Mobile App Development Cost in 2023: Estimation Guide
The world is going mobile at an incredibly fast pace. We've all been witnessing this digital transformation and expect high-quality mobile solutions, regardless of whether we're shopping online or paying our bills using a smartphone.
Undoubtedly, the demand for high-quality mobile apps has increased, making it one of the latest business trends. And the same is seen with the need to find reliable partners who deliver decent mobile application development services within adequate timeframes and at a fair price. But how much does it cost to build an app? And what can be considered a "fair price"?
On this page, we'll go over the costs of making an app and explain what influences them. Plus, we'll provide a sample timeline showing how we estimate such projects. Let's roll!
Average Mobile App Development Cost
The global application development market size is on the rise as more and more companies are investing in mobile applications. Recent statistics show that the worldwide revenue in this software development sector is expected to exceed 218 billion USD already in 2027.
But what does this mean for those who want to build an application? And how much does it cost to develop an app on average? Giving a very approximate cost, we'd say that the price for building an application can fall somewhere between $40,000 and $300,000 USD.
This may seem like quite a large rift in pricing, but the truth is it really depends. No two app products are the same, and the overall cost can vary based on multiple factors. Primarily, a lot is determined by the complexity of the application, i.e.:
- the number of features;
- how hard the chosen functionality is to develop;
- how intricate the design is;
- the approach you take when building the app from a technical perspective;
- how many plugins and integrations are required;
- how quickly you want to hit the market;
- among others.
In general, a simple MVP-type application that takes 1 to 3 months to create can cost around $30,000 - $70,000 USD, while a more intricate solution that takes 3 to 6 months can cost about $70,000 - $180,000 USD. And if we're talking about a very complex app that'll require 9 or more months of development, then the cost can go as high as $300,000 USD and up.
Let's go over what can influence app development costs in more detail.
What Affects Mobile App Cost?
If you think about it, making mobile applications can be compared to cooking dishes. Although in this case all apps can be categorized as "food", their recipes, ingredients, and ways to prepare and serve them are very versatile. So, just as with dishes, some mobile applications can cost you a lot more than others. Here are some things that can impact the price.
The Type of Application
Falling back on the previous analogy, are you cooking a starter or a main course dish? There are various types of mobile applications that you can create, including native apps, hybrid applications, and progressive web apps.
As such, you might want a native application, which requires a platform-specific codebase, APIs, and features. This means the app will be coded separately for iOS, Android, or other platforms and hence needs more time for testing and optimization, all adding to the cost.
Obviously, developing a native app will take longer and can cost more than if you'd build an app on a single codebase or would choose a hybrid solution that uses cross-platform app development instead.
To compare, an average standalone Android app cost can start from $50,000 USD, a standalone iOS application may cost you $75,000 USD and up, while a hybrid app for multiple platforms at once can cost about $60,000 - $80,000 USD.
The Used Technology
The "cooking method" (or selected tech stack and platform) can also influence the overall app creation cost. Are you going to go for low-code tools or traditional development? Are you planning to use rare programming languages or popular mobile app development frameworks?
Certainly, the cost of some technologies may be higher than others. Plus, a lot depends on the global demand and availability of specialists in a given sphere.
Even in the case of hybrid app development, there are multiple alternatives. If you're unsure which mobile technology path to follow (say, you don't know whether you should settle on Flutter or React Native), turning to a third-party vendor can be a good alternative. You'll get advice on the optimal option for your case.
The Chosen Industry
Once again, if we compare mobile apps to dishes, are you planning a homemade meal or serving some luxury Michelin haute cuisine? Surely, the industry can also impact the cost for mobile app development.
For instance, travel app development pricing may differ from creating a SaaS platform, making a fitness app, game, educational app, an e-commerce store app, or building a fintech app. These solutions have various end users, aims, and use cases, so it's no surprise that the timeframes and approaches to building them will differ too.
The bottom line is that it all goes down to the peculiarities of the specific niche and the industry standards that apply. I.e., a game might require more time for design, while a fintech solution can have much stricter security and compliance requirements.
