Step by Step Guide to Mobile App Development Cost

Today, trying to generate sales and customer engagement with only a website or an e-mail newsletter is not working anymore. According to Yahoo's Flurry Analytics, 90% of the time on mobile devices is spent in applications. That is why more and more brands work on developing an app that is going to help to build customer loyalty and to raise awareness.

Take a look at world-famous brands like Nike, United Airlines, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, ZARA, no matter what industry – they all go with mobile solutions.

In case you are considering getting an app of your own, we have prepared a thought through guideline on the cost of mobile application development.

What application means for business?

Every day there are more people on the phone browsing through some app, than talking to each other or surfing the net. You no longer can reach the audience with commercial or outdoor advertising. It is time to think outside the box.

The mobile application is a tool that can present your business to clients in the new light. Here's what it does:

A custom application is available to your clients 24/7. They can purchase the products or services whatever they like. It will make your business the first they turn to when others are not accessible.
The smartphone is the source of personal entertainment, social activity, and interaction. Therefore, it is a great communication channel for engaging your target audience into the life of your business.
Think about all the icons you see on the phone every day. Facebook, Telegram, Uber, Coursera – their logos grew into your mind. There is no way you will not be able to recognize them as you see those apps' icons on a daily basis.

Imagine the logo of your brand being recognized on the same level. Your business will reach the minds and stay there with a simple app.

The mobile application can be useful to customers in numerous ways. From a special discount program designed for app's users to approachable support that is going to solve any issue quickly.
All-in-all, the mobile application is an effective tool to boost sales. People prefer convenient to challenging, fast to time-consuming, and familiar to unknown. Give users ability to look through, order, and even buy your products in just one click whenever they want.

Cost Affecting Factors

Just as there are many different types of applications that vary in complexity, sizes, shapes, functions and color schemes, there are numerous factors that affect the final cost of the project.

The essential factors that influence that cost are:
Development Team
Development Platform
Application Type and Functionality
Post-development Application Support

Development Team

The cost of the app building is calculated upon what kind of professional you want to hire. There is all the world to look through thanks to the internet and travel accessibility. You can choose the location and rates suitable for your working process and budget.

Initially, there are two options to choose between. You can work with a development company or hire some freelance developers on your own.
At first, take a look at the average hourly rates presented on the image below.

They are divided by the most common locations of software development agencies and freelance developers.

locations of software development agencies and freelance developers
Freelance app developer
Top-notch application created by freelancers are not unheard of. Moreover, it is much cheaper to hire a freelancer or even a group of them to work for you. However, this option is accompanied by risks or worker vanishing in the middle of the project with access to the source code and documentation.

You will be paying for the bare hands of developers, and not for creative solutions for your business. If you are not sure what you want to or how to name it, freelancers are no good.

Advantages and disadvantages of hiring a freelancer:

– Low rates;
– Flexibility;
– Niche experience;
– Less legal issues;
– Remote responsiveness;
– No supervision;
– Inconsistent performance;
– Own cypyrights.

Development agencies
Choosing a development agency may sound expensive, but you are buying the time of a reliable professional team. Such agencies provide a proper management, designers, and programmers to successfully implement any project.

You are going to entrust the building of your application to a company that has a relevant expertise and personnel to implement it. Thus, the finished product will be all and even more than you paid for. Instead of a simple application; you will receive a business solution for your problems.

Basic development team consists of:
Project manager

It is a team leader that is going to make sure your idea is implemented accordingly to your business vision and needs. The project Manager is responsible for conveying the tasks to the team, avoid any drawbacks and follow the deadlines.


A staff member is responsible for the technical part of the project. They will write the source code of the application, build all planned features, integrate it with the data source and fix bugs that may occur.

Developers are crucial human resources required for the project, as their part of the work is essential for app building.

UI/UX Designer

The designer works on creating application interface and enjoyable user experience. They are responsible for how the apps looks and feels to the final user.

