The Real Cost of Building a Mobile App in 2021

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

Did you know that there are now 8.93 million mobile apps on the planet? The market now seems to be pretty oversaturated, but with the right app, you can penetrate it and have people thank you for it.

The right app starts with the right idea, but there’s a lot of mess involved between these two points. App development can be pretty complicated, especially if you have a complex app in mind. Not to mention that it can get expensive, too.

But, how much does a mobile app development cost in actual? We can’t tell you how much it will cost for you, but keep on reading to get an idea.

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Factors Affecting the Mobile App Development Cost

There’s no simple answer to this as many different factors are at play here. An app could cost pennies to make (theoretically, of course) or it could reach millions of dollars.

The average cost of developing a mobile app, however, is between $37,913 and $171,450 at a rate of $150/hour. Although there’s an average, you can’t know for sure how much it would cost you

See below to see what does a mobile app development cost breakdown include.

  1. Type of Mobile App

First, you determine what type of mobile app you want to create. It can be one of the eight basic app types, such as:

  • Basic Functionality App
  • Data-Driven App
  • Game App
  • Custom Utility App
  • Social Networking App
  • Authentication App
  • E-Commerce App
  • Enhancement App

Basic apps cost the least expensive, averaging at $15,000 with a timeline of one month. Examples of basic functionality apps are a calculator, clock, audio player, and so on.

A game app can be both cheap or expensive to produce, depending on complexity. 3D graphics with multiplayer support, a bunch of features, in-app purchases, AR support, and many more can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Interestingly, these are usually the most profitable ones.

  1. Platform

The next factor affecting the mobile app development cost is the platform. Are you publishing it on iOS, Android, or some other OS?

This depends on your target market and what your goals are. An important consideration is that users on iOS tend to spend about 2.5 times more money than Android users. Another is that iOS has more users in the U.S., but Android dominates in Asian countries.

  1. Features and Infrastructure

The main driver of the mobile app development cost is the features. It depends on what type of features you want, how many, and how simple or complex they are.

Keep in mind, however, that a feature doesn’t have a single price tag, as well. It depends on the logic behind it and the hours put into it by the developers.

Push notifications, for instance, can take anywhere from 20 hours to 200 hours to create. This is because there are several types of notifications.

Does the app provide simple alerts with simple text? Or do they have images and action buttons? Does it use complex logic behind the push notifications, such as determining when or to whom to deliver them?

This applies to every single feature of the app, including the login, navigation, portrait or landscape view, and so on.

  1. Developer Cost

You have two options here: to hire a full development team or to pick freelancers one by one. Each option, of course, has its pros and cons.

When you hire a whole team, for instance, already have experience with each other. They have established processes for building apps. The gears are already set in place; you only have to deposit a coin to get them turning.

This coin, however, is more expensive than hiring freelancers. If you know how to find them, you can get skilled freelancers who can do the same quality of work at a lesser price.

That’s the disadvantage, though. You’ll have to find all the right members of the team, including a UI/UX designer, coder, QA engineer, and such. The more members you bring to your team, the more you’ll have to pay.

You’ll then have to manage them and resolve communication issues.

Within each option, the prices will vary by a great amount, as well. As with everything else, you get what you pay for.

Some teams might charge higher than others in exchange for years of experience and high-quality team members. Some freelancers may do the same for the same reasons.

Like you, they will estimate the cost of developing a mobile app based on your specifications.

Geography has a part in determining the cost, as well. For example, developers in Asian countries tend to charge lower than in the U.S. or Europe because the cost of living is lower there.

What Goes Into an App Development

To give you more insight into why an app costs so much, let’s look at what goes into the development of apps.

In general, app development goes through five stages to completion. Take note that these aren’t necessarily in order, and a mobile app development team may take fewer or more steps.

  1. Pre-Development

In the pre-development stage, the development team and the client will meet several times to confirm the details. This is also when they will calculate the deliverables.

You form the concept, decide on the design, and create a project architecture plan. If you’re going to do a market and competitor analysis, this is the right stage to do so.

This stage alone can cost you $10,000 to $15,000 and last for two to four weeks. This is assuming the whole project takes around three to five months to complete.

  1. UI/UX Design

Before the actual app coding, you first have to create a visual representation of the app. In this stage, the team designs how the app will look like on every page.

What page does the user first see when they open the app? Where do the buttons go? What other visual elements will you put on the page?

The average cost of this stage is $5,000. It further depends on how many pages your app has and how complex the design is.

  1. App Development

This is going to cost way more than the design as this is where a lot more coding happens. It becomes more expensive the more complex the features you want in the app.

For instance, login and logout functionalities are pretty cheap to add. Push notifications and in-app search are common features that don’t cost much, as well.

However, more complex app features will take longer to code and will need better skilled people to implement. Syncing, account management, and such are examples of complex features.

  1. App Testing

During this stage, you and the team ensure the app is working as intended. This is where you might discover bugs, non-responsive buttons, typos, and so on.

You shouldn’t skip this step before launching the app. Don’t wait until the users report what you should have discovered beforehand. It might turn them away from using the app for good.

  1. Support and Maintenance

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that app development ends once you launch the app. You still have to make sure that it remains to go smoothly.

Users will likely encounter bugs and issues within the app. Some security breaches will also make themselves known over time. It’s your job to fix them to ensure that users continue to have a good experience with it.

Each time the OS updates, you must update your app, too. Failing to do so will break your app, rendering it unusable.

You must continue to release updates that will make the app better, as well. Keep watch of the current trends and user behavior to determine what your app needs.

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Can You Make an App on a Budget?

The costs above may seem intimidating to you, but don’t let it discourage you from creating the app of your dreams. Not all apps have to be crazy expensive – you only have to know where you can cut costs.

If you know how to code, then that’s one fewer team member to hire. If not, you can try outsourcing the app development to another country where the costs are lower.

If your idea for an app is fairly simple, you can search online to see how to make an app. You can also try to look for app templates. It could cost you anywhere from $25 to $100 to buy the license.

You can even use online app makers with ready-to-use templates and a wide range of tools. However, they’re kind of limited. They may not be well-optimized and they may not have the right security features for your app.

It’s still best to get skilled and experienced team members for security and functionality, especially if you want to create a complex app that you’ll market to hundreds of thousands of users. Look at the value instead of the costs; cutting costs today can cost you more in the long run.

Build the App of Your Dreams

Don’t let the mobile app development cost deter you from making your idea into reality. You first have to write down your ideas in full to get a good idea of how much it would cost you. Then, you can see what you can do to save on costs.

Still, don’t hesitate to put money where needed if it means it will get you to where you need to be. Learn more by going over our other in-depth app development guides today.