How Much It Costs to Make an App (Cost Breakdown)

There’s a huge difference between a $30.000 and a $200,000 budget for a mobile application. However, both numbers can be an accurate answer to the question “How much does it cost to make an app in 2022?”

The thing is, there are countless factors that can affect the app development cost. Do you want to build an app for both iOS and Android? What country is the development team you want to hire from? What type of app do you want to build? Depending on the answers to these questions, the cost of your project will significantly vary.

Since the company was established in 2013, Mind Studios’ team has created over 50 mobile apps. In this article, we speak from experience, dig into the most influential factors contributing to mobile app costs and provide you with real app cost examples.

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to roughly calculate the cost to build your mobile app. And for a more precise estimate, feel free to get in touch with our managers.

What factors into the cost of app development?

Factors of app development cost

As with any complex app development process, there are a number of factors that can influence the final cost of your mobile app. Here are the major ones.

iOS and/or Android

There are two major operating systems for mobile devices: Android and iOS. They aren’t the only ones, but they dominate the mobile world, with Android holding 69.74% of market shares, and iOS 29.49% as of 2022.

When you start working on the very first rough estimate for your app with a project manager, part of what you’ll research is the best platform to build for. What mobile devices are used most by your target audience? For instance, 55.26% of mobile users in the US use iOS, while in Poland it’s less than 10%. Therefore, to make the decision about the operating system, you have to study the market you’re targeting.

If your customers use both iOS and Android devices, you’ll have three options:

  1. Choose one platform for your first app and add support for the other later.
  2. Build two apps right away.
  3. Build either a cross-platform or hybrid app (more on those later).

If you’re choosing one platform to start with, the difference in cost will mostly depend on how long the development takes. Rates for iOS and Android development are more or less similar — unless you decide to hire a US-based app dev team, in which case Android development rates are likely to be higher. In South America and India, iOS development costs a little bit more than Android.

Building an Android mobile app generally takes longer, one of the reasons being that your team will need to test on a wider range of devices.

App type: native, cross-platform, or hybrid

The type of app makes the biggest difference in estimating the cost. First, what are these types of apps?

Native mobile apps are created specifically for one mobile platform. For a regular user, it’s impossible to run an APK file (executable for Android) on an iPhone or an IPA (executable for iOS) on an Android device.

Android and iOS use different programming languages and frameworks: Java and Kotlin for Android, Swift and Objective-C for iOS. When your target audience uses both Android and iOS devices, and you decide to support both platforms with native apps, it means you’ll need to build two separate apps: one for Android and one for iOS.

However, you do have options for building one app for both platforms (aside from a web app, or a responsive website):

  • Cross-platform app
  • Hybrid app

A cross-platform app can be written in C# with Xamarin or JavaScript with React Native, and hybrid apps use AngularJS and its Ionic framework. Any of these options will work on both Android and iOS devices.

Now, you might be thinking,

Why would I make apps for each platform when I can make one app for both?

Indeed, it’s faster and cheaper to build a hybrid app than a native app, let alone two. However, you should be aware of the drawbacks cross-platform and hybrid apps bring to the table. Here’s a short comparison:

Native apps Cross-platform apps Hybrid apps
Pros:
  • Top performance
  • Smooth integration with device OS
  • Can access platform-specific features
  • High responsiveness
  • Great UX
  • Secure
  • Middling price between native and hybrid apps
  • One app for both platforms
  • Easier to update
  • Faster to market
  • Cheap to build
  • Easy to maintain
  • One app for both platforms
  • Faster to market
Cons:
  • Can be costly to build
  • Take significant time to build
  • Limited flexibility
  • Can’t access most platform-specific features
  • Integration is laggy
  • Security issues
  • Low performance
  • Poor UX
  • Slow
  • Security issues
  • Limited access to device hardware
  • No support for platform-specific features

Despite all the drawbacks, there are still a number of popular cross-platform and hybrid apps, including Skype, Slack, and Instagram. The trick is deciding what kind of app your business needs. Maybe the cons won’t matter for your particular app. But maybe they will.

App Design Cost

Great visuals are the cornerstone of a good app, so it hardly comes as a surprise that design can influence the cost of building an app. Custom icons and design elements — screens, logos, buttons — will take time and cost a lot. And each screen in an app needs to be drawn separately. Making custom animations is a whole other challenge, but they’re often a winning feature.

