How Much Does It Cost To Build An App?

Julian Wallis
16 min read
Cost to build an app

Estimating the cost to build an app can be tricky because many factors go into pricing an app. For instance, the features and specific functionality requirements, platforms and devices the app needs to be built for, and the required maintenance scale are just some factors among many in an app build project.

Furthermore, building an app is not easy because plenty of intricate details are involved in an app development project that needs special planning and strategising to navigate efficiently. Unsurprisingly, this makes estimating the app development cost much more complicated than it already is.

An interesting fact to note is that there are over 2 million apps in Apple’s App Store alone. And that number is only growing as more and more people switch to smartphones and tablets. 

With such a crowded market, making your app stand out is more important than ever. But before making your dream a reality, you need to answer one crucial question: How much does it cost to build an app? 

In this post, we’ll break down some of the significant factors that affect the app development cost, so you can better understand what to expect. Remember that these are just ballpark estimates – actual costs may vary depending on your specific project. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some factors determining how much it costs to make an app.

How Much Is The Typical Cost To Build An App? 🤔

Have you ever wondered about the general cost to build an app? Unfortunately, the app development cost can vary widely, depending on the features and complexity of the application, not to mention the resources used during development. 

So, if you’re thinking about developing an app, having a good sense of the budgetary requirements will put you in the right place to achieve the end goal in time and within the agreed-upon scope and requirements.

Calculating the cost to build an app

Let’s face it, all of that is well and good, but we all want an answer to the main question — How much does it cost to build an app? The thing is, it’s challenging to provide a general answer that works for every app build. Furthermore, almost every app development project differs from the others in some way, shape or form, which makes generalising the costs involved much more difficult. 

Regardless, based on our experience managing several in-house and external app development projects, the average app development cost ranges from AUD $20,000 to $200,000, depending on the build’s size, scope, and scale.

In the forthcoming sections of this article, we’ll go through all the different specific elements that affect the cost to build an app build and how they influence critical decisions that shape the look, feel and function of your application product.

How To Determine The App Development Cost 💰

As mentioned above, multiple factors contribute to the complexity of building a mobile app. The app development cost estimation depends on these factors, and we’ll take a broader look at each of them below through these three categories- low, mid, or high-cost apps.

A low-cost app would be something simple like a calculator or weather forecast. These apps have minimal features and are quick and easy to develop. These types of apps would typically cost anywhere from AUD $20,000 to $60,000.

Mid-priced apps have started to introduce more complex features and functionality, such as the ability to create an account and save data. They also tend to be more interactive and engaging, with a better design and user experience. You can expect to invest from AUD $80,000 to $150,000 for apps like these.

High-cost apps are the most complex, offering extensive features and functionality, often with a customised design and coding framework. They can take months or even years to develop and require a team of specialist engineers working on every aspect of the project. High-cost apps cost upwards of AUD $150,000 to build.

Of course, many other factors can affect the cost to build an app, from the size and experience of the development team to the length of time it takes to develop the app. However, it’s helpful to understand how these costs can be broken down if you’re just starting. With this knowledge, you can better understand what kind of budget you’ll need to build your dream app.

Now, we’ll delve deeper into each of these individual categories and provide you with more in-depth information that can help you understand how much your “dream app” might cost to develop.

🔍 Scope and Technical Considerations

The technical complexity of the app is the most significant determinant of the cost to build an app. The scope of an app build involves the features and functionality requirements and the platform and development framework considerations.

Earlier, we briefly touched on categorising app builds based on associated costs. Apps can be similarly divided into types based on scope and technical sophistication.

  • Singular Function apps: These tend to be straightforward with a particular purpose and very little technical complexity regarding development requirements. The features will be minimal and specific to the application’s core function. Think applications such as Notes apps, to-do list apps, countdown timers, and alarm clock apps.
  • Moderately technical apps: Apps that fall in this category have a defined list of requirements and features but are not overtly exhaustive. One or two relatively simple integrations might also be involved, and more technical programs may require custom coding. Minimal Viable Product(MVP) apps and standard eCommerce stores are excellent examples of this type.
  • Highly technical apps: These apps have highly complex requirements, feature lists, and several cross-platform integrations and data sync. As a result, they will almost always require custom coding incorporating highly intricate dev frameworks and best practices. Examples include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) apps, Social Media apps, Marketing Automation apps, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps.

Essentially, the higher the technicality, the more will be your app development cost.

💻 How Does the Platform Affect The Total App Development Cost?

Here, the question is Web app vs Mobile App. Each has pros and cons, and the app development cost will vary depending on which direction to decide to move ahead.

