The True cost of App development: An exploration

How much does it cost to develop an app? Thats the first, and most popular question most people ask when it comes to app development. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most complex to answer due to the number of different variables involved.

Everything you add, each feature, has it’s own price tag, in terms of development time, cost, and app complexity. In addition, development cost differs around the world, and the adage “You get what you pay for” has never been more true. So then, what does developing a good app cost? And what factors influence this cost?

If you search the web, you will come across several different answers and tools, all aimed at estimating the App Development Costs for a mobile app. Most of these are just marketing gimmicks, that attract your attention but deliver nothing of value. Whatever answer these calculators give you is not indicative of the real development cost. The real cost of development can vary from as little as 1500$, all the way up to millions and more. So what determines this? Let’s find out.

  • – Labour Costs

One of the biggest sources of expenditure in your app development journey is labour costs. Many companies all over the world claim to be able to develop high quality apps, and many of them do. However, how much they cost is dependent on where they are. While generally, high price indicates high quality, it does not tell the full picture. Even the cheapest developer in a country that has a high cost of living, such as North America or Australia, will cost more than a skilled developer in India or Indonesia for the simple reason that it is cheaper to live in those places. By utilising a skilled company based out of a developing region, you can save a lot on labour costs. Here is a graph showing the average hourly development costs in several countries around the world.

  • – Time and Money

Depending on the complexity of the app, the desired feature set, and the platform of choice, app development costs can vary dramatically. Take a look at how development time can vary drastically across apps with the below table.

As you can see, the development time varies drastically. Now, one can either choose to pay in time or money. If you hire multiple developers, they can distribute the work between them and your time in development goes down, but your costs increase.

App Complexity

Development Time

Basic, Static App 50-700 hours
Medium, Dynamic App 700-1000 hours
Complex App with Backend 1200 or more hours

You can also choose to hire a few experienced developers, and save some money in the process, but your time to market will also increase, running the risk of letting the competition gain a foothold.

  • – Visual Design

Many apps choose to go with Apple or Google’s Visual UX guidelines. This makes developing apps quick and easy, but offers less of an opportunity for app developers to set their app apart, or integrate custom User Actions that enhance the app’s value, but save on cost. Developers can also choose to develop their own custom actions and visual design guideline, but this can cost significantly more due to the amount of testing and design that is required.

  • – App Maintenance Costs

The initial development is only one part of the story. Once the app has been released, keeping up to date with API changes, changes in the framework, and general OS updates is a constant game of cat and mouse. If the app is not designed well the first time around, these costs can snowball quickly, so take care to account for future app maintenance in your initial app development roadmap and budgeting.

For a detailed answer, you will have to contact an app development company, and see what they say. Try going for multiple quotes from app developers in multiple countries, so that you can get an accurate estimate of the market price, and get the best deal at the best price. Until then, here is a table showing the rough development costs of some popular apps, so you get a basic idea of the true costs of software development.

Auto Insurance App Development

Video Sharing App Development

Food Delivery App Development

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