QA Engineer

Quality assurance engineer tests the application to assess the quality of the code and design. He or she is responsible for meeting the requirements of the client. Professional testing should discover all potential bugs and initiate the fixing before the app is officially launched in the stores.

Advantages and disadvantages of working with a developer agency:

– Full staff at one place;
– Concentration on core business processes;
– Proper management;
– Reduced risk;
– Business and technical expertise.
– Hidden costs;
– Lack of customer focus;
– Risk of confidential data leakage;
– Language and time differences.

Development Platform

Native Application

Native apps are built separately for each platform. This option is as expensive as the amounts of platforms you would like to access. Is it going to be for iOS, for Android, for Windows Phone or all of them at the same time?

We recommend choosing one platform to launch an application to test out how it is going to interact with the target audience. If it proves to be successful, then the application will be expanded to other platforms. If not, you will save the cost of multiple-platform development.

Android platform holds 80.8% of the global mobile market. Combined with a relatively simple launching process for Google Market and high revenue from advertising, it may seem like a good deal. However, development takes much time to make sure the app is the same on different Android devices.

In comparison to Android, iOS applications bring twice as much revenue. They are consistent on all devices and have a dedicated user base open to paid application and in-app purchases. The only disadvantage is a small market share and complicated publication process with lots of standards to meet.

Hybrid application

Apart from developing an app separately for each OS, there is an option to create a hybrid application suitable for every platform. The problem is that while they can be launched, their functionality and design are going to suffer.

This option is cost-effective and saves if you want a simple application that connects the user's phone to the web and brings back the information. However, in the case of heavy database access and intense calculating processes, it is going to suck big time.Plus, not all companies agree to work on cross-platform app development, as it is a troublesome process.

Graphically rich applications with complex micro interactions like games or video editors cannot be completed using the means of cross-platform development. You can try to create one like this, but it is going to be different on every device.

Application Type and Complexity

Once the platform has been decided, it is time to move further to the features. The type of application that is going to be built and its functionality are going to determine how many hours of the developer team you will be paying for. We have separated the apps by types and complexity.
According to the type, applications are divided into the next categories:
Basic list-based apps
These applications are built to display a compilation of information. The user can select a certain subject and be redirected further to the related materials. Take a look at the Wikipedia mobile application. It is very familiar to the original website and is a perfect example of a list-based application.
Database-based apps
Such applications allow users to access, search, sort and display information from large data sets which are stored on the web servers.
Dynamic apps
These apps do not only display the information from the online servers, but also cooperate with other platforms and software through APIs. For example, Tinder applies the Facebook API to pull the list of user's friends and establish connections.
The last but not the least come Game application. These guys are the hardest to develop. There are some relatively simple games that are similar to the dynamic applications in terms of development and pricing. At the same time, more complex games with the 3D environment and advanced physics happen to cost more than any other kind of app.
Memo: Every 3d party API integrated into the application has a charge for usage, from monthly to annual paying plans. It can affect the initial budget of the project and increase the mobile app development cost.
According to their complexity, the apps can be divided into three categories:

  1. Simple

  2. Moderate

  3. Complex

Simple applications are fast to develop and have the basic functionality (email or social media registration, calendar). These apps do not require any outside APIs integration or a backend infrastructure development.

Therefore, the average work time to develop such an app is about 300 hours.

The application of moderate complexity will support APIs and contain interactive elements. There will be implemented such features as real-time chats, in-app payments, simple backend server and custom UI features.

The development of such application is going to take from 500 to 800 hours.

The complex application is highly interactive and has advanced functionality like multi-language and audio/video support. Custom animation and high-end design take a lot of time and effort to plan and develop. The vast majority of top-chart applications belong to the complex category despite how they look. Moreover, the simpler they look the hardest they are to build.

It takes more than 800 hours of work time to develop a complex custom app.

In terms of mobile application market development and expanding, it is difficult to categorize the applications by type. What you have to understand as a client, is that the overall cost of building an app greatly depends upon the implemented functionality and design.

