App development cost: Total price and which factors affect it

The field of application development design is currently thriving while it develops in line with the general trend of the booming of technology in the modern era. The arrival and non-stop upgrade of these apps will meet the needs and practical requirements of humans. In particular, valid investment into developing appropriate applications could bring great benefits. And for businesses, possessing their own mobile application becomes highly necessary to compete in today’s highly competitive marketplace, because of the values these apps could gain the companies. 

Along with the general trend of businesses to invest in developing their own app to serve their business goals and the fact that not all companies are adequate of resources to deploy a thorough process of research, develop, and design a complete app on their own, these companies started to resort to the teams of freelance app developers or for ones with higher budget, the application development agency is a safer and great choice as well. Whatever options that you choose to build your business app, “how to estimate my outsourcing app development cost” is always among the top frequently asked questions at the app-focused companies.

“How much does it cost to build an app”, “how to calculate my app development cost?”. With many years of data at our disposal, we could estimate that most quality apps cost between $100,000 to $1,000,000. Quite a gap, isn’t it? But if you are demanding an exact figure, our answer would be “no”. The issue of app development cost is highly complex due to all the variables that could appear during the project deploying process. That’s why in today’s article, we will not cover the exact number that you must pay for a quality app but we’re going to focus on what affects the pricing of an app and app development calculators that you may find useful.

The reality of app development “estimated” cost

The reality of app development “estimated” cost

Without adequate characteristics or details, the “typical” or “estimated” cost of app development is just reference numbers. Imagine someone asks you how much “a car” costs without any further information or details, it’s just out of question to figure out. First time working with the clients, app-focuses agencies often listen to their clients’ broad outline of functionality and features that they want to include in the app, and in case they ask immediately for a price, these agencies usually give them a sorry. 

It’s just out of question to estimate a definite number to these kinds of questions without any detailed description of the project such as business ideas, personas of their customers, and data. Any numbers you found on free app development cost calculators are often far from the truth because they avoid driving off potential customers of their services. Meanwhile, the real cost of the products could be much higher.

No matter how vague the projects and clients’ requests are at the start, these companies often start working on the main concept of the app – the throughout the idea of the app. It’s necessary to work out this main idea as precisely as possible and revolve all the later stages on it. This helps avoid going off-track when working in later stages.

After putting the main concepts to work, the agency often goes on to figure out the elements such as: User personas, scenarios, design direction, technologies, and limitations.

How much does an app cost in total?

In 2018, Clutch conducted a survey with 102 mobile app development agencies around the world as participants with an aim of defining the average cost of developing a complete app based on the subsequent stages of its development: Discovery; Design; Development; Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance. The data collected indicated that the price varies significantly over the period of these 5 steps. 

Discovery

It is pointed out in the research of Clutch that 70% of app-based agencies need to deploy a discovery (pre-research) stage to set the goals of the clients’ business and the app development company’s offers on the same page. This stage often costs less than $5,000.

Design

The expenses invested in the design stages highly correspond with the number of screens that your app required. Each application screen is a feature or a part of one. Each button is a question answered. Every piece of text is a user problem being solved. Now multiply that by the number of scenarios and you’ll have the body of design work. More than 33% of the agencies surveyed confirmed that they spent approximately $5,000 on UX/UI design for their apps.  

Development 

The expenditure required in this section depends mostly on the number of elements such as app features, complexity, and types. But we are going to discuss this profoundly in the next parts of the article. The cost would be higher with more features integrated into and the complexity pushed up.

Testing & Deployment

Testing & Deployment

It’s vital to test your app to evaluate the rate of success of your app before releasing it into the market. According to surveys, 32% of participants spent less than $5,000 to deploy app testing. Another used between $5,000 and $10,000 and it took the other over $10,000 to test the app.

Maintenance

The last-but-not-least stages of the process of launching an app aren’t any less important than other stages. Because it ensures that your app functions as it should and there isn’t any unwanted fault intervened in the using process of the clients. In the 2017 Clutch Survey, 28% of firms said that maintenance costs less than $5,000, while another 28% said it costs between $5,000 and $10,000.

What affects app development cost

There are in fact a wide range of factors influencing the average cost to develop an app. Nevertheless, there are factors affecting the cost most profoundly:

Platforms 

The choice of the platform when developing an app may profoundly affect how much the process would cost you. You could choose from a native app designed specifically for a single platform or a hybrid app that coordinates well with various platforms. While the latter choice will probably cost you more money because built versions that are compatible with more than one platform would surely require more resources, the former also comes with many disadvantages for users when approaching your apps on different devices or platforms. So in case you are adequate for finance, it’s recommended to design a hybrid app that goes well on both platforms.

