Mobile App Development Cost in 2021 [Updated]
In this guide, we have covered the top factors that impact the overall cost of app development like the cost of hiring app developers, designers, required features & maintenance costs.
And as the popular saying goes, for almost everything in life, “there’s an app for that.” When it comes to having a mobile app for a company or a business, the benefits are practically endless! Not only are mobile apps faster than traditional websites, but they can also be used to offer more personalized content, offer both online and offline access to users, and other extremely convenient features such as instant updates and push notifications. All of this together can immensely help increase engagement between a company and its customers.
But if you’re reading this, chances are that you already have a brilliant idea to make a mobile app and are in the process of figuring out how to start the app development process and turn your idea into reality. This is where we are here to help!
Drawing on our years of experience working with app developers and clients, this guide on app development cost in 2021 is going to offer some of our expert advice on what to expect for the overall cost of an app development project, the different ways that you can try to lower the cost to make an app, and some important things to consider as you start the process of hiring an app developer for your team.
So first, why build a mobile app in the first place?
Why build a Mobile App?
When looking for why a mobile app could help your business or company, let’s first take a look at some statistics regarding mobile app usage today:
- 49% of people open an app 11+ times per day.
- Out of those, 21% of Millennials open an app 50+ times per day.
- Roughly 57% of all digital media usage is performed via an app.
- The average person uses about 30 different apps per month on their smartphone or tablet.
As the figures above highlight, a mobile app can be a huge way to improve the user experience and reach of your company or business. People are using mobile apps all of the time and with the right mobile app, you can do a lot to grow your company. However going into the mobile app development process can be daunting, and we want to help you feel prepared to hire the right app developers for our development team and have a good grasp of the average cost to develop a mobile app.
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What does Mobile App Development Cost?
When looking for estimates and answers on mobile app development cost, a few common questions we often get asked are, "How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?" or “How much does it cost to hire an app development company compared to hiring a freelance app developer?” or "How much should I estimate for my mobile app budget?"
Our answer may surprise you - We don’t know!
Not that we don’t know how much app development CAN cost, but it’s simply impossible to determine how much does it cost without knowing any of the specific details of the app itself. There are so many factors that can influence the app development cost. In fact, the cost of each and every app development project takes into account a wide range of factors that can have a drastic effect on its overall development cost. Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a full app development cost breakdown so you will know which things to look for to estimate the cost to build a mobile app.
What Determines App Development Costs?
When starting to think about an app development project, there are some basic features to consider when developing your app idea, mobile app design, and app development budget. The way that you think about these factors in the discovery stage of the mobile app that can influence the final price tag of your mobile app.
The main factors to keep in mind are:
- Supporting platforms and devices
- Integration points
- Visual complexity
- Hardware features (GPS navigation, NFC, motion detection, Bluetooth)
- Maintenance cost
Looking deeper into these main factors is essential for understanding the hidden app development costs that may appear in throughout the app development process. Before we get into the average cost of app development, we are going to take a look at some app development cost based factors that can influence the overall price tag of your project.
Supporting Platforms and Devices
While both iOS and Android apps are extremely similar overall, most developers still recommend that brands develop a native app on one platform first, before developing the other, especially for younger startup companies. This is why choosing the platform and devices that you want your apps on at the beginning is a good first step.
While it can be different for each company, most developers recommend starting with an iOS app, simply because an Android app is significantly more complicated to build. And in some cases, the process might even take 2 or 3 times longer than developing the app for iOS. But at the same time, roughly 75% of smartphone users are using an Android-compatible device and an Android app can reach a large amount of app users. Still, Apple prevails in the fact that it has a much larger paying audience. In other words, Apple users are more likely to be willing to pay for an app compared to Android users.
However don't feel like your mobile apps will only be able to stay on one platform! After your native apps have grown in usage or popularity on one platform, it is possible to hire a development team to do cross platform app development and have your apps on multiple platforms. Developing for both Android and iOS at the same time can be very expensive, but if you have a high initial app development budget and are prepared to pay for the mobile app development costs, then you can hire a mobile app development company to make your app compatible with both iOS and Android platforms.
If you decide you want an iOS app, then you will likely be looking to hire a Swift Developer for your development team. After you have decided the platform, then the next question is to look at the purpose and function of your apps.
