How Much Does It Cost To Develop An App: Detailed Feature Breakdown

"How much does it cost to develop an app?" is the first question the development team gets from startups and established businesses willing to build mobile projects. Knowing the cost of app development is essential for estimating an adequate budget and planning to spend. 

Mobile app development costs may vary from $20,000 to $500,000, depending on the business functionality. But functionality is not the only price-forming factor. 

This article will explain what mobile app development costs consist of and how you can impact your app costs. We'll also explain the difference between Managed Services, Dedicated and Extended Team, and the concept of project management triangle, which is essential to understand what lies behind the estimation of mobile app development costs.

How Much Does It Cost to Make an App in 2021?

Some people think that mobile app development costs equal the number of hours one developer spends on coding. Such an approach is far from reality. 

Apart from code, the development of a project requires the following specialists: 

  • Business analysts and project managers create the project backlog with tasks
  • Solution architect designs the overall architecture of the project's back end components
  • Quality assurance managers make the checklists for the project functionality to ensure the functionality works without error
  • Designers work on the project layout, prototype, and complete design

All of the described roles require qualified specialists who charge a reasonable price for their work. Moreover, your project might require more than one developer. Therefore, work hours constitute a big part of your mobile app cost.

One example is in developing a logistics mobile app with several integrations, such as a warehouse database, online payment gateway, and booking functionality. Let's imagine your development team has two months to complete a working project's functionality. 

To meet your deadlines, the project manager will dedicate a team of three back-end developers and two front-end developers to your project under a managed service model, which will increase the cost of your project. Thus, the cooperation model is another factor that impacts the final project app costs. 

Let's look at the three cooperation models we use at The APP Solutions and try to find out which of them will suit your project and bode well for future app costs.

What Affects Mobile Application Costs: The Cooperation Model

The cooperation model in software development defines the client and the team's responsibilities. At The APP Solutions, we cooperate with the client under the following models: 

The app solutions cooperation models

Extended Team

An extended team means we provide you with professionals while you manage all processes. This will suit when you need to augment your existing team with our professionals. This working model works best for projects with established management and processes. 

The extended team will inherit the existing structure and report directly to you or your responsible manager. 

Dedicated Team 

A dedicated team business model includes shared responsibilities between the client and the development team. It works best for outsourcing business functions such as Development and Quality Assurance. 

The dedicated team includes a Project Manager who is taking care of the Systems development life cycle (SDLC) Methodology and process, facilitating the dedicated team's integration with your in-house development teams.

Managed Services

Under this model, The APP Solutions team manages all product development processes while giving you the freedom to develop your business. We are responsible for hiring extra specialists for creating complex projects and providing technical support after the product launch. 

Apart from a Development and QA specialist, your project may require a Product Manager, UI/UX designers, Business Analytics, and System Analytics. 

But how do cooperation models impact app development costs? 

The more responsibilities you give to your developers and the more extensive the project scope you need to implement, the more developers will work on your project. Thus, the higher the app cost to create your app. 

The app development cost also depends on three constraints that form a project management triangle. Let's see what those constraints are. 

What Affects Mobile Application Costs: Project management triangle 

The project management triangle is a model of the constraints of project management, known as the time, finance, and project scope. 

project management triangle

Let's take a look at them one by one. 

  • Time constraint refers to the amount of time available to complete a project
  • Cost constraint refers to the budgeted amount available for the project
  • Scope constraint refers to what must be done to produce the project's result

How do those constraints impact the project costs? 

The three constraints are often competing constraints:

  • Increased scope typically means increased time and increased cost
  • A tight time constraint could mean increased costs and reduced scope
  • A tight budget could mean high time and reduced size

Another approach to project management is considering the three constraints as finance, time, and human resources

If you need to finish a job in a shorter time you can throw more people at the problem, which will raise the project's cost, unless by doing this task quicker, we will reduce costs elsewhere in the project by an equal amount.

Developers can complete a project faster if you increase the budget or cut scope. Similarly, if you increase the scope, the development team will require equivalent increases in funding and schedule. 

In this way, if you cut the budget without adjusting the schedule or scope it will lead to lower quality, illustrating the proverb "Good, fast, cheap. Choose two."

But if you need to launch a project within tight deadlines and minimal budget, consider building its MVP, which means Minimum Viable Project. The project's MVP comes with minimum functionality to validate your business idea without ballooning app development costs.

What is the Average Cost to Create an App's MVP

To receive a precise cost estimate for your mobile project, you need to follow these steps: 

Step 1. Ask a mobile app development team for a quote

Get in touch with the mobile app development team, describe the app idea, its functionality, and your business goal. 

Step 2. Select the number of mobile platforms

Choose the mobile platform you want to target. Remember that developing a separate app for iOS and Android will double the app development cost. Thus, target one platform for MVP.  

Step 3. Create the list with app functionality 

Build up a list of your mobile app's functionality that would be enough to validate your business idea.  

Step 4. Prioritize mobile app features to implement in MVP

Send the list to your development team, so a business analyst can add other features if needed and prioritize functions for the first project scope. 

Step 5. Ask the mobile app development team to estimate your main app features 

Ask mobile app developers to evaluate the list with must-have features they will implement first, and get a precise mobile app development estimated cost. 

But how much time do developers need to implement core functionality for the app's MVP? 

