App Development Cost: How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Mobile App in 2021?
Discover how much it costs to develop an app in 2021 and how to reduce mobile app development costs with four proven practices.
What’s app development cost? How much does it cost to develop an app in 2021? What’s the average app price in 2021?
– questions about the cost of developing an app are the most common ones we hear from our clients. As businesses face overcrowded markets and high competition, they feel the pressure to digitize. But they still want to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.
In short, according to our 10 years of experience and market knowledge:
- A basic mobile app for 1 platform costs $25,000 – $50,000
- A medium-complexity app for 1 platform costs around $50,000 – $100,000
- A complex app for 1 platform costs more than $100,000
If you want to know your app development cost more precisely, we can estimate it within 72 hours – fill a short form here.
Continue reading this article to understand where these numbers come from, what they mean in practice, what factors influence them, and how to reduce your mobile app development cost with our battle-tested practices.
The average cost to develop a mobile app
If you’re going to develop a mobile app for 2 platforms (Android and iOS), you need to be prepared to spend around closer to $100,000 as opposed to $10,000. In our experience, the best way to talk about the cost of mobile app development is by thinking about it in terms of complexity. And so, our classification is:
Basic mobile app for 1 platform costs $25,000 – $50,000
- The development team (developers, Scrum Master) will log around 325 – 650 h work hours.
- QA basic plan recommended for this kind of apps contains 50 hours of QA specialist work per month.
- The development will take around 4-9 weeks assuming that you have 2 devs per platform.
By “basic app”, we mean an MVP app:
- having a clear vision on the set of simple features with elementary business logic,
- consisting of up to 5 screens,
- with basic UI without custom elements.
This kind of apps are usually built by start-ups looking for their market fit.
Medium-complexity app for 1 platform costs $50,000 – $100,000
- The development team (developers, Scrum Master) will log around 650-1100 working hours.
- QA Extended plan recommended for this kind of apps contains 80 hours of QA specialist work per month.
- The development will take around 10-15 weeks (~ 2-3 months) assuming that you have 2 devs per platform.
By “medium-complexity app”, we mean an app:
- including a few complex features with intermediate business logic,
- consisting of about 6-15 screens,
- with some custom UI elements & animations,
- with localization in up to two languages.
Complex app for 1 platform costs more than $100,000
- The development team (developers, Scrum Master) will log more than 1100 working hours.
- QA Enterprise plan recommended for this kind of apps contains 150 hours of QA specialist work per month.
- The development will take at least 16 weeks (so more than ~ 3 months) assuming that you have 2 devs per platform.
By “complex app”, we mean an app:
- including many complex features with advanced business logic,
- consisting of more than 15 screens,
- with fully custom UI & advanced animations,
- with a large-scale user base (multilingual),
- that require building a complicated architecture, multiple integrations, or need,
to meet high-security demands.
This rough estimate can serve as your starting point in understanding how much it really costs to develop a mobile app.
That said, if you want to develop a native, medium-complexity mobile app for 2 platforms (iOS and Android), your development team will come from Eastern Europe, you can expect that it will cost around $100,000 – $200,000.
Please note: When planning your budget, it’s important to consider the backend development and app design costs that are not included in the above estimation. You can deliver them by yourself, or outsource it to your app development partner. At Droids On Roids, we can take care of the both aspects.
How do we estimate app development cost?
Above you saw the estimations, now we want to explain, where the numbers come from. Hourly rates at Droids On Roids (mobile app development company in Poland, Eastern Europe):
How much the team works?
- A developer works about 7 hours per day, so about 140 hours per month
- Developers log their working time and, on this basis, we issue an invoice to you every month
- The monthly amount of payable hours of a Scrum Master is usually 15% of hours logged by developers & designers in the month
- Business Analyst (optional) logs his / her working time, and on this basis, we issue an invoice to you every month.
- The monthly amount of payable hours of a QA Specialist depends on which QA Plan you choose:
- Basic Plan: 50 hours per month = $2,750 per month (recommended for basic apps)
- Extended Plan: 80 hours per month = $4,400 per month (recommended for medium-complexity apps)
- Enterprise Plan: 150 hours per month = $8,250 per month (recommended for complex apps)
- For medium-complexity and complex apps, we also recommend Automated Tests Add-on – read more here.
How much does 1 month of app development cost?
The following calculation is estimated for 1 platform, basic team set-up (2 developers per platform, 1 SM), and Extended QA Plan (medium-complexity app). We assume that the month consists of 4 one-week sprints.
