How much does it cost to develop an app from scratch?
Depending primarily on your app’s complexity, it can range from:
|$30,000 to $60,000||For a basic app|
|$60,000 to $300,000+||For a simple app|
|$300,000+||For a complex app|
Yes. Quality custom mobile app development requires significant investments, with most apps ranging from $100,000 to 300,000+.
But before these figures scare you away, I have some great news for you.
There are ways to go to market cheaper.
In fact, we’ve had clients who’ve launched for $50,000 and less without sacrificing on quality!
As I mentioned, the cost of app development depends mainly on how complex your app is. This is why, at Appetiser, we challenge our clients to do it leaner and, therefore, cheaper.
You can start with one platform or do a web app, which is cheaper but doesn’t have the downsides of a hybrid app. You can even launch it for a $15,000 to $20,000 design prototype.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in pursuing, I encourage you to keep reading to learn how you can fulfill your app development goals without draining your resources.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
- Factors that influence app development costs
- How to go lean and avoid spending too much on app development
- App development stages and how much of your budget goes into each
- Sample app development cost estimates
Let’s dive in!
The type of application you’re creating can heavily influence the app development cost. This is because the more complex the feature, the more time app developers need to study and implement the technology.
Based on the complexity of the features you’d like to implement, your mobile app may fall under the following categories:
A basic app usually comprises 3-4 screens and is published on a single platform, whether on web, iOS, or Android devices. It also often contains mostly static content compared to a simple or complex app.
These types of mobile applications generally have common interfaces and limited features that are not hard to implement. Some typical features of simple mobile apps are:
- Basic messaging capabilities
- Profile creation and editing
As these functions are common to most apps, they often require less time for your app developer to implement, minimizing the mobile app development cost.
Estimated Cost to Develop: $30,000 to $60,000
A simple app may comprise more complex features than a basic app. It may also require a custom user interface and data storage, making its development process more time-consuming and, thus, more expensive.
Think of simple apps as basic web or mobile apps that contain more dynamic content, which means more customization. These apps also often leverage existing APIs to offer more value than basic apps.
Mobile apps with extra features, such as the following, are good examples of simple apps:
- In-app purchases
- Push notifications
- Location tracking
- Payment portals
- Social media sharing option
- Advanced security features, such as biometrics and face ID
Estimated Cost to Develop: $60,000 to $300,000+
A complex app is a web or mobile application that requires more advanced features and high-level user interfaces. They are also typically used across multiple platforms — having more platforms involves more scenarios which adds to the complexity. Common examples of complex apps are gaming applications, CRM apps, and other enterprise-level apps.
Some features that may make your web, iOS, or Android app development complex are:
- Online streaming
- In-app audio or video calling
- Novel feature/s
- Any social media-like feature (beyond a sharing option)
- API integration
Estimated Cost to Develop: $300,000 or more
As you can see:
|💡 More complex app features = Higher app development costs|
Fortunately, you don’t need a feature-packed app to launch a successful app.
We’ve seen this happen to many of our clients. When you turn to us for app development, we’ll challenge you to keep your app as lean as possible. (I’ll delve more into this and share some relevant strategies later)
As mentioned earlier, the actual web or mobile app cost will depend on the size, type, and complexity of a web or mobile app development project. This is why we advocate for ‘visual scoping via design’ as a better first step than ‘costing via requirements lists.’
From our experience, your needs can change dramatically once a more complete picture of your app idea is formed — its design, functionality, and how it works in the hand.
Every single app idea evolves during design. Once something comes to life before you, you start to have more ideas or ways to improve. Even those with extremely clear visions have some form of evolution or refinement of their concept during the design phase.
And with changes to the design, there’ll obviously be a change in your web, native, or hybrid app development costs.
For this reason, we always conduct sketching as part of our initial design stage before providing a ballpark estimate for app development. Then, our designers will create a wireframe of your product. This helps you and your app development team better understand the app’s UX flow and envision the design outcome.
By the end of our design stage, you’ll have a world-class interactive prototype that you can use to raise capital for development. This is how many of our numerous startup partners, such as Good Empire, turned from zero to multimillion-dollar apps.
The social challenge app used our design prototype to pitch their idea to investors and on the crowdfunding site Birchal.
Good Empire got more than 1,000 investors on board and raised over $1.5 million without development.
