When thinking about developing a digital product, either a mobile app or a web app, two main questions pop-up in everyone's mind "how much does it cost to make an app?" and "how much time will it take?".
At Digitalya, we receive questions about the cost of app development very often, so we decided to create a guide about software development pricing that will help you choose the best solution for your needs. We gathered a series of questions from our clients and answered them below. We will explore topics like development prices in different regions, cost of app testing, prices for core features, cost of app maintenance, how to choose the right software development provider, and many others.
Eager to find our more? Let's start.
As you might know, the software development costs vary based on the region, software provider, features and other factors. Though it's difficult to estimate the final price of an application we can make some high level estimations. A rough estimate of the cost of app development in 2021 would start from $20,000 and reach $500,000, depending on the feature set, where $20,000 would be the cost of an MVP (minimum viable product) and $500,000 the cost of a complex app.
- The costs of a simple app start from $24,000 and reach $60,000.
- The costs of a complex app start from $36,000 and reach $85,000.
- The costs of an advanced app start from $59,000 and reach $137,000.
The app development costs did grow in the past four years, but apps built nowadays are more qualitative, user-centered, and better looking, from the UI/UX point of view.
In the next chapters we are going to analyse where do these differences in prices are coming from, and how much will your app cost.
If you want to know faster the answer to "how much does it cost to make an app in 2021?" you can use our app cost calculator. You will find out the cost to build an app within minutes.
One factor that determines the cost of app development is the geographical region. This one brings the most variability regarding the software prices. The costs of building an app vary from $20 to $300 per hour.
A rough estimate of the global average hourly rates are the following:
- The hourly rates in Central Asia vary from $15 to $25 per hour.
- The hourly rates in South America vary from $20 to $55 per hour.
- The hourly rates in Eastern Europe vary from $25 to $60 per hour.
- The hourly rates in East and South Asia vary from $25 to $60 per hour.
- The hourly rates in Australia vary from $100 to $190 per hour.
- The hourly rates in North America vary from $150 to $200 or even 300$ per hour.
The following infographic sums up the hourly rates of different development companies across the Globe.
a. Software development company
The easiest option to choose from, taking into account the quality perspective and the management effort, would be a software development company, like Digitalya. We're saying "the easiest option" because these kind of companies usually put a lot of effort into recruiting the best talent, from app developers to UI/UX designers, project managers, business analysis specialists, and quality assurance specialists. Besides the laborious recruitment process, team members usually have a growth plan for constantly developing their skills, so they deliver high quality results.
Apart from a highly skilled app development team, a software company offers full-cycle product development services, covering UI/UX, architecture, development, project management, quality assurance. This means that you share with them your app idea and they take care of the rest.
The hourly rates of these kind of companies varies based on the location, the team size, the tech stack, the seniority level of the developers, the code quality, the experience on the market, and other factors.
Based on the size and the seniority level of the developers, the price might vary as following:
Software development enterprises (100+ employees): starting from $250 000 per product.
Software development agencies (10-100 employees): starting from $20,000 per product.
Software development shops (5-10 employees): starting from $10,000 per product.
Your mobile app or web app will be developed from start to end: from architecture to design, and maintenance,
The company usually has extensive experience, and they will offer you consultation in making the right choices, not only development services,
The team will have a project manager, who will make sure that your vision is implemented on time and on budget,
Generally, this solution is the most cost-effective one if you take into account all the factors involved in developing an application.
There might be some cultural differences,
In some cases, constant follow-up is needed,
You might have a different time zone as your app development company.
The hourly rates of a freelancer depends on different factors as well, like his previous experience, the coding language that he uses, his location. The hourly rate of a freelancer can vary from $15 per hour to $300 per hour.
Freelancer services can get quite cheap, so you might save some money,
You can talk directly to the person developing your software product,
Freelancers have more flexibility in their schedule so you might communicate with them during the weekends too.
Usually, freelancers have their expertise limited to one major area like front-end, back-end, design or a specific coding language,
To develop a complex app, you will need to hire freelancers with different areas of expertise. Therefore you should take care of the project management,
Usually, there is no recourse if they drop a project, so you have limited warranty and liability.
c. In-house developers
Hiring in-house developers is justified mostly when your business has stability, and the product represents your core business.
