“Mobile is becoming not only the new digital hub but also the bridge to the physical world. That’s why mobile will affect more than just your digital operations — it will transform your entire business.”
~ Thomas Husson, Vice President, and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research
Translating your business into a mobile application has become the need of the hour to harness the huge market that is rapidly going mobile. But the foremost and the most critical question that would arise is – ‘How much does it cost to build an app?’ Here, in this blog, we have answered this query by identifying the key drivers of cost in app development.
How Much Does it Cost to Build an App?
As per statistics,
“205 BILLION is the number of mobile app downloads that the world witnessed in the year 2018.”
The number is not so startling when you consider to what degree smartphones have penetrated in our day-to-day lives – approximately 3 hours a day is spent on mobile devices, of which about 90% is spent on mobile apps. This trend shows no signs of slowing down and if you want to take your business to the next level, then a mobile app is your pass to the fast lane.
As discussed, there is no simple number that could determine the app development cost. The truth is that the cost of creating an app depends upon a number of factors:
In a competitive era where we embrace a plethora of mobile applications daily, the importance of having a business model is vital for mobile app development. Before initiating the process to estimate the cost of creating an app, you must first analyze where the app will fit into your overall business model.
So, What exactly is a Business model?
Simply put, it is an assortment of factors like determining the target audience and their pain-points, how your app will provide a better solution, will it be a direct source in generating new revenue through sales, etc. Above all, knowing your customer is the most important factor in your business model and even the biggest startups have made mistakes in analyzing the demand of customers.
Snapdeal, for instance, failed considerably in winning the trust of its customers as it compromised quality over the quantity. It also failed to capture the electronics market since Flipkart and Amazon gained huge market acceptance by coming up with exclusive smartphone launches. Failing to understand its customer base, Snapdeal lost its market share, which dropped from 26% to 4% in a single year!
All the factors of business model combine together to directly weigh into the total cost of your mobile app development project and drive the type of app you intend to build. Note that the difference between the market takers and market makers isn’t product innovation, it’s business model innovation.
Having a great idea for a product or service is one thing and making it accessible to mobile users is another critical task.
After building a thorough business model, you will come across various technology trees on which your mobile app development project will be based upon. Choosing an application for the project will have a major impact on the overall cost to build an app. Based upon the complexity level, an app can be categorized as follows:
- Web App – Not technically a mobile app, it is rather a mobile version of a website. Based upon the principle of ‘mobile-friendliness’, it uses responsive design to ensure a smooth user experience across varied screen sizes – from tablets to smartphones. Because of the limited features and lower performance as compared to native apps, 85% of smartphone users prefer apps over mobile websites. This is by far the cheapest and least complex of all the options.
- Native App – Large applications aiming to hit a perfect balance of user experience and performance are built with language native to the operating system of a given device like iOS, Android, Windows – Swift or Objective C for iOS platform and Java or Kotlin for Android platform. Native apps are most complex of all but as the app is built and optimized for a specific platform, it results in a high level of performance. Hence, native apps fall under the expensive side.
- Hybrid/Cross-Platform App – Built using the combination of web and native technologies, this approach is best suited to cater to the needs of a large audience. Development and maintenance cost is low as compared to other approaches but they are not considered best in terms of capabilities because of its limited access to smartphone’s hardware as compared to native apps. They can smoothly run on all OS like iOS, Android, Windows.
To help you in this decision-making process, make use of the litany of comparisons between Web, Native, and Hybrid mobile application developments:
While building a mobile application, it is important to follow a ‘Stair-Step Approach’ – a long successful journey begins with a single step. No doubt, the ideal approach seems to build an app for both the platforms at the same time, however, that turns out to be an expensive and risky approach. For instance, Instagram, first launched on iOS in 2010, became available for Android users only 4 years later i.e. in 2014.
