What’s the cost of developing a mobile app?
Fortunately, answering that question is easier thanks to the studies and surveys on the topic. For example, VDC Research surveyed application developers and it turned out that organizations need more than six months to build and deploy a single mobile application, spending $140,000 on average. Kinvey survey among CIOs found that mobile development can be more costly, with organizations spending an average of $270,000 per app.
Clutch has also carried out a survey among 12 of its leading mobile application development companies, asking about the number of hours required for building a mobile app. On that basis, it calculated the median cost at $171,450, stating the most important cost drivers. Among them were data storage, third-party integrations, data encryption, scalability, and access to enterprise data.
Read on to find out more about the cost of developing a mobile app, critical cost drivers, and best practices for reducing the expenses involved in building a mobile app.
Why is mobile app development so expensive?
When it comes to mobile development, costs may vary dramatically depending on what kind of app we want to build and with whom.
For example, you’ll see substantial differences in development costs between hiring freelance developers, building an in-house team, or partnering with a software development agency like us. Similarly, creating a mobile app which is completely standalone will be much cheaper than building one that requires API integration or back-end server build.
It’s natural that companies want to know how much app development costs before making an investment decision. Since every app development process involves many factors that influence the final cost figure, all we can do is come up with an estimate.
Luckily, we know about several app development budget-forming factors that help to shape the estimate. Here’s the app development cost breakdown:
- Functionality and purpose – the features included in the app.
- Supported mobile platforms and devices – this is a question about whether an app will be developed for both iOS and Android or just one of them. Another key decision influencing the budget is which devices family and orientation the app will support – for example, will the app support only mobile phones or tablets? Will it be accessible only in the portrait mode or also in the landscape mode?
- Third-party integrations – is the app going to be integrated with third-party services that will act as the source of its content?
- Visuals – every app needs graphic design, but some may be more complex (and costly) than others. The complexity of visual objects in an app will have a massive impact on the development cost. For example, a 3D animation featured in the app will increase the development effort (and its cost) dramatically.
- Use of a hardware features – another critical cost driver is the use of hardware features such as camera, GPS navigation, NFC, motion co-processor and many other technologies packed into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
- App maintenance plan – estimating development costs doesn’t end with the app development itself. Many companies forget that once the development project is over, the app will require technical support – and that generates costs as well.
How long does it take to develop a mobile app – and why?
Answering this question is challenging as well because of the development time, just like its cost, depends on the complexity of the app. However, we can get an approximate idea of how many weeks it my take to develop apps by dividing them into small, mid-sized, and large.
Let’s take a social networking application as an example.
A small social networking app will have a limited number of screens and deliver simple functionalities to users. It would allow logging in, display a newsfeed, an offer the option to connect with friends. Such apps usually generate limited amounts of analytic data.
It usually takes teams around 35 hours to design a small app and 400 hours to develop it, delivering it as quickly as under three months (depending on team size).
A mid-sized app would feature all of the above, including extra features such as geo-localization, support for formats like video, advanced sharing settings (for example, to other platforms), and device integrations (for instance, giving users access to their contact book or the device’s camera).
More complex apps usually take around 70 hours of design and 600 hours of development, but these approximations may vary depending on the unique requirements of your project. They’re usually developed by a mid-sized team with a project lead.
A large social networking app would include all the features of the small and mid-sized app mentioned above – and then some more! For example, it would support multiple languages, photo and video editing options, and sophisticated algorithms that offer personalized content and connection suggestions.
According to BuildFire, enterprise apps take around 140 hours to design and 800 hours to develop. Most of the time, a large development team works on the app with occasional support from other teams – and always in close collaboration with the designer.
Now you can see that the more complex the app, the longer it takes to develop. Until the development process is fully planned, it’s impossible to predict the time developers will take to create your app.
Another key factor driving mobile development time and cost is the platform for which we choose to develop our app – or if we’re aiming for a multi-platform release. Cross-platform development can bring companies substantial time savings in this area.
In general, developing apps for Android is a little more labor-intensive – and therefore, more costly. On the other hand, many companies develop for iOS because Apple users tend to spend more on mobile apps. iOS apps are known to generate more revenue.
How to lower the cost of developing a mobile app
Fortunately, there are several aspects of mobile development which you can use to reduce the cost of developing a mobile app.
Invest in planning
The project of building a mobile app for your business needs to be backed up by solid planning. Mobile development is a costly and time-consuming project, no matter the size of your app. That’s why you need to brainstorm your ideas with team members and choose the one that will provide the customer with the best experience. Plan the process and create a comprehensive brief that includes critical business and technical requirements of your app. Approaching potential development teams or freelancers with this document will make everyone’s life easier and ensure the success of your project.
Pick the platform
It’s smart to make the decision about your target platform early on. If you’re short on funding, you’ll probably have to choose only one platform instead of targeting them all. Find out which platform your target audience prefers and build your app for it to maximize its ROI. And if you find out that your customers like both iOS and Android, take advantage of cross-platform development technologies. They allow developers to build two applications out of a single code base.
Outsource the process
Building a mobile app in-house may sound like a good idea because you’ll have more control over the process. But hiring mobile developers can be very costly and time-consuming. When you outsource app development to an agency, you don’t need to pay a fixed salary to any developers – you’ll be paying for their services by the hour. Teaming up with a software development agency offers another advantage: you get to benefit from the experience and domain-knowledge of the development team you hire. Agencies realize many projects across industries and will share their expertise to help you make the best choices for your app.
Building a mobile app is an expensive process, regardless of your product’s complexity. By simplifying your app and making smart technology choices, you can drive the development cost down and ensure that your app brings maximum benefits to your organization.
Are you looking for expert mobile developers? Get in touch with us; we have plenty of experience in building amazing mobile applications for clients across many industries.