The in-house developers will better understand your company culture,
The availability will be increased,
You can discuss face to face regarding the company’s objectives and monitor their outcomes.
In the tech field, finding the right people and hiring them is very expensive,
You need to invest time in recruiting talent with specific skill-set for your project and make sure they’re constantly up-to-date with the new technologies,
You might not have previous experience in managing the app development process.
d. App builders
An app builder might be the right choice for an app idea that doesn’t need customization, and the app architecture is simple. The app builders usually have a pricing plan, and it can vary between 0$/mo to 800$/mo, depending on the features you need.
Less pricey than a development company,
You have a wide range of plans that you can choose from,
You can start for free then move to a subscription plan,
Usually, you work with predefined templates and features, so it’s almost impossible to scale,
You are the one developing the software architecture of the project,
Even though you don’t need prior coding skills, you should understand how software works and what makes an app successful.
Now that you figured out what solutions are out there, and you have a complete overview of the software development market, let's get into more details. Further on, we will help you understand better how you can make a rough estimate of your app, so you will be prepared when negotiating with your software development partner.
The first thing you should decide upon is what type of app would best suit your users’ needs: a web app, a mobile app or maybe both? The costs to develop an application vary based on the platform you want to build on.
The key to making a good decision regarding the platform is to identify your buyer personas and your user personas (if they are different). Start a research to fully understand what are their expectations and how you can fulfill them. Here user interviews and competition research come in handy. You can check information like what are their main needs when deciding to use an app similar to yours, what are the main app features they’re searching for, when do they use it, from what device they prefer to access it, and so on.
Depending on the end goal of your app, you should decide upon the following variables:
a. Web Application
Your app can be accessed from a desktop, laptop, or mobile device by using a web browser. If the users have access to the internet, they can use it without downloading it.
b. Mobile Application
Your app can be used on one platform, like iOS and Android or both. In order to use it, users need to download and install it from the app store. It can be a native app or a cross-platform app.
Two separate applications. One that will run on the browser and one that people will be able to download it from the app store.
In the following image, you will find the differences in prices for the two types of applications. The price of the mobile application development usually is with 5% to 10% higher than web development, and the hourly rate of mobile designers and developers are more pricey. So, the rate of a mobile app developer is going to be on average 7% higher than the rate of a web app developer.
Cross-platform development is less pricey than native app development on iOS and Android, and iOS mobile developers have a higher rate than Android mobile developers. The mobile app costs vary based on the operating system, therefore android apps are going to be slightly cheaper than iOS apps, but more expensive than a cross-platform app built in React Native.
The next step after deciding if you're going to build a web application or a mobile application, is to start defining the types of users that will access your app. This will influence the app development budget.
Understanding how your app will be used, and what is the purpose of every user when logging into it is important for two main reasons: security & privacy - not everyone should have access to the personal data; overwhelming amount of features - having access to features that you don’t need, and don’t use might be distressing.
Usually, you will find the following user roles within an app. You might need all of them, more or only one.
I will take an easy to understand example as a business page on Facebook. Let’s take, for instance Digitalya’s.
- A Visitor is an anonymous user or guest that has limited permissions in accessing the features of the application.
As a visitor entering a business page on Facebook, I can only see the content, but I can’t interact with it, like leave comments, like pictures, upload content.
- A Registered User will need to log in will have a user profile. Each registered user will have access to all content types of different users, based on their subscription. You usually find these types of users in social networking apps.
As a registered user, I can create a profile and personalize it. I can interact with the page’s content, like other pages and invite friends to like them too.
- A moderator can perform administrative tasks like approve, create or publish content, add or delete sections.
As a moderator on a business page, I can schedule posts, view page insights, create ads, send messages as the page.
- The Administrator can assign application-specific roles, give different permission to users, and make changes to the app.
As the administrator of the page, I have all the above permissions, and I can manage page roles, edit the page, create and delete posts, publish and manage jobs.