So the question that arises at this point is ‘Which platform to choose?’ The answer to this question resides in following iOS and Android comparison:
Back in the year 2012, iOS would seem to outsmart Android in the worldwide mobile share market with a share of 61%. However, the present situation has changed considerably as the year 2018 sees Android owning about 75% of the world’s mobile market, which is approximately 3.4 times higher than iOS does (22%).
Having 3 potential users instead of 1 is definitely a big number to consider while opting for a platform to build your own app.
The issue of fragmentation plays a vital role while considering which platform to go ahead with. On one hand, Apple has the limited number of devices that run on iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod) that are mostly updated to the latest version (iOS 11) of the operating system. On the other hand, there are a plethora of smartphones and tablets that run on Android with varied screen sizes and aspect ratios. It means that your app should be suitable for all of them. Moreover, in the Android platform, you can’t find any operating system which is used by more than 50% of Android device owners.
It turns the life of iOS developers easy as they have to build an app for a limited range of devices and operating systems.
No doubt, it can be inferred till now that iOS apps are faster and cheaper to design. However, after the completion of your app, when it gets ready to embrace the potential users across the world, one important step to pass is publishing the app to the app store.
Google Play Store charges a one-off $25 payment to upload your app without a long and strict approval process. On the other hand, your app undergoes a strict approval process in the Apple App Store that charges $100 annual fee. Hence, Android is an evident winner when it comes to the publishing process.
It can be easily concluded after reading the above passages that iOS apps can be built faster than Android apps. When compared to iOS, Android apps take 30-40% longer time to build. And the reason is fragmentation once again. Hence, the cost to build an app in iOS is less than Android.
In the end, mobile apps are a business and the decision to choose a platform comes down to the primary function of your app and the intended target audience. In order to be successful with your mobile app, you’ve got to have a strong marketing strategy in the foremost parameter – Business model.
Estimating the cost to build an app is a lot like costing a home. The base price for the type of app you intend to build keeps on increasing with the addition of new features. With mobile apps becoming more and more advanced, there is virtually no limit to what an app can do. Hence, there is no definite figure to the cost; however, it may range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to millions.
It is indispensable to have a thorough understanding of the basics of the app development, the features that can be added, and the technologies that back them while building your estimate. Taking base hour price as $25 and maximum hour price as $50, a brief rundown of the types of features that make up a typical mobile app can be:
This is just a break-up of some of the common features that combine to build everyday mobile apps. Other factors like the app to be free or paid, connected to the internet or not, and required back-end support play a major role in determining the cost and complexity of your app.
Design and Development
We have discussed various factors that are vital determinants of your cost to build an app – platform, type of app, business model, features you want and functionalities. However, another factor that plays a major role in determining the cost is – who you hire!
While the option of hiring freelancers and newbies seems a feasible and economical option, it may cost you a more in the long run. You can find a lot of freelancers out there, however, there can be a big question mark on their skill-set and consistency.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” ~ Red Adair
On the other hand, big companies of experienced developers charge an amount higher than freelancers, but, they bring on the table, their experience and guarantee, which is important for a successful mobile app. Such companies and teams are fully equipped with addressing all your needs related to the mobile app while thoroughly getting acquainted with the business model.
For instance, one of our clients IsaiX approached Net Solutions to redo their flagship web-based product, Coach Technology®. We promised our client to finish the job in less than 6 months. We followed the Agile methodology to speed up the process and delivered the product to our client in less than 6 months as promised.
Hence, hiring a big company with experienced developers cost you a bit higher than other options, but the project gets delivered on time with consistency and skillfulness.
The Cost to Build an App – Final Thoughts
A survey held by Clutch on the number of hours required for mobile app development activities revealed that the “median high” cost to build an app is $171,450, with a very wide range from under $30K to over $700K.
Thus, evaluating the cost to build an app has a great impact on the overall mobile development cost.
With the 5 major aspects that we discussed – Business Model, App types, Platform, Functionality, and Development – you should now be well-equipped to prepare a robust business model that will require minimal or no changes, else, you’ll end up spending a lot more than your projected costs.