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How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?

March 25, 2015

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At the center of every purchasing decision is the four letter word called ‘Cost’. Building an App is no different. At July, we spend our daily life speaking with decision makers at various startups, SMBs and large enterprises to translate their ideas into a successful mobile product. The first question that we come across during these discussions is “how much does it cost to make a mobile app?”

There are many articles written around this topic, but yet the answer to this question is not as straightforward as it seems! Why? Well, when you decide to shop for clothing and accessories, there is always an available option of doing budget shopping by hunting for the nearest Old Navy or Costco. If you are in the mood to get some affordable luxury, Banana Republic is perhaps the place to go as Louis Vuitton, Coach and Prada is for the style and status conscious.

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Similarly app studios are positioned differently and provide services of different genres and industries. You will find that the remotely working, freelancer turned ‘mom n pop’ development studio will charge you peanuts to make an app, but they will be unreliable and scratchy in their overall build quality. You will also find large outsourcing companies that work best in multi-million dollar engagements that are focused on specific domains such as banking and financial services where they have deep industry knowledge but are hardly innovative or willing to push the envelope for design and UX. You will also come across app studios that have built their brand by focusing on design and engineering capabilities, delivering value for all types of companies, but specifically in the mobility space.

Hence when you read this article, keep in mind that the cost predictions are largely focused on the type of projects that we execute at July Systems. To put it in one line, our focus is on mobility and mobile based solutions (that includes front end mobile apps, mobile web apps, server component, APIs, cloud based deployment, ongoing monitoring and support etc). We build mobility solutions for startups, SMBs & large enterprises and deliver value through the combination of high end design & engineering (custom & platform). The cost of building a mobile based solution with us can range from about $15,000 to over $1 million depending on various components. It is essential to understand the components involved in building a mobile solution to understand the costing. The cost of developing a mobile app suite can vary based on the following components:

The Platform

What platforms will your app run on?

mobile-app-platforms

The cost of building an app can slightly vary based on each platform. Evidently, the more number of platforms you want to cover the more money you would have to pay (It is not always 2X since reusability will remain a key focus while porting). When you have an innovative idea, it could be fascinating to build your app on all platforms. However, it is always wise to start with one platform to validate your idea and then expand it on other platforms. This way you’re likely to be at lower risk of losing the money.

Ideation & Discovery

So, you have an app idea and you’re certain that it will be the next big thing. There are hundreds of apps being launched each day on app stores and everybody assumes that their idea could become the next WhatsApp. But the reality is different. As per the study conducted by Adjust, 83% of the apps in the App Store are zombies (apps that were never discovered by users), up from 74% in January of last year. So, it is always wise to validate your app idea to gauge its potential and define the app features before investing money to build the app. You would have to pay additional cost for ideation and discovery workshop but this could save you thousands of dollars that you might spend on building app features that do not add any value. The ideation & discovery workshop could cost you anywhere from $5000 to $50,000 based on the type of outputs/goals defined, complexity of the project and the time required for brainstorming the idea. You can cut down the ideation cost if you’re willing to take the risk and conduct the research on your own.

Scoping

After you’ve clearly defined your business objectives and the solution needed, you need to translate your solution into a technology specification document. This document provides the entire scope, dependencies, technical requirements and basic wireframes of the project. The scoping process can be very challenging especially if you are a non-technical person. In this case, you would have to buy the scoping services which could cost you around $1000 to 10,000 depending on your requirements. But, if you are already doing the ideation & discovery workshop with your provider then you wouldn’t have to pay this additional amount. Also, if you’re tech savvy then you can write down the tech specs and create a RFP (Request for Proposal) on your own and save the cost of scoping process.

App Design

Design is the integral aspect that separates best from the rest apps. Commonly, the recipe behind the most successful apps is a great idea complimented with a great user experience and visual design. So, design directly affects the overall cost involved in developing a mobile app. You have to shell out more money if you want to create impressive app design which would require more design hours, while an ordinary design will require less number of design hours leading to a low design cost. Also, the design cost depends on the number of screens and design elements you need within your app. The more screens and elements the more cost as the designers have to spend more hours in creating these screens. Based on our experience, design hours is usually 1/3rd of the overall engineering hours taken to accomplish the solution. However the cost per hour for design can be higher compared to engineering.

Platform vs. Custom App Development

Custom application development helps you create out-of-the-box design experiences customized according to your needs whereas Mobile application development platforms (MADP) help you create portable apps quickly and provide ability to scale or modify your product easily at later stages.

