Mobile App Development Cost 20 min read 11.30.2019

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.

Why build a Mobile App?

We’d like you to take a quick look at the following statistics:

  • 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.

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    And as the popular saying goes, for almost everything in life, there’s an app for that.  But when it comes to mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, 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, as well as both online and offline user access and other extremely convenient features such as instant updates and push notifications, which help increase engagement between a brand and its customers. 

    But if you’re reading this, you probably already have a brilliant idea and are in the process of figuring out how to offer this idea to the public. While some entrepreneurs turn to more traditional means for connecting with their audience, an increasing number are turning to app development to offer more value to their contacts and customers. 

    This is one of the most commonly asked questions when an individual or business starts looking into developing an app. 

    And when looking for estimates and answers, it’s also common to ask “How much will it cost to hire an agency cost compared to hiring a freelance app developer?” or “Can’t I just make the app myself?”

    Our answer is going to floor you. We don’t know. 

    Not that we don’t know how much it CAN cost to develop an app, but it’s simply impossible to determine how much an app is going to cost without knowing any of the specific details of the app itself. 

    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. 

    In the following blog article, we’re going to take a look at what these factors are, as well as how they’ll play into your overall cost to develop an app. 

    The main factors to keep in mind are:

    • Supporting platforms and devices

    • Purpose/Functionality

    • Integration points

    • Visual complexity

    • Hardware features (GPS navigation, NFC, motion detection, Bluetooth)

    • Maintenance cost

    What determines the cost of an app?

    If you’re in the process of looking into developing an app, it’s important to understand that 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

    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 development firm. 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. And that these smaller, standalone apps 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.

    According to an American entrepreneur, Jason Calacanis, startups, these days, should hope to raise about $750,000 in their first year and 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 an App like Instagram or Uber

    One good example of an app’s development cost is Instagram, which had an initial $500,000 seed budget. And this rather large budget didn’t even include the cost of Android 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. 

    Both of these apps have very heavy backend aspects to them, which illustrates one extremely important point to remember: apps that require backend development cost significantly more than standalone apps. So with that said, we can deduce the fact that 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. But according to, 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 as their app continues to gain popularity amongst smartphone 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 development agencies. However, they usually charge significantly less. 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. 

    Choosing the Right Platform

    While both iOS and Android are extremely similar overall, most developers still recommend that brands develop one platform first, before developing the other, especially for younger startup companies. 

    At the same time, most developers recommend starting with an iOS app, simply because Android apps are 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. 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.

    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 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 an app. 

    Key Points To Remember

    So to sum up the cost of app development in 2020:

    • 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 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 2020, your best bet might be to look into hiring a freelance app development team on Hiremotely

    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 an entire team that is a perfect match for your project and mission. You have nothing to lose and everything to win!

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