Purpose and Function of your Mobile App
The overall purpose of the app is important to know because it will help to determine whether you are going to need a complex app or a simple mobile app. Furthermore, the function of your app can determine what kind of app features you are going to need. For instance, if you are looking to develop an enterprise app, which is an app that is used by employees in a company or a large organization, then you are going to need a highly complex app that is capable of handling large amounts of data, which would likely have a very high development cost. Or if you wanted to make consumer apps, which are designed more for personal use, then you would need to think more about the visual components and app marketing. In this way, the purpose and the function of the mobile app are essential to estimate app development cost and build a good app development strategy.
Visual Complexity of Mobile Apps
The visual complexity of a mobile app is something that any app development team will consider at the start of a project. The complexity of the visual part of an app will influence the app architecture, overall development time, and cost to develop your apps. For many businesses, having a visually stunning app with new features is something that is very appealing, however they often don't consider how the app complexity will factor into the higher app development cost. This is where a highly skilled developer, project manager, or development agency can help to give realistic expectations depending on your app development budget. However, even if you have a low budget to work with, you can still hire a software development team to build an app that works for you!
Hardware Features of a Mobile App
Choosing which hardware features that you want is an important part of estimating the app development cost. For example, if you are looking to build an app that shows different places in a city, then you would need to consider the app development cost for building location based services like GPS into your mobile app. Or if you want to develop an app that is centered around building social connections or has important information that you want to share with your users, then you would need to consider adding features like push notifications. App features like push notifications add to the app complexity and overall app cost. However, most apps don't require all of the most complex app features and having a good sense of what hardware features that will increase the app functionality will help to save you in development time and app development cost.
App Maintenance Cost
The long-term maintenance costs of mobile apps is an essential feature that many projects forget to include in their app development budget. It can be easy to get excited in the early app development stages and focus more on the app design and features, but remembering about app maintenance is a really important part of a good mobile app development strategy. No one likes it when their mobile apps have errors or crash while they are using them! And as your mobile apps grow, app maintenance becomes crucial in offering a good user experience to your clients. This is also where competent app developers can do app testing and look for potential errors across the different development stages.
Things to Consider about App Development Cost
If you’re in the process of looking into developing an app, it’s important to understand that app development costs can vary wildly depending on the specific features and details you’ll want to be incorporated into it. For example, apps that need their own backend servers or those that will have integrated APIs will cost significantly more than standalone apps. And it’s the same as how your cost can vary significantly whether you decide to hire a development agency or a freelancer to do the work.
And because of the fact that costs can vary so much, we’re going to approach the question from a few different sides to help you get a better idea of potential costs.
First, we’ll take a look at what one industry leader believes to be the necessary amount of capital needed for the development of a new app. And secondly, we’re going to examine some of the actual numbers involved in developing major apps such as Instagram and Uber.
We’ll also take a look at a number of factors that can influence the cost, as well as the difference between working with an agency or a freelance team to develop your app.
The Basic Cost Of Less Complex Apps
One question that we would like to now try to answer is how much does it cost to build a basic app. According to research, about $40,000 - $80,000 is a decent starting point for most run-of-the-mill apps. If you don’t have this sort of investment capital, you’ll still be able to design and develop an app. But, you won’t likely be able to work with any sort of reputable mobile app development company. But don’t worry, there are thousands of highly-qualified freelance developers out there, that would be happy to work with you.
However, it’s important to understand that even apps that don’t need a backend server or any type of API integration are still complicated and challenging to build. A smaller, standalone basic app can still cost well into the six-figures for development. But at the same time, some API integrated apps might only cost five figures. It really boils down to the specific features the app will offer to its users.
As a more generalized rule of thumb, you can probably take some of the following numbers from Instagram and Uber, and divide them in two to help understand the cost of apps without any backend servers or integrated APIs.
In the end, to develop a decent quality app with a professional firm, you can expect to pay an average of $50,000 just to get your app off the ground, and don't forget about the app maintenance costs that will come along later down the road.
According to American entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, startups these days should hope to raise about $750,000 in their first year and spend a half of funding to cover the cost of developing an app. While this number isn’t the cost of the app itself (although some apps cost far more than this over the course of their lifetime), it does go to illustrate the fact that designing and creating a quality app isn’t as cheap as you might like to think.