How Complex the App Is
And yet again, is your mobile app a simple cheesecake or a fancy three-tier wedding cake? The answer to "how much does an app cost" is primarily based on the app's complexity. How many features will it have? Are you starting with building an MVP for the app with a minimal feature set, or are you planning to release lots of advanced and complicated features straight away?
The more tangled your functionality, business logic, and features are, the higher the price. Obviously, the faster you want the app to go live, the more workforce will be required, meaning the application cost will increase correspondingly.
Who Develops the Mobile App
Do we have to point out that the chefs you hire matter more than the ingredients you choose for the dish? Amateurs at the development "stove" or a mess in the team’s work can ruin even the finest mobile app idea.
In any event, you'd want experienced mobile developers to work on bringing your application to life. But the cost gap when choosing in-house development or outsourcing may surprise you.
In general, the outsourcing mobile app development cost can turn out to be cheaper and faster. Even if you compare hiring freelancers vs outsourcing, the second option may bring you better all-around results. The reason for that is that most outsourcing providers have a well-polished developer recruitment process and efficient workflows. This allows the customer to get very quick access to a talent pool of experienced specialists who are skilled in various technologies and know how to build apps, work in a team, and communicate effectively.
The providers' rates will also differ according to:
- their location;
- their developers' level of expertise (Junior, Middle, Senior, or Lead);
- how many people will work on the project;
- which programming language you choose;
- and other things.
For example, the developers' hourly rates in the USA are four times higher than those in Eastern Europe. So, do the math when you're in two minds about who to team up with. But as long as the partner meets your vendor evaluation criteria, this collaboration type will likely be more cost-effective and quick than assembling a team to hire internally.
Are There Any Hidden Mobile App Development Costs?
Project quotes can range from one vendor to another, due to which work scope is included in your agreement. Here are a couple of points worth keeping in mind.
Discovery Phase Inclusion
The project discovery phase takes place prior to the development of the mobile application. This is the time when you do research to validate your idea and learn more about your users, decide on the technical sides of the app, and think about how to prioritize features.
While it's probably not right to call the discovery phase a "hidden cost", the inclusion of this step in the estimate can add an additional two weeks on average. Of course, you always have the alternative to handle this part on your own, only passing the development work to a third party.
On a similar note, do you have ready mobile application designs? If your UX/UI designer has already completed this chunk of work, and you have wireframes, mockups, and clickable prototypes to provide developers, great. If not, then your development team composition has to be fitted with at least one designer, and you'll extend the project timeframe for about a month for designing the app. Naturally, crafting the design adds to the costs of creating an app.
Extra Charges and Fees
Though you might agree with the vendor on the scope of integrations and external plugins to be linked up to your app, this won't include the fees you need to pay for the tools, SaaS, etc. For example, you'll be charged for using payment gateways like Stripe, as well as for the server, hosting, and any other parts that are necessary for the application. Clearly, marketing expenses (such as what you'll spend on running ads or using email marketing software) won't be part of the costs to create an app either.
Post-Launch App Maintenance
Once your mobile application gets released, it'll need support. There'll still be lots of room for improvement after MVP launch. To say the least, you'll need someone to maintain the app and make sure it's running smoothly.
Most likely, such work as extra testing, bug fixing, optimizing code, app updating, and adding new features will be left out of scope. Typically, continuous app maintenance can cost about 15-20% of the overall development cost.
Mobile App Development Cost Estimation and Timeline
As you see, there are plenty of variables. Therefore, we'd like to give a sample mobile application development project timeline with possible phases to show you why the estimates can differ from project to project.
In general, building a mobile application can take from 2 months to several years. Yes, we aren't kidding! What you include in the product development roadmap, your requirements, and the number of people onboard will determine the overall delivery timeframes and cost.
It's up to you whether you include the project discovery stage or not, but if you do, it can take at least two weeks. This pre-MVP step is often not included in the mobile app development cost estimate.
Moving further, it makes sense to split the actual mobile application development into several stages. As a rule, most projects start with a minimum viable product. This means that you first create a small but functioning version of the product with a basic feature set and then proceed with adding additional or more intricate features during the after-MVP stage. For example, the MVP version will exclude sophisticated features such as chatbots or multi-language support.