But in most cases, you have to determine whether your app would be Android-based or iOS-based. Though there is not a huge difference in mobile app development cost on these two platforms. You still should choose carefully because these two operating systems show a lot of differences, such as target audience and technical features.

iOS vs Android – pros and cons

iOS vs Android - pros and cons

Let’s dig into some main pros and cons of these two platforms before you determine which one to go on.

iOS

As speaking of iOS, we could easily link it to the quick process of building an app and the cheap iOS app development cost, due to its automated developing elements, apps developed takes less time and cost less on iOS than on Android. Also, iOS apps are much easier to process and also smoother compared to those constructed on the Android OS. iOS apps also work well with all devices and versions due to their high compatibility. 

Another standout key advantage of iOS apps is the nature of its users when they often lead a more high-standard lifestyle and are more willing to spend a big amount on paid apps, this is no less than a prosperous and potential market to invest in.   

On the other hand, surely iOS’s app development disadvantages can not be overlooked. For example, the update system of iOS apps is quite troublesome when it requires more updates than Android, which raises the cost of app maintenance. Another demerit is the inferiority in the number of users compared to that of Android apps, especially in Asia and South America. Higher hosting cost is also the reason that mobile application development agencies feel hesitant when choosing this platform.

Android

Compared to iOS, Android-based apps require fewer updates and don’t update apps as regularly as its iOS counterparts, which sure lead to lower maintenance cost. The apps developed on this platform could also reach a broader audience due to its extremely wide coverage of its user over the world and in the market also. Android app developers are also benefited from the low hosting cost when uploading a new app onto the Android market, which means lower Android app development cost.

On the other side, app developers on Android OS need to bring into consideration the issue of fragmentation when there is such a wide range of devices run on Android coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, plus all the complex operating systems of Android. All of which makes app development on Android much more consuming, both time and money.

Complexity, functionality, and features

Complexity, functionality, and features

The cost of the app you are aiming to develop is highly influenced by its complexity. The more complex the app is, the more time necessary to finish it and surely the more expensive it becomes. According to data collected by Entrepreneur, the apps are divided into 3 main categories based on their complexity and the time it takes to develop one.

Table-based Apps

  • Time to finish: 10 weeks
  • Cost: $1,000 – $4,000

These apps display content in a table view. Users can choose from a list of options and then be redirected to a different list of content. The representatives of this line of apps are fitness apps. As you developers can all perceive, the fitness app development costs are quite reasonable.

Database-driven (API Apps)

  • Time to finish: 16 weeks
  • Cost: $8,000 – $50,000

These apps allow users to look for and organize information from a large database. They need to connect to an online server and work alongside other software via APIs.

Multi-featured (Game Apps)

  • Time to finish: 28 weeks
  • Cost: $10,000 – $250,000

These are the most technically complex to build and are arguably the most expensive. The game app development cost and timeframe can vary based on the scope of the project. Once you have determined the basic functionality of your app, additional features will need to be included, all of which will amount to the total cost.

Top app development cost calculators 

This term may sound strange to some because it’s quite a “young” term in the business market. Due to the high competitiveness of today’s markets with millions of apps coming with all ranges of prices, the question of how to choose the right one that fits your budget and still meets the users’ needs, as well as the ROI goals, is becoming much harder. Understanding this pain point of businesses, many online calculators are designed specifically to give the company an estimated price of the apps they wish to develop. We would highlight the most popular apps below.

Cleveroad calculator

Cleveroad calculator

This calculator will ask you to answer 10+ questions to give you an overall concept of the app you are shaping in your mind and the lowest price for developing it. You could choose to design and build an app from scratch or develop an app bearing resemblance with apps existing on the market. By answering these questions, the tool also gives you development time estimated in hours.

Pros:

  • Friendly UI/UX design
  • Time estimation provided

Cons:

  • The range of answers are not really wide

Buildfire calculator

Buildfire calculator

Buildfire is a calculator guiding you through seven steps to show you a number estimated for your mobile or web application development cost. The list of questions is Platform, Features, Users, Integrations, Monetization, Maintenance & Hosting, and Buildfire Services.

Pros: 

  • Divided into main sections of question

Cons: 

  • Sometimes the estimated cost are far from actual cost

Estimate my app calculator

Estimate my app calculator

This calculator shows quite a different approach compared to the other when all of its questions are listed on the same page. The questions include the app’s estimated size, UI/UX complexity, account features. UGC complexity, mobile-specific features such as Apple Watch, Cloud Syncing are also included.

Pros:

  • A variety of questions and relevant answers
  • Include mobile-specific features

Cons:

  • Average user interface design

Final thoughts 

Application development is a trend that helps businesses have a competitive advantage and a firm foothold in the new era with countless competitors. To achieve maximum efficiency with minimal cost, businesses need to understand and compare techniques as well as combine multiple means and tools to calculate the right cost for application development regulations.

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