By Keval Padia

What is the real cost of developing an app? Every app development company at some point of time asks this question. But the question is continuing to gain importance with the exploding growth of mobile apps in recent years. If statistics has to be believed mobile app market is actually waiting for the bigger explosion in the time to come. In the US alone consumers are downloading 8.8 apps in a month on an average. With such growth story continuing, it is likely that every business in the time to come will try to have their mobile app.

So, the cost of development will continue to be a decisive factor for most development companies as small businesses are increasingly taking interest to come with their own mobile apps. Let us have a look at the key factors for the cost of developing a mobile app.

How are you going to earn from your mobile app?

Obviously, it is how you are going to earn from your mobile app will be decisive for the cost of development. Your revenue model depends on many factors like the following:

  • What your target customers prefer to spend their time?
  • Which platforms do they use mostly?
  • What app pricing model suits your audience best?
  • For which types of purchases, they are most open?
  • For which apps and purchases they are mostly reluctant?
  • Do most of your users prefer it free initially?
  • Do they find it comfortable to pay for upgraded version only later?
  • How your target audience is comfortable with in-app purchases and ads?
  • What is the revenue model followed by most of your competitors?
  • What kind of revenue model is most successful in your app niche and why?

Only by studying all these factors in depth you can really come closer to a conclusion on the most suitable revenue model for your app. The final decision should be entirely based on the data-driven insights about your users. It is needless to say, you need solid customer and competition research to come to a decision on the right revenue model for your app.

The type of the app

More than anything else, it is the type of app that determines the cost of development. For instance, if you want to build a chat app, you can get your app built in much less a budget compared to an e-commerce app. With sophisticated e-commerce or banking app in which you need to integrate an array of advanced attributes like strong data security and machine learning algorithms, payment services, profiles, databases, email marketing system, etc. the cost of the app can easily escalate. On the other hand, you also need to consider the cost of repeated updates in case of few app niches.

Custom vs. Semi-custom apps

Custom app development as in the case of building custom business software is always an expensive affair compared to regular apps. Moreover, in the case of custom development developers will mostly try to commit more hours of time for development and thus raising the cost significantly. Most developers when taking a custom development project will not ask for a timeframe less than at least 50 hours.

On the other hand, semi-custom app development allowing customization to a certain extent to the regular app development process can offer a better and ideal solution. When building semi-custom apps, with as much as two thousand dollars you can ensure state of the art features like GPS, social integration, photo sharing, connection to device calling, email, SMS and other regular features like the article, white paper, press release, RSS feed and even live streaming. When your business cannot afford fully custom apps, semi-custom apps can be ideal.

The mobile platform to release your app

This is something that you need to decide at a very early stage of your app development. As for iOS generally, the development time is comparatively lower than what it is for Android. Secondly, iOS as a platform is way ahead of all others in terms of revenue and hence most publishers prefer to build first for iOS and then extend for the Android.

On the other hand, as for market penetration and reach Android is way ahead of the rest. World’s majority of devices are run on Android, particularly in countries outside of Europe and North America. Naturally, choosing the platform also depends on the location of your target audience. In the final analysis, taking a slightly longer time Android app can require more cost of development than their iOS counterparts. On the other hand, iOS App Store has stricter guidelines and hence can involve risk of rejection for new apps. This can escalate cost with repeated efforts.

The type of app design

Yes, design is an important consideration and if you opt for really high-end design the cost can be quickly escalated. In spite of the cost, most developers do not want to compromise on app design as it is crucial for the app functionality. From an attention-grabbing icon to easy navigation, design can add immense value to the user experience of your app. But there is always a middle path between high end and bareback design to offer a great look and feel with your app. Among other factors, choosing the designer and striking a right bargain in terms of the project cost will also be decisive.

Freelancer developer vs. app development agency

All the factors discussed here before is nothing compared to this consideration. Choosing the developer can have the biggest impact on the development cost of your app. As for available choices you have, there are three categories of developers you can choose from including freelancer, small agency and big agency. Obviously, each has its own pros and cons.

Freelancer developers come as the most inexpensive option to build an app and except cost, there is no other reason to choose freelancers over agencies to build your app. But just because the entire process of development depends on one person, it is the riskiest option as well.

Big agencies offer you a large team of top notch developers, years of experience and industry-recognized expertise and proven track record for building a variety of winning apps across the niches. But the cost of development is also staggeringly high and is often out of the reach of small businesses and startups.

Small agencies in comparison to the above-mentioned options offer a middle path. Consisting typically of a small and neat team of developers and designers they can create winning apps for various niches. The only drawback is their limited exposure and you can only find them having experience with a few types and niches of apps. As for cost, they offer a great price advantage compared to the biggies but can still be considered a little expensive than individual freelancers.

The cost of developing an app depends on too many factors and it is often up to the business to find the best alternatives depending upon their business and objectives.


Keval Padia is a co-founder of Nimblechapps, a prominent iPhone application company based in India. He follows different tech blogs and current updates of the field lure him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.