Last Updated: August 19, 2021
Whenever we talk about mobile app development, break down the processes in it, highlight various tools - what is the first question that can pop up in your head? That’s right: “What is the mobile app development cost in 2021?”. It is by far the most impressive one since most vendors have different data and the answer may reluctantly differ.
However, we structured down every single point for the cost of app development and found out rather short and concise answers. We researched the cost estimations with the optimization methods that are useful during every stage of a mobile app development.
Want to find out how you can impact your app development costs and be in line with your budget? In that case, read our article to gain this insight and uncover how much your app type will cost.
Costs of Creating an App: A Simple Breakdown
Mobile App Development Cost in 2021
- Basic App - from $20,000 – $50,000
- Medium App - from $50,000 – $100,000
- Large App - more than $100,000
First things first, let’s go with the direct answer to the app development cost. We brought down the three major app stages, where we concisely put the exact data that you need to know. These are the basic, medium, and large app development stages.
Basic App - from $20,000 – $50,000
A basic mobile app typically refers to an MVP or any kind of digital product that a startup typically produces to test its target market. This MVP consists only of basic and core features with very simple business logic, elementary UI design assets, while the app has only 5 active screens at maximum.
The development process time one needs to estimate will vary from 330 to 650 hours. The QA engineers on the other hand will set the time limit of 50 hours per month with a very basic checklist on their hands. The overall timeline will set at roughly 4 to 9 weeks.
Medium App - from $50,000 – $100,000
The medium-sized application is pretty much a very standard and a core mobile application that has a few complex features with medium business logic. It also contains some custom UI/UX assets and animations, supports two main languages, and has around 6 to 15 main app screens.
Regarding the development process, the average time for a team to accomplish such an app will be around 660 - 1100 working hours. While the QA engineers will have 80 hours on their hands to test and prepare the app for the deployment phase. To conclude, the total timeline will be set from 10 to 15 weeks, which is around 2 to 3,5 months at maximum.
Large App - more than $100,000
The word “large” in the mobile app development process typically means that the app will have lots of features consisting of complex business logic. Plus it does also mean that it is typically being developed by a large corporation. Apart from that, the complex app also has a custom UI design process, a large-scale user base, multiple software integrations, solid security aspects, complex architecture, and the app has more than 15 interactive screens.
On the other side, the time required to complete a complex application for a development team is capped at more than 1200 working hours. While the QA engineers are allocating more than 160 hours per month on a huge and scaled mobile app. So, in total, the development time will be approximately more than 3 months. So, all of these approximate estimates can serve as the first step into understanding of an approximate estimation for an app development cost.
Key factors that affect the total cost of app development
There is no doubt that there are more than just 1 or 2 reasons that drive the cost of app development. For that reason, we want to dive deeper and examine all possible factors that can somehow affect the mobile app development cost and reveal them to you today!
Amount of Features
One of the most general reasons why the cost of app development rises so suddenly is the number of features you want to implement. A feature is like a special action that your app is tasked to implement and provide expected results. To estimate a more correct cost for each feature you want to implement, you need to know how much time it takes to develop one. Thus, the formula will look like this:
On the other hand, various digital agencies and software firms have their means of judgment. They determine the cost of app development upon your project description, technical and business requirements. Once provided they will combine it and generate their quote and present a specific list of features. Usually, they will show you the list of key features, the features backlog (where all other features are presented), and the development complexity.
However, in some cases, there may be situations where the quote or the estimated sum may go overboard and will not meet your expectations. There are two major scenarios for that.
The first is when the company is completely irresponsible for the provided project estimation due to their low-quality service. These types of companies usually just want to sign a contract and get the money out of you. To prevent such cases, you should look into their reviews page, look through the apps they have previously developed, and sometimes even contact their previous customers.
The second is when the estimated scope has been changed during the development process due to some changes along the development path. To prevent this unforeseen circumstance and stick to your budget, you should follow these 3 simple rules:
- Set key features - Highlight only the most important features you want to include in your first app version. Stick to it and provide it to your outsource team while carefully overlooking the development process. Then your costs will stay on the same level.