That being said, great design doesn’t always mean complex visuals. Sometimes, simplicity is the best answer: Depending on what your app does, it might be possible to use standard OS-provided elements that don’t require much time and effort to compose.

Design is an especially important part of the price of mobile application development when it comes to games, of course.

Read more: Cost to design an app in 2022

Features

Features

The cost to develop an app is largely based on the number of features — but that’s not all.

The complexity of those features is sometimes more influential. Some features only use standard tools and APIs. Others require the integration of third-party APIs. A third type requires custom-built algorithms.

It’s an industry standard of sorts to divide mobile apps into three categories based on complexity:

  1. Simple apps have minimum features, most of which are either fairly standard or pretty easy to build. Think of this kind of app as a minimum viable product (MVP), an app with the minimum features required to collect feedback and validate the app idea. Some finished apps are similarly simple. Building a simple app can take from 2 to 4 months, give or take, and cost $18,000 to $60,000.
  2. Medium complexity mobile apps take about 6 months to build, sometimes up to 10 months. Medium complexity apps have more screens, more features, and more complex features than simple apps. If a simple app has a basic login feature, for instance, a medium complexity app would have integration for social login via Facebook. That’s a basic example, so you get the idea. The cost to make an app of medium complexity will most likely start at $50,000 and can go up to about $130,000.
  3. Complex apps are the apps with the most sophisticated features, like augmented and virtual reality, bots, payment integration, NFC (near-field communication), and media streaming. Depending on the number of such complex features, development can take from 7 months to more than a year. The average cost to create an app with complex features begins at $130,000 and can go up to $500,000 or even more.

Backend

Front-end & back-end

The backend, or server-side, is the part of your app that’s invisible to your users but supports some of the more complex features, like syncing between devices and push notifications (though the latter can be handled by cloud integrations today). Servers run your databases, custom and third-party APIs, and more.

A backend isn’t mandatory, but if your app needs one, you’ll need to hire a separate developer for it — one who works with Ruby on Rails or Python, for example. And that developer will, of course, add to the cost of your app.

Developers’ work

When someone asks, How much does it cost to develop an app? the answer is usually calculated based on how much time is needed for analysts, developers, designers, and testers to complete all development stages. But developers’ work can actually be calculated in two ways:

  1. In hours, which is the traditional way of measuring the complexity of tasks. Developers estimate the time they’ll need to build each feature, add some margin for unexpected complications, then add up the time for all tasks and multiply it by the hourly rate. Easy.
  2. In story points, a system that’s being used increasingly in Agile development. The gist of the story points system is that instead of trying to predict how much time development of a particular feature will take, the feature (or story) is assigned a number of points for difficulty.

Story points are relative. The team decides on the smallest story (the simplest, with the fewest risks and least effort required) and assigns it 2 story points. Then all other stories are compared to it and are assigned points in comparison. Usually, stories start with 2 points. Not 1 since during development something is always added or removed and there might appear a story worth fewer points than the one previously thought to be the smallest.

Dive deeper: Agile story points vs hours: How to calculate for software development

Team size

Development team

It’s hard to estimate the average cost for making an app without knowing the number of people involved. These are the people you’re paying to do the work, after all.

The simplest team for an app consists of the following specialists:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1-2 developers per platform (iOS, Android, web)
  • 1 backend developer (optional)
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1 QA specialist

A single UI/UX designer is generally enough for both iOS and Android apps, but an additional web app might require a designer of its own. If you need a server side to your app, you’ll need a backend developer.

This team can be expanded for faster and more complex development, which will influence the cost of app development.

Outsourcing vs in-house team

In-house development means hiring a team of specialists who will sit in your office and work only on your project.

Outsourcing means hiring a separate company to do the development for you without the developers being within your arm’s reach, so to speak.

Both options have their pros and cons, but here we’ll primarily focus on their cost differences.