Your app development cost heavily depends on the type and number of platforms you want to roll out your mobile app on. Based on the platforms they are developed for, apps can be categorized into the following:
These apps are specifically developed for a particular platform or operating system (OS). They are built using platform-specific programming languages and development tools. Native apps offer the best performance and integration with the device’s features and capabilities. Examples include Instagram for iOS and WhatsApp for Android.
iOS and Android apps are written in different languages. If you are building an app for iOS devices with Appetiser, your mobile app developers will be using Swift. On the other hand, if you’re conducting Android app development, the preferred programming language is Kotlin or Java.
You must create separate versions for each if you want to develop for both platforms. And as you may already guess, that route costs more (refer to the estimated costs table below).
Hybrid apps are a combination of native and web apps. They are built using web technologies and then wrapped in a native container that allows them to be distributed and installed like a native app.
Hybrid apps can access some device features through plugins or APIs, providing a balance between native performance and cross-platform compatibility. Examples include the Twitter and Instagram apps built using frameworks like React Native or Flutter.
|App Type||Estimated Costs (Excluding Costs Associated to App Complexity)|
|Single-Platform Native Apps (Android or iOS)||$8,000 to $14,000|
|Hybrid Apps (Android + iOS)||$13,000 to $16,000|
|Web Apps||$13,000 to $16,000|
Developer rates can vary significantly based on several factors, including their geographical location, experience, tech expertise, and skill levels. As of 2021, the average hourly salary of mobile app developers in the US is $48.
Developers with extensive experience and a proven track record in developing successful apps often charge higher rates due to their expertise and ability to deliver high-quality results.
Junior developers or those with less experience may offer more competitive rates, but they may require more guidance and support throughout the web or mobile app development process.
Consider this: A fully developed app can go as far as $300,000+. Meanwhile, you can launch a design prototype for low as $15,000. You also gain more advantages such as attracting potential investors’ attention.
Moreover, a clear design enables you to visualize the app’s features and layout before entering the development stage. This helps you identify unnecessary or overly complex elements that could inflate costs and reduce the likelihood of mid-development changes, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
You don’t necessarily need to add all the features that you have planned for your mobile app.
Maybe some of them are not necessary to add in the first place. So, what you can do is cut down the number of unnecessary features. At the same time, we’d advise you to define your minimum viable product (MVP) first.
“When developing or designing, start by defining your MVP first. Avoid adding unnecessary features until you have proven that users value your initial vision. If not, then pivot and try to adjust your starting point. Only when your MVP is finding early adoption, or when you confirm your MVP is an actual stepping stone towards achieving your vision, should you look at further expanding the product.”
–Michael MacRae Appetiser CEO
By defining your MVP, you can avoid adding any unnecessary features and save a lot of money in the initial stages.
During the initial stage, it’s important to make sure that the features you’re adding solve your target audience’s and the market’s core problems. And as you see the results, you can look at further expanding your mobile app.
This strategy of going lean with an MVP has enabled us to empower numerous partners to achieve speed to market and realize an exponential return on investments. One of which is Dimers.
Within 3 months, Dimers was able to launch and make incredible impacts. The Melbourne-conceived sports prediction web app is storming the North American Market — gaining over 1 million page views and hundreds of thousands of users within 30 days of launch!
Check out Dimers’ case study to learn more about their journey to app success.
One of the big factors that you should consider while figuring out the costs of app development is the number of platforms. The more the number of platforms, the higher will be the costs.
So, in the initial stages, it’s advisable to understand what device your target audience uses the most. Do they love using Android? Or iOS devices?
And based on that, you can develop a native app or launch your app on one platform. After seeing the response, if you think there’s a profitable demand, you can launch it on the second platform at a later stage.
This strategy has worked well with MyDeal, one of our existing mobile app clients that decided to expand with the web app experience marketplace called Amazed.
Banking on the tremendous success of MyDeal, founder Sean Senvirtne once again collaborated with Appetiser to build a responsive web application that’s set to challenge the biggest brands in the $145 billion experience marketplace industry. You’ll learn more when you read Amazed’s case study.
The beautiful thing about responsive web apps is they can be used across all devices — from desktop to mobile to tablet.
And while you’d be restricted in terms of the phone functionality you’d be able to use with responsive web apps, if you don’t really want your app to tap into your user’s phone’s full functionality, responsive mobile apps are a perfect choice.
Most app development estimates account only for the actual design and development phase expenses. However, many other expenses must be factored into the picture. Often, these include:
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- Functional costs – fees for third-party integration
- Setup costs
- Launch costs
- App maintenance costs
- Infrastructural costs – CDN, payment for server, etc.
