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How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021?

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Gone are the days of turning on your PC just to check your email or ping a friend on Facebook. These days, people are spending more time on their mobile phones where they can checkout items, chat with friends, or browse through an online catalog. Thanks to those mobile apps that you can sneak quickly and are super easy to download from Apple Store and Google Play Store.

There are no-code mobile app development frameworks available that may be good for initial POC, but real mobile apps usually involve a lot more complicated flows and require solid development processes.

There are many factors to consider to determine the mobile app development cost, which includes deciding between getting a few in-house mobile app developers and outsourcing to a firm or using a freelancer. But regardless of whether you are outsourcing the project to a development company or building an in-house team, there are some factors that will trigger the fluctuation in the costs of the app.

 

How Much Does It Cost To Make or Build An App?

A Kinvey CIO study suggested that the average cost to develop an app for an organization is $270,000. VDC research puts that number closer to $140,000.  We’ve built amazing apps for as low as  $10,000, and we’ve built them for over $200,000. So the real answer regarding the cost is that it entirely depends on the scope of the project and the complexity of features.

Keep in mind that’s just the cost of the initial version of the app. The app maintenance carries another price tag. An old Forrester survey showcased the app maintenance pricing way back 2012 wherein the cost to build an app that time was between $50,000 and $100,000, which was only a third of the overall cost. App maintenance, updates, upgrades, and future iterations are all needed to factor in the cost breakdown.

Contrary to what many people may think, it is quite difficult and challenging to come up with the accurate cost to build a mobile app. The cost of app development can get even more expensive depending on the complexity of features. In fact, it’s actually one of the most difficult questions you need to ask yourself if you consider outsourcing an app development project.

 

Factors that Affect Mobile App Development Costs

There are factors that influence the cost of mobile applications. It’s important to review and determine a few core aspects that will have a major factor in the overall price.

  • Native Mobile App, or Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile App
  • Apple iOS and Android
  • Compliance Requirements
  • Standalone Mobile App or Backend Integration

Let’s look at each of these factors that can influence the cost of mobile app development.

Native Mobile App or Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile App?

One of the most important questions and considerations to consider is the type of platform. Should it be a Native iOS, a Native Android, or a Cross-Platform Hybrid mobile app? This decision is primarily driven by the type of app, type of business, audience, budget, and time to market. Mobile app development cost will significantly change depending on your preference.

A native mobile app is a type of app that’s been developed for specific mobile operating systems using the language and tools preferred by the device and OS manufacturer. For Apple iOS devices, Swift or Objective-C, along with Xcode for code build. Native apps are usually preferred for cases when performance and pure native experience is required, such as games or apps that may need hardware interaction or custom design effects. Felt Card, handwritten greeting cards mobile app is one such case where writing smoothness was so important that it had to be a native mobile app. 

On the other hand, a cross-platform hybrid mobile app is the type of app that follows the “write-once, run anywhere“ approach. Hybrid apps may look and feel like a native app but they are created using a common language such as Javascript and deployed on different devices. There are many different types and ways of building cross-platform and hybrid mobile apps. Check out the Cross-Platform Hybrid Mobile App Development service page for more information. 

Hybrid mobile apps are generally cheaper to create and are easier to market, but there are challenges in building this type of app. Native apps, on the other hand, provide better experience but are expensive.

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021? 1

Apple iOS, Google Android, or Both?

Choosing between Apple iOS and Google Android devices can be really challenging. Sometimes, you will have to consider having a mobile app running on both platforms but you’ll get caught up in whether to build both apps at once or one at a time. 

You need to build a  user profile, and here are some things to factor in to help you decide:

  • Who are these target app users?
  • What devices do they frequently use?
  • What are the features that they want to experience in the app?

Certain apps are best suited for Android only because of the platform’s features and open-source benefits. The mobile development price will significantly change depending on that decision. 

There’s this cross-platform development should you need an app that works on multiple devices. The price is also different for this app type. Despite the availability of a cross-platform, many businesses still prefer to launch on one platform first to get some feedback from users before launching the second. Remember that testing on both devices may take time. 

