As the Co-Founder of Cube USA, part of my job is making sure that the leads that come in are a great fit for our ‘for good mission’. There are loads of exciting projects and innovations that come to our door…or inbox, but I get to be the “gatekeeper” to ensure that each and everyone stands by our mission of building digital projects to change millions of lives for the better.
Locking down projects for the team that are going to be either life-saving or life-changing is a part of my job that I love. The other side of the coin is that somehow I am always the go-to person for friends to pitch their interesting app ideas to on a night out!
I would say that hands down, the most common question that we get at the agency is, how much does it cost to develop an app? While there is no magic number, or “one size fits all” option for every project, this blog will guide you in estimating how much it will cost to bring your app dream to reality.
- the most expensive features and functionality
- platforms and users
- ways you can reduce the cost of your app
- the burning questions to ask your developers.
Because I eat, sleep, and breathe that app development life, I appreciate that this blog might include some technical jargon. So here is a quick breakdown of some of the lingo I’ll be using:
- MVP – ‘Minimum Viable Product’ for success! This is the first version of the product, also known as V1
- Native – A native app is one that is built for a specific platform, such as iPhone or Android, using their code libraries and accessing their available hardware features (camera, GPS, etc)
- Hybrid – are essentially web apps that have been put in a native app shell
- Web-Based App – is one that is hosted on the web and accessed from a browser on the mobile device.
An important consideration:
Make sure your app development company, at the very least, mentions all of the above. Better still, they sit down with you to discuss the different options available, before giving you a cost range or figure for your project.
1. The complexity of your app idea
What do you need your app to do? What are the most important features? How will you measure the success of your app development project? These types of questions will impact the final figure, but typically the cost of apps tends to range anywhere between:
- Simple content-based apps: <$110,000+
- Data consumption apps: $135,000+
- E-commerce apps: $165,000 – $220,000+
- On-demand apps: $165,000 – $270,000+
- Social networking apps: $220,000 – $330,000+
- Gaming apps: $220,000 – $270,000+
The biggest influence on your final cost?
Functionality and features. These tend to be the aspects that will add larger costs to your Android or iOS app development project. For example, you may need a CMS (Content Management System) to use in-house after the project is completed. If your roadmap includes updating your content regularly, you would want to go this route. This is definitely something you need to consider initially so that it is factored into the cost at the beginning of the project.
2. Which app features cost the most?
There are no exact figures for how much different features will cost as they will differ between projects and development companies.
One common mistake is thinking that you’re paying for the features themselves, as it’s actually the development time it takes to build the features that have the biggest influence on the cost. With this in mind, here are a few features that tend to be at the higher end of the cost scale:
- E-commerce: do you need to process payments securely?
- Community Platform: do your users need to be able to connect?
- Databases: will you need to access/store user or third-party data?
- User profiles: do your users need to log-in, have accounts or profiles?
- 24/7 Support: will you need continuous support in case of emergencies?
- Developers: Will you need to hire developers for your in-house team, and what skills would you need to support the solution going forward?
3. Comparing app development companies
There are so many app development companies out there that it can feel daunting to find one that’s right for you. It’s important that they can meet your requirements, develop an app within your time scale, and complete the project within your budget, and all with the added bonus that you get on and enjoy working with them!
The size of the development company is a great place to start:
- Small app development companies: $99 – $165 per hour
- Medium companies (like us): $132 – $265 per hour
- Large companies: $265 – $398 per hour.
You MUST consider:
The company’s hourly rate, how long it takes them to develop apps, their minimum project size, which apps they have developed for your sector, and how much of their services focus on app development.
Only then will you be able to find an app development company that’s right for you and your project.
4. Android vs iOS apps: which is more expensive?
There are a few things to mention here, like the cost of submitting to the two stores, as well as the difference in costs between iOS and Android app development projects.
Google Play vs The App Store.
Both stores share revenue distribution conditions, with the stores taking 30% of revenue and the other 70% going to the developers. The difference is that the Google Play Store charges a one-off payment of $25 while Apple’s App Store charges an annual fee of $99.
Hybrid is a great option because it allows developers to write code for a mobile app once and still accommodate multiple platforms. React Native means that although you may be more limited with what your app can do, you can develop for Android and iOS in a single code base, which can reduce the upfront development costs. One thing to watch out for is that the costs can be higher in the longer term as more regular updates can be required. You should expect your agency to give a recommendation based on your goals and your vision for the future of the project.
5. Ongoing costs and continuous improvement
Make sure you understand and plan for post-launch costs. After your app is live in the store(s), you’ll need to continue updating regularly to make sure your project is successful and continues to meet its goals/objectives.
One such cost involves updates support – if you don’t keep your app up-to-date with the latest software that mobile operating systems (Android/iOS) use, your app will become outdated and often unusable for your end users. Support is your insurance policy so a team is on hand to dive right in should you or your users experience an issue.
A common mistake:
Just putting your app out there and expecting users to stay engaged and active.
During the development process, you’ll create a backlog of ideas for future implementation; a CI (Continuous Improvement) plan which will create additional costs months, if not years after your app launches.
6. What are payment milestones?
How will you be charged throughout the process of working with an app development company? Will you be charged upon completion of the app, after the first prototype or once it’s launched in the store?
These kinds of questions are vital to ask your app development company, and there’s no right or wrong answer either.
If you only do one thing:
Make sure that you and your developers set out payment milestones together, to make sure that they suit you, your developers and the project as a whole.
It is extremely worth your while to spend time upfront Discovering and Defining your solution. It is invaluable that you spend the time upfront planning and working out what your MVP looks like so that you are spending your build budget in the best areas to achieve maximum impact and success! This also reduces risks around any nasty surprises or curve balls when you are in the development phase!
I suggest using a minimum of two milestones, and a maximum of four or five. By processing payments in this way you can reduce your risks, provide incentives, map out your project plan, and avoid any issues with cash flow.
As I mentioned before, each and every project is so different from the next that there is no straightforward answer to this question. However, I love chatting about all things digital product related, so do reach out and shout me a holla if you had any questions or wanted to build tech for good together!
Questions to ask app developers and the answers you should look out for:
Q) How complex is the app idea to build?
A) Make sure they discuss features and functionality. The important part here is how to achieve your goals in the most cost-effective way.
Q) Should I get an Android or iOS app?
A) Make sure they discuss the users and devices for each platform, and hybrid/React-Native app development.
Q) Will there be any costs post-launch?
A) Look out for continuous improvement plans and the cost of updating/maintaining your app after it’s been released in the stores.
Q) Do you have a project payment plan?
A) They MUST talk about payment milestones. How many and when is less important, as long as they take the time to find a plan that works for both of you.