Each year the world of mobile applications goes through significant changes, with growing markets and stable economies equally driving this business. In 2020 apps were downloaded more than 200 billion times in total, with the App Store and Google Play generating payments for $112 billion. The average smartphone user spends 3.7 hours per day in front of the screen, but that number is much greater for Millenials at 5.7 hours per day.
Have you ever thought of building an app of your own?
Whether you’re a brand new revolutionary startup, SME brand, or a big enterprise with a grounded position on the market, everyone who would like to create their high-quality mobile solution asks the same question: “How much does it cost to develop an app?”
In this guide, you’ll see everything that goes into the cost of developing a mobile app – what it is influenced by, the elements included in it, how the choice of app features determines future steps, and who can assemble your development team. In the end, you’ll see an estimation table with the average cost of mobile app development. Keep in mind that the detailed cost estimate is only possible after determining all requirements; this is just a sample tool.
Table of contents
- Technological factors that influence app development cost
– Native app development vs. Cross-platform app development vs. Progressive Web Apps
- Type of app features you can develop
– Which technology should I choose for my app development?
– Price comparison – Native development vs. Cross-platform development
- The cost of app design
- What is the cost of hiring a development team?
- How much does the application development cost?
- App development cost estimations based on popular mobile solutions
- How much does it cost to make a taxi app?
- How much does it cost to make an app with social media features?
- How much does it cost to develop an app for booking services?
- How much does it cost to make an audio or video streaming app?
- To sum it up – how much does it cost to make an app in 2020?
Technological factors that influence mobile app development cost
Numerous factors influence app development costs, with the primary estimation base for a particular project dictated by which technology you choose to utilize. The main difference is between native mobile apps and cross-platform mobile apps. A seasoned software development company should offer more than one option – but what is the actual difference, and why does it matter?
Native app development vs Cross-platform app development vs Progressive Web Apps
Your mobile application can reach the market using different technologies, each with advantages and disadvantages, but only a couple can compete with each other when it comes to quality. When evaluating how much it will cost to develop your app, this choice of technology is one of the most critical factors.
Native solutions for app development
At the moment, native apps dominate the market. In this case, we create an app dedicated to a particular mobile platform – iOS or Android (Apple and Google providers). Developers switched from Objective-C and Java (popular until recently) to mobile application development using Swift (iOS) and Kotlin (Android), and these technologies are constantly evolving and improving. Native apps allow app developers to create lower-level code, which gives better control over the whole environment, making these solutions more accessible and user friendly.
Cross-platform solutions for mobile app development
Recently, cross-platform apps have started to gain popularity. In 2018 there was a boom for React Native technology, and last year, its main competition – Flutter – strengthened its position on the market. Here we also have a clash of giants, as React Native is a framework created by Facebook and Flutter is a Google product. These technologies have been on the market for a while, becoming popular in the last two years by refreshing the approach to mobile app development.
When we create an app using Flutter or any other cross-platform technology, the software is available on both iOS and Android immediately – as there is only one codebase.
PWA (Progressive Web Apps) for app development
The third top-rated solution used for mobile app development is PWAs. Progressive Web Apps are not native because they don’t compile to a particular platform (iOS or Android). Creating an app like that is possible thanks to web technologies and using them is comfortable with browsers installed on smartphones.
Type of app features you can develop
App development costs will vary depending on the number of functionalities and their complexity. Is your product a simple app with one main feature or a comprehensive software product with in-app purchases, ads and various options? Perhaps you want to add new features to an existing product? This will all influence the hourly rate and the time required in your app development project.
For example, app features like push notifications or GPS connection can be much easier to develop when using native technologies. That means a separate app for Google Play and App Store, instead of one cross-platform product. The cost of building a mobile app like that will be slightly higher, but what’s the exact difference?
Which technology should I choose for my app development?
Choosing the right technology stack is critical for a successful mobile app project. As there is no one-size-fits-all technology or framework, the decision needs to be based on each project’s individual needs. Trends, competition and marketing efforts of app developers tend to add to the confusion surrounding the available and applicable choices.
The main reasons to consider employing cross-platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native are the seemingly lower costs and faster app development speed. Thanks to a single codebase, design and development, and app maintenance, can be more manageable. However, don’t believe in marketing promises that choosing React Native or Flutter will lower development cost by 50%; this is a myth. You can read more about such claims in our article about React Native myths. The downsides of using the frameworks are rarely advertised. Both React Native and Flutter are relatively new frameworks and belong to the family of technologies that carry the risk of going out of fashion.
We cannot overstate the high quality of native mobile development tech stacks – iOS and Android technologies are fully evolved and refined continuously. Employing native technology stack for a project opens the way to practically limitless possibilities. For ambitious projects with high requirements, platform dedicated SDKs are a choice that offers the best quality.
