Each year the world of mobile applications goes through significant changes. Rising markets and stable economies equally drive this business. In 2020 apps were downloaded more than 200 billion times in total. The average smartphone user spends 3.7 hours per day in front of the screen, but for Millennials, that number is much bigger – 5.7. Last year App Store and Google Play generated payments for $112 billion.
Have you ever thought of building an app of your own? No matter if it’s a brand new revolutionary startup, SME brand, or a big enterprise with a grounded position on the market. Everyone who would like to create their high-quality mobile solution is wondering: “How much does it cost to develop an app?”.
In this article, we prepared a guide on the mobile app cost – what is it influenced by, the elements included in it, how the choice of app features determines future steps, and who can assemble your development team. In the end, we give you an estimation table with an average cost of mobile app development – but remember that the detailed cost estimation is only possible after determining all requirements. It’s just a sample tool.
Table of contents
- Technological factors that influence app development cost
– Native app development vs. Cross-platform app development vs. Progressive Web Apps
- Type of app features you can develop
– Which technology should I choose for my app development?
– Price comparison – Native development vs. Cross-platform development
- The cost of app design
- What is the cost of hiring a development team?
- How much does the application development cost?
- App development cost estimations based on popular mobile solutions
- How much does it cost to make a taxi app?
- How much does it cost to make an app with social media features?
- How much does it cost to develop an app for booking services?
- How much does it cost to make an audio or video streaming app?
- To sum it up – how much does it cost to make an app in 2020?
Technological factors that influence mobile app development cost
Many different factors influence app development costs. The estimation base for a particular project is choosing technology to build it with. The main diversification is native mobile apps and cross-platform mobile apps. A seasoned software development company should offer more than one option – but what’s the actual difference?
Native app development vs. Cross-platform app development vs. Progressive Web Apps
Your mobile application can appear on the market thanks to different technologies. Each has advantages and drawbacks, but only a couple can really compete with each other when it comes to quality. If you wonder how much does it cost to make an app – technology is one of the most critical factors.
Native solutions for app development
At the moment, native apps dominate the market. In this case, we create an app dedicated to a particular mobile platform – iOS or Android (Apple and Google providers). That doesn’t change the fact that technologies used for native development are also evolving with time. Developers switched from Objective-C and Java (that were popular a couple of years ago) to mobile application development using Swift (iOS) and Kotlin (Android). Native apps allow app developers to create lower-level code, which gives better control over the whole environment, making these solutions so accessible.
Cross-platform solutions for mobile app development
Cross-platform apps started to gain popularity not so long ago. In 2018 there was a boom for React Native technology and last year, its main competition – Flutter – strengthened its position on the market. Here we also have a clash of the giants, as React Native is a framework created by Facebook and Flutter is a proposition from Google. These technologies are available on the market for a couple of years, but they became popular in the last two years by refreshing the approach to mobile app development.
When we create an app using Flutter or any other cross-platform technology, the software is available on both iOS and Android immediately – that’s because there’s only one codebase.
PWA (Progressive Web Apps) for app development
The third top-rated solution used for mobile app development is PWAs. Progressive Web Apps are not native because they don’t compile to a particular platform (iOS or Android). Creating an app like that is possible thanks to web technologies and using them is comfortable with browsers installed on smartphones.
Type of app features you can develop
App development cost will vary depending on the number of functionalities and their complexity. Is your product a simple app with one main feature or a comprehensive software product with in-app purchases, ads and various options? Maybe you just want to add new features to an existing product? It all matters and will influence the hourly rate in your app development project.
For example, app features like push notifications or GPS connection can be much easier to develop when using native technologies. That means a separate app for Google Play and App Store, instead of one cross-platform product. The cost of building a mobile app like that will be slightly higher, but what’s the exact difference? See below.
Which technology should I choose for my app development?
Choosing the right technology stack is critical for a successful mobile app project. As there is no one-size-fits-all technology or framework, the decision needs to be based on each project’s individual needs. Instead of clarifying, trends, competition and marketing efforts of app developers tend to add to the confusion surrounding the available and applicable choices.
The main reasons to consider employing cross-platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native are the seemingly lower costs and higher app development speed. Also, thanks to a single codebase, design and development, as well as app maintenance, can be a bit easier. Still, don’t believe in these pretty promises that choosing React Native or Flutter will lower development cost by 50%. That’s one of the myths of making an app using cross-platform technologies. You can read more about that in our article about React Native myths. The downsides of using the frameworks would rarely be advertised. Both React Native and Flutter are relatively new frameworks and belong to the family of technologies that carry the risk of going out of fashion.
We cannot overstate the high quality of native mobile development tech stacks. iOS and Android technologies are fully evolved and refined continuously. Employing native technology stack for a project opens the way to practically limitless possibilities. For ambitious projects with high requirements, platform dedicated SDKs are a choice that offers the best quality.