These are the basic roles in an app, but you can create many more depending on your needs and assign them different permissions. Get a sneak peek on the complete business page roles for Facebook, so you will understand how they defined them.
The cost of developing an app will vary based on how many user types your application will need.
Custom features are priced by hour, and that's why it is important to choose the right ones. There are software development companies that work with the fixed price model, where you decide from the beginning how much your app will cost, but you won't have any flexibility, if you want to change a feature.
Bellow, you can find a table with the prices of the most common custom software development features (with the hourly rate of $40).
|Feature||Description||Approx Time||Approx Cost $ (based on $40/h)|
|Dashboard||Display essential metrics Display activity status Display key action||30-40 hours||$1,200 - $1,600|
|Media||Display images, audio, video content Interact with content||40-100 hours||$1,600 - $4,000|
|Messaging||Access conversation details Check online/offline status See typing status Read/sent status Send media files and documents||80 - 160 hours||$3,200 - $6,400|
|Activity Feed||Display recent activities Interact with content shared||30 - 60 hours||$1,200 - $2,400|
|Maps/Geolocation||Detect user's location Search on the map Set pickup point on the map||40 - 70 hours||$1,600 - $2,800|
|Rating System||Give grades Leave reviews Integrate existing reviews platforms||30 - 60 hours||$1,200 - $2,400|
|Advanced Analytics||Tracker user behaviour Make predictions Generate recommendations||80 - 150 hours||$3,200 - $6,360|
|Booking||Display activities and events||30 - 60 hours||$1,200 - $2,400|
|Invitation System||Invite other users to the app Emit vouchers||40 - 70 hours||$1,600 - $2,800|
|Calendar||Plan activities and events||50 - 90 hours||$2,000 - $3,600|
|Events||Design and plan different events Invite users to participate and interact Generate recommendations||40 - 80 hours||$1,600 - $3,200|
|CMS||Modify the content inside our app||30 - 40 hours||$1,200 - $1,600|
|E-learning||Display the curriculum Access online materials Display e-books, videos, audio files||40 - 100 hours||$1,600 - $4,000|
|Video Streaming||Start/stop broadcast Record live videos Save and download video content||90 - 150 hours||$3,600 - $6,000|
So, how do you choose the right features while developing an app? After you defined your platform and the user roles, you can move further on to establish the main app features. Taking into account that in this stage, you want to define your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), try to stick to the necessary app features.
Here, your software development partner should be your best friend. With extensive knowledge gathered from building different web apps and mobile apps, he can help you figure out how you should define the main app features.
A software development secret is to create demand with your digital product. And the only way to do that is to make it as intuitive as possible with great UI/UX design and the right app features. Let us explain what we mean with this.
Think of an application that you use daily or weekly. Why do you use it? What particularly do you like about it? How often do you use it? Is it a habit for you to use it? What is your role when using it?
When defining your requirements, first put yourself in your user’s shoes. Why is he/she using your app, and what features do they need in order to consider the in-app experience a successful one?
Before deciding upon the main app features, try to identify the app category in which your product would fit: travel, healthcare, transportation, aviation, social media, dating, management, gaming apps, and so on. Then research to get inspiration from already-existing apps like Airbnb, Blabla car, TripAdvisor, and others.
Now you’re ready to choose. Taking into account what you have discovered from the new research, and check which of the following app features, you want to integrate it into your application.
The dashboard screen provides a full overview of the metrics tracked by your application.
Via Mi band
2. Activity Feed
An Activity Feed can provide to your users a list of the most exciting and recent activities performed by other users or freshly published news.
3. Advanced Analytics
With Advanced Analytics, you can discover more in-depth insights about your users, make predictions, or generate recommendations.
The Calendar feature enables your users to plan activities/events and have a complete overview of their schedule.
By integrating the Media feature in your app, your users can check and interact with images, audio, and video content.
6. Maps Geolocation
With the Geolocation feature, you can identify the geographic location of a user or a computing device. You can integrate it with Google maps or another existing maps provider.
The Booking system can offer a complete analysis of your resources and will help your users prevent overbookings.
Design and plan different events, invite users to participate and interact with your content.