- Drop functionality - In case, if you see that a given functionality may not match with the current MVP structure, you can rearrange the scope of work to fit budget constraints. Try to reach an agreement with your team, so the cost of app development will stay on the same level.
The choice of Platform
Are you considering an iOS mobile app development? Or perhaps you want to develop it for Android OS too? If that is true, then you should be aware of the mobile app development expenses for both Android and iPhone devices.
When choosing which platform you should start with, app owners consider factors such as iOS and Android market share, smartphone proliferation, and prevalence. But the most significant factor is that the development process is different for both platforms accordingly. They support different programming languages, a variety of SDKs, and utilize various development tools.
Therefore, the question arises: Is there a cost difference between iOS and Android applications? In reality, no. If you're developing an app for one of these platforms, then there is no major cost difference. However, if you wish to create an application that supports two or more platforms, be prepared to pay double the amount for your app development. And another issue is that you typically need a different team for each platform, which will increase your estimated cost of app development.
Location and Structure of a Development Team
The location of your IT outsourcing team is a very vital and important impact on the app development cost. For example, the development cost in the United Kingdom is completely different compared to the United States one, and other world regions accordingly. Here is a general breakdown of the region rates all across the entire globe.
According to the survey that Statista has done in 2015, the top three countries where mobile app development is still on the rise are North America, Australia, and Singapore.
Now, let’s look into each role that is connected to the mobile app development process and how it may significantly impact the overall app development cost.
If you‘ve worked with an outsourcing agency, you should know that conducting a business analysis is a critical step in determining technical and business requirements. Before estimating the approximate app development cost.
A business analyst is responsible for gathering requirements, identifying technical and business problems, conducting competitive analysis, defining project value, and writing project specifications. All of this serves as a backdrop for the planning phase.
Concrete planning is critical to avoiding costly scope changes and misunderstandings throughout the development process. In other words, business analysts' work affects the cost of developing an application.
Nowadays, users put a beautiful design on top of everything. And it's nearly impossible to build a great product without the assistance of an experienced designer who specializes in UI/UX design.
The designer's responsibilities include conducting research on comparable applications, analyzing user preferences and pain points, developing wireframes, and creating the final design. As a result, you should include the rates of UI/UX designers in the cost breakdown of the app.
Mobile app engineer
Depending on the platform you’re going to release your app, you'll probably require several iOS and/or Android app developers. Their primary responsibility is to develop and publish the application while taking into account all of the technical and business peculiarities described in the specification.
QA developers perform regression, load, smoke, and other types of tests to ensure the application's stability. Additionally, they validate the UI and other app components for conformance to the specification. Which may impact the app development costs, if some of the testing processes have been missed out.
PM coordinates the efforts of the entire team and ensures that the product is completed on time and meets all requirements. As a result, the appropriate management approach has a significant impact on the costs associated with mobile application development.
One last factor to remember is the expenses of maintaining an app. It is common practice to allocate from 15% to 20% of your budget to form annual maintenance options for your app. Some of the maintenance costs will typically include creating new functionalities, bug fixes, and shifting your app to new OS versions. Additionally, the cost may also depend on the number of features you plan to add and their complexity.
Even if you have no plans to scale the application or add new functionality, maintenance is a must-have operation. These costs can increase as the application becomes more complex.
The core maintenance options include the following:
- Bug fixing
- Code optimization
- Improving performance
- Creation of new features
- Adding support for latest OS versions
- Supporting the latest versions of 3d services
That is why the collaboration with your technology partner or development team does not end until the product is ready. It is an evolving operation, and each software development company has its post-release support policies.
Cost of Different App Development Types
Every mobile app type has different sums and expenses since it all depends on the functions’ level of complexity. And to understand that, here are a few examples of how much money some of the famous mobile apps were required to build.
- WhatsApp has received $60 million in their 2 round funding for creating and developing their idea that has significantly impacted the online communication services.
- Back in 2012, Tinder was funded with $485,000 in a first seed round when it was just trying to hit up the market wall.
- Snapchat, as we know it today as one of the most popular social media tools in the US, in 2012 also got $485,000 in the very first round of funding. While the total funding is over $3 billion.