Price comparison – Native development vs. Cross-platform development
How each role in a mobile app project can influence the cost of it
Development team composition is yet another vital factor that can decrease app cost. You might wonder how it is possible. Hiring more people to lower app development cost seems counter-intuitive. But hear us out – each person in the squad is responsible for something else. And all of these people have one goal – to deliver a perfect mobile app that will meet your expectations and make your customers fall in love with it.
So what are the roles in the app development process?
UX/UI Workshops and app design
Everyone always discusses technologies, but one of the most important things when building an app is how it looks. 10-15 years ago, everyone was interested in what the mobile app can do and if the features work correctly. A given product’s capabilities are still relevant today, but it is more important to adapt it to fit a specific audience and their behavior, expectations, etc. That’s why we can say without a doubt that we are living in a UX design era. This is particularly important for mobile application development. For those reasons, we believe in the growth of the UI/UX design process and an increase in demand and quality of such services.
That’s why at itCraft, we begin most of our projects with UX design workshops. Working with the client helps us identify business needs, analyze the competition, define all the mobile app’s functionalities and its MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to create an app with a plan for future growth. We need to fully understand the purpose of the application we are going to develop. That’s why workshops are the perfect opportunity for the initial validation of the whole product and all its elements.
The price of a workshop is $2500 and it’s a base for determining the scope of the app and implemented functions, creating the development plan and designing its UI/UX. It lasts 2-3 days or 3-5 online sessions. The process continues offline where we prepare initial system architecture and conduct business analysis to create user story documentation, consider ‘dependencies’ (e.g., third-party APIs) – this usually takes approximately five days.
Each step allows us also to estimate the cost of app development in detail. After the workshop, the client will have full technical documentation that is necessary to build an app. More about UX Design Workshops (including the scope, all the steps, goals and outcomes) we described in a separate article.
Project manager – a crucial role for smooth cooperation
You might wonder how a project manager can influence app development cost – but it does. A seasoned software development company always provides a dedicated project management specialist for every client, especially in Agile Scrum methodology.
A project manager is an integral part of an app development team. Their responsibilities include task organization, communication with the product owner and reacting to unpredicted or crises. With a person like that on board, you can sleep tight and give up constant control over the app development process. This way, you also save the budget – because your development team knows what to do and is guided by an experienced co-worker.
Is quality assurance essential to develop a mobile app?
The answer is yes and you should always include tests in your project plan. It’s a crucial part of the development process and when it comes to cost breakdown – always worth investing in. You might pay more for proper quality assurance, but in the end, you will save money. Preventing bugs and finding defects early means spending much less on app maintenance after release.
Developing an app with plenty of new features is a complicated process with many steps on the way. We always test our software from the very beginning. It’s considered a good practice.
Consultations – when you need additional support
Developing a mobile app means you might stumble upon obstacles and problems. Consultations are a perfect way to conquer them. You can get them from your provider (if they have them) or a third-party company. With business analysis, idea verification and strategy adjustments, you can optimize app development cost and make decisions based on data and experience, not assumptions.
What is the cost of hiring a development team?
That’s another broad topic we described in a dedicated article. If you would like to build an app using a workforce from another region of the world (e.g., Eastern Europe), the cost per hour differs depending on the country and other factors. Outsourcing became a standard for mobile app development and is often used to optimize the cost breakdown. App developers from Poland are talented, skilled, and hard-working, but you can get a quality mobile app development team for less, thanks to the living price gap. If you want to build an app in 2021 – definitely consider outsourcing.We invite you to check out our article about outsourcing options that explains how mobile app development cost diverges in particular locations. It tells how the various regions approach the industry, what is the app development cost in there, where you can find the best mobile app development team and which collaboration models you should consider. Find more in this article: Custom software development outsourcing – what is it all about?
How much does the application development cost?
You probably already read a lot about that subject and usually, the answer you might stumble upon is: “That depends”. It is true because there is no universal cost to develop an app. We can’t give you a perfect template to estimate app cost, either. But you can contact us and ask for it – then you will know how much your idea to develop an app can cost.
But we are not afraid of challenges. That’s why we would like to outline the potential app development cost to some extent and tell you what it can be influenced by. First of all, we encourage you to check out our mobile app development cost page, where we describe in detail how we account for the project and what is included in app development costs – like project managers, app maintenance and more. We also provide examples of two mobile apps with different team sizes to show you how the price can be shaped for each. In the next paragraphs, we will analyze a couple of existing solutions to show you how much the app would cost be to build an app just like that and what has the impact on this cost.