By integrating a messaging feature in your app, your users will be able to chat inside the application.
10. Rating System
Users can give grades or leave reviews based on their experiences.
11. Invitation System
Increase your user base by implementing an invitation system where your users can share your website or application by inviting their friends and colleagues.
12. CMS (Content Management System)
With the Content Management System, you will be able to modify the content inside your app without a developer's help.
By integrating an e-learning system, your users will be able to view their curriculum, get in contact with their teacher or trainer, and access other online materials like e-books, videos, audio files.
14. Video streaming
By incorporating the video streaming feature, your users will be able to record live videos or to save and download video content to watch/rewatch it later.
The app development pricing for each of these features varies based on the number of hours needed to implement it, the coding language, the seniority level of the developer. Other factors that influence the cost to build an app are: if the feature is developed from scratch or integrated with an already existing platform, and if the code written is reusable or not.
7. How much does it cost to integrate in my app Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Internet of Things (IoT) or Robot Process Automation (RPA)?
Now that you’ve decided upon your main app features, you should see how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. A smart strategy is to integrate one of the cutting-edge technologies, and create a unique selling proposition based on that.
The latest technologies can provide to your users with the opportunity to have a complete overview of their devices, analyze data based on complex algorithms, automate tasks, or offer enhanced experiences.
You can choose from the following, based on the purpose of your app:
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Integrate AI advanced algorithms in order to understand and interpret your user's needs by using technologies like Predictive Analytics, Speech recognition, Computer Vision, Language Understanding, and others.
2. Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)
Enhance natural environments and offer enriched experiences to your users by integrating VR/AR technologies.
3. Internet of Things (IoT)
Give your users the opportunity to have a constant overview of their devices by enabling the advanced technologies of IoT.
4. Robot Process Automation (RPA)
Empower your users to automate repetitive tasks by implementing RPA technologies.
The hourly rates for integrating these technologies are from 10% to 20% higher than the usual global hourly rates. Pay attention cause the total cost might get pricey.
The cost of app release varies based on the app store (Google play or App Store). In order to publish an app, owners need to pay a fee to the app store, for making them available for download and installation.
In 2021 as in 2020 the Apple's App store fee is $99, paid on an annual basis. The Google play store fee is $25 and you need to pay it just once.
Another factor that influences the app budgeting is the cost of maintaining an app. Most of the the apps are in need of this service after they reach a certain point. Maintenance means troubleshooting, modifying, maintaining and enhancing existing web apps and mobile apps. The cost of app maintenance reaches usually about 15% to 20% of the total app cost.
Now that you've gone through all the steps of calculating your app development cost, you probably would like to know how much time it will take to create your application. This is the second most common question that we receive at Digitalya from our clients.
Basically, the development time is directly dependent on the number of app features you want to have (the technical complexity) and the team consistency. Meaning that if you have a higher budget, you can hire more developers to create your application, so it will take less time. Another factor to take into consideration is the competency of the team. If your team is consisting of senior developers, the time will automatically be shorter, and the budget higher.
The minimum well-functioning development team consists of a front-end developer, a back-end developer, and a project manager. In this set-up developing an MVP will usually take from four to six weeks of implementation.
After the product is launched and tested in the market, the next phase starts, meaning the scaling part. This step consists of implementing new features on the product, and it can last from months to years, depending on the product's success.
App budgeting is challenging, not only for startups but also for established businesses. Prices of building an application vary based on the development solution you choose, the location, the app features, the user experience, the team skill-set, and the new technologies you want to adopt. Hiring an app development partner is a journey, and we hope that the information from this article will help you make the right choice.
The most important thing is to conduct an extensive research in the software development market and to choose the solution that fits your needs best, be it a software development company, freelancers, in-house developers or app builders. Just make sure you carefully consider each and every factor - code quality, experience, price, communication, business model.
We hope that our guide helped you estimate your app development costs, and understand what factors to take into consideration when choosing your software development partner. We also hope that you have a clear image of how much does it cost to make an app in 2021.
If you want to find out a rough estimate of your app developemnt costs, feel free to use our app cost calculator.
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