Calacanis estimates that about $35,000 of this, per month, should be allocated to paying for a development team. And since it usually takes roughly 4 to 6 months to develop a v1.0 app, by multiplying this by $35,000 per month, it can cost anywhere between $140,000 to $210,000 to develop a launchable v1.0 app.
Cost to Build a Mobile App like Instagram or Uber
One good example of an app development cost is Instagram, which had an initial $500,000 seed budget. Even more, this rather large budget didn’t even include the cost of Android app development. Today, creating an Instagram clone app costs anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000. Another popular example is Uber, which had an initial $1,500,000 seed budget, which was followed up by another much higher round of funding. Of course, these are some of the largest apps on the market today and have help from a custom software development company so their budget is much higher than the average company. However, it does illustrate just how high the app development cost can get when you want to build an app as big as Uber or Instagram!
Both of these apps also have very heavy backend aspects to them, which illustrates one extremely important point to remember: to develop an app that requires backend development costs significantly more than standalone apps. So with that said, we can deduce the fact that developing apps with more complex user interfaces and those that require any sort of significant backend development typically cost between $250,000 and $1,500,000.
Freelance App Developer or App Development Agency
Many of the larger, app-focused agencies won’t even consider working with a company unless they have a budget up towards $100,000 for the development of their app. In fact, upon initial consultation, it’s not uncommon for companies to get quotes of $25,000+ for very basic apps, $40,000+ for medium complexity apps, and $70,000+ for complex apps. But again, this is for larger companies that have significantly bigger budgets for app development. According to BlueFletch.com, your typical 1.0 version of an app in 2019 was somewhere between $140,000 to $210,000, which usually includes some backend server development and/or API integration.
However, in many cases, the total spend per app will be higher because businesses are always looking to design and release new features, and do app marketing as their app continues to gain popularity among other app users. Today, you don’t actually see all that many standalone apps. However, if this is the type of app that you’re looking to develop, hiring a freelance developer might be the better choice for your project.
In fact, many freelancers are just as skilled as the in-house staff working for major app development companies. However, they usually have a significantly less app development cost. Not only will you be able to work on developing an app for your business, but you’ll also be able to save money as well.
Building More Than Just Another App
Always keep in mind that building a high-quality, successful app isn’t a small task. In fact, it takes a wide range of different skills and expertise in order for an app to gain popularity and entice smartphone owners to actually start using it.
It’s also important to note that there are many additional costs to app development that go beyond the initial v1.0 price, which typically only includes project management costs such as UX, design, and development of a launchable app.
With that being said, you’re going to want to include a minimum app budget for ongoing updates and security patches, as well as any other maintenance you’ll need to perform in the future. And if you’re really looking at the bigger picture, there are even more costs to consider such as paying yourself, paying for any type of customer service management (unless you plan on doing this yourself), as well as the cost of marketing and advertising your app to the world. These are all the additional costs that Jason Calacanis included in his $750,000 estimate for app development from above.
Fortunately, these additional costs are often included in the total cost when hiring a consulting firm to help with the development of your app. But if you’re an individual or smaller startup, just make sure to keep these costs in mind when trying to estimate the cost of developing mobile applications.
Key Points To Remember for Mobile App Development Cost
So to sum up the information covered above about app development cost in 2021:
- The overall cost of app development is mostly based on its features, complexity, and supporting platforms.
- Apps that require backend servers or APIs cost significantly more.
- Costs vary significantly depending on who you hire to build your app (agency vs. freelance programmer)
- Make sure to include updates, marketing, and other additional costs in your app budget.
- Apps designed and built by small freelance teams cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000*
- Apps designed and built by smaller digital agencies can run anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000*.
- Apps designed and built by major development agencies can cost you between $100,000 to $500,000*
Why Hire A Freelance App Developer To Build An App?
If you’re looking to develop an app in 2021, your best bet might be to look into hiring a freelance app development team on Hiremotely. On our site, you can find developers with experience with both Android and iOS apps.
Not only can hiring a freelance developer save you money, but most freelancers are just as qualified as the employees at an in-house agency for developing high-quality, successful apps. The main difference is that hiring a freelance team is the most cost-effective. Plus, you’ll get to work one-on-one with your freelancers, as opposed to working with a representative from a firm who is simply outsourcing the work.
We suggest you give it a shot. Fill out a simple form, wait for 48 hours, and we’ll provide you with a single developer or entire development teams that are a perfect match for your project and mission. You have nothing to lose and everything to win!