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How Much Does a Mobile App Cost?

Asking how much a mobile app costs is like asking a home builder how much it costs to have a home built.

The cost to develop a mobile app depends on a lot of things, including:

  • Are you just developing an app, or will you also need an API, database and cloud-based web-admin?
  • What is the needed functionality?
  • Will there be integrations with third-party platforms, or your existing proprietary software?
  • What platforms need to be supported – iOS? Android? Both? Others?
  • Will the UI design be simple, or highly customized and elaborate?

Until the app developer (or home builder) knows what’s being built, and what it looks like, asking for a price is like asking him or her to pin the tail on a donkey…while blindfolded, after spinning around 10 times and hiding the donkey at your sister’s house.

But, we are here to answer your “How much does a mobile app cost?” question, so we’ll make some generalizations.

How much a mobile app costs if you hire an agency

The agency you choose will need to start the project with a discovery and planning phase. Then there will be an app design phase and a development and testing phase, before they can launch your app.

How much an extremely basic mobile app costs

For all this, an extremely basic mobile app will cost $25,000 to $35,000 if you hire Big Fish.

Keep in mind that an app this basic is very rare. It does not integrate with an API, and is mainly used to display a few pages of information from external JSON files.

How much a basic mobile app costs

A basic mobile app for one platform, with limited features, will cost $45,000 – $65,000 if you hire Big Fish.

It probably integrates with an API that was written by someone else and has a few relatively straightforward features.

How much a more complex mobile app costs

Now we’re into the territory of a typical mobile app. It probably has user registration, a custom API, interactive features and may use device hardware such as GPS or the camera.

Expect to invest in the range of $80,000 to $150,000 or more for version one of a complex app and API.

A significant benefit of hiring an app development agency to build your app is that you don’t need to make a long term commitment like you would if hiring an in-house team.

How much a mobile app costs if you build an in-house team

You need an app developer.

No getting around the fact that you’ll need an app developer.  Expect even new graduates to pop out of school expecting $85,000 plus a year on the low end. But you can only hire an inexperienced developer if you have a team with more experienced developers to help and guide them.

So scrap that idea, you need a very experienced developer if you’re just hiring one. In 2021 you won’t get an experienced app developer for under $100,000.

You need a UI/UX designer.

Ask any app developer and most will tell you…they write code, they don’t design beautiful, user-friendly interfaces. Cranking code is an entirely different skill than creating the user interface for your app. Would you expect the carpenter who built your kitchen cabinets to decorate your living room? Doubtful.

You need a UI/UX designer. Salaries will run $55,000 to $80,000 plus depending on geography.

You need someone to test the app.

You certainly can’t release an app without having it properly tested. So you’ll need someone to run your app through every imaginable use case to find bugs and ensure they get fixed. And this isn’t your high school student nephew.

This person in charge of quality assurance needs to be extremely detail-orientated, meticulous and understand the tech so they can predict everything that could go wrong and test for it. Budget $60,000 a year for a novice software tester and $80,000 plus for experienced quality assurance.

You need a full-stack developer.

If your app will include server-side integrations, and it most certainly will, you’ll need a competent full-stack or backend developer. You’ll pay $90,000 plus per year for a good full-stack developer and that’s on the low end.

You may need a project manager.

Unless you want a second job, you’ll need a project manager who will ensure everything stays on track, the team has what they need and all stakeholders are kept informed.

Project Manager salaries vary widely depending on experience, skills and specialized expertise. You could pay $50,000 for someone who doesn’t have experience managing tech projects.

If they have experience managing tech projects you’ll be looking at $75,000 plus. If you want someone with extensive agile project management experience, you could be into $110,000 or more per year.

 

Now you have a team that can probably develop your mobile app.

Your app development team will need onboarding, a whole slew of tools to use to do their job and time to get ramped up to work together. And don’t forget that the true cost of an employee is more than their salary. There are also taxes, health insurance and other benefits, worker’s compensation, paid time off and so on.

For the sake of providing a general estimate of how much a mobile app costs, we’ll base our costs off these salaries:

App developer: $120,000

UI/UX designer: $65,000

Quality assurance: $80,000

Full-stack developer: $90,000

Project manager: $75,000

Now the answer you’ve been waiting for – how much will a mobile app cost if you have it built internally?

If your freshly hired team can produce a basic app in 12 weeks, you’d have costs of labor starting at $99,000 over 12 weeks. This is based on minimum salary estimates and not including costs above salary.

If your needs are more complex and the project runs closer to 6 months you’ll have costs of labor starting at $215,000 for 6 months, not including costs above salary.

This plan assumes you lay everyone off after version one is out the door. Not ideal.

Now that you know how much it costs to build a mobile app, what do you think?

Interested in hiring a USA-based mobile app design agency?

You can reach out to the Big Fish team here. Request a call so we can see if your project may be a good fit, and explain the next steps of working together.

 

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - a custom software design and development studio in Florida and North Carolina. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.