Tech Insights

App Development: How Much Does It Cost To Build an App

Joana Almeida
- 3 min. to read

App development costs vary wildly depending on the resources you have available and the features you need. You can have an internal development team or hire one from the many development services scattered around the world, each offering different prices. Also, developing the app is only part of the hurdle, since there are maintenance costs that you should be aware of, depending on the platforms you are targeting.

So how much does it cost to build an app? Let’s find out!

How Much Does It Cost to Build an App?

The cost to develop an app has many aspects to consider but can mostly be determined depending on the features you are looking for. These will not only tell you how complex the app itself and its development will be but also what kind of people you need to do the job and thus add their work costs.

Let’s see the averages of salaries for required people to develop an app (all values were sourced from Salary.com):

JobHourly Salary (Average)
Mobile App Developer$48
UI Designer/Developer$38

These are the bare minimum positions you need to fill in your app development team to deliver a successful mobile app project.

The sum of these two salaries will give us a baseline of the price of an app since we can estimate more or less how long it will take to develop based on the features it needs. We’ll use the rounded-out value of $90 to make our math easier.

App typeAverage time of developmentCalculated average cost
Simple2-3 months$31,680 – $47,520
Average complexity3-6 months$47,520 – $95,040
Complex6-9+ months$95,040 – $142,560+

These are, of course, basic estimates and do not account for the many, many intricacies of software development. Just as an example, a complex app would likely need more than just two people working on it, which would drive up the costs significantly.

Just by adding one more developer, we get an immediate ~56% cost increase:

App typeAverage time of development2 person team3 person team
Simple2-3 months$31,680 – $47,520$49,280 – $73,920
Average complexity3-6 months$47,520 – $95,040$73,920 – $147,840
Complex6-9+ months$95,040 – $142,560$147,840 – $221,760+

And this is just a small adjustment in the grand scheme of project development. Projects of this size will usually incur other fees, some small, others not so much, that can bloat a project’s price.

Features

Features will be the main driver of an app’s price since they take time to develop translating into developer wages. Usually, they will fall into 5 main categories:

  • Design
    • Industry of the App: Education, Health, etc. The industry dictates a few of the other features on the list.
    • Version of the Product: From initial design to fully-featured app, and anything in between, such as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
    • Required platforms: iOS, Android, and others.
    • UI Complexity: Should UI be themed according to the brand? Include animations?
    • Communication with other physical devices: Either through WiFi, Bluetooth, or another technology.
    • The number of roles for the app: Should the app have different interfaces and user experiences based on the permissions of the user? Common roles include customer, service provider (e.g. a specific shop and its employees), and service manager (e.g. the whole brand’s manager).
  • In-App Management
    • Multi-language support
    • Log-in methods: Can be any combination of e-mail, social network accounts, or text messages.
    • User payments: Does the app offer services for a price? How is that amount collected? Once when downloaded? One-time fees? Periodically? Each will require different methods of payment.
  • Communication
    • Feeds and Timelines: Either owner-generated or user-generated or possibly both.
    • Types of Content: Text, photos, audio, video, live streaming, etc.
    • User-to-user communication: Chats and Calls.
    • Geo-location: Can be as easy as placing pins on a map to very complicated by calculating routes and directions.
    • Scheduling activities: Either in a calendar for the user only, or reserving time slots in an external schedule.
    • Push Notifications
  • Interactivity
    • Integration with 3rd Party APIs
    • Gratification mechanics: Such as Likes and Ratings.
    • Gamification
  • Security and Maintenance
    • Level of Security: From authorization, e-mail confirmations, etc.
    • Compliance with standards: Health information and Data Privacy Laws will force some of these.

It’s easy to imagine that mobile app development pricing can quickly add up with every feature that it requires. Depending on the complexity of each of these features, the prices can weigh quite a lot on the final budget.

Development Team

The development team you’ll hire will also dictate the costs associated with creating an app. Here we present 4 solutions with increasing associated costs.

1. Freelancers

Freelancers are a good option when you want to make an MVP and test out some features. Depending on their skill, drive, and the project’s complexity, they can also be a good solution to develop full applications from start to finish.

Estimated Cost: Highly depends on the country of the freelancer in question. Hourly rates for mobile app developers in some select countries are as follows:

CountryAverage Hourly Wage
USA$48
India$6
Germany$32
Brazil$9
Poland$11

Advantages:

  • One of the cheapest solutions, where you can get the product at a fraction of the price.