The overall cost involved for developing a custom app is generally very high when you compare it with building an app using an MADP (where you have monthly recurring license fees). However, creating a unique UI and feature set happens to be the biggest challenge when you use a platform. Also, you will not own the source code of your app. So, if you want to build a simple app with an ordinary UI and owning the source code is nonessential then the platform approach will save you money. But, if you want to build a complex app with unique user experience then you have to go with the custom approach.

App Features

This is one of the most important aspects that will affect the overall cost of building a mobile app. The number of features and complexity of functionality could significantly increase or decrease the cost of mobile app development. For example, a simple app with basic native features like use of camera, e-mail, task lists etc. could cost you anywhere under $30,000 while an app that requires basic social media or other integrations, email and push notifications would cost above $40,000. More complex functionalities such as payments/check out, GPS or location tracking and custom user logins could go above $100,000.

App Infrastructure & Framework

App Infrastructure and framework basically deals with data storage, encryption and API integration etc. Writing an app code is simple, but building app infrastructure and framework underlying the app code is challenging and require a lot more hours for building. The cost to make an app will drastically increase if your app requires API integration, data storage, or user management. Large enterprises would usually need these services. The cost range is usually 1 X- 1.5 X to the individual cost of building the front-end app in one platform.

App Testing

It is true that the success of your app mainly depends on the app idea. But if your app doesn’t work properly, users are going to abandon it no matter how innovative your idea is. More than 40% of users delete the app immediately on the basis of poor experience. Before going live, it is essential to test your app thoroughly for any bugs, crashes and performance. The cost of quality assurance varies based on the intricacies of your application. Ideally, 20% – 30% of your total app development cost should be directed towards testing your app to make sure your app does not have any issues.

Deployment

The cost of front-end app deployment is minimal. To deploy an Android app, you need a developer account that costs $25 one time only and for iOS you will have to pay $99 yearly for Apple Developer account. Other than this, you need to pay a small deployment supervision cost to your vendor.

Server side deployment cost will be a monthly recurring cost and dependent on the type of infrastructure chosen for your product. On premise deployment and cloud based deployment (AWS, Rackspace etc) are some of the most common options available.

App Management

After the launch, you would still need to release updates, fix issues, or launch campaigns and if you are responsible for managing high scale infrastructure then you would need somebody to host, manage and monitor your mobile offering. All these on-going management tasks are going to cost you extra. The app management cost depends mainly on the number of users or page views of your app.

Based on the overall growth of your app, the monthly cost will continue to increase.

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App Development Cost Based on Various Use Cases

Explaining price guidelines for a service like mobile app development is hard but we’ve done our best to help you get a good estimate of an app based on different use cases. Based on our rates and the rates of other vendors in the industry, we have prepared the following cost estimates. Please note that no two requirements for an app are the same and prices may vary depending on the scope of the project.

The following prices are only approximations:

Basic eCommerce App

Features:

– Connect to existing back-end server and database (API’s provided by the customer)
– Product Listing
– Product Search
– Reviews & Rating
– Shopping Cart
– Payment Integration
– Social Sharing

Estimated Timeline & Efforts (some activities will run in parallel) :

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 5 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for an App on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows):

$50,000 – $75,000

Advanced eCommerce App

Features:

– Build a Back-end and API’s (CMS, Order management, Inventory Management)
– Connect to Database
– User Sign up with Email/Social Accounts
– Admin (Reports, Dashboard, Push Notification)
– User Profiles
– Activity Feeds
– Product Listing
– Product Search
– Reviews & Rating
– Shopping Cart
– Payment Integration
– Social Sharing

Estimated Timeline & Efforts (some activities will run in parallel):

Design – 6 Weeks
Development – 14 Weeks
Testing –  3 Weeks

Estimated Cost for an App on one front end platform (iOS/Android/Windows) with backend modules:

$200,000 – $300,000

Estimated Timeline & Efforts for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 6 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

$50,000 – $80,000

Basic Sports App

Features:

– Connect to existing database (API’s provided by the customer)
– User Signup with Social
– Scores
– Events Schedule
– Comments
– Videos & Images
– Social Sharing

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 5 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for an App on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows):

$50,000 – $75,000

Advanced Sports App

Features:

– Build a Back-end and API’s (CMS, User Management, File Storage)
– Connect to Database
– User Sign up with Email/Social Accounts
– Admin (Reports, Dashboard, Content Moderation, Push Notification)
– User Profiles
– Connect to a Video Platform (Live Streaming, Paid)
– Scores
– Events Schedule
– Comments
– Social Sharing
– Events Booking
– Payment Integration
– Integration with third party video, Ad, analytics platforms

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 4 Weeks
Development – 12 Weeks
Testing – 2 Weeks

Estimated Cost for an App on one front end platform (iOS/Android/Windows) with backend modules:

