Factors That Define the Cost of App Development

Currently, most businesses are either based entirely on an app or at least have an app or website to interact with their customers. Businesses that do not exist online are easily taken over by their digitally-savvy competitors. The pandemic has only fueled the speed of this transformation. 

Since most of the apps and websites are free to use, people might think that getting these developed is also cheap. But that’s not the case. The average cost of mobile app development can go up to more than $400,000. 

The cost of getting a mobile app developed breaks down to a ton of factors ranging from the complexity of the features to the UX design. In this article, we’ll go over the top five factors that impact the cost of app development.

5 Factors That Impact App Development Cost

First of all, let us clarify one thing. The five factors that we’ll list here are not the only factors that impact the cost of app development. The cost depends on a number of other factors as well, such as:

  • The app’s functionality and purpose – How will the app enable users to perform certain actions?
  • Devices and platforms – Is the app only available for Android or for all platforms? Is there a limit on the number of devices or versions of platforms that are supported?
  • Third-party integrations – What services (payment, ticket booking, and data) are used within the app? How is the content on the app developed and designed?
  • Use of hardware technology – What features of the smartphone’s hardware does the app utilize the most? Is it heavy on the processor? Is it based on VR and can only be used with a VR headset? 
  • Future maintenance – How does the company plan to provide maintenance services to its users? How do they plan to stay connected with the user? 

The factors that we’ve gathered in this list are the ones that directly impact the cost of app development. If you’ve already estimated a budget for software development, app development has similar influencing factors. These include the type of app, its complexity, the complexity of the UX design, and details within the app development team. 

The first in the list of factors that influence the cost of development is the type of app being built.

Type of App

The type of app is an umbrella factor that encompasses many other factors such as the complexity, features, and required time for development. For instance, an ecommerce app has more features and is more complex than a calendar app. Getting a game developed will definitely be more complex, time-consuming, and resource-heavy than a simple to-do list app. 

If you want to develop a very complex and feature-rich app, the first thing you’ll need is a highly skilled team. Naturally, hiring that team is going to cost you time and money. 

Apart from this, a feature-rich app would utilize more cloud resources like AWS, so the fees are also going to be higher. It takes maintenance costs to the next level. 

Since there are many options for the type of app you can have developed, the variability in the costs is also high. The following table shows the ranges of costs based on app type. 

The first column describes the type of app, the second column shows you the estimated cost in the form of a range, and the last column shows you the time required to get the app developed. 

App Type Estimate Cost Time
Mobile App $15,000-$300,000 1,200h
iPhone App $50,000-$300,000 1,200h
Android App $50,000-$300,000 1,200h
Web App $60,000-$300,000 1,200h
Startup App $32,000-$400,000 1,600h
Taxi App (Uber) $32,000-$400,000 1,600h
Game App $30,000-$250,000 1,600h
Retail App $50,000-$150,000 1,200h
Augmented Reality App (AR) $100,000-$250,000 1,600h
eCommerce App $30,000-$250,000 1,600h
Social Media App (Instagram) $24,000-$300,000 1,200h
Business App $50,000-$200,000 1,200h
Learning App (DuoLingo) $18,000-$225,000 900h
Video Streaming App $30,000-$300,000 1,600h
Restaurant App $20,000-$150,000 900h
Community App $18,000-$150,000 900h
Shopify App $20,000-$180,000 900h
Dating App $28,000-$350,000 1,400h,
Food Delivery App $20,000-$150,000 900h,
Hybrid App $40,000-$200,000 1,200h
Healthcare App $45,000-$300,000 1,200h
Typical App $40,000-$300,000 1,200h

App Complexity

We’ve touched upon how the complexity of an app defines the cost of building it, so let’s expand on this significant factor.

For the purpose of better understanding how complexity impacts app development cost, we’ve classified all apps into three main categories. 

The first one entails simple apps that take around 3-6 months to develop and have fewer features. These include a ride-hailing app like Uber, a food ordering app, or apps that are used as digital menus (such as Untappd). These apps can cost you anything between $70,000 to $100,000 to build. 

The other two categories are medium and complex apps. Examples may include a dating app like Tinder or a full-fledged gaming app like PubG. Apps like these are feature-rich and can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Type of app Time to develop Cost
Simple 3-6 months $70,000-$100,000
Medium 6-10 months $120,000-$170,000
Complex 10+ months $200,000-$250,000+

The Complexity of UX/UI Design

The complexity of an app relates to the features and services it provides, whereas this factor talks about the complexity of the UX/UI design process. 

As you see, there are some apps that have a very simple UI design. And, sometimes, there are apps that have no consistency in their design and using them doesn’t feel intuitive. That’s because their UX team hasn’t done their best. 

App type also has a significant role to play here. The more complex features it includes, the more complex its UX design process becomes – ultimately increasing overall development costs. 

Here’s a table that categorizes apps based on the complexity of their UX/UI design and shows you the average cost of the UX/UI design process: 

UX/UI Complexity level Cost
Simple $5000-$10,000
Medium $10,000-$20,000
Complex $20,000-$50,000+

Though it is worth noting that costs vary from one UX Agency to another

Development Team

Another incredibly important factor in determining the cost of mobile app development is the type of app development team hired. As an individual, even if you are a developer, you cannot build complex apps alone. 

You’ll always need a team of developers to create and test the best possible solution. 

Before you proceed with hiring, note that you have three options: 

  1. Hire an in-house team of developers.
  2. Hire a freelance development team.
  3. Opt for partnering up with a development agency. 

Hiring an in-house team of developers will be the most costly option among all of them. The onboarding, hiring, training, and other costs associated with hiring an in-house team can easily dry up all your resources as a startup. 

The other option is to hire a freelance development team, but that would mean micro-managing everything during the development process. The last option is the most suitable for a startup – opt for partnering up with a development agency and let the pros take over. 

In terms of costs, hiring an in-house team may cost you around $60,000-$100,000 per developer, and the team may consist of 6-8 developers. Freelancers will cost you around $20,000-$30,000 per head. 

But, an agency will negotiate their cost based on their estimation of your app. This is the least costly option available for you, which can go as low as $15,000. 

Team Location

Since we’re talking about app developer teams, we can’t overlook the impact of their location on overall costs. 

Programmers in different regions of the world charge different rates, and these rates will largely determine your mobile app development costs. The hourly rate of freelance developers varies depending on their regions. 

The time spent developing an app ranges from 1200 hours to 1800 hours based on its complexity. Naturally, the cost of a developer’s work is determined by multiplying the hourly rate by the total number of hours required for the job.

The developers from Eastern Europe and India charge the least, whereas developers from the USA charge the highest. The following table further clarifies the scene:

Region Hourly rate, $
United States (USA) 120-150
United Kingdom (UK) 100-120
Australia 100-120
Western Europe 80-100
Eastern Europe 30-50
India 20-30

In Closing

At the end of the day, always remember that the factors that influence the cost of mobile app development will continue to evolve. They’ll likely be different in the next five years as new technologies emerge and existing platforms evolve. So, keep on your toes and make sure to stay up-to-date with trends in the app development landscape.