Application Development Step by Step Cost Guide

The final cost of the application depends on the time required for each part of the application development process and how much company charges for it. Let's quickly guide you through the app building process. It usually begins with:
Project planning
Application design
Application Features
Quality Assessment

Project Planning

Building a high-quality mobile business solution is impossible without a proper understanding of what it is being made for. It has to be clear why the business needs this product, what problems it is going to solve and for whom (user profile).
The project manager of the team is going to help you define:

– What devices and platforms do your target audience use the most?

– How much time do they spend on mobile devices?

– What do they use the mobile devices for?

– What should make them use your application?

– Do you plan to pay more attention to the functionality or the visual part?
    Once a model of the prospective user is complete, we are going to take a look at competitors. Is there something you would like to pick up or improve? Maybe there are parts you would like to avoid in your app to provide a better solution?

    These are the essentials that decide application's functionality and its overall cost. When we lay out what the business requires, the next stage is to grasp the complexity of the application.

    Understanding the complexity of the application development allows managing the time accordingly. Factors to consider:

    – Size of the project;
    – Features;
    – Applied technologies;
    – Team ability to deliver;
    – Additional requests of the client.

    Proceeding further to writing project documentation and preparing agreements together with creating a project plan. The lengths of the initial project phase depend greatly on how much you know about his business and how the final product is supposed to look.

    If the client has a vague idea about the application, its features, and purpose, it is going to take more time figuring it out together.

    The average time required for application planning is approximately 20-50 hours for the simplest applications.

    Application Design

    Okay, it is clear what you want. Let's move to designing the app's functionality. At this stage, project managers together with designers think about the main features of the application and build the user experience map.

    We design and approve every wireframe with the client to create structured app screens. The process may last longer due to:

    – Including more details and features into each wireframe;
    – Unclear request for wireframes;
    – More complex design;
    – A number of screens needed.

    Meantime, if the client has wireframes examples, or provides detailed requests for each, it is going to buff the process and may lower the cost to develop an app.
    Visual Design
    Moving to designing, approving and creating different images, icons, layers. All the elements that are going to become a visual shell of the app. It may take longer to design the app if the following are undecided:

    – The number of app screens and UI elements that each screen contains;

    –Complexity and quantity of custom-designed elements;

    – Specific or not defined customer preferences.

    The time needs may be smaller if the client provides the comprehensible design requirements or examples of application design they want to achieve.

    User Experience Design
    There are five essential rules to ensure that the user is going to enjoy using the app. It has to be:

    – Coherent;
    – Clear;
    – Credible;
    – Common enough;
    – Captivating.

    Keeping all this in mind, we create and check the logics of screen layouts and architecture. UX design has to meet the standards of the exact operating system or device it is made for.

    Usually, this happens together with wireframing or UI making. In some cases, it may be used to plan wireframe and UI validity from scratch regarding user experience.

    On average it takes from 40 to 120 hours.

    Application Features

    It is created to save the time user is going to spend on inputting personal details every time. Plus, the accumulated data helps to obtain accurate insights on app's users. This block presupposes such options as:

    – Registering with e-mail, phone number or a social media account;

    – Email verification;

    –Password restoration;

    Can require from 20 to 45 hours to develop.

    User Profile
    After the user registers, he gets a separate personal account with his data and setting. He has to be able to set up and change profile picture, add more information on himself. There are tons of mini-features that can be included here depending on the type of the application you are building.

    Subscriptions, followers, followers, the number of posts, likes and liked posts, I can go on forever.

    This functionality is going to take around 40 hours to develop.

    Payment integration
    Providing users with an ability to purchase real stuff online by paying a card sounds simple. The development of the payment integration does not. To be able to make a simple transaction with your card number, a programmer has to connect a payment gateway to the application. Usually, these are the online services like Stripe and Authorize. There is no unified method that allows integrating all payment gateway types. If you choose to go with more than one, each integration is going to take more time.

    Developing the payment integration 20-40 hours depending on how many payment gateways you want to add.