To cut a long story short, hosting a team of developers in your company is a way more expensive endeavor than outsourcing. Having an in-house team means you’ll be paying for:

  • Salaries (obviously)
  • Taxes
  • Extra office space and workplaces
  • Hardware and software
  • Developers’ tools
  • Social benefits and everything else you pay for your regular employees

Depending on where your office is located, these costs can differ greatly. It’s not possible to even state general numbers. Sometimes an in-house team is justified, especially if you have more than one mobile product and need to constantly update them. In other cases, outsourcing is a more sensible choice. And outsourcing can be calculated with at least some precision.

Read also: How to outsource mobile app development

The biggest part of the cost of outsourcing lies in the geographical location of the company you’re hiring. Here’s a list of parts of the world sorted by average hourly rates, from the most to the least expensive:

  1. North America (US and Canada) — $100-150 per hour (depending on the region)
  2. Australia — $110 per hour
  3. Western Europe (UK, Germany, Austria) — $90 per hour
  4. South America — $50 per hour
  5. Eastern Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria)— $40-50 per hour
  6. Asia (China, India, Philippines) — $30 per hour
  7. Africa (Egypt, Kenya, South Africa) — $30 per hour

Knowing these approximate rates, we can estimate the average cost to develop an app in different regions. To do so, we only need to go back a little and recall the average development time for all three types of apps:

  • Small app — 2 months minimum
  • Medium app — 6 months average
  • Complex app — 8 months to more than a year

With 40 working hours a week and 4 weeks in a month, we get this:

— 40 × 4 = 160 hours a month

So here’s the answer to the question “How much does an app cost in different regions?

Cost to make an app around the world

Total: What goes into the cost of mobile app development?

Let’s sum up with a mobile app development cost breakdown:

  1. App type (native, cross-platform, hybrid)
  2. Platform (iOS, Android)
  3. Design
  4. Features/complexity
  5. Developers’ pay (depends on the location/hourly rate and team size)

Hidden costs of mobile app development

Hidden costs of mobile app development

The cost of creating an app is not limited to the development process. Along the way, there might (and probably will) be additional expenses that you have to take into account. Here are the five most common hidden costs that you might not have thought of.

Maintenance and updates

The app launch is definitely a significant milestone, but it’s not the endgame. As long as the app is available on the app stores, you will have to take care of maintaining it, react to user feedback, and provide regular updates.

According to the Outsystems Survey, an app’s maintenance cost during the first year after launch costs owners approximately 50% of the app development cost. The second year usually costs 25%, and each subsequent year will require 15-25%.

Maintenance and updating services typically include:

  • Code optimization
  • Server improvements
  • Bug fixing and application updates
  • New features and technologies
  • Support for new OS versions
  • App scalability

Infrastructural costs

These expenses are mainly connected to app hosting on servers. The main purpose here is to make sure your platform can handle traffic spikes after launch. The cost of these services will depend on your app’s scalability requirements.

Here is a list of infrastructural charges you might need to pay for:

  • Server
  • Data storage
  • Content delivery networks
  • Integrations
  • Development tools
  • Load balancers

Functional costs

Services from this section are aimed at supporting your app’s functionality. For instance, you might need to subscribe to a number of services and arrange third-party integrations. The cost for these services varies depending on how many of them you need. Such expenses often include:

  • Push notifications
  • SMS notifications
  • Social media integration
  • Geolocation
  • Payment gateways

App security level

While you can completely delegate the development process to the hired team, there are a few aspects we recommend getting acquainted with, security being one of them.

You can ask the development team about their security practices, and discuss the best options for firewall protection, secure transactions, and other matters of critical importance. Making the platform as secure as possible can affect the cost to build an app you have in mind, but it’s definitely worth the investment.

App patenting

This legal step will both protect your intellectual property rights and help you in case other app owners falsely accuse you of intellectual property theft. This needs to be done before the app launches on the market.

During the process of obtaining the patent, you will need to specify what the uniqueness of your app is, define the aspects of your app you want to claim ownership of, and provide a visual presentation of the app.

The cost will depend on the country you’re filing a patent application in, and the type of your mobile app. In the US, for instance, the cost might vary from $2,000 to $5,000 for a regular non-provisional patent.

Cost examples

As is evident from everything above, there are so many factors that influence the development process that it’s difficult to come up with the price to create an app on the spot. At Mind Studios, we write articles where we share our inside look into the development of different types of apps, and that includes cost estimates.