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021? 2

Compliance Requirements (HIPAA or PCI)

Certain apps need to comply with specific laws and regulations especially if they provide services for industries such as the health industry (HIPAA) or the financial industry (PCI). Depending upon the geographical area of your app users, some apps may also need to comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which helps protect the personal data of EU citizens. Those operating their apps outside of Europe may also need to comply as there is always the chance of an EU citizen giving out information to the company through their website and apps. 

HIPAA and PCI compliance app development have many requirements that include data confidentiality, caching, encryption and tracking. Here are a few Things You Need to Know in Developing HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Software. These requirements can increase the cost of development significantly. Over the last few years, our team has developed many HIPAA compliant web and mobile apps, and we understand the complexity and challenges that come with it. 

If your app requires HIPAA or PCI compliance, check out one of the recent articles where we talked about the Cost of Developing a HIPAA Compliant App.

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021? 3

Standalone Mobile App or Backend Integration

Is your app a stand-alone app that has no back-end connectivity? Or does it rely on the data from the backend server? All these business applications require some kind of connectivity for loading and storing the data. Many games or simple applications may not require backend connectivity. 

In one of our recent projects, we had an app that provided a guide that could technically be on the app only, however, we decided to keep the data on the server to make the changes easier in the long run. Cost of any app changes and publishing to the app store may eventually cost more, but backend-less apps may work for the proof-of-concept in some cases. 

 

Other Factors That Can Influence The Development Cost

While everyone has a development budget, there are a number of factors that inflate the production cost of an app: the platforms and devices it supports, offline support, third-party integrations, Bluetooth or hardware integration, custom designs and features, development restrictions, security requirements, compliance requirements, among many others.

Here are some of the factors that can influence the app development cost:

Offline Support

Does your app need to be functional when there is no Internet connectivity? Some applications require live data but many applications need not have a last-minute change. For example, a video in your app should be playable even if there is no connectivity, a book already downloaded should be readable (audible), a document should continue to be editable (notes app such as Evernote), and many more use cases. 

In one of our recent projects, we created a bi-lingual mobile app that allows users to buy books in PDF or ePub3 format, and read on the phone. Offline support is important in an app like this, so users can read the book even when there is no connectivity. 

Off-line support requires data caching and storage on the local phone device, syncing and merging at a later time when there is internet connectivity. Apps can have full offline support, or certain parts of the app can have off-line support. These requirements can impact the development time and cost and should be considered when evaluating the scope of the app from the cost perspectives. 

Third-party Integration (which one, and how many will make a difference)

Similar to compatibility with devices, integration with third-party apps is just as relevant when it comes to determining app cost. Third-party apps are usually used within apps to help with their functions and processes such as payment processing, analytics, lead generation, funnel marketing, among many others.

Payment Processing (Credit Card, ACH, or more)

If your app requires payment processing, then integration with a payment gateway is required to achieve that. Most payment processors such as Stripe, Braintree Payment Systems, etc provide more or less the same integrations. More importantly, what kind of integrations are important for your business. Here are few payment collection options to think through as you are working on the requirements and scope of your app.

  • Credit Card
  • Bank Wire
  • ACH
  • Google Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Paypal
  • And few more

You will likely have different coupons and promotions that can change the development effort. Additionally, do you need to collect one-time payment or subscription-based payment? Yearly, monthly, single coupon, multiple-couple, metered billing? All these factors will determine the cost. 

CRM, BackOffice, and other Business Applications Integration

Depending upon the type of business, you may need to push the data to your CRM, or marketing software, to support your customers.

Additionally, your app may need some kind of integration with your back-office applications that are being used to support your business. These may be proprietary software or external cloud-based applications that may be integrated via API or Zapier type of tools. 

Bluetooth or Hardware Integration

Many apps will make use of the device’s hardware elements such as Bluetooth, NFC technology, camera, voice recorder, motion coprocessor, GPS navigation, fingerprint scanner, and many others. These features will require extra skills from the app developers, racking up a higher cost of app development.