    In-app purchases
    These guys deal with charging users for specific additional functionality, content or app subscriptions while using the app. These payments usually proceed through a wallet of an application store that user is connected to, like App Store or Google Play.

    Moreover, there is a huge backend process behind it like making payments visible, opening the content after payment, upgrading profile to premium and similar stuff.

    Development of in-app purchasing is going to take additional 12-20 hours.

    Push notifications notify the user about app changes, news, messages, and any other important aspects. If you want to add SMS notifications, it is going to require additional regulations with telecommunication operator.

    Required time for development starts at 5 hours.

    Navigation (GPS)
    GPS systems are versatile and can be used in every sector. Applying the GPS for your application allows:

    – Determining location of a user or an object;

    – Guiding a user from one location to another;

    – Monitoring movement of the user or an object;

    – Creating maps of the world;

    – Giving user a precise timing of the trip.

    Even more, you will be able to provide users with products or services relevant to their location and surroundings. GPS is also used for fitness apps like Move or Apple Health. They tackle the amount of steps you made, where you went and how long you were walking or running.

    On average, it takes about 60 hours to set up.

    Users like to find what they want quickly. Setting up the search filters by hashtags, categories, interests, sizes is essential for any app that wants to succeed.

    Think about adding autosuggestion, recent and saved inputs to make the search as user-friendly as possible. It saves the time and effort of the user when searching for the same item again.

    The search would take around 20 hours to code.

    Check out YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the user has a personal feed with relevant news, upcoming events, birthdays and important dates, and constantly updates. This is a user engagement feature that keeps them occupied with the application and connected to what is going on in your business. You can set up the feed only for business news, or allows users to communicate with each other and the world around with its help.

    Feed is going to take additional 30-40 hours to make.

    Finally, one of the most complicated and vital features is a mean for communication. Setting up a messaging chat is important for getting help from the application support staff, conveying your needs or just talking to the seller, another user, etc.

    Of course, you can set up a perfect manual, but there are always people that like talking instead of reading and guessing for themselves.

    Chat can have multiple functions like personal messages, group chats, secret chats, support of emoji and stickers, and more.

    Setting up a basic chat is going to take around 35-40 hours, but a more complicated version may take up to 250 hours of development.

    Quality Assessment

    The time needed for testing and fixing the application after the beta launching depends on its size and complexity. Every function has to work according to the app documentation. Therefore, it is going to drive up the cost of development. On average it can last from 30 to 150 hours.


    Submitting the application to the store is a process of pampering up the app to meet the Apple or Google standards. It includes creating the app developer account (if your company does not have one), receiving the certificates and being approved by the Administation team.

    Post-development application support

    Nevertheless, expenses do not end with the release of the application. It is just a square one of application success. The application has to grow the same as OS systems and devices.
    Therefore, it is going to be updated and improved for every new OS released, as any change in the OS platform is crucial for performance.

    User support
    No matter how good your UI/UX is, there are always users that do not get this or that or just need a person with a voice on the other side of the screen. Support is vital if your app is a complex service with many options, input fields, in-app purchases or anyhow connected with users spending money.

    Therefore, consider adding admin-to-user communicating feature like a live chat, live call or some bot to cover essentials.
    Updating application
    Users become lazier and lazier each year. They want ground-breaking features that are simple to use, new services, personal data security. There is no limit to their expectations. Whether developing such features and solutions requires more money and brainstorming.

    As a business owner, you have to continuously monitor the application trends, analyze the feedback from your audience and act on it.

    Bug fixing
    Polished application on the release is a rare case. There is no way to avoid bugs, as devices and platforms differ in many ways (screen resolution, performance parameters, etc.). Some of the bugs cannot be detected in the testing phase and appear only after the app was introduced to the mass usage.


    Given the number of facts that decide the cost of the application, it is understandable why there is no "average price" for an app building. Every application is unique in its purpose, design and set of features.

    In this article, we have outlined the basic factors that are going to affect the final price so you would be able to sum up the cost of your project. In case you are still at a loss, we are ready to help – just reach out!

    Tasha Bronitska


    Your photo