(Updated May 2018)
Asking how much a mobile app costs is like asking a home builder how much it costs to have a home built.
It depends on A LOT of things. Mostly – complexity.
Naturally, it will cost less to build a modest 1000 square foot ranch, than a 2-story, 3000 square foot home with turret, covered verandas and top of the line finishings.
Until the home builder (or app developer) knows your requirements and budget, 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.
Example Cost Estimates if You Hire an Agency
So let’s say your company has the list of requirements for your app and you want to know how much it costs. Your investment for a basic app with limited features, for one platform (ex. iOS, Android) will typically fall in the range of $20,000 – $35,000.
The complexity (and therefore price) goes up as we add features like user registration and login, interfaces for different users (ex. client, staff, administrator), GPS tracking, and integration with external applications. Expect to invest in the range of $30,000 – $100,000 or more for a moderately complex app.
Example Cost Estimates If You Hire Internally
So, you need a developer. Not just any developer, an iOS or Android developer. Budget at least $70,000 per year. On the lower end of the salary scale you’ll recruit recent grads. For a developer with more experience you’ll pay more.
Ask any coder 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 installed your kitchen cabinets to decorate your living room? Doubtful.
You need a designer. Salaries could run $60,000 to $80,000 plus.
You certainly can’t release an app that is full of bugs, so you’ll need someone to run your app through every imaginable use case to find bugs and ensure they get fixed. Your app depends on this, budget $60,000 or more a year for good QA (Quality Assurance).
If your app has any back end integrations, and it most certainly does, you’ll need a competent back end developer. You could pay $60,000 to $80,000 or more for this person.
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 $70,000, but you could also pay $120,000.
Now you have a team that can probably make this happen. But, first they need training, a system and time to get ramped up to work together. We also know the true cost of an employee is more than their salary…you have PTO, health insurance, worker’s compensation and so on.
If your freshly hired team can produce a basic app in 12 weeks you’d have costs of labor starting at $62,400, based on minimum salary estimates and not considering costs above salary.
If the project ran closer to 6 months you’d have costs of labor starting at $125,000.
And that’s assuming you don’t plan to improve the app over time or update it for compatibility with the latest versions of Android and iOS. It also assumes you lay everyone off after version one is out the door. Not ideal.
The Survey Says…
An article by Business News Daily, “How Much Does it Cost to Build a Mobile App“, cited a study that found 54% of companies they surveyed invest $25,000 to $100,000 on each mobile app they have developed. A further 25% spend more than $100,000 to have a mobile app developed.