profile, list, etc., but cannot change parameters of the item.
A development team takes a month to build an app with basic functionality, around 200 – 300 working hours. Design, development, testing, and deployment are included to create an app.
Examples: shopping list app, reminder app.
These apps can have several functions. Some are quite complex. For example, an online store app can have 10+ screens, integration with the company’s website, and payment systems. Shipment options and rating features are also possible. Such an application requires at least 800 – 1,300 working hours. The timeline is 4+ months.
App development costs to build an app of average complexity tend to fall within the price range of most businesses.
Examples: order management app (without integrations), promotional app.
Complex mobile apps
Complex mobile apps top the list in terms of app development costs. Implementation takes 6+ months. Required working hours range from 1,500 – 2,000. A complex app could include:
- different integrations
- admin panel
- database and API
- complex features requiring access to smartphone hardware
- data collection and analysis
- chat or video calls
Examples: video streaming app, marketplace app, social networking app.
Do you have different ideas for functionality? How much does it cost to make an app based on your requirements?
Try this handy app calculator. Choose options you need and see how much it costs to build an app.
App development costs based on hourly rates
When checking out development costs, you will see smartphone app development costs increase as you go from East to West. Costs even vary within the same region. There is no clear-cut formula for hourly rates.
A company with a solid, proven portfolio, 10+ years in the market, and an office in the USA has a higher hourly rate than a younger, less-experienced company with a small portfolio and no office in the US or EU.
US, Canada, Australia, and Schengen countries have the highest developer rates.
Below is an overview of hourly rates in the most popular destinations for outsourcing software development starting from highest to lowest. This gives you a guide to estimating costs to create an app.
App development costs throughout app development cycle
Parts of a system
An app consists of several parts.
You need an app for each respective platform. Costs of iOS app development and Android development services differ.
- Each programming language requires specific specialists.
- Testing processes differ because there are more Android devices available.
The backend or server part is also required when you develop a mobile app. It is needed to exchange, update, and store user information. For example, the backend ensures data synchronization between an application and database.
This job requires a back-end developer and also increases app development costs.
An Admin Panel is required in some mobile apps to:
- manage goods in an online store
- update information on a blog
- manage new users
Technological stack affects costs to make an app
Another important decision to make that directly affects how much it costs to develop an app is based on which platform the development team must choose for mobile app development: Native, Cross-platform or Hybrid?
Native apps use language specific to the target platform:
- Kotlin/Java for Android
- Swift/Objective-C for iOS.
Hence, you need two different apps (i.e., different codebases).
Cross-platform apps share the same codebase that is translated into a target language. Although you must maintain two codebases, updating is easier.
Below are pros and cons of these three approaches:
- Access to wide range of features
- Optimal performance
- Offline mode
- Availability of frameworks
- High security level
- Big developer community
- Longer development time
- Higher app development costs
- Requires separate teams for Android and iOS apps
- Greater expertise required by developers
- Lifecycle depends on OS updates and browser
- Shares codebase between different platforms
- Offline mode
- Access to native features (challenging at times)
- Suited for AR/VR development
- Codebase must be well maintained for each target platform
- Developers need in-depth experience working with various APIs
- Short development time
- Visibility for SEO
- Access from all devices
- Easy updates
- Low app development costs
- No access to smartphone hardware
- Might not work without Internet connection
- Hard to optimize consumption of smartphone resources
- Shopping cart issues with online stores
- Complex animation could become an issue
Essential stages of a mobile development project
As with all projects, the development team does more than develop code to create an app and successfully launch it. Other stages are an integral part of the implementation process to ensure the app runs smoothly after it goes live.
The number of stages in a mobile application development project might vary. The correct answer to the question, “How much does it cost to make an app?” depends on:
- project size
- work already completed (analysis, project specification, mockups, etc.)
Below are all necessary stages of the full development cycle:
Functional requirements of a future app
Sending a detailed, specific list of requirements means you get a correct estimate. A software development company provides clients with questions about the proposed app and finalizes the answers in a document.
In some cases, only a preliminary estimate on app development costs is possible.
Signing an agreement
The parties agree:
- functional requirements
- payment terms
Both parties can sign an agreement and an NDA, if required. It serves as a guarantee of implementation and copyright protection for the future product.
