Mobile Apps · Product Development

How much should a simple app cost (to develop)?

Anita Cohen-Williams Experienced in SEO and Social Media Management since 1994

June 16th, 2016

We are looking to have an app built for a new venture. The app needs to run on both Android and Apple products, and be able to send the product one direction and the money another. I am sure it can be done, but have no idea what pricing for development is like these days.

Denise Tambanis Founder, Announcement Box P/L

Last updated on March 9th, 2017

I asked this same question 3 years ago and was told it could cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000,000. I couldn't get the person to budge their estimate for a 'simple' app. I talked to a few digital agencies and looked at freelancer sites but there the range was huge. I then took an intro course on iPhone/iPad development, learnt to code to an intermediate level, built and put an app on the App store and help teach that intro course. I now know the $50 is more absurd than the $1,000,000 estimate. I agree with many of the excellent answers above. In particular, you haven't provided enough information to get an accurate measure of how much the app will cost. Some developers will tell you it will cost $1,500 to $2,000 per screen but the reality is that it depends on what is happening behind the screens (database?, payments system?, login, security issues?). Designing simple elegant apps with great UI/UX takes real skill and usually require lots of iterations based on customer testing and feedback. Everyone should start with an MVP and customer testing and feedback. Once you build the final app, you need to maintain it as new devices come out and operating systems change every year - so make sure the code is well written in case it needs to be taken over by someone new. This is more a risk when user offshore freelancers - I've heard lots of horror stories. That said, I can think of a couple of ways to save money:

  1. Think carefully about whether you need an app or not. There is no doubt that more and more users are spending more time on devices and shopiing on devices but at the same time, most users only user 5-6 apps and some businesses just don't need a stand alone app - they just need a great mobile responsive website.
  2. Go web app rather than native android and ios apps. That is, design a single app that works through a server or internet browser to provide same content to both android and ios apps. You can only do this if you don't need phone features like access to the camera.* Otherwise, if you need native apps and there is very little overlap to building on each of these platforms. I have been told by a number of developers that the cost saving is only about 10-15% - that is, once you build an apple app for $5,000, it will still cost you about 85% x $5,000 to build on android. Web apps are also much easier and cheaper to update. *Update: Platforms like Cordova, React and Xamarin, that allow developers to build for both iOS and Android are getting better all the time - there are still pros and cons but increasingly being used. Here's an article that compares platforms: http://noeticforce.com/mobile-app-development-cordova-vs-react-native-vs-xamarin
  3. Create a prototype of the app you want to build. There a lots of prototype tools around to help you create the look and feel of the app without any coding. http://uxdesignweekly.com/ux-resources/prototyping-tools/ You can use the prototype to test the app with users and to more clearly talk to developers and designers about functionality and costs.

I've play around withhttp://howmuchtomakeanapp.com and while I think it produced some higher than expected costs, it wasn't out of the ball park. Building high quality, robust apps is expensive. I would be very suspicious of someone telling you that it only costs $500 to build an app unless it was the type of app that just displayed static data on screens.


** Recently saw presentation by Gigster who say that can quickly and accurately quote development projects based on their experience and proprietary database of projects. I would get them to give you a quote.

Rob G

June 16th, 2016

about the price of a car...

Sudeep Bhatnagar I develop apps, talk apps, live apps.

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

The cost can be as low as $ 3 K or as big as beyond 50 K, though on an average we do most MVPs under $ 10 K. It depends upon a lot of factors starting from location of development, to list of features, platforms you target, compexity of project and what not.


Max Goff

June 16th, 2016

Do you need an App? Or might a responsive website do the trick? An App, requiring iTunes or Play installation on phones, runs native on the phone. But a responsive site can feature awesome functions on the phone with the same code base on the server that runs the website itself. So it really depends on what 'a simple app' means. There are a bunch of sites that makes it easy for anybody to create a test website and/or app. For app building, try a free tour buildfire.com  

For reactive sites made easy, try strikingly.com or onbile.com -- you can probably knock out a prototype yourself.

Karen Ed.D. President & Founder of Balefire Labs, Award-Winning Educational App Curation Service

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

For what it's worth, no one can give you a meaningful answer to this question without better understanding the functionality that you need and the parameters of the problem you're trying to solve, especially as it relates to the "product" that you're sending. What is simple for a user to use is often complex to build...there is elegance in producing simplicity. So the answer is, no one really knows what it will cost until you scope out the work. I'd be concerned about anyone bidding on such a project who tells you differently. Good luck! Best, Karen

Dave Rogers

June 17th, 2016

I love Rob Gropper's answer about the price of a car this really brings up questions like "Are we talking about a used Honda Civic from 97" or 2017 Maserati?

Like the price for a car, the price for an app varies widely depending on the complexity of the requirement and the complexity of any back end required for the app. 

Prices can vary from $5k easily to $250k and beyond depending on what you are building. 

First step is to analyze your value proposition and attempt to validate that with your target market and to try to determine what features are must haves for the first iteration and what can come in later.

Hope that helps any...

Cheers,
D


Pratik Upadhyay I help startups to convert their idea to a self sustainable product.

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

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K. Robbins Head Moose at Moose WorldWide Digital

June 17th, 2016

Hello
Some good comments here. 