Disadvantages:

  • Depending on the reputation and skill of the freelancer, their work quality can range from great to bad.
  • Less accountability.

2. Outsourcing

Outsourcing provides the best ratio between the quality of the finished app and the price. Depending on the Outsourcing company’s location, you can get your project done for a fraction of the price you would with other companies and with equivalent or higher quality.

Estimated Cost: You can easily find companies that provide you with a quality service for $25-$50 per expert per hour. It all comes down to the negotiation of features and hours required.

Advantages:

  • Extremely cost-effective.
  • High-quality work.
  • Accountability.

Disadvantages:

3. Local Companies

Local Companies are much like outsourcing companies, only they can be reached physically with minimal effort.

Estimated Cost: Much like outsourcing companies, a local company’s prices will be based on their estimated hours to complete the project. However, local agencies will usually have higher prices, ranging from $100-$150 per expert depending on the locale.

Advantages:

  • No communication barriers.
  • High-quality work.
  • Accountability.
  • If you’re developing a highly locale-sensitive application, they can provide first-hand experience and test on-site.

Disadvantages:

  • Far costlier than outsourcing options with no visible quality improvements.

4. In-house Team

If you want an app and full control over its development, the in-house team is the way to go, if you can afford it. This team can either work on-site or you can hire remote developers to form an international team, an option that is far more cost-effective, increases the available talent pool, and can help promote the diversity of your staff.

Estimated costs: Annual salary averages for needed positions to form a team are:

JobAnnual Salary (Average)
Senior Mobile App Developer$124,069
Mobile App Developer$99,115
UI Designer/Developer$78,880

You’ll want at least one of each, but depending on the size of the app you’re creating you’ll need more than one, and also other specialists such as Quality Assurance (QA) analysts. Depending on the type of project and needed features you may also want to hire specialists in other fields such as Cloud Solutions, AR/VR, etc.

Advantages:

  • Full control over development.
  • You gain or cement a capable team able to deliver the product and provide support for it without the need for 3rd parties.

Disadvantages:

  • Can become a pricey option, since all management costs of the team will be on your company. However, you can offset some of these costs by hiring remotely.

Time and Money Issues to Develop an App

The answer to “how much does an app cost?” is not only based on features and team but also on costs associated with the various steps in the development process. The steps can be influenced directly by the other two elements but also have inherent costs associated with them.

Discovery and Requirements Analysis

This is the starting stage, where both the client and the development team sit down and discuss the types of features the app needs and how to go about and implementing them. Design Documents are created and will serve as references for the rest of the project’s lifespan.

This part of the project is usually short and relatively cheap and helps a lot with organizing the rest of the project. Do not skim on it, or you’ll regret it later.

Development

Development is always the main bulk of the app creation process. It includes several steps and uses management methods that roll out features on a sprint-by-sprint basis.

How much does it cost to develop an app? Development usually represents the largest chunk of the budget and is where usually more issues crop up that may interfere with it.

The complexity of the app is usually the first indicator. The number of features the app needs and their integration with one another will dictate just how complex the design is. This will affect not only the code base but also visual design areas, such as UI/UX and branding.

Target platforms are the other big complexity factor. If the app is to be developed concurrently for more than one platform, the team can either use a hybrid app development framework or develop both simultaneously using native code, which is quite more expensive and work-intensive, but usually slightly more performant.

Testing

Testing is very important in an app’s development cycle, especially if the user base of the app is expected to be large. Developers need to deliver a fully-featured product and as free of bugs and security exploits as possible.

This is where the QA Analysts come in.

JobHourly Salary (Average)
QA Analyst$40
QA Manager$65

Adding these two positions to your team will implicate a higher budget (cost is the sum of both positions over the project’s lifespan).

App typeAverage time of developmentCalculated average cost
Simple2-3 months$36,960 – $55,440
Average complexity3-6 months$55,440 – $110,880
Complex6-9+ months$110,880 – $166,320+

Marketing

Much like Testing and QA, Business and Marketing are integral to a public app’s success, but for different reasons. No one will know about your marvelous and life-changing app if you don’t market it!