Smartphone applications run on a specific operating system like Android or iOS. As a result, mobile apps tend to be more expensive as you’ll have to factor in mobile-specific design and features into the app. In other words, the app will have to be built specifically for a mobile device.

Web apps are responsive websites launching in a computer or mobile device browser. In addition, web apps are relatively cheaper to make as they don’t require mobile device-specific features like GPS, touch screen or camera to be considered into the app’s built-in capabilities. More complex web applications that involve custom coding are also known as custom software.

Smartphone and laptop

The decision ultimately depends on what you want your app to provide for your customers. If the app explicitly needs to use a phone’s physical features, like a camera, GPS or portability, then you have to go for a mobile app.

However, you’ll incur a lower cost to build an app if you go for a web app build if there are no such limitations and there isn’t a real need to build a mobile app. For instance, Pokémon GO would never work as a web app because the whole premise of the app relies on GPS functionality and camera vision coupled with augmented reality.

👨‍💻 Where Does The Chosen Coding Framework Come Into All Of This?

The main questions you need to ask for this are: Native or hybrid, and iOS or Android?

Here’s a brief refresher on native and hybrid apps. Native apps are built for a specific operating system – either iOS or Android. On the other hand, hybrid apps are built to work across any operating system and share the same codebase.

Ultimately, your answer will depend on factors like the preference of your target users and your app development budget. Moving ahead with an MVP could be a sensible option if you’re undecided or don’t have enough data to clearly understand these factors. You’ll reduce the app development cost by half instead of simultaneously launching across both platforms.

Another option would be to go via the hybrid route, which has its fair share of comprises despite offering a faster development rate and time-to-market potential. By using the same set of code across multiple operating systems, you’ll significantly cut down on development time, you may experience lower performance and usability issues if the app makes use of device-exclusive features and functionalities. 

Depending on your app’s complexity, it may still require additional coding for each operating system, even with a hybrid approach.

A hybrid build typically involves programming languages such as React Native or Flutter. These frameworks allow you to write your app in one language and then compile it to run on multiple platforms. This can be a great option if your developers are already familiar with a specific programming language and want to reuse the existing codebase.

A native development approach will offer a better user experience and device-specific performance but will demand more in terms of time and inevitably money, especially if you intend to launch the application on both platforms.

Even though you could still reuse some of the design and code for each build, you’ll have to think long and hard before choosing this option, especially if you’re in a time crunch.

Regarding coding technology, most native builds will typically use a Javascript programming framework. In fact, most of the apps on the Play Store are built on Java, and it is also the most supported language by Google.

🏗️ Custom Coding vs Template Built

The benefit of a custom-coded app is that your development team will completely control its features and function. You’ll be able to make changes and update all aspects of the application without drastically altering the code base.

On the flip side, using an app builder limits the freedom to move and add specific features ad hoc, as you’ll be restricted to the capabilities offered by the template platform. Essentially, you’ll have to play within the confines of the platform and the available templates.

Custom-coded applications will allow your developer to design and develop entirely as you want without making any compromises or sacrifices to accommodate the template’s shortcomings.

The only downside is that custom-coded apps will take a lot more time, effort and resources, which is why it is not a cost-effective option. 

While we understand that not every app needs to be custom-coded, if scalability is in your plans, then it’s recommended to build a custom app from the ground up, to begin with.

Don’t Forget The Design & Testing Phases 🧪

Most app projects will involve some form of UI/UX design phase and a testing phase to test the app’s beta version before launching to market.

UI design and the project’s prototyping phase will always be less expensive than development cycles, and the same applies to testing. Testing can be through a micro-launch, where the app is released to a very small and select segment of the target market to gather feedback and uncover potentially disruptive issues before the official launch.

Testing mobile apps on different smartphones

Testing can also be controlled internally and tested among the major project stakeholders. The scope and reach of testing will ultimately determine the app development cost. Also, If you want to incorporate automated testing, you can expect the app development cost to rise accordingly as your developers will have to write additional testing scripts, adding a new layer of complexity to your project.

Costs can also rise if many bugs are uncovered during the testing phase, so it’s essential to implement coding-best practices throughout the development process. You don’t want your development team panicking before launch working all-nighters to fix disruptive issues a few days before the formal product launch.

On-going Maintenance & Product Management 🔩

You should also consider ongoing costs for support and maintenance. App hosting costs, vendor fees for integrations, app store fees, and app maintenance costs will all have to be factored into the total app development cost budget. 

Based on our experience, we’ve provided a few suggestions below-concerning vendors for the different aspects of product management and maintenance involved in developing a software application. 

🤵 Hosting 

When it comes to hosting an app, there are several different options to choose from. Digital Ocean and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are two of the most popular choices.

