How Much Does it Really Cost to Build an App?

Jul 12, 2020 | App Development, Startups | 0 comments

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. 

There is lot’s of information and disinformation about the true price of developing a mobile app. With a quick search on Google, you can find hundreds of off-shore companies and freelancers offering ‘’app development’’ for cheap prices, right next to bigger, more respected agencies offering full stack custom solutions at a more expensive cost. 

If you’re just beginning to shop for an app development agency, you might find the range of different services and their prices quite confusing. Most people totally underestimate the amount of work, planning and investment that goes into developing a successful mobile app.

So how much does it really cost to build a mobile app?

Before going through each aspect of development and the cost breakdown, let’s look at some statistics:

  • A 2017 survey by Clutch revealed a wide range of $30,000 to $700,000 to develop a mobile app. Based on the average number of hours required to create an iOS-only app, they established the average cost to be $38,000 for a simple app, and $171,000 for a complex app with specific custom features.
  • Otreva offers statistics indicating the average cost of an app development to be around $127,800. And according to another report by Kinvey, organizations spend $270,000 on average to create an app.
  • Various online cost calculators like  BuildFire’s Mobile App Building Calculator put a price tag between $200,000 and $350,000 for an average app with dozens of features.

The cost of developing an app varies depending on multiple factors.

  • Different developer’s hourly rates
  • the project complexity 
  • the time it takes to build the app
  • the type of app (mobile game, business, social networking, lifestyle. etc.)
  • the platforms you’re  building for (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.)
  • the platform design  (basic, individual, custom)
  • the number of pages
  • the specific features

Here’s a more simple way to picture it:

App development cost = (Features X Development time) x Hourly rate

You will be dealing with these variables at each step of the mobile app development process:

  • discovery/planning stage
  • design
  • development
  • testing and deployment stage
  • startup costs (marketing, support, etc.)

The decisions and choices you make at each stage will directly affect the final development cost and timeframe.

Specialist App Development Agencies vs. Freelancers ?

You have 2 options: Specialist app development agencies or freelance developers. Let’s look into each one of them. At first glance, working with an expert agency seems like the more expensive option. But is usually a better investment on the long run : An experienced team is more reliable, flexible and efficient and overall offers more value due to the accumulated experience of the designers, programmers, project managers – all of them are extremely skilled and have developed an efficient work flow from years of working with each other.

Hiring an specialist app agency

  • All in one – Specliazed app development companies have long term, experienced staff for basically any feature/task you need. No need to seek programmers, designers or testers separately.
  • See what you pay for – portfolio, project estimate and hourly rates, you know everything you get before signing the contract.
  • Experience – Expert agencies have multiple successful projects under their  belt, which means they know every aspect of successful app development, from planning, to design, development and launch.
  • Discipline and skill – Specialized agencies have a high quality standards, and they deliver and reach their objectives on time.

Now let’s review the cost of hiring a freelancer to develop your app idea. Although there are many good, trustworthy freelancers available online, it is always more risky to take that route. 

The obvious advantage of working with freelancers is the price tag: their hourly rates are usually lower than professional developers, but that comes with a downside. The freelance market has no barriers to entry, which means anybody can offer their services without having much experience, or basically by presenting a false portfolio or fake credentials to make them look better than they actually are. 

Although that doesn’t mean they aren’t any good freelance developers out there, working with freelancers for a project of such a large scale (developping a mobile app) is complicated and risky.

Hiring freelancers:

  • You must find, and manage all your ‘’employes’’ – unlike agencies that provide full development and management team, freelancers need to be guided constantly and supervised to keep quality control. 
  • Not having a dedicated project manager means you must be ready to coordinate the entire team, the deadlines and budget all by yourself.
  • Communication issues between members of project: When working with 5 different freelancers from different parts of the world, it is harder to communicate and coordinate efforts between different members of the team
  • Lack of skills: Freelancers usually don’t have formal education and aren’t necessarily up to date with the latest features and platforms while on the other hand, agency employees are continuously learning new skills and technique to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

Another way: DIY approach

Starter Kits (Templates)

If your app idea is similar to any major popular app, there is a high chance to find the source code for sale online. Although this may seem like a great way to cut corners and save money, you will still need designers to change the branding and the look of the app, and programmers to add features to make your app unique.