- Management and administrative costs
- App marketing costs
To avoid hidden app development costs, it’s crucial to be diligent and proactive during the planning and development stages. Here are some tips to help you avoid unexpected expenses:
- Scope out requirements. Clearly define and document your app requirements before starting development. This will help you avoid scope creep and unnecessary additions or changes that can lead to extra costs.
- Perform due diligence. Research and choose a reputable app development company or freelance developer with a transparent pricing structure. Look for reviews, portfolios, and testimonials to ensure their track record aligns with your expectations.
- Document. Have well-defined documentation in place that outlines the project scope, deliverables, timeline, and cost structure.
- Adopt an agile development approach. Choose an approach that emphasizes iterative development and regular communication with the development team. This allows for better visibility into the progress and potential cost implications of any changes or modifications.
- Stay involved throughout the development process. Maintain open communication with your development team. Review and test the app at each stage to identify any issues early on. This reduces the chances of costly rework or major revisions later.
If you’re considering outsourcing mobile app development, it’s essential to ensure that you’re working with a reliable and trustworthy team — with proven experience driving success.
To choose the right app development partner, I advise you to follow these tips:
You’re spending top dollar on app development. As such, you’d want to make sure that you find developers who have been in the game for years and actually know what they’re doing.
This is where it’s essential to do your research and make an informed decision as possible. Talk to the developers you are considering and look at their past projects.
Working with a partner who matches your style and philosophies is vital to maximizing your chances of success and create a smooth experience.
Every good mobile app development team has a streamlined and well-established development process and methodology in place. If the company you’re screening doesn’t have a mobile app development process in place, that’s a red flag. We’d advise staying away from them.
When interviewing an app developer, ask them about their app development process and methodology. You’ll also want to ask them these five valuable questions.
As a full-journey app development company, Appetiser follows these steps to ensure our partners a holistic end-to-end experience:
- Ballpark estimates
- Project scoping and road mapping
- Building and deployment of development team
- Kanban development (code – QA – approve – repeat)
- Growth Planning
- Product launch
- Retainer (optional support and maintenance services)
App design competitions serve as platforms for companies to showcase their skills, compete with industry peers, and gain recognition for their outstanding work. These competitions often attract a diverse range of participants, including established design agencies, independent developers, and up-and-coming startups, all vying for coveted titles and accolades.
Additionally, companies that excel in app design competitions often possess a strong portfolio of award-winning apps. This impressive track record serves as a testament to their creativity, attention to detail, and ability to deliver exceptional results.
Focus on unpaid competitions that welcome everyone. Dribbble.com, Behance.com, and Uplabs.com are good starting points for research. They offer a glimpse into the top-performing companies in the app development arena.
We’re talking about results that matter to you.
If your goal is to establish a business worth $100 million, it’s worthwhile to see whether the app developer has previously built a billion-dollar app. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s best to seek out a partner with success stories of apps that went from zero to $1 million.
Similarly, if you aspire to manage a $10 million charity, it’s prudent to verify if a developer has successfully undertaken a $100 million charity project in the past.
It’s always wise to work with professionals with a track record of empowering businesses to reach their desired goals.
At Appetiser, we have a diverse portfolio that includes success stories of all business sizes — from startups to global enterprises — across various industries.
As mentioned earlier, there’s no point in having a highly functional, feature-packed app with a poor design. At the same time, there’s no point in working with a mobile app development company with tremendous design experience yet poor back-end development standards.
So, ensuring that your app development partner has excellent front-end and back-end development experience is important. This will help you ensure that the partner you’ll be hiring will handle the end-to-end process rather than outsourcing a certain part of the development process to other app development companies in their network.
In order to uphold project quality, we have implemented the Appetiser’s Gold Standards™.
These standards serve as the criteria for assessing app quality and setting industry benchmarks for both internal and external projects. When you choose to collaborate with us, you have the opportunity to develop your app alongside professionals who certify other developers in the Appetiser Gold Standards™.
A strong recruitment process ensures that the company is capable of identifying and attracting top-notch developers who possess the necessary technical and communication proficiencies.
Equally important is the focus on developer training and development. A company that invests in the growth and learning of its developers demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a high level of expertise and staying up to date with the latest industry trends and technologies.
When finding an app development partner, look for indications that they invest seriously in developer professional and personal development.