Price comparison – Native development vs. Cross-platform development
How each role in a mobile app project influences the cost of it
Development team composition is another vital factor that can decrease app cost – why is this the case? Hiring more people to lower app development cost seems counter-intuitive, but it is a proven approach. Each person in the squad is responsible for different tasks, all working towards one goal – to deliver a perfect mobile app that will meet your expectations and make your customers fall in love with it.
So what are the roles in the app development process?
UX/UI Workshops and app design
While people tend to focus on technology, one of the most important things when building an app is how it looks. 10-15 years ago, everyone was interested in what the mobile app can do and if the features work correctly. A given product’s capabilities are still relevant today; however, it is more important to adapt it to fit a specific audience and their behaviour, expectations, etc. This has pushed UX design to the forefront of the industry, especially for mobile application development. Consequently, we believe in the growth of the UI/UX design process and an increase in demand and quality of such services.
That’s why, at itCraft, we begin most of our projects with UX design workshops. Working with the client helps us identify business needs, analyze the competition, define the mobile app’s functionalities and MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and create an app with a future growth plan. We need to fully understand the purpose of the application we will develop, and workshops are the perfect opportunity for the initial validation of the whole product and all its elements.
The price of a workshop is $2500, and it serves as a foundation for determining the scope of the app and desired functions, creating the development plan and designing its UI/UX. The initial workshop takes 2-3 days or 3-5 online sessions, with the process then continuing offline. Here, we prepare the initial system architecture and conduct business analysis to create user story documentation and consider ‘dependencies’ (e.g., third-party APIs) – this takes approximately five days.
Each step allows us also to estimate the cost of app development in detail – at the completion of the workshop, the client will have complete technical documentation that is necessary to build an app. More information about UX Design Workshops (including the scope, all the steps, goals and outcomes) is provided in a separate article.
Project manager – a crucial role for smooth cooperation
You might wonder how a project manager can influence app development cost – the answer is significantly. A seasoned software development company always provides a dedicated project management specialist for every client, especially in Agile Scrum methodology.
A project manager is an integral part of an app development team, whose responsibilities include task organization, communication with the product owner and reacting to unpredicted issues. With an experienced Project Manager in control, you can rest easy and hand over constant control over the app development process. Importantly, you also save the budget – because your development team knows what to do and is guided by an experienced co-worker.
Is quality assurance essential to develop a mobile app?
Absolutely, and you should always include tests in your project plan. It’s a crucial part of the development process, and when it comes to cost breakdown – always worth the investment. You might pay more for proper quality assurance, but in the end, you will save money. Preventing bugs and finding defects early means spending much less on app maintenance after release.
Developing an app with plenty of new features is a complicated process with many steps on the way, which is why we always test our software from the very beginning – following best practice methods.
Consultations – when you need additional support
Developing a mobile app requires tackling unpredictable obstacles and problems, and consultations are a perfect way to conquer them. You can undertake them with your provider (if they offer this service) or a third-party company. With business analysis, idea verification and strategy adjustments, you can optimize app development cost and make decisions based on data and experience, not assumptions.
What is the cost of hiring a development team?
That’s another complex topic we have described in a dedicated article. If you would like to build an app using a workforce from another region of the world (e.g., Eastern Europe), the cost per hour differs depending on the country and several other variables. Outsourcing has become the standard for mobile app development and is often used to optimize the cost breakdown. App developers from Poland are talented, skilled, and hard-working, while the currency differential allows you to engage a high quality mobile app development team at a lower cost than you might expect. If you want to build an app in 2021 – consider outsourcing.
We invite you to explore our article about outsourcing options that explains how mobile app development cost diverges in particular locations. It describes how the various regions approach the industry, the app development cost in each of them, where you can find the best mobile app development team and which collaboration models you should consider. Find more in this article: Custom software development outsourcing – what is it all about?
How much does the application development cost?
You most likely have already researched in detail about this subject, and usually, the answer you might stumble upon is: “That depends.” Unfortunately, this is true – there is no universal cost to develop an app. While we can’t give you a perfect template to estimate app cost, you can contact us and ask for it – and we will provide you with an estimate on the cost to turn your idea into reality.
We enjoy a challenge and are transparent in our processes, so we would like to outline the potential app development cost and tell you what can influence it. First of all, we encourage you to check out our mobile app development cost page, where we describe in detail how we account for the project and what is included in app development costs – like project managers, app maintenance and more. We also provide examples of two mobile apps with different team sizes to show you how the price can be adjusted for each. In the following paragraphs, we will analyze existing solutions to show you how much the app would cost to be built and the impact the various factors have upon the cost.
