How Much Does it Cost to Build a Mobile App?

Do you have a great idea for a mobile app, but wonder how much it will cost to build it? Building a mobile app is a great idea because 80-90% of mobile minutes are in spent in apps and not on mobile websites, according to Smart Insights March 2017 statistics. If you want to connect, interact and reach the maximum amount of mobile users you will want to consider building a mobile app.

A great way to gain insights into what it might cost cost to build a mobile app is to examine the kind of app you want to create and what features it will need. Let’s explore how much it could cost to build a mobile app so you know what to plan for.

What Devices Will You Initially Target?

The first question to think about is which platform(s) you plan to target for your initial launch of your mobile app. You will likely focus around one or more of the following:

  1. Android
  2. iPhone
  3. Windows Phone

In general, the more platforms you plan to build on, the higher the cost of building your app. Each platform has its own operating system and runs on its own native programming language.

(Note: Today there are very good options available which allow us to code in a single universal language and then deploy your app to different operating systems. See our article on Cross Platform Development and The Benefits of React Native for Mobile App Development)

Will It Require Backend Databases and an API?

If your app only needs to live on the user’s smartphone and doesn’t connect to other services, store information in the cloud or connect users together, then it’s going to be much simpler to build. Such apps are less complex, like your mobile phone’s calculator or stopwatch app.

However if your app needs to connect with other devices or users and stores and synchronizes information to the cloud or to a website, then this brings much more complexity to the project. Think of an app like Facebook that can be accessed through a mobile app or through a website. It updates on any device, synchronizes to all devices and the app lets you communicate directly with others. Apps that use backend databases and connect and synchronize information over the network cost more to build. Because of this, we always suggest thinking smaller initially and only starting with a handful of the most critical features.

How Scalable Does the App Need to Be?

Scalability is a term that refers to how many users an app can handle at one time. As an app or service has to handle more and more users, the infrastructure supporting that application and the backend service will have to grow in size and scope to accommodate more users. This may mean more servers, more sophisticated architecture, more efficient code, etc.

Usually a customer will start with guesstimated traffic expectations, add some room for expansion and then build a system to accommodate that. If the app takes off and exceeds growth projections, then the developer will have to circle back and add more hardware or infrastructure and possibly update code to accomodate for the expansion. A system built for 500 simultaneous users is quite different than one built for 10,000 users. This is why scalability is something to think about. If there are too many people simultaneously using the app or service things could get slow. You’ll have to make some assumptions about your growth and usage and then plan on building a system that can at least handle optimistic growth during the first year.

Does It Require 3rd Party Software Integration?

Sometimes an app requires the integration of 3rd party software or data into the app. For example, if a customer wants to build a stock-trading app, that app would need live stock ticker information fed into the app in real time. This information is rented through a 3rd party vendor who provides the technical information about how to access and control their info. If your app will require access to someone else’s information, it’s wise to call around first to even see if you can rent access to the information and what the costs would be. Much of the time the info can be rented for a monthly fee but sometimes the costs can be prohibitively high, or they won’t be willing to rent the information to you. Integrating 3rd party information into an app tends to increase the overall system complexity a bit, but is very doable.

Application Security

All apps must maintain a nominal level of security and privacy of user’s information, but some apps raise the bar on security even higher, particularly those storing or dealing with confidential user information, health information, private photos, messages, etc. Increasing the application’s security measures and adding in layers of encryption can help avoid situations where your user’s information gets exposed, leaving you legally liable. So it’s wise to think about system security and what you need to protect. The less sensitive the information you need to store the better. Higher levels of security naturally require more engineering and add to system complexity, which increases costs.

Accessing SmartPhone Hardware

Many mobile apps integrate and use the smartphone’s native hardware to accomplish things. For example:

  • the camera
  • Touchscreen
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Compass
  • light sensor
  • proximity sensor
  • heart rate monitor
  • fingerprint sensor
  • GPS
  • Modem
  • Storage
  • USB

The more of these elements your application takes advantage of, the more complex it will be.

User Interface & 3D Graphics

Ask yourself what kind of graphics and design features your mobile app needs to have. Most mobile applications use traditional text and images whereas games and entertainment apps tend to use 3D animations and more complex graphics. Other apps do a little bit of both and use interactive visual elements, transitions and animations. It goes without saying that the more visual or interactive elements are employed, the greater the costs.

Other Things to Keep in Mind When Building a Mobile App

Here are some other things to keep in mind as you look into building a mobile app:

  • Costs (and risk) will vary depending on who you hire to build your app. Download our PDF titled Avoid Web & Mobile App Development Failures by Hiring the Right People for more information on who to hire for your mobile app project.
  • Don’t forget to budget for future additions and upgrades, maintenance, and marketing. Most app are not built once and left untouched. They need to be upgraded continually (monthly or quarterly) in order to add new features, make improvements and to keep users happy.
  • You can start smaller, by developing on one platform (Android or IOS) first and then expand as your app gains traction. Many of the world’s most popular applications were launched that way. Another option that is changing the landscape of mobile app development is the ability to build using cross platform development in which the developer is able to program the apps in one universal language and then export the apps to each mobile platform. This is reducing build costs significantly.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Mobile App?

Considering what features and design elements you choose above, you can expect the following costs depending on the size and complexity of your app:

  1. Basic / Simple Apps – Small standalone apps that don’t need to connect to an online web site, but which might take advantage of 1 or more mobile phone sensors. It will not connect to a web site, web service or API . Such apps will likely cost between $10,000 – $15,000
  2. Low Complexity Apps: Small apps that have a handful of core features and which use one or more of your phone’s native hardware or sensors, and which use cloud storage to store and syn data, will likely cost between $15,000 – $25,000.
  3. Medium Complexity Apps: Apps that feature more sophisticated features, such as social networking features, user profiles, status updates, direct messaging, subscriptions and integration with an online database or web service will likely cost between $25,000 – $80,000.
  4. Large, Complex Apps: Sophisticated apps that perform many functions and use multiple hardware sensors and native camera hardware, and which tie into an equally robust online web service with full administrative features and reporting will likely cost $80,000+.

In reality you are not going to get an entirely clear picture of how much your app is going to cost based on this article alone but it may give you a rough sense of what to expect. If these numbers are in line with your expectations, we recommend that you speak with a professional and go over your proposed idea, discuss what you are looking to build, and figure out a plan. It’s important to realize that there aren’t any shortcuts or inexpensive ways to building a quality application as so many have found out the hard way. We highly recommend our popular download, “Avoid Web & Mobile App Development Failures by Hiring the Right People

Why Hire ClearTech Interactive?

At ClearTech Interactive we take building apps seriously, from the smallest project to complex, large-scale projects. For any significant undertaking, we always start each project with a planning phase which includes visual prototyping of the mobile app. This allows you to see a visual rendition of the app before any coding is started. This is extremely helpful to our clients and is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things.

We also use an Agile development approach, which is the most efficient product development approach, focusing on the build-measure-learn feedback loop. This approach gives us the ability to reduce costs and deliver your product faster.

Finally, we bring a lot of experience to the table. Since 2003 we’ve built thousands of projects for our clients. We bring decades of experience and thinking to every area of mobile app development. We know what can and can’t be done, as well as what should and shouldn’t be done to ensure the success of your mobile app project. In addition we manage the entire process so you don’t have to, but communicate clearly and effectively with you in all stages of the process to ensure we are on the same page and meeting expectations.

Call Today About Your Mobile App Idea

Want to find out more? We offer a free initial consultation ($250 value) to discuss your mobile app idea.

Request a Call or contact us at 727-562-5161 to find out what we can do for you.