A development team reproduces the basic logic of the app. The team prepares wireframes and forms a map of screens to present logical connections between screens. After customer approval of the map, designers start working on the UI.
This stage ensures the app is intuitive and easy to use.
Server part and Admin Panel development
This stage critically affects both how much it costs to develop an app and maintenance costs.
Without open and immediate client-server interaction, efficient work of an app and staying on track is not possible. Server part and server logic require skills and experience from developers.
Client application development
A separate app is developed for each mobile platform when using the Native approach. To save app development costs when using Cross-platform or Hybrid approach, the same codebase is adapted to the platforms.
QA testing must be carried out at every development stage and affects how much it costs to develop an app. QA determines if there is full compliance with both concept and functional requirements. The launch deadline depends on detecting bugs and resolving issues quickly.
Mobile application deployment
The review process takes time.
To pass the review fast, create your own content consisting of:
- short description
- detailed description
- several screenshots
A fine description also helps users find the app easily. If you hire a software development company, this stage is handled by developers.
Below is an approximate breakdown in percentages on how much time each activity on a project takes. The breakdown applies to a basic app structure. It may vary depending on scope and specifics of a project (e.g., simple design and complex background or vice versa).
Members of a development team
The final app is the result of synchronous work done by several specialists.
Different members of a development team ensure all parts of the system work at their best. Nothing remains unnoticed. No step is skipped.
Below are the main roles on an app development project:
Depending on app complexity, some roles could be part time. In case of extensive work, teams scale up and extra developers can be added to the project. The project manager is responsible for timely team scaling.
We have prepared a short chitchat for you on how IT Craft developers work.
Check it out. No email required!
App development costs depend on managerial approaches
A managerial approach is a way of organizing work on a project. It determines the development workflow and interaction between customer (product owner) and development team. An incorrect approach might affect app development cost and especially deadlines.
The two most common project management models are Waterfall and Agile.
Waterfall is linear. Each step must be completed before the next step can begin.
- You understand and control the entire process.
- Suitable for projects where all requirements are set at the beginning.
- Budget is final at the beginning. Processes and results are documented.
- Waterfall is not suited for changes. All project work is based on the terms of reference established at the beginning.
- Final testing begins only after the product is ready.
- Changes to scope of work CANNOT be done along the way. Corrections can only be done at the end of the project. Any changes and corrections done are more costly than with Agile.
Waterfall is best suited for short projects under 6 months with a firmly defined scope of work.
With Agile, the implementation process is divided into Sprints. Sprints have the same 2 – 3 weeks duration to ensure flexibility. All Sprint processes are done in parallel, including development, testing, debugging, and deployment.
- The customer is actively involved at every stage.
- After each Sprint, a functioning product is delivered and is the main indicator of successful work. Each Sprint includes testing. This greatly increases the probability of a functioning product at the end of the project.
- Changes to the scope of work CAN be done along the way.
- Active owner participation is expected, including regular calls and discussions. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. Advantage because owner involvement makes the project run more smoothly. Disadvantage is the owner prefers a hands-off approach.
- Possibility of serious scope creep and missed deadline plus increase in final app development price.
Agile is best suited for startups wanting to get to the market quickly. Agile gives them the flexibility they need to make changes to initial requirements. When the goal is fast and flexible, use Agile.
Choosing app development costs model: fixed price or time and material
There are two main development pricing models:
Fixed price – Both parties agree on scope and app development costs before actual app development starts. Any changes in project scope are subject to an additional contract.
Time and material – The amount of work the development team has actually completed on the project determines how much the client pays. Payment is usually divided into Sprints or milestones.
Choose fixed price for Waterfall projects:
- Works well for small projects with clearly defined scope.
- Any changes to requirements are discussed separately to keep tally of app development costs.
Choose time and material for Agile projects (e.g., iBeacon app development.)
- Works best for projects with flexible requirements.
- The development team can spend the number of hours needed to finish the scope of work.
App development cost drivers
Hidden app development cost drivers
Hidden costs occur when the development team comes in with an unrealistic and/or wrong project scenario. The team may lack experience or want to get a client to sign on the bottom line.