Below, we will demonstrate each app development type and break down the approximate costs, and show the approximate hours. That way, one would understand how exactly they should allocate their budget on the type of app they need to develop. And do remember, that these are raw estimates and they are calculated on the average app development time for one platform only.
Ecommerce app development cost
E-Commerce mobile app development is considered to be one of the most common digital products in the market space. However, the total cost may vary depending on the level of complexity of the app you’re going to develop. Here is a simple breakdown of every cost you need to think about when developing an E-Commerce application.
- Design - 175 Hours - $11,000
- App development - 1,435 Hours - $86,100
- QA - 1,100 Hours - $55,000
- PM - 500 Hours - $27,000
- Total - 3,210 Hours ~ $180,000
These are the estimations for mobile E-commerce app development for an international retail company. The team will consist of 3 Developers, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 1 UI/UX Designer, while the timeline will be stretched up to 4 months.
Most of the key and important features in the development process include browsing products, product filtering, and sorting, cart, wishlist, local store search, checking product availability, product reservation, delivery to a chosen shop, barcode scanning.
Fintech app development cost
A fintech application is a personal mobile app that connects banks or financial institutes with their relevant users to make digital payments remotely and at any given time. Here is a simple breakdown of expenses that you should consider.
- Design - 130 Hours - $7,000
- App development - 1,600 Hours - $94,000
- QA - 270 Hours - $15,000
- PM - 250 Hours - $14,000
- Total - 2,250 Hours ~ $130,000
The common dev team will consist of 2 Developers, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 1 UI/UX Designer, while the timeline will be up to 6 months. Main features include integration with a third-party platform that enables users to link with their bank account, providing pay advances, and emergency loans, sign in with email/phone number/passcode, providing loans, notifications on status change, etc.
Game & Education app development cost
Both the game and educational mobile apps are very similar to each other in terms of development. Thus, the estimated costs are as follow:
- Design & Development - 2100 Hours - $126,000
- QA - 310 Hours - $17,000
- PM - 300 Hours - $17,000
- Total - 2,710 Hours ~ $160,000
Typically your team will consist of 2 Developers, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 1 UI/UX Designer, while the timeline will be set up to 6 months. All of the core features include integrations with financial institutions, implementation of dozen games with visually attractive animations.
MedTech app development cost
MedTech or healthcare apps are generally created for private or public use, to help patients to assist them with their health status through adjusting and monitoring health parameters. Here is a simple breakdown of application costs and timelines:
- Design - 350 Hours - $21,000
- App development - 1,780 Hours - $107,000
- QA - 570 Hours - $31,000
- PM - 590 Hours - $32,000
- Total - 3,290 Hours ~ $191,000
Typically, the dev team will consist of 3 developers, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 1 UI/UX Designer, while the timeline will be up to 8 months. Main features include saving health parameters, prescription list view, pediatric mode, contact a doctor via video call, adding events to the calendar, notifications, QR code scanning, photo library, notes, etc.
Taxi app development cost
This app type refers to the development of any taxi mobile application. Such an example would be Uber or Grab or any other popular taxi app available in the digital market.
- Design - 570 Hours - $34,000
- App development - 1,950 Hours - $116,700
- QA - 1,150 Hours - $64,000
- PM - 1,200 Hours - $68,000
- Total - 4,870 Hours ~ $283,000
The regular dev team consists of 3 developers, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 1 UI/UX Designer, while the timeline will be up to 8 months. The main features of your mobile somewhere have geolocation services, registration, personal data management; call or text the driver / the passenger right from the app, push notifications, ride cost & time estimation, etc
How to estimate the cost to build an app?
Having a ballpark estimate for the app development costs that are connected with each relevant stage, can help businesses to correctly distribute their capital funding. Back in 2017, Clutch – a B2B analytics business – released a study that summarized data obtained from more than 100 software development companies. It calculated the percentage of money spent by businesses on each of the following app development stages: discovery, design, development, testing, and deployment.
For that reason, we want to highlight the most notable aspects, as well as show you the approximate estimate on how various companies allocate their budget.