DEVELOPERS = 2 developers x 1 platform x 35h x 4 weeks = 280h per month
SCRUM MASTER = 1 SM x 1 platform x (15% x 280h) = 42h per month
QUALITY ASSURANCE Extended Plan = 80 hours per month
So, as you can see above, 1 month of app development for 1 platform costs around $23,510 / 21 500€ (assuming that your team consists of 2 devs per platform and 1 SM, and that you chose Extended QA Plan – perfect for medium-complexity apps).
Examples of app development cost
To give you an idea, here are a few popular apps together with their funding levels to help you understand how much money is required to come up with similar applications:
- Uber received $200 million in seed funding for implementing their idea that eventually disrupted the prop the transportation sector.
- Tinder, the most popular dating application, raised $485,000 in seed funding back in 2012.
- The social media tool Snapchat raised $485,000 in 2012. Note: the application received total funding of over $3 billion.
- The photo-sharing application Instagram received $500,000 in seed funding to allow its further development.
- Ryanair-like mobile app – around $436,800. Check out the more detailed estimation in the article: how to create an airline app like Ryanair.
Below, we present you a few examples of app development cost based on projects we’ve developed. As you can see, QA and SM hours logged are not always exactly of developers’ work – it is because every project is different, unique, and has its own specification.
Example: Mobile commerce app development | iOS and Android
Mobile commerce app development for an international retail company. MVP estimation.
|HOURS SPENT||MONEY SPENT|
|Android app||1 560||$93,600|
|iOS app||1 310||$78,600|
|TEAM SETUP||3 Android developers, 3 iOS developers, 1 QA, 1SM, 1 UX/UI designer|
|TIME||~ 4 months|
Main features: browsing products, products filtering and sorting, cart, wishlist, finding the nearest store, checking product availability, product reservation, delivery to a chosen shop, barcode scanning, personalized product recommendations; adding loyalty cards to the app;
Technical tasks – this tab contains the cost of all technical aspects (without direct business value) like networking layer setup, Github setup, deep links configuration, or static code analysis.
Please note: we assume that the backend is provided and developed outside.
Example: Fintech app development cost | Android
A personal finance app offering loans
|HOURS SPENT||MONEY SPENT|
|Android app||1 570||$94,200|
|TEAM SETUP||2 iOS developers, 1 UX/UI designer, 1 QA, 1 SM|
|TIME||~ 6 months|
Main features: integration with a third-party platform that enables users to link with their bank account; providing pay advances, and emergency loans; sign in with email/phone number/passcode; providing loans; notifications on status change; integration with Firebase – Performance Monitoring SDK;
Example: Game & education app development cost | iOS
App measuring people’s behavior through attractive games
|HOURS SPENT||MONEY SPENT|
|iOS app||2 095||$125,700|
|TEAM SETUP||2 iOS developers, 1 UX/UI designer, 1 QA, 1 SM|
|TIME||~ 7-8 months|
Main features: integration with financial institutions, implementation of dozen games with visually attractive animations
Example: MedTech app development cost | Android and iOS
App helping patients to come back to health through adjusting and monitoring health parameters
|HOURS SPENT||MONEY SPENT|
|Android app||2 015||$120,900|
|iOS app||1 545||$92,700|
|TEAM SETUP||2 iOS developers, 2 Android developers, 1 UX/UI designer, 1 QA, 1 SM|
|TIME||~ 8 months|
Main features: adjusting & saving health parameters, prescription list view, pediatric mode, contact a doctor via email, adding events to the calendar, notifications, QR code scanning, photo library, notes
Example: Uber-like app development cost | iOS and Android
You need to develop an app for drivers, an app for customers, an admin panel, and a backend.
The whole process of designing and developing an app like Uber will cost you ~ $445 000 – $622 000 (for iOS and Android), and take ~ 5 – 7 months (MVP version).
To understand where these numbers come from and what assumptions we took, read our guide: How to Develop an App like Uber and How Much Does It Cost?
What factors affect the cost of mobile app development?
It’s clear that app complexity and the number of features are significant factors that affect the final price of app development. But they’re far from the only ones. Let’s take a closer look at the key factors that affect the cost of building a mobile app.
App features and their complexity
As we mentioned before, another factor that affects the mobile application cost is the sort of app you’re looking to develop. Before launching a collaboration, your development team will estimate how many man-hours will be required to implement your specifications. This step is a key point in preparing your project.
The critical factors that influence our development costs are the app’s features and functionalities, platforms you want to build for, customization of visual design, the complexity of backend infrastructure and administration, and maintenance costs (we’ll cover this topic later on).
In reality, the number and complexity of features you’re planning to implement in your app will be the most significant cost driver in app development. We’re talking about the amount of business logic required to be translated into the software, the number of screens, buttons, and other elements like in-app purchases that require third-party integrations.