Digital Ocean is an excellent choice for cost-sensitive apps. The company offers a variety of pricing options, making it easy to find a plan that fits your budget. In addition, Digital Ocean offers many features that can help reduce the cost of an app, such as the ability to scale down resources when not necessary.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a potentially great option for apps that require robust performance and reliability. The company offers a wide range of cloud-computing services, including storage, databases, and networking. In addition, AWS has various features that can help improve an app’s performance, such as auto-scaling and load-balancing. However, AWS can be more expensive than other options and is recommended mainly for technically complex applications.

📇 App Store Membership 

You’ll have to factor in membership costs if you plan to sell or provide your app through the platform app stores. Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store both charge a yearly membership fee for developers who want to sell their apps in their respective stores.

This fee typically ranges from AUD $150 to $765, depending on the store and the country you reside in. In addition, both stores take a 30% cut of all app sales.

🤝 Third-Party API‘s

The cost to build an app also depends on whether you need or use a third-party API (Application Programming Interface). An API allows different software components to communicate with each other, and using a third-party API can save you time and money in development. 

However, it’s vital to consider the cost of using a third-party API before adding it to your app. Many APIs come with monthly or yearly fees, and some even charge per integration. 

In addition, you’ll need to ensure that the API is compatible with your app’s platform and meets all of your app’s requirements. When used correctly, a third-party API can be a great way to save time and money in app development. However, it’s essential to do prior research and weigh the costs and benefits before making a decision. 

📩 Messaging 

If your app requires messaging functionalities, especially at scale, then integrating a messaging app can help reduce development hours significantly.

Different messaging software contributing to the total app development cost

With so many options on the market, it can be challenging to decide which messaging software to use in your app. Here’s a quick overview of two leading messaging apps, Twilio and Sendbird.

Twilio is a cost-effective option for businesses of all sizes. The pay-as-you-go pricing model means you only need to pay for the features you use, and there’s no long-term commitment required. Twilio also offers a scalability feature, so you can easily add more users as your business grows. You can learn more about this in our comprehensive guide to understanding Twilio.

Sendbird is another popular choice for businesses. It offers a free plan for up to 1,000 Exits, making it a cost-effective option for simple app builds. Sendbird also has a robust feature set, including group chat and video calling. And like Twilio, it offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model and scaleable plans.

💳 Payment Gateway 

Another key consideration that affects the cost of building an app is the payment gateway you use. Stripe is a popular choice for app development, as it offers a simple way to add payments to your app. 

There are no set-up fees or monthly charges, and Stripe takes a percentage of each transaction, so you only pay when you make a sale. Online sales can cost you 2.9% plus AUD 46 cents per transaction. There is also an additional 1% fee for international and currency conversion transactions.

In addition, Stripe offers a range of features that can be customised to suit your needs, such as subscription billing and fraud detection. As a result, it’s worth considering Stripe as your payment gateway when building an app.

In-house Vs Agency 🤷

The app development cost will also change based on both the size of the development team and its expertise. 

If you’re partnering with an external company, ensure the agency has a proven track record of successful app projects, understands your business, and makes sound business and project sense recommendations. The cost of working with agencies will vary depending on their specific rates for app development projects.

On the other hand, hiring an in-house team of developers is also a possible option, just not always feasible, as you’ll likely need at least 2-3 developers for at least six months which might be too expensive for smaller companies.

How Does The App Development Cost Change For An MVP App? 💸

You can opt for a Minimum Viable Product if the upfront cost to build an app is not currently affordable. An MVP app should have enough features to get user feedback on the concept and provide the consumer with a base level of the product’s intended value. 

This will directly affect the cost by allowing the app to be built cheaper in its first version, as many features will be delayed for later iterations.

Budgeting to set the cost to build an app

If you begin with an MVP, your app development cost is likely to be about AUD $50,000 to $150,000, depending on your needs and the scale of the app. 

Remember that the high starting cost in the above range indicates that simple apps don’t warrant an MVP version, as you could just build the entire thing instead of going through the rigours of an iterative MVP process.

If you’re building an MVP, you’ll want to iterate development to integrate customer feedback to improve the product. Chances are, you’ll have an estimated cost to build an app and then ongoing app costs to develop later versions with additional functionality.

The Cost To Build An App: Final Words 📋

So, what does all of this mean for you and your app development project? To summarise, It means that estimating the cost to build an app is not an easy task.

As you can see, many factors go into pricing out an app development project. And while we can’t give a definitive answer without knowing more about your specific needs and requirements, the figures mentioned in this article should be treated as a ballpark estimate for reference purposes to help you get a better idea of the app development cost for your specific project.

If you’re curious about how much it would cost to build an app you’re seriously thinking about, book a discovery chat with us to discuss further.

Published On

October 06, 2022