The Costs of Custom Mobile App Development

Expert Tips for Improve Cost of Custom Mobile App Development


Did you know that globally, more people own a mobile phone than a toothbrush? While this might be a sign that we need more toothbrushes, it definitely shows there is a huge opportunity for custom mobile app development. And if you’re looking to develop your own, there’ are a few things you should know. So, let’s jump right in by setting reasonable expectations so you can budget your costs.

A lot of numbers get thrown around regarding the costs of custom mobile business app development and getting it to market on the Windows, Android, or Apple platforms. The question of how much does it cost to build a custom mobile app provokes more questions at this early stage. Industry surveys indicate it will cost anywhere from nearly nothing, to just over six-figures, to over $1 million dollars. The price for developing an app, from idea to market, is in direct relation to the functional features and user demands. A widely accepted ballpark figure is between $100,000 and $500,000 USD, but small apps with fewer features can cost as little as $10,000 to $50,000.

In addition, the cost of keeping your app running each year will equate to 20 percent of the cost of making the app. This does not factor in changes in trends, new innovations, or major infrastructure issues that could impede the functionality of your app.

The formula to calculate the cost of making a custom mobile business app is:

(App Features ∗ Time) ∗HourlyRate = Cost

Use this simple, yet realistic formula to plan your budget. App features can be separated into different complexity levels as we will see later on in this article. Time stands for the time needed to code the features, and the hourly rate represents the cost of your developer, team, or agency.

Complexity Costs

Another way to understand and manage costs is to break down the level of complexity of the app: are they simple, moderate or complex? The costs estimate per hour will fall in the range of $50 to $100 per hour and will vary depending on the technical expertise required, and the geographical location of the developers. For instance, experienced iOS app developers in the US charge on average $120 to $140 per hour, whereas junior developers in Eastern Europe will charge a rate of $40 to $60 per hour.

This table gives you some estimates based on varying complexity levels:

ComplexityFeaturesTime Cost $50/hrCost $100/hr
SimpleNo API integration, no back-end, standard UI components, simple features like email subscription, login, calendar, etc.400$20,000$40,000
ModerateCustom UI, payment, API integration, headsets and tablets adaptation, back-end server500-800$25,000 to $40,000$50,000 to $80,000
ComplexMulti-language support, 3rd-party integrations, custom animations, complicated back-end, professional design, real-time features, etc.800-


$40,000 to $75,000$80,000 to $150,000

A good way to understand development costs is to look at examples of well-known mobile apps in the world today.  Whatsapp and Instagram, for example, would come in at 750 to 1,200 hours at a realistic hourly rate of $130 for development in the US for a total of about $150,000 to $200,000. Uber is a little more complex as it requires different features for the passenger’s interface than for the drivers’ interface. With an estimated development time of around 950 to 1,200 hours, the total cost is around $120,000 to $150,000 if developed in the US.

You can play with various app cost calculators on the Internet, or sit down with an experienced developer team to get a real estimate that reflects your projects aspirations. If you work with an experienced developer team it will help to look at factors like geography, the newness of the technology, app complexity and size which will all factor into the final price. 

DIY: Is it an option?

The Internet is full of articles about freeware and building your mobile app at no cost by choosing ready-made modules. These platforms are usually stacked with ads and may not project the professional and refined image you want for your business. 

Although, there are few inspiring success stories of self-made app developers turned huge-success stories. Brian Wong founded Kiip in 2010, with his colleagues Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi. Kiip is a mobile app rewards platform that lets stores or businesses give real-world rewards for in-game achievements. And Robert Nay developed his first gaming app at the age of 14, a physics puzzle game that has had more than 16 million downloads to date.

Although you might have the next supernova business app idea and are on the lookout for investors to cover your development costs, you still need to set a budget determined by the scope and design of your project. The scope gathers functions, features, and the main value proposition that make your app unique, while the design covers wireframing, user flow, and prototyping.

Another important factor is the market you choose: Windows, iOs or Android. Custom business app development costs come with many variables so you might want to consider hiring a professional assistant who understands app development to make sure that misunderstandings between you and the developer, or development team, do not become a big cost factor. 

And remember that good freelancers are usually fully booked weeks in advance, so don’t expect immediate availability. As for the developer fees, remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.”

So, you are all set with enough information to estimate the costs of developing your app. You are aware of the different variables that can affect the complexity and, by extension, the bottom line of development costs. And you might find this all a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry. Our experienced development team and project managers are happy to help. Contact us today to get a free quote and get your mobile app idea into moving in the right direction!

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