- Read this: Top 24 E-Commerce Mobile App Features
While implementing some features is relatively straightforward, others might be more challenging. Depending on their complexity, the development team might use ready-made solutions or write code from scratch.
Here are a few examples of app features you may need to include in your application and how they affect the final price of building your app.
User engagement features
Such features are authorization, networking, notifications, and others. Even a user authorization feature can come in many varieties that can be simple or more complex.
- Adding functionalities such as storing passwords, password recovery, attractive visual design, or logging through social networks will increase the cost of your app.
- Features such as push notifications, social sharing, or commenting and liking content via social media profiles will require some extra costs too.
- Note that they often demand integration with third-party libraries and frameworks.
This range of features has to do with the ways users can purchase things in your app. Credit cards, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and PayPal are all popular forms of payment within apps. Every payment processing method will demand extra time for implementation and increase the cost of development.
If you want to implement innovative technologies such as geo-fencing or beacons, building such features is often time-consuming and expensive. Also, you will have to find a development team that has the right expertise on board to provide you with such services, and that might cost you time as well. Ultimately, integrating any of the more advanced location-based services will also drive up the cost of your app.
Just a few years ago, software that took advantage of device features could only use things like dialing, camera, or location information. Today, developers can integrate many other things such as near communication field (NFC) chips, payment systems, and newly emergent device features.
Note: To create an app that can access mobile device features, developers need to use platform-specific APIs. New features will require introducing new APIs in which development teams might have less experience. That’s why the development time may increase and, as a result, affect the total cost of building your app.
The geographic location of a development team (rate ranges per region)
So how much does it cost to develop an app depending on where you’re planning to hire? Here is a breakdown of the average hourly rates of development team members in different regions of the world (source: 2020 Report by Accelerance):
The price of mobile development will vary a lot depending on where you hire your development team. Naturally, in countries such as the UK, the United States, and Australia, the hourly rates of software developers is much higher than in locations such as India, China, or Eastern European countries like Poland or Ukraine that are becoming a popular outsourcing destination.
Is hiring a local team a good idea?
The team you hire for the job will have a huge impact on the final cost of development. The only serious advantage of developing an app locally is the fact that the team is located close to you physically, which might simplify communication and boost your chances of success.
It’s easier to explain the particular requirements of your product face-to-face, hold regular meetings, and meet the team in-person before paying a lot of money to build your solution. Local development teams may come with greater involvement in the project.
So, what is the key drawback of hiring a local development team? Most of the time, it’s going to be more expensive, and the talent pool you’ll be choosing from will be limited.
Here’s why outsourcing is a smart move
The popularity of outsourcing software development means that outsourcing providers are well prepared to handle such collaborations.
Videoconferencing and instant-messaging tools make it so much easier to communicate with an overseas team. Moreover, experienced providers make sure that the remote team has all the tools it needs and follows the best industry practices for a smooth development process. Foreign developers may come with a higher level of expertise at a reasonable cost. They can perform a lot better in comparison to the local ones.
Just think about it this way:
If you want to hire a development team locally, your choice is very limited. But if you consider outsourcing, you can choose from any country in the world. For example, you can even hire a team that works while you’re asleep so that every day you wake up and see the results of their work.
The undeniable advantages of outsourcing development are:
- access to a huge talent pool,
- high level of expertise available,
- greater balance of talent and cost,
- full flexibility.
The most serious drawbacks of outsourcing are:
- time zone challenges,
- communication, and project management issues,
- less personal control over the project.
Still not sure? Here are three guides to help you prepare for an outsourcing collaboration:
- In-house vs. Outsourced Software Development
- Outsourcing Software Development – Benefits & Risks for App Owners
- 3 Popular Software Development Pricing Models
The growing popularity of nearshoring and offshoring indicates that more and more companies are willing to make their app development cost-effective and take advantage of foreign talent.
Your app development cost will depend also on team structure. The team’s size should be adjusted according to your needs. A typical development team consists of 1 Product Owner (from you side), 1 Scrum Master, 1 Quality Assurance Engineer, 2 Android developers, 2 iOS developers, 1 Business Analyst (optional), UX/ UI Designer (optional). You are the one to make a decision, who will work on your project. Get our Free Guide for Product Owners – Drive your Product to Success.
When it comes to Business Analyst, this is an optional team member. You decide if your project needs a Business Analyst’s support. BA helps you in defining the high-quality business requirements to ensure the development team is aligned with the Product Owner’s vision.
