There are two questions that business owners have to answer when looking to develop an application for their business: what the app development costs are going to be if they hire an app development agency as opposed to developing the app in-house using their team.

When starting a development project, a business needs an estimate of the development costs that will become the foundation of the respective project’s budget.

It is impossible to provide a clear app development cost breakdown because each app development process is unique and subsequently app development costs will be influenced by a set of factors that are specific to the development process of the respective app.

However, it is entirely possible to provide an estimate of the cost of app development or an average cost of app development based on a series of factors that determine different costs inside a budget, which allows the breakdown of apps development cost accordingly

Six factors have a direct influence on app development costs. Business owners must provide answers to the implicit questions aroused by these factors. Once they come up with clear answers, they can start determining an average cost to develop an app:

Purpose and functionality

What will the application do for users who choose to have it installed on their devices? What is the problem/need to which the application provides a solution?

Supported mobile platforms and devices

Will the application be developed to work exclusively on a specific platform? Will the app be developed to operate across all platforms? What will specific devices the app support?

Integration with Third-Party Apps

Will the application be integrated with third-party apps as the source of its content?

Use of Visual Objects

How complex will the visual elements inside your application? The more complex the visual objects, the higher the mobile application development cost.

Use of Mobile Devices Hardware Features

Will the application require the use of certain hardware features integrated into mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones? Examples of such features include the NFC technology, GPS navigation, or motion co-processor.

Maintenance Plan

How extensive will the technical support be? What does the maintenance plan include once the app development process is over and how it will influence app development costs?

App Development Costs Per Stage

App development costs can be broken down according to the different types of costs that each app involves. You can also have a mobile app development cost breakdown or mobile app development cost estimate according to the various stages of the development process.

Estimating the average cost of an app across development stages lets business assign venture capital in the most efficient manner and allows for better management of their efforts of raising venture capital across the entire lifecycle of the development process.

There are four stages of app development that generate initial app development costs: the Discovery stage, the Design stage, the Development, and the Testing & Deployment stage.

Clutch has released a research study that presented the costs that 102 app development companies dedicated to each of the before-mentioned app development stages:

1.    The Discovery Stage: App Development Costs

  • 51% of app development companies spent up to $5,000
  • 22% of app development companies spent between $5,000 and $10,000
  • 7% of app development companies spent between $10,000 and $15,000
  • 7% of app development companies spent between $15,000 and $25,000
  • 4% of app development companies spent more than $25,000

 

2.    The Design Stage: App Development Costs

  • 32% of app development companies spent up to $5,000
  • 17% of app development companies spent between $5,000 and $10,000
  • 14% of app development companies spent between $10,000 and $15,000
  • 13% of app development companies spent between $15,000 and $25,000
  • 16% of app development companies spent between $25,000 and $50,000
  • 9% of app development companies spent more than $50,000

 

3.    The Development Stage: App Development Costs

  • 9% of app development companies spent less than $5,000
  • 33% of app development companies spent between $5,000 and $10,000
  • 25% of app development companies spent between $10,000 and $20,000
  • 17% of app development companies spent between $20,000 and $30,000
  • 15% of app development companies spent more than $30,000

 

4.    The Testing and Deployment Stage: App Development Costs

  • 32% of app development companies spent up to $5,000
  • 31% of app development companies spent between $5,000 and $10,000
  • 14% of app development companies spent between $10,000 and $15,000
  • 12% of app development companies spent between $15,000 and $25,000
  • 11% of app development companies spent more than $25,000

 

5.   The Maintenance Stage: App Development Costs

  • 28% of app development companies spent up to $5,000
  • 28% of app development companies spent between $5,000 and $10,000
  • 13% of app development companies spent between $10,000 and $15,000
  • 13% of app development companies spent between $15,000 and $25,000
  • 18% of app development companies spent more than $25,000

 

Average App Development Cost by App Type

App development costs depend on how feature-rich an app will be. Functional components that improve user experience are considered features and features may be simple, such as screen buttons, as well as very complex, such as machine-learning algorithms.

When you try to grasp the link between cost and features, remember how the extra options to a car influence the cost of the car: the more extras you add to a car, the bigger the cost.

App Development Costs: No-Network Access or Standalone Apps

No-network access or standalone apps are those applications that do not require network access to do what it was designed to do. They can function without network access, but they are not the most popular apps given that the internet access is ubiquitous and affordable.

Think of applications such as the calculator app or clock app on your smartphone. Such apps fall into the category of standalone apps. However, there are partially standalone apps such as the camera app that has some added interactivity with the network: e.g., sharing photos.

  • Examples of standalone apps: Camera app, Clock app, Calculator app, Settings app
  • The average cost of developing an app that is standalone: less than $50,000

 

App Development Costs: Data Consumption Only Apps

Another category consists of those applications that require network access for data consumption only, but no login or authentication is necessary for them to function. While they are not the most frequently encountered apps, such apps still exist on the market.

  • Examples of data consumption only apps: Weather app, Calendar app, Stocks app
  • Average app development cost: $50,000-$100,000
  • They may require a lightweight server
  • There are extended versions of such apps built by third-party developers

 

App Development Costs: User Authentication / Login Apps

Users tend to expect more from an application that requires user authentication or login, which means that such an app will be more sophisticated and feature-rich. Developing an application packed with features entails more and more costs with each additional feature.

Features expected in login/authentication apps:  data interaction, data syncing across devices, collaborative features, or push notifications, all of which come at a different cost.

As per the industry’s best practices, many such apps can function without user login or authentication, but they offer the most useful features after the creation of a user account.

  • Examples of login/authentication apps: ESPN app, Bible App, Google Drive
  • The average app development cost: $100,000 - $300,000

 

App Development Costs: Social and Social Networking Apps

Social features define social and social networking apps. Features may include the ability to interact with other users and other users’ data or to befriend other users and create a network of friends, i.e., the ability to socialize, which is why they are called social networks.

When they are initially developed, social apps are not as feature rich as you’d expect.

  • Essential features must include login or authentication, favoriting or other forms of data interaction, friending, messaging, and baseline functionality.
  • Examples of social or social networking apps: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tinder, WhatsApp, Pinterest, YouTube
  • Dating apps are social apps with added features, such as the ability to perform extensive searches, ability to interact with others, ability to limit interaction via advanced permissions, filter, a matching algorithm, etc.
  • The average development cost of a social app: $150,000 - $500,000

 

App Development Costs: E-commerce Apps

E-commerce apps have many features in common with login or authentication apps and social apps. There are two essential differences: an e-commerce app is backed by a product catalog, and an e-commerce app needs either leveraging platforms or a custom buildout.

  • Features: administration interface to add new inventory, APIs or SDKs, solutions to store items in a cart, and many more.
  • Downside: developers are limited by the workflow of these tools and customizations.

 

Summary

Mobile devices have become increasingly popular and most people own one type of mobile device or another, which makes them affordable. Development companies tend to believe that developing apps for mobile devices is not only easy, but inexpensive as well.

There are so many apps out there that target the world of mobile users and developing a complex application with a focus on quality involves a lot of app development costs. There is a saying that you get what you pay for and it applies to the letter to the development arena.