• Project management
  • by Krzysztof Sowa
  • 03/07/2019

Mobile app development cost – how to estimate a mobile app development project

So, you have an idea for a mobile app? You’re probably wondering about what kind of budget you need to realize your idea. Estimating mobile app development cost can be tricky, but with some preparation and research, you’ll be on your way to creating a realistic estimate for your project.

Here’s everything you need to know about estimating mobile app development.

1. Understand the process of developing mobile apps

Before setting out to create an estimate for your project, you need to get a firm grasp of what developing a mobile app actually entails. An application development life cycle includes several distinct work phases where developers to plan, design, build, test, and deliver the app.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

  • Step 1: Business analysis and planning – the first step to successful development is careful planning and market research. The team carries out a SWOT analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the solution to develop the right approach.
  • Step 2: Functional requirements – this is a document that helps in defining the app’s technical specifications and agreeing on all the app’s features.
  • Step 3: Design and prototyping – in the next phase, the team designs the app’s interfaces and develops a prototype, a working model of the app that tests the viability of the client’s idea.
  • Step 4: Development – this is where the development team sits down to develop the frontend and backend of the app to equip it with the required functionality.
  • Step 5: Testing and QA – the team tests the app manually and automatically at every development stage for quality assurance.
  • Step 6: Publication – finally, the team submits the app to app stores.

And that’s how a mobile app enters the market!

Read also: How to set a software project budget?

2. Key factors in mobile app development cost

The cost of developing a mobile app will depend on these three main factors:

a. Labor costs

The cost of the actual work put into developing your app is the primary driver of its price. Your estimation will look completely different if you decide to hire freelance developers, build an in-house development team, or outsource the entire project to a software development agency.

All these options come with their pros and cons. But when choosing the method of developing your software, be aware that that cheap never means good. Most of the time, it means cheap now and very expensive later on when you discover some serious bugs that ruin the user experience in your app.

Note: Your app development team and its associated cost will reflect the complexity of your app. A basic mobile app development team includes a project manager, UX/UI designer, mobile and backend developers, and QA engineers. An extended development team can consist of professionals like Security Expert, System Architect, DevOps, Graphic Designer and more.

b. Operating systems and devices

The second factor that drives the cost of developing your mobile app is its technical complexity.

First, you need to choose one or both mobile operating systems:

  • Apple iOS – an iOS app needs to support the latest and previous versions of iOS. But the investment is worth it because these users are more willing to pay for apps or make in-app purchases.
  • Android – this platform has a more in-depth market penetration, attracting middle-income users who like to use apps for free. Reaching a broad audience means that you could finance your app with in-app advertising. However, since the world of Android devices is much more diverse, you need to think well before deciding which devices your app will support.
  • You can develop a hybrid app that works for both platforms thanks to technologies such as Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin.

If you want to reach as many users as possible, you may need to build an app for both platforms – and this strategic decision with drive up your project’s costs significantly. In fact, the more devices you choose, the more time and energy it will take to adapt your app for various screen sizes, resolutions, and hardware specs.

c. App features

The last key determinant of mobile app development cost is the number and type of features you plan to include in your product.

When it comes to features, we can divide mobile apps into three types:

Simple apps

Such apps perform basic functions and require no complex features like third-party integration. Simple apps usually include features such as social login, standard UI components, push notifications, or personal profile.

Medium-complexity apps

These apps may require the integration of a third-party solution to function – for example, to enable payment features or real-time chat. Moreover, such apps may contain customized UI features, multiple integrations with APIs, and a backend server.

High-complexity apps

These apps offer users a broad range of advanced functionalities locked in a well-designed user interface. High-complexity apps offer features such as complex backend, custom design, and animation, audio/video streaming, real-time data synchronization, third-party services integration, and in-app purchases.

Read also: How to develop MVP? 3-Point Checklist You Need!

Here are some of the most common features that impact development costs:

Third-party integrations

To deliver value, mobile apps may require integration with third-party libraries, frameworks, and services. Developers use these integrations to build app functionalities faster and cheaper, instead of spending time on crafting custom solutions. Some of the most common ready-made solutions are social media sharing function, real-time chats, and payment features.

In-app purchases

One of the most common monetization strategies, in-app purchases allow selling items directly inside the app, be it virtual or material items, premium content, or subscriptions. In-app purchases add some extra technical complexity to the project.

Quality custom design

Your app’s design is often just as important as the functionalities it delivers. Mobile apps need to be well-designed and visually appealing to deliver an amazing user experience on small screens. A custom design prepared by professional graphic and UX/UI designers can cost a lot, but an outstanding design will give a real quality boost to your app.

Admin panel development

An admin panel is a tool that makes it easier to manage in-app operations such as users, content, view statistics, and data analytics. You can also use it to add new content to your app, which is really important if you want to deliver an optimal experience to users looking for fresh content.

3. Don’t forget about app maintenance costs and support

Building a mobile app isn’t only about its development – other costs you need to include maintenance and support costs. You’ll need to allocate resources to pay a team to maintain, support, and update the app over a specified period. In general, expect to spend around twice the amount of your initial app development costs to maintain and update your mobile app over two years.

mobile app development cost

4. Start by creating an MVP

Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a smart move that helps to save a lot of time and money on initial development, at the same time minimizing the risk of investing in a product that doesn’t match user needs. An MVP is a version of your product that includes only core functionaries.

By testing it with users, you’ll learn what features they need and identify issues before they become serious problems. The best way to build an MVP or MVP documentation is partnering with an experienced software development agency that will advise you on what to do and what to avoid.

The takeaway

We hope that this guide helps you in estimating your app accurately. Take these factors into account, and you’ll be on your way to building a realistic estimate that supports your project on its way to success.

Are you looking for mobile app developers? Get in touch with us; we have developed many mobile apps for companies across different industries.

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Krzysztof Sowa

Technical Project Manager in Concise Software with a developer background, especially in mobile apps (Google Certified Associate Android Developer) and automotive systems. Scrum lover, certificated Professional Scrum Master I & AgilePM, who loves sharing their knowledge with IT communities (e.g. GDG). Husband, father and passionate photographer @ The Owls Photography.

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