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.

Rob G

June 16th, 2016

about the price of a car...

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.

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

June 16th, 2016

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 *Spread the word about Balefire Labs by clicking on your favorite social media icons below. * **Please confirm that you are already signed into your account.* ***Balefire Labs will not save your personal information.*

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.

James Linden VP Business Solutions at Kochava

June 16th, 2016

There are several factors that can great sway the cost of the app builds.  Complexity of app, what vertical your in (finance vs. entertainment vs. gaming), analytics and testing insights (i.e. hockey app/crash analytics).

On the cheap end you can probably do $20-$30K, high end $80-$100K for a well built app.

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

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


John Steinmetz Sr. Product Manager - Analytics at Bazaarvoice

June 17th, 2016

There are many aspects to building an app. Think of it like buying a new car. There are some cars with all the bells and whistles, safety features, interactive features and body styles that look sleek and sexy. With an initial cost of an app, you can pay anywhere from 5K-150K but that is just the beginning. Maintenance, updates, market testing new features, all of this rolls into it for future proofing the application as new platform versions come out. Companies can also build HTML5 versions of apps and then using things like Phonegap, Intel XDK, you can have those translated to compiled apps. Its not as great of performance but would get you in the market. Definitely know why you are building the app and focus on a small segment of the market that you understand and know has a need. Its a very saturated market in general.

Andy Rah Vice President of Global Marketing, Macadamia Beauty

June 16th, 2016

Like others have said, it really depends on what you need.  If you're just trying to sell product online, a responsive, mobile-friendly website would be the way to go.  If you need app-like features, then you'll look at $10-25k for something simple... Goes up from there the fancier you get.  If you want a better response from these guys (I see a lot of great responses already with little to go on), please provide more information so people can give better direction...  Good luck!

Jatinder Singh

June 16th, 2016

As Max said; a responsive website that works on both mobile screens as well as desktop might just be a good answer. Assuming you did some research and based on your customer's need and high purchase frequency, you have decided that app is the right answer. There are other reasons to use app as well such as Notifications or using Apple Pay (thumprint pay - only for iOS though), might be your reasons to want to build the app. In that case you can save money by using cross platforms like Xamarin, which is a well seasoned and tested Microsoft tool. This platform will spit out apps for both iOS and Android. These work really well, and for simple eCommerce applications are probably the most economic option. 
The exact costs are very hard to estimate without knowing the scope etc. I can probably provide some estimate to you, but I would need to know more about the overall business requirements. Feel free to email me and happy to engage further and provide insights.

Thanks,
-J.