App builders

Building a mobile app without having to hire a programmer or designer ! Sounds amazing, doesn’t it ?. Well, not really. As an expert in the field, I find most app builders to still be way too limited in their features. Although they may work for a very basic app idea, as soon as you start adding options and features, you will see the limitations of these platforms (bugs, lacking optimization etc.)

App Design: How much does it cost ?

What is app design ?

  • The visual design
  • The user interfaces and UX
  • The logos, icons, and branding
  • The Wireframes

The factors that impact the price of app design

  • Designer
    If you want to hire a professional designer,  be ready to pay between 50 to 150 $ per hour or even more, depending on their level of skill and experience.
  • Complexity
    Simple to medium complexity apps usually cost between 5000 and 10 000 $ to design (example: calculator, or flashlight app). More complex app designs usually cost between 10 000 and 25 000 $ (example: Twitter or Instagram)
  • The platform (iOS vs. Android)
    An iPhone app design usually costs around 10 000 $, while design for Android phones cost a bit more, around $12,500.

Type of Mobile Applications and their average price point

Features are the primary factor which determine the mobile app development cost. In general, mobile apps can be broken into four major groups, depending on the purpose, complexity, and hence the total work hours required:

  1. Simple apps: Often list- or table-based, an app with 3-4 screens and one primary function. It displays a relatively simple collection of information and doesn’t store any data. The cost of such apps is the lowest, often between $1,000 and $10,000.
  2. Database-dependent / dynamic / API apps: A more complex app that stores data on the user’s device or a remote server. It can require users to register, allow them to find, input, and display and sync data between multiple devices, connect to remote web services, etc. The use of API’S that vary in complexity affects the end cost. Such apps can range between $10K-$50K.
  3. Multi-functional / enterprise or brand apps: A number of core features and custom user interface assist with a business activity. Such apps usually require the use of extensive databases, advanced UI, and, Bluetooth, GPS, payment integration. The cost can range between $20,000 and $500,000.
  4. Games: Games can cost anywhere from $5,000 (simplest ones) to $250,000+, especially high-quality complex games with 3D environments or advanced physics engines.

Mobile app features and their average cost

Before looking at the average price per feature, let’s note that there’s no single price tag for a feature. Prices can vary greatly since most app features are customizable, and the hourly rate changes depending on the developper you work with. 

This section will give you an overview of different popular app features and the average amount of time it takes to develop them so you can approximate the price you would pay (between 50 to 150$ per hour depending on who you hire)


Social sign is  a must nowadays with any website or app. Using social media (Google or Facebook) to sign up makes it easier and faster for users to access an app, as well as automatically creates their profile and collects all public data about the person. This is a standard practice in app development, which usually takes around 15 to 25 hours .

Push notifications

Every popular app nowadays leverages the power of push notifications. A push notification is a real-time update that keeps the user informed about any activities related to your app or service. There are several types of notifications: simple text, the ones with images or ones with action buttons. These notifications can go from very simple to extremely complex depending on when and to whom they are delivered to and what triggers them. The development timeline for this feature ranges between 20 and 200 hours on average. The cost ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.


The user flow of an app is usually planned and designed before the development. It defines how users go from one screen to another, how they go back to the main menu, how they take actions on the app etc. This step takes on average 10 to 15 hours depending on the complexity of the app.

Media content

Though interactive media features are now very common in most modern apps, they are complex to develop. Most mobile apps need images, videos and audio file support. Especially in 2020, every app offers some sort of social networking and messaging feature, which needs effects, filters, smileys, emoticons, editing features and more. Overall, app developers will require at least 20 hours for this type of task.


This feature is becoming more and more crucial for apps like ridesharing apps, dating apps, restaurant apps, traveling apps and more. It is based on the phone’s GPS and real-time user permissions. Regarding the cost, it depends on geolocation service accuracy and is usually divided into general area, medium range proximity and accurate location. It is hard to determine an exact average time for developing a geolocation feature as it all depends on ways you incorporate Maps with your app logic and the tasks it should be able to perform. For geolocation features, expect 50 hours or more of development.