Hidden app development costs might remain unnoticed at project start. They will accelerate like an avalanche with compounding costs spiraling out of control.
Below are the most common challenges that lead app development costs increase:
Poor UX/UI design.
Nice, intuitive, clear design takes time which both the client and the development team must spend reflecting on what users will love about the app and how they will actually use it. If users don’t understand how the app works or see no benefits, they will close it and virtually walk away.
Overengineering leads to both increased development and maintenance costs. Underengineering results in increased update costs or, in a worst-case scenario, the inability to expand the app with new features. When an app rests on outdated technologies, it has a short lifecycle and requires migration.
Source code quality.
Source code quality affects how well an app works on user devices. It also affects maintenance costs. Updates could become expensive when the development team takes too much time figuring out how the app works and checking whether any or all functionality remains available after an update.
Third-party solutions significantly decrease development time. Once an app is launched, third-party solutions become regular expenses. Payment plans are often segmented into payment categories based on certain criteria.
Both mobile OSs and third-party services get constant updates. In some cases, apps stop working after an update. Unfortunately, no one can forecast how much time app updates could take.
Third-party services get deprecated, reach end of life, or shut down for various reasons. Service providers often offer free migration tools to help mitigate migration-related risks and losses.
As an app owner, you must be aware of server costs needed for data processing and storage. You must also be aware of scalability. If your app gets more hits than expected, you must prepare to scale up server infrastructure. The opposite is also true: you must downscale to avoid unnecessary payments when user load decreases.
- Poor UX/UI design.
Common misconceptions about app development
Programming outsourcing can seem formidable to the uninitiated. Where does one begin?
To minimize stress and risks, clients must have a realistic approach to app development costs. Start with these misconceptions about app development:
Expecting too much
Development companies often receive requests to create an app similar to already-existing software (the next Instagram, Uber, etc.).
Clients may expect it fast.
But it just doesn’t work that way.
You save time on project discovery when there are already similar products available in the market.
But, as stated above, developing an app with 150+ screens and a robust back end from scratch within 2-3 months is just not going to happen.
Not getting into the project
If clients had to answer the question, “How much does an app cost?”, they would soon realize it takes much time and effort. “Visual” components can be developed fast. But building a reliable back end demands a lot of effort. Even though the backend remains “hidden” under normal conditions. You don’t see it, but like a powerful car engine, you know it’s there when everything runs smoothly.
Thinking development team will
manage everything on its own.
There are two parties responsible for a project’s overall success: client and development team. When a client thinks that project requirements are the only thing a team needs to deliver a solution, the project will turn into a disaster. The team will run into questions that quickly need clarifying to keep pace with the project timeline.
Ensure you have a person responsible for constant communication with the team.
Ignoring app maintenance costs.
App expenses do not end when the app is published. The app needs updating to ensure it works correctly on all user devices. The development team does this because it knows the app. The team must also monitor app servers to avoid any downtime.
So, how much does it cost to maintain an app? App maintenance will cost its owner 15% – 20% from initial app development costs per year.
- Expecting too much
Why do initial mobile app development cost estimates change?
This is an essential part of software development reality. Total app development costs can change considerably from the initially agreed amount.
There are three possible reasons for it:
An unreliable service provider.
Choosing a provider that fails to deliver its promises turns your dreams into a disaster. A disreputable company provides a below-cost estimate just to get the client’s signature on the contract intending to cover expenses with hidden costs.
Lack of specific expertise.
Without specific domain knowledge, developers might be too optimistic about their estimates. A client who wants to get a project launched fast can urge them to quickly provide an estimate (i.e., guesstimate). In this case, developers might not notice extensive elements affecting total project scope.
Still, even the best companies and developers might provide an inaccurate estimate. Adjustment to a company’s specific tech stack and processes can take more working time than anticipated. Developers might need to design and test specific algorithms. Integrations with specific third-party services can also provide challenges on mobile platforms.
A good, dependable team always strives to help clients keep on track with their plans. Still, anything not stated in the development plan might turn out to be time consuming. When looking for app developers, make sure the team is flexible, open, and ready to discuss issues with you.
- An unreliable service provider.
How to build your app on a budget
Is it possible to keep within your app development budget and launch your app on time?