It is a frequent practice for development companies to send their employees to technical conferences and knowledge-sharing sessions. However, exceptional developers, like Appetiser, take it a step further by establishing our own mentoring programs and technical universities that offer coursework designed to facilitate continuous professional development.
These initiatives not only equip our developers with new skills but also foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
Now that you have enough insights into lean app development, the next crucial question to answer is: how do you create and manage your budget?
App development can be divided into several stages, each with its associated tasks and expenses. Here’s a breakdown of the typical stages involved in app development and the corresponding cost considerations:
This stage involves identifying project goals, target audience, app features, and defining the overall project scope. Costs can include market research, competitor analysis, user surveys, and the involvement of business analysts or consultants to refine requirements.
Estimated Cost Range: 5% to 10% of the total project cost
UI/UX design focuses on creating visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces. It includes wireframing, prototyping, creating design assets, and iterating based on feedback. Costs depend heavily on the complexity of the app, the number of screens, custom animations, and branding requirements.
Estimated Cost Range: 10% to 20% of the total project cost
The development stage involves writing code, implementing features, integrating APIs, and building the app’s backend infrastructure. Costs are influenced by numerous factors including the complexity of functionality, the number of platforms (iOS, Android, etc.), development resources’ rates, and any third-party services or tools required (more on these factors below).
Estimated Cost Range: 50% to 70% of the total project cost
Testing ensures the app functions as intended, has minimal bugs, and provides a smooth user experience. QA costs include manual and automated testing, bug fixing, device compatibility testing, security testing, and performance optimization.
Estimated Cost Range: 10% to 20% of the total project cost
This stage involves preparing the app for release, submitting it to the respective app stores (e.g., Apple’s App Store, Google Play Store), marketing, and ensuring compliance with their guidelines. Costs may include developer account fees, app store optimization, and app store release support.
Estimated Cost Range: 5% to 10% of the total project cost
Once the app is launched, ongoing maintenance and updates are necessary to address user feedback, fix bugs, and provide new features. Costs can include server hosting fees, bug fixes, performance enhancements, adding new features, and compatibility updates for new OS versions.
Estimated Cost Range: Varies based on app complexity and requirements. Generally, 15% to 25% of the total project cost per year.
🚨It’s important to note that these cost ranges are approximate and can vary based on various factors. To have a better idea of your app development cost breakdown, take into account the factors discussed above that can impact your app development budget.
Suppose you want to develop a dating app with basic features plus a video calling feature.
Here’s what your app development timeline may look like if you go with the lean MVP approach:
Estimated Total Development Weeks: 24 weeks / 6 months
Estimated Cost: $147,944
If you opt for the lean MVP approach, here’s what your development timeline and cost would look like:
Estimated Total Development Weeks: 26 weeks / 6.5 months
Estimated Cost: $154,895
If you’re considering developing an app with more complex features and functionalities, such as that of Uber, here’s what your app development timeline and cost may look like:
Estimated Total Development Weeks: 27 weeks / 6.75 months
Estimated Cost: $166,437
|💡As you can see from the samples above, time is of the essence when it comes to app development.
The longer it takes to develop an app = the higher the costs.
We understand this fact deeply at Appetiser.
We’re going to challenge you to keep things as lean as possible and launch your MVP twice as fast as most app developers’ timelines to keep your investment low!
If you’re looking to build an app, you’re not looking for something subpar or that doesn’t align with your vision.
You want something tangible and world-class.
And the first step to bringing your app development to life is really your MVP app design. That way, you can see your vision come to life, and get a much more accurate cost of your actual development.
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Here, quality is critical. Quality determines whether someone downloads your app and has a brilliant experience, or downloads and deletes it.
That’s why we at Appetiser believe in “doing it once and doing it right.” And we have the credentials to prove it.
We invest in the best design talent in the country. In order to benchmark ourselves within the industry, our team consistently competes in competitions on app design sites like Uplabs and we’re ranked #7 in the world with no other Australian company in the top 100.
At the same time, we advocate for our partners’ growth and success. We don’t want you to invest all your money at once, which is why we embraced an agile development approach that keeps you in full control of how much you would like to develop on a month-by-month basis.
We want to see you succeed — and, in our experience, that starts with a good app design. So let’s focus on that first because you’re not locked into development with us anyway.
We’d love to help you out.
Let’s chat. Schedule a free consultation today!
Jessica La is a Content and SEO Consultant at Appetiser with 6+ years in the industry. If she's not writing and optimizing content, you can find her with a cup of coffee delighting in literature or sci-fi books.
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