How Many Features?

Having a custom-made app may require more features that will surely bloat the costs. Complex apps such as enterprise mobile apps will require certain functionalities that cannot be found anywhere else. 

So before you hire mobile developers, make sure that you have all the list of the features that you need first. The more complex and custom the features are, the higher you will need to compensate for the developer time.

Custom or Standard Design?

Apple and Google recommend that apps follow their design guidelines. It is possible in some aspects, but it gets challenging if you decide to build a hybrid app. All these apps designed need to be consistent with the brand, including the colors, fonts, images and style.

People nowadays are not only concerned with how easy they can accomplish things through an app, but they judge based on how it looks as well. So without the visual element and branding, an app may not be all that successful. There should be a balanced approach to provide users the best experience from your app.

It is highly recommended to review your app’s design because this is one of the important things that people are looking for in a mobile application. 

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021? 4

Security requirements

Like any other service that stores user information, it’s imperative that the app should have some security features. Every app has specific needs for this depending on the type of app being developed. Among the many requirements that every app must have are secure code, encrypted data, authorized API integrations, high-level authentication, least privileges, database, and file security, data portability, and many others. Additionally, your mobile app may need to support Face ID, Touch ID, or other authentication mechanisms.

Restrictions On Development Resources 

Depending upon the type of app and timeline, you may need multiple mobile app developers to build your app. The cost of these developers will vary depending upon many factors that include the experience, location, and whether the developer is an employee or a freelancer or an outsourced developer.  In any case, this is the biggest expense you’ll have to pay for during the app development process when you work with highly-skilled developers who will get the job done. 

As shared in one of our recent articles How to Spot A Good Software Development Partner,  here are some of the possible options that you may take to develop your new app:

  • Existing in-house resources if you have app development capabilities in your team
  • Assemble your internal team if you have the time, capacity, and budget
  • Employ freelancers as long as you have the ability and capacity to manage
  • Outsource to an external company who are experts in the software development

You can use a combination of all of these, where you can do some in-house and outsource some part of the project, or use external resources to augment your team.

If you are hiring internally, freelancer or outsourcing, you will have to determine if your hired resources or team are:

  • US-based only
  • Offshore / Nearshore 
  • Hybrid (a combination of local and off-shore/near-shore)

Technology Rivers works on a Hybrid model, where we have developed resources in different parts of the world, but our project coordination, product management, and architecture team is based in the USA. This provides a unique edge to customers as they get the best of both worlds, by dealing with a local firm and resources during the US time and lower cost by leveraging overseas development resources. 

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Mobile App in 2021? 5

What’s Next – Are You Ready to Make Your Dream App a Reality?

Now that you know all the factors involved in app development, it’s time to let the information you’ve gathered help weigh in on your decision for the next few steps of app creation: Should you make your app on your own, have it done by a freelancer, or should you have it developed by an app development company who has an in-house team of experienced developers? 

No matter how simple an app may look, there will be engineers needed to make regular and consistent updates on the app that will further improve the app’s functionality. Every developer will also have different sets of skills, so it’s important that you work with those who have the right amount of flexibility to help save up on your Mobile App Development costs. Check out our blog on how to Outsource Your Mobile App Development Project Effectively With These 4 Tips.

 

Partner with Experienced App Developers

Your app development options these days are practically limitless! If you’re interested in building a mobile app while optimizing for cost, partnering with an experienced app development agency can help ensure your vision reaches its full potential. At Technology Rivers, we specialize in building custom applications that adhere to compliance standards and design guidelines. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our development representatives, and we’ll discuss how our app development experts can help you turn that app from an idea to a reality!

Join the conversation here

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Ghazenfer Mansoor

Ghazenfer Mansoor

Ghazenfer Mansoor is the CEO of Technology Rivers. He has extensive experience in creating innovative and scalable software products. He helped numerous startups in their MVP, product development, and growth strategies.He writes on entrepreneurship, growth strategies, startups and technology.

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