Breaking down the central MVP part of the timeline above, the development of the first version of the mobile application can take 2 months and up on average. For instance, the designer will need about two weeks to craft the app or MVP designs, while a team of 2 or 3 developers will need from a month or more to put together a functioning application. Surely, the app needs to be glitch-free before release, so about a week or so is needed for the QA testing part and bug fixes. This central timeline block is what's usually added in the app development cost quotes from vendors.
What happens next? After you release the simple MVP version of the mobile application, you'll need at least one part-time QA tester and one part-time developer for after-MVP app release support. This can be an ongoing task that'll take one month or more. Oftentimes, this is not included in the initial vendor quotes, so you'll likely be charged separately for such services.
And how much does it cost to make an app if you have more features in mind? You can consider expanding the team to help you develop the second-tier scope of mobile features for your application in the after-MVP stage. Here, the pricing and timeframes will depend on the quantity and complexity of the features, as well as the team size. Based on what you're building, we can go anywhere from one month to a couple of years. So, in any event, think of this as a separate payment.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mobile App with Upsilon?
If a client entrusts us to handle the discovery phase, which typically takes 2 weeks, we usually calculate it as a separate quote. The price for discovery is about $6,000 USD and includes the part-time hours of a UX Designer, Product Manager, and Lead Developer.
What's for mobile app design, development, testing, and launch, we work in sprints. Each sprint takes ten business days to complete, and we deliver tangible results after each such block.
How much does it cost to make an app with us? Well, depending on the team size, we can provide the following price breakdown.
Let's assume we're building a simple rent mobile application for putting up ads for apartments and houses. If we're talking about React Native development services, this can be a hybrid application fitted with a standard minimal set of features like:
- user login/sign-in (e.g., with sign-in via social media and email);
- the main functionality for placing ads (creating an ad with a description, address, photos, etc.);
- the main functionality for displaying ads in the feed;
- payment system integration;
- basic data safety compliance features.
Such a mobile app MVP can take from 3 or 4 to 7 sprints to develop on average. Based on Upsilon's dedicated team pricing, such a project can cost an estimated $36,000 - $84,000 USD for a small team working on the project:
- 1 UX/UI Designer (full-time)
- 1 Senior Mobile Front-end Developer (full-time)
- 1 Middle Mobile Back-end Developer (full-time)
- 1 QA Engineer (part-time)
- 1 Product Manager (part-time)
What's for after-release app maintenance, you can consider leaving one QA Engineer and one developer part-time to keep an eye on the app and make ongoing bug fixes and improvements. If you'd like to develop several small additional features, then maybe one or two full-time developers will be enough. This kind of work can also be put in sprints and calculated individually.
As regards the case when you'd like to scale the MVP and drastically expand the app's functionality, you can consider switching to the mid-sized team sprint-based model that offers more developers who can work on bringing additional and more intricate functionality to life. These services will come at an extra mobile app development cost. Alternatively, you can opt for the staff augmentation pricing model to assemble a team composition that'll suit your needs.
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Building a Mobile App
So, how much does it cost to develop an app, and how long can it take? It's never easy to give an exact price estimate in the mobile app creation scenario as so many things influence the final price. Both the app development costs and the timeframes will totally depend on the features you choose, how complicated and large the app is, and who brings it to life.
In most cases, it is reasonable to break down the mobile application development process into phases, separating MVP creation from the rest of the post-release work. Upsilon's experienced developers provide MVP development services for startups as well as growth-stage businesses that wish to scale their products. We're agile, work in sprints, and have built numerous mobile app development products that have grown to become a success! You may also use our MVP cost calculator for your project estimate.
And as a bonus point, because many companies at an early stage often search for discounts, it is worth mentioning that Upsilon also provides the option of applying for a discount for our tech services. The Tech for Equity model implies that you can get a reduced price for developing your mobile application in exchange for your startup's shares. So, if you'd like to get a consultation or quote, feel free to contact us to discuss your project!