What Affects Mobile Application Costs: Core Features

A table with mobile app essential features, tech stack, and estimated number of hours will give you an idea about the time and money required to develop a fully-fledged mobile application: 

User login

Most mobile apps provide users with registration via email or phone number to identify the user. But the most convenient way to access an app automatically creates a user profile and collects all public data about a person is through sign-in social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tech stack


Number of hours 

  • 4+ hours for UI/UX design
  • 8+ hours to develop the app back-end using NodeJS
  • 8+ hours for feature integration per each platform (iOS, Android)

Push notification

Mobile apps use push notifications to inform users about the real-time updates in the app, such as changes in order status, new content, new messages received, etc.

Tech stack

Number of hours 

  • Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) for Android mobile apps 
  • Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) for iOS  
  • 24+ hours for iOS
  • 24+ hours for Android

Navigation bar

In order to allow the user to flow through your app features and content, you will need a navigation bar. This feature also defines how the user switches from one screen to another, returns to the main menu, closes an app, takes actions, etc. Thus, your app must include swiping and scrolling features, icons, buttons, arrows, and other UI architecture. 

Tech stack

Number of hours

  • Human Interface Guidelines
  • 24+ hours for the app back-end 
  • 16+ hours for Android or iOS development

Media content sharing

If you develop a social media app like Tik-Tok, or messaging app like WhatsApp, you need to allow users to share media files such as images, short videos, or audio files. You may also need to empower your app with editing capabilities, including adding emoticons, filters, effects, or even animated masks. 

Tech stack

Number of hours 

  • Android NDK Native APIs for Android apps 
  • Core Audio Kit for audio exchange, PhotoKit for photo editing, and AVKit for media playback on iOS devices 
  • 8+ hours for the design
  • 16+ hours for the front-end
  • 40+ hours for the back-end 
  • 40+ to develop this function on each mobile platform 

Geolocation 

This mobile app feature might be handy for geolocation or navigation apps and food delivery mobile applications, taxi, dating, or even travel apps.

Tech stack

Number of hours 

  • Google Maps API
  • 8+ hours for the design
  • 8+ hours for back-end
  • 8+ hours for Android 
  • 8+ hours iOS 

In-app messaging

If you consider developing an online retail marketplace, social media, real estate, or accommodation booking app, you need a built-in messaging platform. 

Tech stack

Number of hours 

  • Facebook API
  • Telegram API
  • 40+ hours to develop the messaging platform back-end
  • 20+ hours for Android app
  • 20+ hours for iOS app

Apart from core functionality, the cost of a mobile project also depends on the app's complexity. 

What Affects Mobile Application Costs: App Complexity

To show you how mobile app features and app development costs vary regarding app complexity, we split mobile apps into the following categories and added the estimated time in hours to evaluate the cost to make a solution.

Type

Simple apps

Moderate apps

Complex apps

Description

  • No API integration
  • No back-end
  • Basic UI components
  • Simple features (email subscription, social login, calendar, etc.)
  • Custom UI/UX features
  • Build-in payment gateway
  • API integration
  • Back-end server
  • Multi-language support 
  • 3rd-party integrations
  • Custom animations 
  • Complicated back-end
  • Custom UI/UX design
  • Real-time features via database integration

Time

400+ hours

500-800+ hours

800-1500+ hours

What is not included in app development services?

A development team with a solid approach for product development does not mean your application will be famous among users. But what can you give such guarantees? 

A good marketing plan, financial models, and a pitch deck: 

  • Marketing plan. A marketing plan is the foundation of a well-written marketing plan to achieve your business goals. 
  • Financial model. Financial modeling is the process of creating a summary of a company's expenses and earnings in the form of a spreadsheet that you can use to calculate the impact of a future event or decision.
  • Pitch deck. A pitch deck is a brief presentation you can use to provide your investors or potential partners with a quick overview of your business plan. 

While the team develops your project's MVP, you need to spend two or three months on marketing activities, such as app store optimization, with your app marketing team. 

What happens after the MVP launch?

After the team launches your mobile app, it is vital to continue your cooperation because the app's code can perform unstable in a live environment with real users. Such conditions may cause downtime and errors, which developers must fix as soon as possible. To make this possible, at The APP Solutions we provide IT support services for recently launched projects. 

While the tech support team will fix errors, the development team creates and implements new business functionality to your app to make a fully-fledged product. 

In this way, for the first two months after the app's release, the development team will be busy with your mobile app development. 

How Much Does It Cost to Create an App: Total Cost

When hiring a team for mobile app development you do not pay for features implemented, nor for technologies used. Your app development costs cover project development services the app development company provides and responsibilities you share with the team of developers: 

  • When working under a managed service model, you receive the freedom to develop your business and get in touch with the team to see the team's progress. 
  • A dedicated team costs less than a Managed service model, but you'll need to face more responsibilities for a project's success. 
  • An extended team will suit you only if you have established management and processes and need to augment your in-house development team with developers to build an app. 

The app development cost also depends on the number of functions, the app's overall complexity, and the team composition your project requires. Don't forget about the Project Management Triangle and its contrast - time, cost, and scope.

Want to receive reading suggestions once a month?

Subscribe to our newsletters

What our clients say 

 
Daria Dubrova

Content Marketing Manager at The APP Solutions, passionate about Web and Mobile app development. https://www.linkedin.com/in/dariadubrova/