$150,000 – $250,000

Estimated Timeline & Efforts for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 6 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

$60,000 – $75,000

Social Network App (Minimum Viable Product)

Features:

– Connect to existing database (API’s provided by the customer)
– User Signup with Social
– User Profiles
– User Image Uploading
– Searching
– Messaging
– Push Notifications
– Social Sharing

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 3 Weeks
Development – 8 Weeks
Testing – 2 Weeks

Estimated Cost for an App on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows):

USD 75,000 – USD 100,000

Full Fledged Social Networking App

Features:

– Build a Back-end and API’s (User Management, Community Setup, File Storage)
– Connect to Database
– User Sign up with Email/Social Accounts
– Admin (Reports, Dashboard, Entity Management, Push Notification)
– User Profiles
– User Image Uploading
– Searching
– Messaging
– Geo Location
– SMS Integration
– Push Notifications
– Social Sharing
– In-App Purchase
– Multilingual Capability
– Integration with third party video, ad, analytics platforms.

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 3 Weeks
Development – 14 Weeks
Testing – 2 Weeks

Estimated Cost for an App front-end + back-end on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows):

$200,000 – $300,000

Estimated Timeline & Efforts for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 8 Weeks
Testing – 2 Weeks

Estimated Cost for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

$80,000 – $100,000

Basic Utility App

Features:

– Connect to existing database (API’s provided by the customer)
– User Signup with Social
– Camera/QR/Barcode Scanner
– Calendar/Calculator/Comparison
– Click to Call
– Social Sharing

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 1 Week
Development – 4 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for an App on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows):

USD 25,000 – USD 50,000

Advanced Utility App

Features:

– Build a Back-end and API’s
– Connect to Database
– User Sign up with Email/Social Accounts
– Admin (Reports, Dashboard,  Push Notification)
– User Signup with Social
– Camera/QR/Barcode Scanner
– Calendar/Calculator/Comparison
– Click to Call
– SMS Integration
– Social Sharing
– Booking
– Payment Integration

Estimated Timeline & Efforts:

Design – 2 Weeks
Development – 8 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost to create a front-end app on one platform (iOS/Android/Windows) with back-end modules:

$75,000 – $120,000

Estimated Timeline & Efforts for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

Design – 1 Week
Development – 4 Weeks
Testing – 1 Week

Estimated Cost for a front-end app on second platform (iOS/Android/Windows) using the existing back-end:

$50,000 – $70,000

cost-to-create-an-app

How much does it cost to create an app with July?

As an app development service provider, our aim is to provide our client with rich and world class app experiences. As a buyer, it is important for you to understand what quality to expect at what price. Just like you can’t buy a Porsche at the price of a station wagon, you cannot expect to get the best quality of work at the cheapest price.

At July, we don’t compromise on quality. In an attempt to be transparent with you, we have packaged our services in a way such as to demonstrate how much you pay for a particular service.

We offer the following service packages at July:

Rapid Launch: A package for small businesses or early stage entrepreneurs with 3 different levels of services:

Design Mockups – A workshop led design engagement to create mockups for your mobile app on any one platform (Android/iOS/Windows)

Estimated Timeline: 3 Weeks

Estimated Cost: $10,000

Ideation to Prototype – An ideation workshop followed by a design engagement to create a fully functional prototype of your mobile app on any one platform (Android/iOS/Windows)

Estimated Timeline:

Design and Development: 5 Weeks

Hosting: 8 weeks

Estimated Cost: $25,000

Launch Ready App – An engagement to deliver an MVP on any one platform, which can be used to soft launch your app and get real consumers to test it.

Estimated Timeline: 20 Weeks

Estimated Cost: $100,000

Rapid Grow: A package for funded startups with 4 different levels of services:

App Facelift – A comprehensive mobile app design engagement to redesign your existing mobile app on any one of your preferred platforms (Android/iOS/Windows)

App Refresh – A package to recreate your existing app and upgrade feature enhancements, improve design and solve all technical issues.

Web Switch – A package with services to convert your web app or your existing website into a mobile app.

App Transporter – A custom package to port your existing app onto a different platform, from iOS to Android or vice versa.

 

Final Word:

You will find different service companies offering different tiers of cost for mobile application development. Some focus on quality development work, some other focus on low cost quick and sloppy development. If your application idea is a critical business requirement or a completely innovative idea, then let your development partner not be the weakest link based on the pricing. As a thumb rule, keep in mind that USD 100K – 200K is the bare minimum budget for building a scalable product (with one at least front end app + server component + APIs) that will be used by several thousands of users and has the capability to scale based on adoption. An MVP or POC can be achieved at 50% of the above cost since feature options along with scalability expectations are limited.

 

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