App development cost estimations based on popular mobile solutions
Below we present a sample of estimates for the most popular projects. We’ve made many similar applications, so the budget simulations in this article are based on our project experience. In each of these examples, we adopt such assumptions:
- each project is done from scratch, starting with the workshops stage and UX/UI design
- source code is developed from scratch, based only on popular open-source libraries
- the team works using Agile Scrum methodology with the product owner on the ordering party’s side
- the size and engagement of the team is optimized to allocate relevant members in time (outsourcing)
- the estimation affects the whole app development process – project management, the implementation of all the components determined in the project summary, including the time needed for Quality Assurance, deployment and efforts to maintain an app.
How much does it cost to make a taxi app?
Uber-type apps used to order a taxi or transportation have gained extensive recognition in recent years – primarily driven by Uber’s success. Many apps on the market offer similar services – including taxi corporations that started to develop an app for themselves to compete with market leaders like Uber, Lyft, Didi, or Grab.
To create a high-quality app like that is a highly complex project, requiring many components, such as those listed below;
- A mobile app for taxi clients (Android & iOS app),
- A mobile app for drivers that take orders (Android and iOS app),
- Web app for the user – a portal where the user can access their profile, settings, billings, etc. (frontend web),
- Web app for drivers – a portal where the drivers can access accounting reports, their profile and settings, etc. (frontend web),
- Admin web app – a system for the admin to control the whole system
- Backend app to manage to receive and divide the orders (backend, API).
We describe this type of architecture in an article: How much does it cost to build an app like Uber?
How much does it cost to make an app with social media features?
When it comes to social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn – the amount and types of functionalities are crucial. Some social media platforms’ mechanisms are based on machine learning, including face recognition, push notifications, content sharing and people you may know recommendations, displaying user feed using preferences calculated with a dedicated algorithm and many more.
Social media apps need to offer appropriate scalability as they are often used by thousands (or even millions) of users. Storing content and personal data should be secure but also maintain high-quality performance rates.
TikTok is an excellent example of quite a new social media app that is extremely popular among young people worldwide.
How much does it cost to develop an app for booking services?
How to make an app for booking services and appointments? There are many answers, as they are present in almost every industry nowadays, but some of the primary beneficiaries are:
- Tourist industry (hotels, apartments, plane and train tickets)
- Beauty industry (hairdresser and beautician appointments)
- Transportation industry (mentioned Uber and similar apps)
- Food industry (ordering food, reservations at restaurants)
- Entertainment industry (cinema, theatre and concert tickets)
Importantly, when it comes to this type of mobile app development, there isn’t one dominant trend – some develop mobile apps, others prefer web solutions, and there also companies that invest in both.
This beauty industry is unique in that the booking system already exists – usually via phone calls. When we make an app like that, we have to provide a point of difference; in this case, the main goal is to give the user the ability to book their appointments by themselves, from any place and at any time, quickly and easily.
Booking apps are highly valuable, offering many benefits to both the user and the vendor. App development cost estimation with a detailed list of app types and factors that influence the price is available in our article: How much does it cost to make a booking type app?
How much does it cost to make an audio or video streaming app?
The development of network infrastructure, bandwidth and the mobile internet connection improvement (3g, 4g, 5g) allowed the dynamic growth of mobile apps designed to play multimedia content and stream it straight from our phone.
In 2015 the first significant apps for video live streaming started to appear -such as Periscope (bought by Twitter) and Meerkat (closed in 2016). These apps rapidly became popular – primarily due to the overall growth of social media apps. The users were attracted by the possibilities of a more accessible and reliable mobile network and the capabilities of mobile apps to live stream videos. Just after this boom, the most prominent players on social media markets started to implement their own solutions or continued to expand the existing ones.
YouTube was testing the live streaming feature in 2009 and 2010 already, but it was too early due to network infrastructure limitations. Ongoing user demand for this service prompted YouTube to introduce the live streaming functionality to their main mobile app in 2017. Facebook went through a similar path – testing Facebook Live in 2016 before sharing it with their users at the beginning of 2017.
Today more and more users would like to publish their live streams – channels with millions of subscribers are becoming more and more common, with millions of viewers watching some of these videos at the same time.
The cost of crucial app features is the main factor that influences the final price. These apps need payment systems, geolocation, cross-user streams and much more. We are writing a blog article that will analyze the subject of live-streaming apps in detail. How much does it cost to make an app like that? We recommend following our website to be always up to date.
In conclusion – how much does it cost to build an app in 2021?
As an experienced and proven app development company, we know that the mobile and web app cost is influenced by many factors – from industry, through number and type of features to the technology of choice. Of course, we try to estimate some examples of apps based on our previous projects, and we share our conclusions here on our blog. It is worth remembering that each project is different because of individual requirements and needs – and we always take this into account when budgeting and executing a project.
The best way to establish your budget to create an app is to reach out to a development agency and discuss your project. We encourage you to contact us – we would love to discuss your business needs and how we might help achieve them. We will propose the best solution suitable for the type of app you want and your potential user’s desires. Let’s make an app in 2021 together!