Here are several examples that demonstrate the costs of creating an app for both iOS and Android, which we’ve estimated in 2022. The estimates are based on an average Eastern European rate of $45/hour:

How much does it cost to make an app you have in mind, and what are the ways to find that out? If you have a clear idea of what you want to create, you can either ask an app development company for a rough estimate (that’s what our contact page is for) or you can use an online app cost calculator.

Online cost calculators are simple web apps. They let you choose among a number of parameters and features and, based on that information, they automatically calculate a rough estimate according to the rates set by the calculator. However, when you use one, do keep in mind that most of these calculators estimate the cost very, very roughly. Most are intended to get your email address and entice you to reach out to the development company.

Mobile app development cost statistics

Mobile app development cost statistics

As you probably have realized by now, when we mentioned there are countless factors that influence app costs, we weren’t exaggerating. And it’s not just the app development choices that make a difference. Post-launch marketing and maintenance expenses, economic conditions in the countries that are the leading software services providers, and mobile app market evolution — all this affects the costs to launch a mobile app.

Here, we’ve made a list of statistics connected to app development costs and the mobile app market in general that you might not have heard of.

  • According to the Business of Apps, you need to put aside at least $10,000 to plan a go-to-market strategy for your app
  • The price for marketing can be calculated by determining the cost-per-install (CPI), which is the price the app marketer pays to engage one user. In 2021, the iOS CPI was $3.6 per app install, and the Android CPI was $1.22 per app install. Overall, app marketing can cost you up to 50% of the development cost during the first year after the launch.
  • The average cost to maintain software and, in particular, applications is roughly 15-20% of its original development cost
  • According to Outsystems Survey, over 80% of mobile apps take 3+ months to develop, and 40% of applications are developed in 6+ months
  • As stated in Market Research Future, the mobile app development market is expected to evolve at a compound annual growth rate of at least 23.80% for the next 8 years
  • A reported by Globe Newswire, the global mobile applications market is now valued at US$ 112.6 billion and is predicted to reach a worth of over US$ 307 billion by the end of 2031

Given the last two forecasts on the list, it seems that the global mobile app market will be evolving at a great pace for the next decade, meaning the prices for app development won’t be getting any lower. So, if you have been thinking about building a mobile platform of your own, now is the time to do that.

Cost of development by mobile app type

So, how much does it cost to start an app? To answer this question, the development team needs to know what type of application you want to build. Obviously, there’s no one-fits-all solution, but each type of mobile app has an established set of features that will help the team make a quick rough estimate for the project. We’ve collected some of the most common app types in the table below. Keep in mind that the estimates are based on an hourly rate of $45.

Type of app Examples Timeline Average cost
Basic app with a minimum number of features Video player, calculator 1 month $16,000+
Data-driven app Weather 1 month $16,000+
Authentication app McDonald’s Loyalty App 3 months $45,000
Social networking app Instagram, Facebook 3 — 9+ months $45,000 – $198,000+
eCommerce app Etsy, eBay 6 months $129,600
Marketplace app Amazon, Booking.com 6 – 9 months $124,000 – $194,000
On-demand app Uber, Postmates 8 – 12 months $130,500 – $200,000
eLearning app Duolingo, Udemy 4 – 6 months $86,400 – $124,000
Healthcare app Headspace 5 – 8 months $108,000+
IoT app Nest, Garmin Connect 4 – 6 months $86,400 – $124,000
Video Streaming App Netflix, Hulu 6 – 9 months $124,000 – $194,000

Obviously, these are just some of the most common types of mobile apps out there. If you have an idea for something entirely different and even innovative, don’t hesitate to book a consultation with our business development team. We’ll gladly hear your idea out and answer all of your questions.

How to lower the app development cost

If looking at the prices above makes you a little anxious, here’s a list of seven things you can do to reduce the cost of mobile app development.

