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The True Costs of Building a Mobile App

Mobile App Development

Mobile apps are quickly becoming a standard for the business especially for those conducting a part of their activities online. But the major factor keeping from developing a custom app for business is enormous costs as one may think.

Let’s be straightforward - everyone is looking for low prices but high quality for app development and it doesn’t matter where you’re from the UK, the U.S., Germany or Indonesia.

Say nothing but the app development costs vary greatly depending on the app complexity, its features, and the location of a development team. It’s a fact that it is the cheapest to develop an app in India, but the quality leaves much to be desired.

Let’s check if it really costs the Earth to develop a custom mobile app for your business.

Factors influencing the cost of app development

Factor #1 App development team

The costs required to develop an app don’t solely depend on development time and hourly rates. There is a vast number of factors influencing the final price needed to implement an idea, develop and maintain the product. Not to mention, talent, type, and complexity of the app.

Depending on the project requirements, you can hire either a basic or extended app development team.

Basic app development team

  • Project Manager
  • UI/UX Designer
  • 2 Developers
  • QA Engineer

Extended app development team

  • Project Manager
  • UI/UX Designer
  • Admin Panel Designer
  • 2-4 Developers
  • QA Engineer
  • Backend Developer
  • Frontend Developer
Mobile App UI Design

Factor #2 Application type

There are many types of apps you can launch. This goes far beyond the categories available in the App Store or Google Play - food, news, sport, utilities, social, lifestyle, etc.

Speaking about the app development, there are three types of mobile apps to distinguish:

  • Native
  • Hybrid
  • Web (HTML)

Native Apps are developed for use on a particular mobile operating system. In this case, apps’ codes are written in a specific programming language (Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android). Obviously, native apps deliver better performance and higher reliability when compared to Web or Hybrid Apps. Native apps can be native only to one operating system. And if you’re going to support more than one OS, you’ll need to develop another piece of software supporting different platforms.

And Hybrid Apps are somehow similar to Native Apps. Hybrid Apps have got a native container using a browser engine but not a browser itself to render the HTML and process the JavaScript. Such apps are often developed as wrappers for a web page. With an app in mobile app stores, a company will get more customers.

What is a Web App? It’s an app stored on a remote web server working on any device over the Internet via a browser. A web app isn’t an app at all. It functions similar to a real website, but in many aspects, a web app feels and looks a like native app. The major difference is that it’s written in HTML5 and needs a stable Internet connection.

iPhone User

Factor #3 App complexity

Obviously, app complexity is one of the major factors influencing the price for an app development process. There are myriads of features that can be added to your app projects. The core features include:

Third-party integrations

For some features, you may refer to the integrations with any 3rd party services, frameworks, or libraries. For example, you can implement payment feature using a control panel of Braintree or Stripe for iOS and Android. Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ APIs can be used to add a media sharing feature.

Backend development

Backend development is usually needed to realize the exchange of data between a database and an app. In other words, backend puts into action the app logic.

Hardware components

Modern cell phones come loaded with various functions such as GPS, Bluetooth, accelerometers, barometers, various sensors, etc. The set of hardware components depends on the type of device and its manufacturer. The more hardware components an app requires, the more time and money you need to build a successful app.

Admin panel

An admin panel is a great tool that eases the process of app navigation, content management, etc. But finding a template of an admin panel meeting your requirements and needs is a challenge anyway. Consider building a custom admin panel solution that will suit your business needs.

In-app purchase

You can implement an in-app purchase feature for a number of things from virtual goods to additional app functionality. Adding in-app purchases increases the complexity of the project as well as the development costs and time.

Factor #4 Number of platforms

When it comes to choosing a platform for an app, you have to set aside a complete winner for your target audience and location.

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share Chart

Taking into account the statistic data, Android dominates the world market with a share of nearly 87%. And to reach out a wider audience, it’s preferable to develop an app for Android since the popularity of iOS and Windows Phone tends to drop down.

There are three decisive factors influencing the choice of a platform:
  • the size of a market share
  • own preferences
  • devices specific to the target audience

Let's look closer at the app development for two rivaling platforms - iOS and Android.

If you want to build an app for iOS, it should be compatible with the latest version of the software (with the support of the previous iOS versions) and provide a flawless work on the latest and previous iPhones including 7+ and 5S. Speaking about the iOS app development, it’s necessary to point out the limited number of screens in comparison with Android devices. And this greatly simplifies the development process and results in reduced development costs and time.

When it comes to Android, the following criteria come useful, too. With the only exception, you can support only the last Android version but it you want to gain more users consider developing an app compatible with several Android versions.

Note, the Android app development costs may exceed the costs of building an iOS app.

Factor #5 Design

User Interfaces deserve more attention since it’s rather complex to implement them. User interfaces are the most expensive components of the app design.

Three approaches to UI design can be defined:

  • Brand-oriented approach

It helps to retain the image of a brand even in the app. Custom components allow the users interact on the intuitive level providing an eye-catching design. Implementing such a UI is quite a complicated task regarding software engineering. As a result, the development costs will increase.

Examples: Instagram, VSCOCam, Wire

  • Platform-oriented approach

In comparison with the brand-oriented approach, the following approach requires more time and money regarding UI design. You’ll need to re-design a lot of UX & UI elements to suit the platform needs. Experience native to the usual platforms and adhering to platform conventions increase the chances for the app to hit the market.

Examples: WhatsApp, Telegram, Komoot

  • Mixed approach

Mixed approach implies a combination of two above-mentioned approaches i.e. achieving sufficient adherence to platform characteristics while staying true to the brand. While using this approach, you have to analyze the metrics to understand how the users interact with your product. The only disadvantage of the mixed approach is that it isn’t suitable for small startups as it requires massive investments of both time and money.

Examples: Soundcloud, Facebook, Airbnb, Viber

While designing an app, bear in mind that you’re developing an app for real people with real needs. In fact, it isn’t an operating system, brand or your preferences important. The only thing that really matters is the users. Provide them with a flawless experience, and your app will be a success.

How much does it cost to build a mobile app?

Don’t expect a professional app development company to estimate the price out of the blue. There isn’t a price list where you can find calculated prices for apps and price calculators are nothing but marketing baits to collects your personal data for sales managers.

There are a great many of factors and variables influencing the final costs required to develop a mobile app. The costs are often based on the hours needed to complete a project, app functionality, and design.

According to the latest Kinvey findings, the average cost per app is about $270K.

Development agencies charge per hour, but you can negotiate the hourly rates. Before sending the bill, agencies perform a thorough estimate of your project to define the amount of hours needed to transform your app idea into a digital representation.

In a nutshell, apps can be divided into three different categories to ease the estimation - simple, middling complexity, and complex. Simple apps with basic functionality without the integration with the 3rd-party APIs takes around 600 hours to develop and at the average hourly rate of $50, the app development cost starts at $20K. And for complex apps, there are no price limits. If you want to develop an app with advanced functionality, be prepared to pay off at least $100K.

Short Bio:

Tasha Bronitska

Blogger at IDAP Group

Hey, thanks for reading my coverage. I’m a content crafter at IDAP Group. I run, swim, and travel to get more inspiration. When I’m not doing all these, I’m reading and writing must-read coverages on the app development issues. Follow IDAP on Facebook and be the first to read my entries.

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