IT Craft has always helped its clients keep true to their plans. Here are some solid tips on how to spend app development costs wisely:
Invest time into research.
Make your list of requirements for your future development team. Think about your priorities (cost of app development? code quality? timeline? etc.)
Take your time to find programmers who fit in with your criteria.
When calculating how much it costs to make an app, ensure you include the following key points:
- Proven, successful experience in similar projects.
- Business expertise in project development for different startups.
- Ability to assign a team to ensure all required work will be delivered.
- Transparent control system and flexibility in development.
- Verifiable client feedback posted on trusted resources such as Clutch, Goodfirms, etc.
Work diligently on your discovery
For project success, it is crucial both parties completely understand each other. Make sure the development team understands your priorities. The team can then correctly interpret your business requirements and provide you with a realistic plan. The team anticipates risks and is flexible enough to handle unforeseen project challenges.
Otherwise, your cost to create an app soon skyrockets or the team loses momentum.
Start with a pilot/testing
A pilot task is a total win-win for mid-range and large projects. As the client, you find out whether the development team can handle it.
A pilot task also helps the team better understand you and your project. The team might offer project improvements or even an alternative development path.
Both parties can evaluate each other and decide on the best cooperation terms.
Stay in constant touch with the
Ensure there is a person responsible for constant contact with the team. Get regular weekly or daily updates on the work progress. Answer your project manager’s messages in a timely manner. If the team has to wait too long for approvals, your app timeline gets extended.
The number of hours on a project might be different from the initial estimate. This especially applies for projects with flexible requirements and for estimates based on a technological novelty or project complexity.
Adjust your plans based on your priorities. This can be limiting functionality, using third-party integrations, extending the timeline, and more.
Not sure the team is doing its best on the project? This could happen. Make sure you follow the four important dos and don’ts when outsourcing app development.
- Invest time into research.
[Bonus part] Mobile app development costs: three examples of estimates
You’re still reading! Thank you.
Here is our bonus for you:
Below, we would like to share how the app development price depends on requirements.
Estimates for three types of apps available give you a clearer understanding of typical project costs.
Click on the link below and the estimate will open in a new tab as a PDF file:
Driver management app for logistics businesses Download
Healthcare mobile application Download
Real estate mobile application Download
Please note that the estimates above include only working hours for basic functionality. Hence, costs to build an app might vary from those estimates based on your requirements.
Do you want to see some real-life examples with numbers of hours spent on a project? Check our portfolio.
The amount of work on each project determines app development costs. Precise requirements determine whether or not you get precise estimates on how much an app costs.
A business must be prepared for flexible budgeting when requirements change throughout the development cycle. Businesses might initially pay higher app development costs but save on app expansion and maintenance.
Businesses can save on software development if they have some work already done, e.g., some source code or app layouts. However, the development team initiates a code inspection to ensure they can turn existing source code into a smooth mobile app for estimated app development costs. If this is not possible, businesses should start app development anew.
How long does it take to make an app?
Depending on project size and complexity:
- simple app takes 1 – 2 months
- middle-sized app takes 3 – 5 months
- complex app requires 6 – 8 months
How much does it cost to maintain an app?
On average, app maintenance costs make 15% – 20% from total app development costs per year. For example, if your app development cost you $50,000, maintenance costs will range between $7,500 and $10,000.
How much does it cost to make an app?
It is hard to guestimate costs of your mobile app without actual app requirements.
Depending on project complexity, the following costs are needed to develop and launch basic app functionality:
Basic apps: $10,000 – $16,500
Average-complexity apps: $40,000 – $71,500
Complex mobile apps: $75,000 – $220,000
Why should I make a native app?
Hybrid development approach works best when a business plans a relatively simple app. However, hybrid apps do not work well with native features. Complex animations can be an issue as well as consumption of smartphone resources.
In its turn, native apps provide performance optimization, access to smartphone hardware, enhanced security, and more.
In case you need a fast app with optimized consumption of resources, and access to specific smartphone features, native development is your choice.
How do you make money from an app?
Following monetization models apply:
- one-time in-app purchases
- transaction fees
- data monetization
- reverse monetization
How much does it cost you to make an app? Do you want an answer?
Send your requirements or schedule a call with IT Craft today!