The Cost of Building a Mobile Application

How much does it cost to develop a mobile application? How much will it cost to outsource it?  Quite often business owners find themselves trying to answer these two questions.

The advantages of a mobile application are clear, however, these advantages come with a cost to pay. The cost of application development is mostly based on different variables such as platform, complexity, and features. Different target audiences and different market expect different features in the applications; which changes the cost to pay for the development. Understanding the needs and expectations of the target market before launching the application means business owners can avoid unnecessary costs.  On the other hand, it is also a fact that application development is an investment where different requirements and preferences will determine the exact cost of investment and final price of the product. For example, a mobile application that is completely standalone and one that requires a back-end server built and an application wouldn’t cost the same amount.

Each mobile application development process involves different factors that collectively influence the final product cost. Mobile application development cost breakdown comes down to:

Mobile Platform: IOS or Android, or Both

The most popular mobile applications in application stores are either based on Android and IOS operating system.  Android and Apple application users are basically two different target market groups, business owners can choose to build an application compliant with both, which will increase the cost.

Android stands forward in Asia, and Australia while IOS platform is mostly used in the United States and Western Europe. Aside from location, the behavior of the target market should also be considered in choosing what mobile platform to use.  For example, if developing a paid mobile application, IOS platform would be a better choice, as study shows that Android users are not as willing pay as IOS users for applications. Typically, businesses tend to start with the IOS platform and then enlarge the number of users by making either a different stand-alone or hybrid application version for Android.


Design determines application’s functionality, which helps have more users. Success in graphic design steals the heart of users. Beauty is not for free. We advise you not to economize your application by sacrificing the beauty of the design. Invest in your icon and interface elements like tabs, buttons etc. for a long-term win.

User experience is the king in application design, as people love effortless applications. UX design determines the engagement and conversions of your efforts and investment in application development

Mobile application design is another business even for designers. Be sure to contact with a designer who knows the requirements and guidelines of mobile applications. You may need to pay more, but just be willing to pay this amount for developing a successful application with perfect UX design that will make you earn money.

Application Development Stages Cost

Having a ballpark reference for how much the different stages of a mobile application development allows companies to allocate the cost properly.

The pre-research stage can be considered as the cheapest stage among the application development stages. According to Clutch – B2bB analytics company, 51% of businesses spent up to $5,000 in the pre-research stage, 22% of them went above the spent up to $10,000 and 14% spent around $10,000 to $25,000. For the design stage, 32% of businesses spent less than $5,000, but only 9% spent over $50,000 on the mobile application design. Most business owners stay within more than $5,000 but less than $50,000 budget.  The actual development of the application is the major stage in the process. This is where all the coding happens to create every required feature the product is supposed to have. 9% of the respondents spent below $5,000 in developing the code while 33% spent within the $5,000 – $50,000 budget range.

Finally, for the application deployment stage, 30% of the business owners who participated in the survey spent less than $5,000 for application testing and launch it in the marketing while the other 31% remained within the $5,000 – $10,000 budget range. The rest of the respondents went over the $10,000 threshold to complete the mobile application testing and deployment stage.

Testing and Deployment stage

Each type of mobile applications has different product development cost associated with it due to different level of application’s feature and complexity. Features like built-in user analytics, backend server maintenance and support, CMS support, shopping cart or social media sharing and networking features can significantly affect the final cost of the product.

Application Maintenance Cost

With all the cost due to develop a mobile application, businesses usually skip the application maintenance cost. Although it can significantly lower the total project cost, leaving the mobile application after the launch, without support and maintenance is not smart move. To keep the application attractive and useful to the market for a long-term, application maintenance cost should be considered carefully.

The basic application maintenance includes hosting and monitoring, engagement and marketing and updates and licenses. These are all necessary items to keep the mobile application valuable to the user and keeping these also means additional costs per year as maintenance and support is not a one-time thing.

“Like with any other software product, mobile applications cost has a maintenance component. The industry average accepted cost to maintain software is roughly 15-20% of its original development cost. The maintaining process cost can be break down to the cost of hosting, monitoring, engagement, marketing, updates, and licenses.”

Business Apps

Hosting and Monitoring

To calculate a mobile application backend data hosting cost, parameter such as backend (API) requests, bandwidth per MAU and bandwidth per user are taken into consideration.  Mobile application monitoring is as essential as the back-end hosting for it to success. To monitor a mobile application’s performance, different mobile analytics platforms are available for both businesses and developers to use. Each mobile application product developed will have its unique market and user behavior, there it is not possible to come up with an estimated monitoring cost but contacting possible partners and prospects in the industry can surely provide benchmark range for the cost.

Engagement & Marketing

“Regardless of the features integrated into the app, you must make people understand that you can help them and that you are there whenever they need your services. There are various techniques which make mobile marketing vital for any brand”

App Samurai

A mobile application marketing cost can include different activities to engage the mobile application userbase. Mobiles and mobile application, by their nature, allow businesses to create a long-term and solid relationship between them and their customers. There is no one-size-fits all in mobile application marketing.  Effective mobile marketing will need additional cost for testing, and the best strategy may or may not be that costly.

Application Updates and Licenses

Application updates play an important part to keep the mobile application valuable to the user base.  Each mobile application released on an application store, either for Android, iOS, Windows Phone or other platforms not mentioned will always have updates released.

It is a fact that launching a perfect mobile application is not possible. Subsequent application updates, may it be for performance or user engagement are great tools for the user base to keep patronizing the application. An actual mobile application update release in the application store can take around one hour or two but the time that it takes to develop this update significantly varies and is hardly dependent on the mobile application features and complexity.

Cost of Hiring Application Developer

Outsourcing mobile application development is also very popular not just because of lower cost but because of the quality as well. Once the business decides to hire a mobile application developer(s), the question on how much it will cost them comes up naturally.

“So according to the data, to hire a US-based mobile application developer companies need to pay $107,000 / year, which is $10,000 more than the number we established in January of 2016 – $97,000. After converting from a local currency to USD, we see Canada and Australia following US with $82,000 and $80,000 respectively. In countries like India it is way cheaper to hire an application development professional – only $4,400 a year, which is explained by the difference in North America, Europe, Australia and India economies.”

– Indeed

The cheaper cost of outsourcing is really tempting especially after the high cost breakdown, but of course, the price tag and lower cost shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor for a business to hire a mobile application development team. It is also important to take note of the company’s feedback from previous clients, level of expertise and communication strategy as well.

Given that both Android and iOS platforms have a user base engagement adoption and engagement rate, it is a smart strategy for businesses to develop a hybrid or a stand-alone mobile application for both platforms simultaneously. The right software development outsourcing companies can make business ideas become a reality. 

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