App development cost estimations based on popular mobile solutions
Below we present you a couple of estimates for the most popular projects. We’ve made many similar applications, so the budget simulations in this article are based on our project experience. In each of these examples, we adopt such assumptions:
- each project is done from scratch, starting with the workshops stage and UX/UI design
- source code is developed from scratch, based only on popular open-source libraries
- the team works using Agile Scrum methodology with the product owner on the ordering party’s side
- the size and engagement of the team is optimized to allocate relevant members in time (outsourcing)
- the estimation affects the whole app development process – project management, the implementation of all the components determined in the project summary, including the time needed for Quality Assurance, deployment and efforts to maintain an app.
How much does it cost to make a taxi app?
Uber-type apps used to order a taxi or transportation are gaining lots of recognition in recent years – and that’s mostly due to Uber’s success. Many apps on the market offer similar services – including taxi corporations that started to develop an app for themselves to compete with market leaders like Uber, Lyft, Didi, or Grab.
To create a high-quality app like that, we need many components, so it is a pretty complex project. Let’s see:
- A mobile app for taxi clients (Android & iOS app),,
- A mobile app for drivers that take orders (Android and iOS app),
- Web app for the user – a portal where the user can access their profile, settings, billings, etc. (frontend web),
- Web app for drivers – a portal where the drivers can access accounting reports, their profile and settings, etc. (frontend web),
- Admin web app – a portal for the admin to control the whole system
- Backend app to manage to receive and divide the orders (backend, API).
We describe this type of architecture in an article: How much does it cost to build an app like Uber?
How much does it cost to make an app with social media features?
When it comes to social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn – the amount and types of functionalities are crucial. Some mechanisms of social media platforms are based on machine learning. That includes face recognition, push notifications, content sharing and people you may know recommendations, displaying user feed using preferences calculated with a dedicated algorithm and much more.
Social media apps need to offer appropriate scalability because usually, they are used by thousands (or even millions) of users. Storing content and personal data should be secure but also maintain high-quality performance rates.
TikTok is an excellent example of quite a new social media app that is extremely popular among young people around the world.
How much does it cost to develop an app for booking services?
How to make an app for booking services and appointments? It’s definitely a broad topic. They are present in almost every industry nowadays, but the primary beneficiaries are:
- Tourist industry (hotels, apartments, plane and train tickets)
- Beauty industry (hairdresser and beautician appointments)
- Transportation industry (mentioned Uber and similar apps)
- Food industry (ordering food, reservations at restaurants)
- Entertainment industry (cinema, theatre and concert tickets)
- And many more.
What matters, when it comes to this type of mobile app development, we don’t have just one trend – some develop mobile apps, others prefer web solutions and there also companies that invest in both.
Also, it is worth to notice, that in most cases, the booking systems are somewhat existing in these industries – usually via phone calls. When we make an app like that, the main goal is to give the user a possibility to book their appointments by themselves, from any place and at any time.
Booking apps are very much appreciated. They offer many benefits to both the user and the vendor. App development cost estimation with a detailed list of app types and factors that influence the price is available in our article: How much does it cost to make a booking type app?
How much does it cost to make an audio or video streaming app?
With the development of network infrastructure, bandwidth and the mobile internet connection improvement (3g, 4g, 5g), the dynamic growth of mobile apps that allow us to play multimedia content and stream it straight from the phones occurred.
In 2015 first (significant) apps for video live streaming started to appear. For example, Periscope (bought by Twitter) and Meerkat (closed in 2016). These apps became acknowledged very fast – mostly due to the overall growth of social media apps. The users were pretty interested in the possibilities given by a more accessible and reliable mobile network, as well as the capabilities of mobile apps to live stream videos. Just after this boom, the most prominent players on social media markets started to implement their own solutions or continued to expand the existing ones.
YouTube was testing the live streaming feature in 2009 and 2010 already, but it was too early – precisely due to the limitations of network infrastructure. Only users’ demand for this type of service made YouTube introduce the live streaming functionality to their main mobile app in 2017. Facebook went through a similar path – testing Facebook Live in 2016 to share it with their users at the beginning of 2017.
Today more and more users would like to publish their live streams – channels with millions of subscribers are not that rare. Millions of viewers watched some of these videos at the same time.
The cost of crucial app features is the main factor that influences the final price. Apps like that need payment systems, geolocation, cross-user streams and much more. We are writing a blog article that will analyze the subject of live-streaming apps in detail. How much does it cost to make an app like that? We recommend following our website to be always up to date.
To sum it up – how much does it cost to build an app in 2021?
As a seasoned app development company, we know that the mobile and web app cost is influenced by many factors – from industry, through amount and type of features to a technology of choice. Of course, we try to estimate some examples of apps based on our previous projects and we share our conclusions here on our blog. But it is worth remembering that each project is different because of individual requirements and needs – and we always remember about that while we work.
The best way to find out how much does it cost to make an app is to reach out to a development agency and tell them about your project. We encourage you to contact us – we would love to discuss your business needs. We will propose the best solution suitable for the type of app you want and your potential user’s desires. Let’s make an app in 2021 together!