Chat / Messaging

Which modern app doesn’t have a chat or messaging feature ? It is an essential nowadays. To determine the price of developing such features numerous variables are at play:

  • Is it direct person-to-person messaging or a group chat? 
  • Does it support file transfer? Smileys ? emojis ? Gifs ?
  • Does it save messaging and history or does it have an auto-deleting feature ?
  • Does it send notifications (message send, seen, etc.)?

We can tell the exact cost with all technical specifications available, but expect no less than 80+ hours to develop a top notch message system.


Text ads, banner or full-screen pop-ups ads are used by many apps to monetize their traffic. Ads can be custom developed, though there are plenty of external services and networks (Like Google AdMob or InMobi), SDKs and APIs, assisting developers greatly. This his feature should take on average 20 to 50 hours, depending on the type of ad display needed.

In-app purchases

More and more businesses are bringing their physical store or service online, on the app store. Developing a in-app shopping experience should not be hard for a an agency, and the time it takes to build it depends on the number of items and services you offer and should take around 30 hours.

Payments integration

Of course, for users to be able to purchase something within your app, a payment system should be installed too. There are plenty of system options to choose from – Android Pay, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Stripe, PayPal, and many others. Developers can integrate most of them into an app directly through gateway APIs.

The scope of this task depends on several factors: 

  • how payments are processed?
  • how and where the data is stored? 
  • how secure the transactions are? 
  • what level of PCI compliance (payment card industry) is provided? 

It takes a developper 50 hours or more on average to integrate one payment system. So if we take an average of 2 mobile payment methods, we would need around 100 hours to develop this feature.

Synchronization between devices

Interconnectivity between devices and data bases is one of the most important features for any shopping app. Think of any shopping or retail app as an example: when you update your inventory on your central server you need all of customers to see the exact updated data on their mobile phone.

The cost of implementing synchronization feature into mobile apps is tied to:

  •  The amount of data, 
  • The kind of data structure. 

With help of special platforms/services, developers usually require 50 hours or more to implement this kind of feature.


Many apps require a database to store data locally on a device. Mobile app developers will usually use open-source solutions like SQL Lite to set up databases. The time it takes to implement this feature depends on the data type, and takes on average about 30 hours.

Phone sensors usage

Many apps rely on the phone’s technology to implement new features. For example, a gyroscope is a sensor that measures the rate of rotation and provides 3 values: pitch, roll and azimuth.

There are also:

  • Accelerometer, to detect the phone’s orientation
  • Digital compass, for orientation in relation to magnetic field
  • GPS, satellite accurate positioning
  • Barometer, assists the GPS to get altitude data
  • Light sensor, adjusts the screen’s brightness automatically
  • Proximity sensor, prevents touch commands by ear
  • Pedometer, calculates the user’s steps
  • Fingerprint sensor, recognizes users unique fingerprint

The average time to integrate app logic with sensors is around 10 to 15 hours per feature.


It’s when a user can control and change the app’s outlook to his/her own liking. e.g. language change, day and night mode,  switching from a list view to tiles, etc. The average estimation for such features is 20-25 hours per screen. If you need to create reusable elements to use in future (custom SDK), that will requier over 35 hours of work. 

Data encryption

Keeping  your user’s private data safe and secure should be a priority for any developer in 2020. Encrypting data to prevent unauthorized access is a must. 

Encrypting data means transforming information into a code that only the sender and the receiver involved can decrypt. Apps like SnapChat, sends every single message with its unique lock and key to ensure messages are kept safe– this is known as end-to-end encryption.

When it comes data encryption, the main deciding factor is the type of data : Do we need to encrypt a text, images, audio files, videos? Then comes compatibility between devices (Encrypting messages from iPhone users to Android users) 

Implementing this feature takes on average 20-30 hours of development.

To conclude

In conclusion, it’s not so easy to answer the question of how much it costs to make an app because there’s a big range of prices depending on your unique situation and target clientele. There are a multiple options that depend on how much budget and how much time you have to deliver the project.

Remember to beware of simplistic app cost calculators that don’t take the sophisticated design and development process into account or offshore companies that who’s app development prices sound too good to be true.

If you are ready to take the next step toward developing your app, our team is waiting to chat. One of Yamm’s product strategists is ready to discuss the unique requirements of your project — Book a free consultation call now!

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