How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Mobile App?

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app? Well, unfortunately, there is no fixed price as the cost of a mobile app depends on the complexity of the features and functionalities required. 

As experienced mobile app developers with years of industry experience, one of the first questions we are asked by prospects with an app idea is ‘how much does it cost to develop a mobile app?’ Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer because, without much detail or background on what you’re trying to build, we’re unable to provide an accurate estimate and timeline for your project. In order to provide an accurate estimate, we need to establish what you’re hoping to create and the problem you are aiming to solve, covering your technical requirements or feature list.

Here’s how to estimate the cost of your app idea:

‍It’s important to be aware that the more complex the app concept, or the greater the scale, the more expensive it will be to develop because it requires more development hours to build. For example, the difference in time between developing a simple content-based app compared to a complex gaming app or large enterprise-level system can vary significantly, from £10,000 to over £100,000. This is because, despite common misconceptions, you’re not paying for the final product or software itself, but for the developer’s time, so the more complex the concept, the longer it will take to develop the product. By clarifying the purpose of your app and the problem you aim to solve, the platform you want to build it on and your target market/demographic, your app developers should be able to provide an accurate estimation of an app development cost and a project timeframe.‍

The following factors may affect the cost of mobile app development:

1. The complexity and scale of your app concept

When starting a digital project, whether this is within a large corporate enterprise or a startup company, you need to define the purpose of your app and the problem you’re hoping the product will solve. By mapping out the most essential features and requirements for the app, you can clarify how complex these features/requirements are. Will the app require simple/basic functionality, or will the features be more complex? The more complex your requirements are, the more hours your developers will need to work on your product and consequently, the more money it will cost you or your business. Here’s a list of some complex app concepts that your idea may fall into:‍

  • Data consumption apps
  • Login apps
  • Social networking apps
  • E-commerce apps
  • On-demand apps
  • Marketplace apps
  • Gaming apps

2. Android or iOS?

The platform you choose to launch on initially can have a large impact on the app development costs. Since iOS and Android use different languages, developing for both platforms increases the cost. If you’re trying to keep the cost down, you may want to consider launching your app on just one platform for initial roll-out, for example, iOS or Android.  iPhones and iPads still dominate the market in the UK and the US, so we often recommend launching on iOS first and then developing an Android app afterwards once you’ve gained some initial traction for the brand/product.

3. Features and Functionalities

Once you have decided what platform to use, consider the smaller details. In terms of your app’s functionality, think closely about the user journey and user experience. Does the app need a login feature or a screen that enables users to create a personal profile? Does it need a messaging service or a GPS location tracker? Again, you must remember that you’re not paying for the features themselves, you’re paying for the development time it takes to build the features, which has the biggest impact on cost. Here are a few features that typically fall on the higher end of the development cost scale:

  • Social media integration- allowing users to share content within the app
  • E-commerce- ensuring that payments are processed securely
  • User profiles- users have the capacity to register, login, and update their profile
  • Databases- an app that stores third-party data
  • Servers – are you paying for your developer’s servers?
  • 24/7 support- do you require continuous support and maintenance?

Features such as third-party API integrations and a backend admin panel are also additions that can be costly to develop. The backend is often the most overlooked part of a mobile application, but it is key to the success of the app. From the backend admin control panel, you can manage the app, content and users. You can choose to invest in an open-source CMS, or develop a bespoke backend system to fit your requirements. Depending on access levels, the amount of information the database needs to store, and its complexity, the backend system can cost from £5,000 to £30,000 to build.

It is also important to bear in mind that taking payments within the app can be expensive, especially if you are considering using external payment platforms such as Paypal or Stripe.

We recommend that the first version of any app should be stripped back to the essential features, to ensure it is approved by the store during the submission process and to keep app development costs down. This is called the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), it is an app with the minimum functionality possible whilst still providing a great solution for users. Once you have pinpointed your app’s basic functionality, it will be easier for app development agencies to provide an accurate idea of costings and timescales.

4. Discovery and Define

Appoly offers a ‘Discovery and Design’ package which acts as a useful pre-investment, laying the foundation for your mobile app. This involves carrying out detailed user research and concept refinement and using this to create a mockup of your app, including sketches, wireframes, and a UI and branding kit. We then put these together to create an interactive prototype that showcases the apps basic functionality. This provides a valuable insight into what the app will look like and how it will work before development has even started. Many startups find it useful to complete the discovery and design process first whilst they are searching for investment as the interactive prototype is a great way for investors or VC’s to visualise the brand and product. More importantly, it is also a way to gauge an estimate of how much it will cost to build so you can allocate budget accordingly. 

5. Post-Deployment: Have You Considered Marketing and Maintenance?

Marketing your app is fundamental, especially when you take into consideration how many apps are available on the App Store and Google Play Store. Therefore, you should set aside some of your total investment for marketing your app. Don’t forget, that updates and maintenance will also be a requirement beyond development, so remember these additional app development costs.

The cost of developing an app will depend on a number of factors as discussed above. Beyond this article, the Appoly team have a wealth of experience and would love to discuss the estimation process further with you. Get in touch with Appoly today so we can work with you to finalise your requirements and provide you with an estimated app development cost.

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