You need an APP if:
  • Your requirements call for functions that can only be provided on the phone.  The most common ones are push notifications, beacons, and deep interaction with the camera, such as accepting credit cards by allowing your consumer to take a picture of the card.
  • Your product is 100% mobile centric with no desktop prospects at all

There are two ways to go.

1. Write the app in a language native to the phone (Objective-C on i Devices, Java on Android).  This gives you the best performance with the highest development cost.

2. Use a "write once deploy anywhere" tool.  This gets it done faster, with a big hit in performance.  Don't believe the snake oil salesmen who tell you otherwise.

If none of these parameters align with your vision you don't need an app, you need a responsive/adaptive web site as others here have said.

Hope this helps.

Alan

Paul Haris Business Development manager at mindinvetory

Last updated on May 21st, 2018

The actual cost on an application development depends on various factors that are bound to app. Also the physical entities, resource involvements, the support and conditions of app stores are external factors that are taken into account while finalizing the cost of the application. There are some factors on which the costing of the mobile application depends while considering actual scenarios.


Elena Montes Managing Director at Kill The Loop

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

Thinking in developing a minimum viable product for your project? I am building since I set up my own company six years ago an intelligent and ethical IT business (that in few words means that we deliver quality work for the price we deserve and that I reward and give value to my team for their effort and good results), and I will be honest with you about how much you should be paying for a simple and well developed app and avoid being overcharged.

If you want a quick answer I would say that you shouldn't be paying more than 7,200€ to develop a simple native or a hybrid mobile app. If you want to know WHY please keep reading.


If your minimum viable product includes the development of an app, this app should be simple and shouldn't take more than 6 weeks to be developed. A simple mobile application is an app with less than five screens in total (or less than ten screens if most of them have a low level of customization and features). And most importantly, you have to be clear that "app development" strictly means "app coding", it is referred to iOS, Android OR Hybrid, and do not include neither app design nor web/db/api development.

I can easily respond to that tricky question because although we usually work from conception to final product launch, many designers with a business idea and software companies that already have a team of designers and programmers come to me for BPO (business process outsourcing) so we in these cases just do the mobile development part of their projects (as they don't want to contract/dismiss employees for a 1-3 month period to develop an app and having a remote developer for just the time they need lets them save a lot time and money) and they usually start with a minimum viable product, and after their first release they update the app with more features depending on their level of success. So be aware that if you provide to the mobile developer the app design (and the cms/database/api development if needed for your project) your app development could cost you as low as that amount, that is my average for simple app developments, or even less depending on your initial requirements.

However, if you don't have design/programming background you might need help with every single stage of your project life cycle. And I will help you list all the things you would need to consider for the successful realization of your business idea along with their maximum cost. I have marked with a tick the ones that would be strictly necessary:

Planning Stage

Define your minimum viable product. Keep the first release as simple as you can, you can add more features in future iterations.

Wireframes + Design specification. You shouldn't be paying more than 720€ for a 3-5 days of work.

Design Stage

Mobile app design. This work includes: the design of all the screens of the app in minumum two sizes for mobile and tablet, all cropped buttons and elements in two sizes for the developer and the designs required for the mobile app profile (about 5 screens, the cover image and app icon in different sizes). You shouldn't be paying more than 2400€ for a 2 week work.

Development Stage

☐ Admin panel to manage app info and users, database and API development. Depending on your project you will need it or not, or you may have very few requirements for this part. You shouldn't be paying more than 6000€ for a 5 week work.

One simple native or hybrid App Development. You shouldn't be paying more than 7200€ for a 6 week work (double the price if you wish another native app).

Testing Stage

☐ White box testing.

☐ Black box testing.

Your own test. Your developer will give you a link so you can test the user interface of your project and you can communicate the issues you find so he/she fixes them before the app submission.

Deployment Stage

Source code delivery and deployment. They should be free of charge. The developer should give you a link where you can download the source code of your project. If you don't mind to give your developer access to your server and developer account, your developer shouldn't charge you to setup or deploy the source code to your server, neither for the app submissions. Remember that you should pay the developer before he/she gives you and upload the source code.

Marketing

☐ Attract users via social networks, adverts, blog + newsletters, etc.

Maintenance, Updates and Upgrades

☐ Develop more features in your mobile app, make modifications, upgrade to the new OS versions, etc. This is extra and is charged separately.


These are my 10 step advices to you:

1. Define your MVP (minimum viable product).

2. Decide if you need: (a) a mobile app, (b) a responsive website, or (c) a mobile app + website.

3. Cut initial costs as much as you can with your own work: Example: Design the wireframes by yourself, thanks to this you will know better the product you exactly want.

4. Sign an NDA with the chosen developer.

5. Present your detailed description and wireframes to your developer and discuss your budget with him/her to agree a fixed price for your project.

6. Sign a contract with your developer.

7. Seat down and wait until your developer finishes your project.

8. Test your project in all devices you can, with and without internet connection and enter valid and invalid data in the app to test if the look & feel and workflow is correct and if the customized message errors appear correctly in the app. Log all the issues you find in the bug tracking platform that your developer will provide to you, or just email them if it is easier for you. Wait for your developer to fix everything and then do a final test.

9. Pay the developer. He/she will then send you the source code.

10. If you need help with app submission, just give your credentials to your developer to upload the app to the app store and/or to your server. Modify your credentials after the app has been approved.


Elena