How Much Does It Cost To Develop An App in 2021


Pricing the unknown is the most intimidating stage in the development process. But like it or hate it, the million-dollar question of costs will pop up anyway. While it’s impossible to address this query in a binary manner, you can get at least a general idea of upcoming expenses if you have a clear vision of future functionality. 

And if you’re like other aspiring business owners who want to tap into the $190 billion markets, we’ve got a cheat sheet for you. This article will expand upon the costs of creating an app and share some tips and tricks on driving down the expenditures. Without further ado, let’s get into it. 

Factors That Affect App Development Costs

There is no surefire way to estimate future investments. The total for building a tailor-made solution varies greatly depending on a gamut of factors. These include:

  1. Project type (social, on-demand delivery, healthcare, etc.)
  2. Type of vendor ( app development company, freelancers)
  3. Vendor’s location 
  4. App complexity
  5. Platforms and devices
  6. Design
  7. Features and functionalities
  8. Maintenance costs

Although this is not an exhaustive list, we’ve listed the deciding factors that influence development costs. Now, let’s have a closer look at each of them


Stop 1. App Complexity

Mobile app development costs are based heavily on size and complexity. With that said, all mobile apps fall into three categories: simple, medium, and complex.

  • Simple apps are mobile products meant for a single platform. They have simple features like login and email subscriptions as well as basic UI components. Also, these applications don’t need API integration and backend development. We all have such applications pre-installed on our smartphones.
  • Medium apps are built for one or several platforms and include tailor-made UI and UX features. They also require an API integration and back-end setup. 
  • Complex applications have extended functionality that includes multi-language support, 3rd-party integrations, and custom animations. They also feature complicated back-end, custom UI/UX design, and real-time features via database. Uber and Instacart belong to this category.

Stop 2. App functionality 

Key functionalities as well as the number and complexity of features are one of the major cost factors. The more features your project calls for, the more time your dev team will spend on building them.

To save your time and effort, we have carefully curated a list with core app functionality, and the estimated number of hours needed to enable the features.

  • User login

Picking your login method is more of an art than a science. There is a fine line between securing it with byzantine methods and scaring users away and providing convenience and superior data security. We recommend going for social login. It links accounts from one or more social networking services to your application. This way, users can sign up for your service in mere seconds. Usually, developers need around 15+ hours to set up the back-end and create UI/UX design.

  • Push notifications

Push notifications are short pop-up messages in an app or browser. They are sent to users to update them on news and promotions. The main purpose of push notifications is to deliver relevant information to the customer to keep them engaged. Typically, the dev team will allocate 50+ hours powering this function for two platforms.

  • Navigation bar

Navigation bars allow users to move between the screens of an app to complete tasks. Navigation elements may vary from simple button clicks to advanced patterns like app bars and the navigation drawer. As for the work hours spent, this feature takes up 26+ hours for the app back-end and 17+ hours for one development platform.

  • Media content sharing

If you’re building an Instagram-like application or a messenger, you should enable the users to share media files. You may also need to add editing capabilities, including emojis, filters, effects, or masks. This is a time-consuming feature that needs 10+ hours for the design, 17+ hours for the front-end, and 35+ hours for the back-end. Also, your developers will spend 35+ to develop this function on the iOS or Android platform.

  • Geolocation

Map-based functionality is a must for the majority of mobile applications. On-demand applications, dating services, and travel platforms leverage this feature to identify the geographic location of a user. Overall, this functionality requires 25+ hours for the design, back-end, and one development platform.

  • In-app messaging

If you are looking to build an e-commerce marketplace, social platform, product for real estate, or booking solution, this is a must-have functionality for you. The development team will need 70+ hours to build the messaging platform back-end and integrate this feature into one of the platforms.

  • Database

Database integration is pivotal for managing data-loaded applications, making it easier to detect bottlenecks and enhance user experience. You’ll also need databases for offline app capabilities. As for the estimate, software engineers will need 11+ hours to set up the back-end and 10+ hours per platform whether it’s iOS or Android.

Alongside the core functionalities, you’ll need to compensate the development team for the following activities:

  • Back-end architecture: from 25+ hours
  • Environment Setup: from 20+ hours 
  • Design: from 165+ hours 
  • Testing: from 115+ hours 
  • Elimination of software errors: from 50+ hours
  • Project Management: from 100+ hours 
  • Tech Documentation: from 25+ hours

So what is the average price for a tailor-made mobile solution? If we add it all up and multiply by a median developer rate, we’ll get a hefty sum of $30k-$50. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? The welcome news here is that you can spare some budget dollars by prioritizing your MVP features. Curious? Read on to find more about this trick.

Feature Prioritization: Step by Step

  • Write a product vision statement

For your idea to become a life-changing product, you have to clearly picture the future state of your solution and the overarching long-term mission of your product. To do that, get to grips with the following pointers:

  • Value for customers and users, key product goals
  • User persona, including an in-depth description of the main age group, location, occupation, hobbies, etc.
  • Long-term performance metrics ( identify your own set of metrics, since the mileage may vary based on the app type)
  • Prioritize the MVP features

At this stage, you need to answer the following set of questions:

  • What biggest issues do your target audience experience?
  • How can your product solve these issues?
  • What are your direct competitors and what is their set of features?
  • What features are not generally applicable?

To facilitate this process, you can turn to the time-tested prioritization methods called MoSCoW and Kano approaches.  

  •  Post-launch activities for your MVP

The work doesn’t come to an end as soon as your product goes live. After launching your MVP, your development team will source user feedback as well as collect and analyze data. Then, you and your development team will create a list of Should have and Could have features to implement next based on the MVP insights. 

The Final Word

In an alternative universe, there might exist a one-size-fits-all answer to the eternal question of app development costs. However, in our time and age, it’s almost impossible to estimate the exact total, since every mobile application stems from unique business needs and particular problems. The pricing also varies depending on the app’s complexity, size, and core functionality. And we mustn’t forget about average developer rates that are different in all countries.