When you want to develop an app for your business, startup or anything else, the first thing that comes to your mind is “How much does it cost to develop an app?”
It is one of the most asked questions for any mobile app development agency by its clients and visitors. And so for us too.
What everyone wants to know for their app development, is just a quick specific amount; $5k, 10k, 30k, 50k, 100k or 1M+. But trust me no sane developer can quote you an immediate cost for app development.
Instead what you should do:
To get the best estimate of cost, you first need to define your goals, functionalities, features, and outcome that you want from your app. It is wise to break down the tasks to build the app and cost associated with those tasks, and then estimate the overall time to develop the app.
The cost of building an app or any other digital product is directly proportional to the time it takes to create that product. The more you demand, the more time it takes to make it live, hence it adds up to the cost of development.
I have done a quick breakdown of tasks that directly or indirectly affect the cost of development.
- The cost is based on requested features, complexity, integrations and platform you want to build the app for.
- The cost is also based on who builds the app for you. High-end agencies, offshore development companies based in third world countries, or nearshore outsourcing development teams (nearshore development is the best of both worlds - lower cost than high-end agencies and better quality of production than offshore outsourcing).
- Will your app need a back-end server?
- You need to determine whether you want complete execution from initial wireframing to the app in stores. Or you have a prototype ready and want to make it live.
- Integration with other third-party apps. Like - Google maps and payment processors.
- Use of smartphone hardware features into the app. Like; NFC, Gyroscope, GPS, etc.
- Cross-platform - iPad / iPhone or both
- Landscape view and portrait view - Landscape view alongside the default portrait view in any app provides another layout of the app with just a turn of the device. Accelerometer which is built-in hardware in most of the smartphones makes it possible to change the layout orientation without pressing any button. This task includes interface designing, and so can cost the developers around 20 hours in time.
- Navigation - 10+ hours - Good navigation in any mobile app is like a wheel for its user. It takes them throughout the app, from one screen to another. But building a good navigation experience is also a challenging part for any developer due to the limitations of smaller screen on mobile devices. Developing a smooth navigation bar, hamburger menu, scrolling, swiping, and buttons could easily fetch 10+ hours of development time.
- Push notifications - The push notifications allow you to send the direct message to your users home screen (or lock screen). It’s like an SMS coming from app marketers instead of your Mom ;). The development time hugely depends on the complexity of push notifications you chose in your app. Roughly it can take from 20 to 200 hours of work.
- User login - The ages old and most basic option of user sign-in is with email or phone (authenticating with a unique URL or OTP). But there is firm truth behind user signups, the tedious steps in signup increases bounce rate. And to avoid the cumbersome email signup process, one-touch social sign-ups is the job to adapt. Social login allows third-party applications to authenticate your credentials and collects all public data about that person. Implementing a social login function takes around 20 hours.
- Website Syncing for media content - Syncing website content with your app is also a plus task to perform. If you want to make your website to be in sync with your mobile app, something like a blog page that you want to be synced inside a section in your app. Or users’ dashboard all in sync with their personalized data. All this can easily take around 20 hours for media and data syncing across your app from the website.
- Geolocation - If you have something like Uber in mind. - Geolocation is used to identify a user’s physical or real-world location. Since all smartphones now come up with built-in GPS chips, it is easier for developers to utilize the location-based tracking now than ever before. Geolocation tracking is widely used in taxi-booking apps, restaurant apps, business apps, dating apps, and now in e-commerce apps as well. But since implementing geo services is a complex task, expect no less than 50+ hours on this.
- In-app chat messaging - In-app messaging feature boasts some attributes that mostly affect its time of production. Characteristics like whether the chat will only be 1-to-1 or also have the group chat? The functionality of file transfer, messages history database, offline mode, markups like 'message seen' and 'uploaded'. All these functions affect the messaging app in whole and can end up consuming at least 80+ hours if not more.
- Google maps - If the project demands the need for Google Maps integration, the necessary integration without much of the app logic boasts 20+ hours of time.
- Ads - Including abrasive ads is not the best practice for any app’s growth. Ads heavy mobile app experience hugely impact the user retention. So, access use of ad spaces is not and should not be recommended by any developer. But implementing this feature can add up to 20 - 50 hours.
- In-app purchases - In-app purchases are the purchases that a user made inside the app and not on the app store. The in-app purchase could be used to sell like the subscription to Netflix, some premium features inside the app, or purchase of virtual credits that are widely used in gaming apps. Though in-app purchases are made inside the app, the whole process is taken care by iOS app store that includes invoicing. Developing in-app purchase feature depends on the number of features you want to add on to the list, but it can take your development team anywhere around 30 hours of time.
- Payment integration - If you are looking to sell digital goods inside your app, then you don’t need to worry about a third party payment partner. Because, both the Apple and Android don’t allow third-party payment integrations to sell digital products through the app. But if you are selling real goods online, then you are allowed to implement any compatible third-party payment processor including Android Pay, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Stripe, PayPal, Intuit, Square, Braintree, and others. Implementing a 3rd party processor also avoids the 30% commission Apple takes from in-app purchases (but only if you are selling real goods). The development cost of this depends upon multiple factors like where the data needs to be stored, what level of Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is required, and how many payment processors need to be integrated. For the integration of one payment processor, 50 hours of work is estimated.
- Devices synchronization - People don’t use one device all the time. Throughout the day they go from mobile to computers to tablets. The data of your mobile app should be in sync all the time with the central server so that as soon as you make a change, it should be updated on all the platforms. The amount of time required to synchronize the data across the platforms depend on the amount of data and the data structure that is being used. Roughly, at least 50 hours are required to perform this job of synchronization with the help of services like Firebase for android.
- Video Streaming and image capture - Image capture is a more straightforward function of app development, but if you need Instagram like filters with image capture, then that’s the different story. Similarly, if the app demands a streaming service like Netflix, Periscope or YouTube. Then it’s a complex feature requiring complex logic and data processing. You need to define the function of streaming, like, if the data is transmitted in real time to the server and streamed as live, or will it be based on record-and-send approach. What video/audio formats will be supported. So, at the minimum, setting up the streaming feature can easily fetch around 30+ hours of development.
- Multi-language support - If your app covers multiple regions with different languages, then the multi-lingual app interface can be achieved easily. In the case of RTL/LTR languages integration, the interface needs to be adjusted accordingly. Thus, on average it costs the developer around 15 hours in development.
- Offline mode - similar to WhatsApp, Trello - Building offline compatible apps is a plus for any app startup because it keeps you apart from other competitors who are only leveraging online. And also increase your retention rate. Think of WhatsApp or FB Messenger where you can see your chat messages to where you last connected to the internet. Trello does offer a similar way of app access with their offline-first approach. The data needs to be stored locally on the device to be accessible without the internet, for which SQL databases, local storage, caching, and cookies are used. It adds more than 40 hours to the development cycle.
- Sensors - Fingerprint, light, pedometer, proximity, barometer, GPS, compass, accelerometer, - As the fingerprint reader is booming in the latest smartphones and so the other sensors. Sensors play an outstanding role in making a smartphone - “a SmartPhone”. Many mobile apps leverage the phone’s built-in sensors to enhance the functionality and usability. From rotating the orientation to telling you your current location, all this is done using sensors. To integrate sensors in the app logic a minimum of 10 hours are required by developers.
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- App maintenance cost