  1. Make a detailed plan
    Can you sketch it? Even better! Come to developers with a clear idea and a way to properly explain it.
  2. Write down technical specifications and requirements for the app
    This can save you from miscommunication, nervous breakdowns, and loss of funds. Read more on the importance of requirements in our previous article.
  3. Outsource
    Outsourcing is considerably cheaper than having an in-house team, especially if you hire a team from a region with moderate hourly rates
  4. Test from the beginning
    It might seem obvious, but not everyone does this. Early testing helps you find bugs that, if not corrected in a timely manner, can cause more bugs in the future, leading to the need to rework whole features.
  5. Build an MVP/MLP
    A minimum viable product or minimum lovable product can help you collect data and avoid mistakes long before you launch.
  6. Keep in touch with developers and check on the progress regularly
    This will keep you and the team on the same page, and help you avoid major mid-development adjustments or changes.
  7. Find a trustworthy mobile application development company
    Sometimes it’s wiser to pay a little more for a development team experienced in your field and with a good reputation. Check previous projects and reviews on professional platforms like Clutch.

How do we estimate the cost of app development?

How do we estimate the cost of app development

At Mind Studios, we estimate the app development cost in these 6 stages:

  1. You contact us and provide information about your project.
  2. We contact you to get general information.
  3. Our project managers conduct basic research and calculate a rough estimate.
  4. We get back to you with our estimate.
  5. If all is good, we start a more thorough discussion with you as to the functionality and contents of your app.
  6. We build a more precise estimate based on complete information.

After the final estimate of the app development cost, there can still be adjustments in case new features are introduced or extra technology is required. With any changes, slight cost adjustments are possible. However, the cost generally doesn’t stray too far from the final estimate.

Before app development begins, reliable software development firms usually provide you with a rough mobile app development cost estimate. The quote is based on your project description, and business and technical requirements. This information is combined and concluded in a preliminary list of features.

It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes the initial estimates and the actual application development costs don’t meet in the end. Apart from the obvious assumption of the estimate not being correct in the first place, there is another common reason for the mismatch, and that is the change in the app development scope. This can happen if:

  • The client decides to increase the number of features or make some other drastic changes to the project midway
  • The MVP launch or the soft launch, during which the initial feedback is being collected, shows that the team has to make some significant adjustments or even look for entirely new solutions

Luckily, these disparities can be avoided in most cases by investing the time and money in the proper discovery stage. That’s the first thing Mind Studios’ team does after taking on a new project. During the discovery stage, we determine whether there’s actually a need for the app on the market, which features the target audience will require, and how we can make the new product stand out from the competition.

App development cost by stages

The whole app development process can be divided into four main stages. Let’s take a look at how much each of them might cost and what percentage of the overall process they make up for. Keep in mind that the calculations below are based on the hourly rate of $45 and are applicable to medium-complexity projects, such as an on-demand delivery app or a fitness app.

  1. Discovery stage, during which the team analyzes the market and the target audience, calculates the risks, and comes up with the solutions that can make the app a success.
    Approximate time and cost: 80 hours, $3,600
  2. UI/UX design stage, during which the team of UI/UX designers determines the features for the app and develops its visual concept. The results of this stage are presented in the form of prototypes — visual mockups of each screen of the app.
    Approximate time and cost: 160 hours, $7,200
  3. Development stage, during which the team of developers transforms the prototypes into a full-functioning mobile application. The estimate below includes iOS, Android, and backend development.
    Approximate time and cost: 2080 hours, $93,600
  4. Testing, during which QA engineers try out the app and look for bugs to report to the development team so that those can get fixed.
    Approximate time and cost: 200 hours, $9,000

One more important component of the overall development cost is the project management part. It’s not actually a stage per se, but rather a tool that helps the client and the team stay on the same page throughout the entire cooperation. On average, this service requires 200 hours and costs $9000 for a medium-complexity project.

Below, you can see a diagram that demonstrates the share of each stage in the medium-complexity app development process.

The breakdown of app development cost

Conclusion

Native or cross-platform, simple or complex, developed in North America, Asia, or Eastern Europe — there are numerous aspects that can influence the price of building a mobile application. Even knowing the statistics on app development costs in 2022, it’s still hard to make an accurate estimate without knowing the specifics of the project. However, in this article, we’ve covered the most common types of mobile apps out there on the market, so that you can get a rough idea of what your project can cost you.

If you’d like to get a more accurate estimate for a mobile app you have in mind, our business development team will be happy to conduct a free consultation for you.

During the meeting, feel free to discuss your idea and ask our team any questions regarding the app development process and cost, as well as our experience of working with similar projects. We are confident that together we can build a mobile app that will meet the business goals you have set.