In particular, Business Analyst:
- explains your business needs and problem context to the development team
- translates technical constraints to the business
- takes care of backlog management from the business value perspective, along with identifying dependencies, priorities, and blockers
- documents complex areas of the project scope using an integrated set of analysis and modeling techniques, such as user stories, use cases, and other business analysis deliverables.
- is responsible for change request management
- manages and prioritizes the requirements of various stakeholders
Number of platforms
Another choice that will affect the price of building your app is whether you want it to work on one or multiple platforms. When making your decision, take into account factors like the market share of iOS and Android devices, device fragmentation, and prevalence, as well as the specificity of developing for each of these platforms. Android application development and iOS application development need different programming languages with different SDKs and tools.
If you’re developing an app for a single platform, you won’t see a significant price discrepancy between Android and iOS. However, if you want your application to support two or more platforms, the cost of development will increase.
Native or cross-platform app development
If you want to develop a mobile app for both platforms – iOS and Android, it is worth considering if you want your app to be developed with Flutter or with other cross-platform solutions. It can reduce your app development cost and shorten its time-to-market. Check out Flutter’s pros and cons.
App maintenance cost
This point is something many prospective app owners forget about. We tend to think that app development costs run only until the solution is ready. This is not true.
Consumer and market trends are constantly changing, and your product needs to address these changes in order to stay competitive (not adapting to market changes is one of the most common mistakes in mobile app development). That’s why maintenance and updating are such important aspects of app development process – and they’re also a factor in its costs.
In many cases, the cost of app maintenance may account for a significant chunk of the original price of development (around 15% – 20%). Its price depends on the projected duration and the number of hours required for proper support.
Maintenance is a critical service even if you’re not planning to scale up your app or add new features anytime soon.
What exactly do you get in maintenance service? Services such as code optimization, improving stability and performance of your app, adding support for the latest operating system versions, developing new features, bug fixing, and supporting the latest version.
App development is just a start. The fun begins when you gather feedback from first users, adapt your product to the market needs, and prepare the solution for a larger scale. That’s why it’s best to continue working with a development team even after your product has been completed. Software development is a continuous process, and companies like Droids On Roids offer post-release support.
How to reduce the costs of app development?
Fortunately, business owners can reduce the costs of developing mobile applications by following a few industry practices and applying some smart tricks. In this section, we take a closer look at the different methods companies use to lower the cost of developing mobile apps.
Prioritize features early on
You need to prioritize your app features correctly before beginning their development. Just because you’re not able to build a complete software solution right now, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your dream.
It’s smarter to prioritize the functionalities of your app to start driving business value as quickly as possible. This also helps to create an accurate software project estimation.
Save the nice-to-have elements for the later stages of development and add them to your backlog. By starting your project with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), you get to build a successful product without investing a lot of money into a high-risk project.
The world of IT is constantly changing and investing in a large system with a full range of functionalities doesn’t make sense. Smart business owners build digital products incrementally and keep a close eye on the market trends.
Want to learn more about MVP development? We prepared these handy guides:
- Minimum Viable Product Definition & Business Meaning
- How to Build a Minimum Viable Product – Guide for App Owners
Involve Quality Assurance (QA) early on
Since bugs and errors may accumulate already during the mobile app design phase, you need to address them as soon as possible or risk that they spread out through your entire project. By involving QA professionals right from the start, you will identify serious problems before the development phase begins. As a result, you will save up on redesign costs that might become very high in the middle of your project.
Plan for the future
Remember that the costs of building mobile apps extend beyond the development and release phases. A complete application will still generate expenses.
The app you develop today might look completely different in the future. For example, if you release an MVP, you might get customer feedback that inspires you to change some features. Your target market might evolve in a completely new direction, forcing you to change your product as well.
That’s why it’s smart to be mindful of short-term and long-term goals in developing software. It will save you plenty of money down the road.”
Hire an outsourced development team
Outsourcing software development will bring you plenty of cost savings throughout the project. You won’t have to invest in the high salaries and overhead costs that come with hiring developers in-house. There’s no need to pay salaries, taxes, perks, software, hardware, workspace, and many other costs. By outsourcing app development, you can employ teams from all over the world and take advantage of their cost-effective services that often come with high quality.
We hope this article helps you to understand how much it costs to develop a mobile app and what factors affect the total price of your app development. By following the tips above, you’ll be able to lower these costs, and ensure that your digital product is developed in line with the global tech standards.
If you’re looking for a skilled mobile development team, get in touch with us. We have delivered a number of projects for clients from all over the world operating across different industries.
We can provide you with expert advice on how to reduce software development costs at each stage of your project. Our experts know how to make the most of the existing technologies to speed up native mobile development and ensure fast time-to-market so that your product starts generating value as quickly as possible.