When it comes to pre-testing, 51% of business representatives said that they spend up to $5,000 to form an initial concept and conduct competitive analysis. 22 percent spent more than $5,000 but less than $10,000, and only 14 percent spent between $10,000 and $25,000. So clearly, compared to other stages of app development, the Discovery one is the least expensive.
UI/UX Design Stage
About 32% of product development teams spent less than $5,000 on an app design, and only 9% spent more than $50,000 on an app design. The vast majority (60%) claim to spend somewhere between $5 and $50k.
The development process of any app’s feature that is supposed to be a key one is one of the most important aspects of the entire mobile app development process. Just 9% of respondents said they spent less than $5,000 on creating an app's code, while 33% said they spent between $5,000 and $10,000 at this development point. The remaining 58% are inclining towards the sums between $10,000 and more than $30,000, as it is the core of your application.
Testing and Deployment Stage
Any software development project will be difficult to imagine without testing and deployment stages. 32% of respondents, who have implemented software testing and released their app to the market, stated that it cost them less than $5,000 of their budget. Another 31% stayed within the $5-$10k budget range, while the remainder spent more than $10k to complete the Testing and Deployment stage.
For an app to operate and work on the most recent operating systems, all mobile apps need to execute consistent maintenance and updates. 28 percent of software development companies expect post-launch maintenance to cost less than $5,000, while another 28 percent expect it to cost between $5,000 - $10,000.
Mobile App Development Cost Optimization Techniques
Even though we have provided you with the approximate expenses you are going to meet, on your mobile app development cost path, there are ways to cut them down. And it’s not going to decrease the quality of your app, on the contrary, it’s only going to benefit you. Let’s take a look at the most significant optimization methods that could decrease app development costs.
Identify your target audience
The very first thing that you should ask yourself before you go out there and develop an app is: Who is your target audience? Meaning that you should analyze their social profile, what are their needs in the market, what goals they want to achieve, and lots of other questions. All of them will significantly assist you to create an ideal image of your potential customer. Thus, you’ll come to the next step on our list, which is a priority list.
Make a priority feature list
Before you even venture forward with the development process or an outsourced team, you should write down all of the priority features. You won’t be able to create an ideal app that you have in mind. However, not only you’ll be able to drive your business value fast but you’ll make accurate project estimations and see the feedback from your potential customers.
As for the other features, you can simply leave them in the backlog when the core product development will kick in. That way you can gradually invest your time and money while producing a minimal version of your app (aka MVP). As it may be too dangerous to put all of your capital in developing the app all at once. Because of two main reasons: risk of your app being a failing one on your target market and due to the dynamic trends of your target market.
Develop a prototype
After you understood your customers and implemented your priority feature list, it is finally time to merge your research with an app prototype. It’s a very wise and smart strategy to develop just a prototype with core features since your main goal after you release it to your target audience is to collect their feedback. Thus, you’ll most likely be going to be adding more changes to it, which is easier to do with a prototype, rather than a full-fledged app with tons of code.
Stick to the plan
Once you are out of the MVP zone, it is time to actively produce and develop a core mobile app. It is highly advisable to stick to the feature list that you already inserted in our backlog. This is mostly because it will both extend your allocated deadline and significantly stretch your initial budget.
Choose an outsourced team
Why go outsource, you might ask? Well, it poses a lot of financial benefits during the execution of your app development projects. Let’s start with the fact that their cost to build an app is significantly different compared to hiring a local development team. To be more precise, you don’t have to pay any additional taxes, perks, software, hardware, workspace, or overhead salaries. They have their methods of estimating the cost of your mobile app development (which we highlighted at the beginning of our article.) Plus, you can take advantage of the cost-effective services the outsource development team provides to produce high-quality products.
All in all, there are different factors, drivers, and circumstances where the cost of creating an app will greatly vary. Some of them include the development team, the features that you will build, and the type of app you’re trying to create. And the process of building a mobile app is not as cheap as you might think at first. You probably won’t be able to go anywhere with just $2,000 or $3,000. If you have around $15,000 to $25,000 you probably will stand a chance to develop an MVP and seek approval from your target market. With that being said, you can’t expect that having 100,000 will guarantee you a solid mobile application that will be the next Facebook app. But it does mean that your development cycle will be easier with an outsourced team of your own choice.