The marketing team can be comprised of many roles, but let’s examine the most common:

JobHourly Salary (Average)
Business Analyst$32
Social Media Manager$26

Adding these two positions to your team will implicate a higher budget (cost is the sum of both positions over the project’s lifespan).

App typeAverage time of developmentCalculated average cost
Simple2-3 months$20,416 – $30,624
Average complexity3-6 months$30,624 – $61,248
Complex6-9+ months$61,248 – $91,872+

Although we are making these calculations over the project’s whole lifespan, you could probably get away with only involving the marketing team in the later phases of the project. However, for the greatest chance of success, involving these experts from the beginning is fundamental. 

Maintenance

An app’s development is usually not over when it hits the app stores. After publishing, updates help maintain the app’s longevity by squashing any bugs that appear and developing new features to keep it fresh.

This will usually be the responsibility of a fraction of the development team and, as such, reduces the costs of this stage considerably. However, you should keep this in mind to increase the app’s longevity.

Depending on how long you want to provide support for the app, you can estimate the cost of your development team over that time at a reduced capacity.

How Much Does it Cost to Build an App Worldwide?

Overseas markets for mobile development apps are extremely competitive, with emerging markets such as India or Poland delivering quality apps at a fraction of the price.

The main reason attributed for these competitive prices is due to the lower cost of living in those countries. As such, companies looking for quality services can hire these agencies and get lower budgets for the same product.

For comparison’s sake, let’s review the prices for the same application with different hourly rates.

Let’s assume, for simplicity:

  • 1 Mobile App Developer
  • 400 hours of work (roughly 2 months)
CountryAverage Hourly WageCost of Development
India$6$2,400
Brazil$9$3,600
Mexico$9$3,600
Poland$11$4,400
Singapore$26$10,400
Ireland$26$10,400
Australia$31$12,400
Canada$32$12,800
Germany$32$12,800
Japan$32$12,800
USA$48$19,200

India is one of the most competitive countries with the smallest average cost of development, being 8 times cheaper than the average US developer. Brazil, Mexico, and Poland are also very competitive markets with slightly higher wages, with Brazil and Mexico being about 5 times cheaper than their US counterparts and Poland about 4 times cheaper.

In short, if you’re considering making an app, make sure you do your research and look for companies overseas. Their prices can be extremely enticing and make fewer holes in your budget. But be aware that these prices can come at the cost of quality, communication issues (either from language barriers or time zones), or both. Do extensive research and choose carefully before committing to any option.

FAQs

1. Can you build an App for free?


You’ve probably heard of the concept of the Iron Triangle, also called the “good, cheap, fast” triangle. It revolves around the idea that for anything done in life, including software projects, you can pick only two indicators, and the third is sacrificed as a consequence.

The answer to the question if you can build an app for free follows this concept closely. It may seem “free”, but it won’t actually be. Something will always be sacrificed in the process.

You can try and develop it on your own, making it relatively cheap or even “free”, but if you want it to have the bare minimum of quality expected of mobile apps in today’s market, you’ll have to sacrifice a lot of time. That time can work against you since the world of app development goes by so fast that new paradigms can surface during all that time, rendering your app obsolete very fast.

So the short answer is no. You can take measures to make it less expensive with savvy business decisions, but making an app truly for free is not a feasible strategy, especially in today’s market.

2. How much does it cost to hire someone to build an App?


According to established aggregate sites such as Clutch and GoodFirms, mobile app development firms usually charge between $25 and $50 per hour, depending on where you hire your services. Some will charge more, and the prices can reach $200 per hour. As we’ve established, relatively small changes like these can easily make a project’s budget explode. It’s important to consider whether paying more will give you more value in these cases.

Build Your Own Mobile App with Our Help!

We hope you came out with a good understanding of the answer to the question “how much does it cost to make an app?”.

Every case is different. With so many variables, it’s impossible to provide specific estimates. Every app is a development case that should be studied and planned carefully to ensure the maximum possibilities of success. But we hope we’ve provided an in-depth analysis of the incurring costs and how you can estimate an app’s development cost based on your needs.

Still unsure about how much it costs to create an app? Talk to us, and we’ll be able to present you with expert developers that can help you bring your mobile app visions to life with very competitive wages!

Subscribe to our newsletter and get exclusive content and bloopers

or Share this post

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

I NEED A JOB