When starting out on developing your mobile app, you have a lot of considerations in mind. Not the last of these is wondering just what the cost of creating an app are.

Even free apps have app development costs. The development process for an app is no different for any other product in many respects. You’re no longer investing in machinery, tools, and buildings to create your product. Now, your app development cost is found in software, both for development and, later, testing. You may even later want to advertise it in some form or fashion.

How much and what you chose to invest in can make a huge difference with your app’s audience. A solid app needs a strong conceptual foundation, good planning, and excellent talent during all phases of its development. Leaving any of these elements without resources is risking your finished product.

The most important thing you need to do is make sure your app is unique enough to be worthwhile to consumers. It can’t be a cookie cutter version of an app or apps that already exist.  Figuring out what makes your app unique will help you not only determine the app’s cost to develop overall, but also where you should focus your resources. From here, you cans tart making a more detailed plan to determine what you need to start off.

Also, during this stage of the process, you should determine the platform for your app: Android, or iOS. Each platform has their own operating systems, as well as largely different programming languages and native SDKs.  If you’re looking to develop on all three platforms, add on more to your cost of developing an app.

Answering these questions are the first steps in answering the question of ‘how much does it cost to develop an app?’ But it is not the end. Every app’s development process is different, therefore every app has a different answer to ‘how much does it cost to build an app?’

Think of it in terms of buying a car. Not all cars cost the same, because they all have different features. What kind do you want? An economic car that has high gas mileage, or something that can off-road with ease, or a new gas-guzzling exotic?  New or used? The cost is determined by these factors, just as the cost to develop an app is determined by a lot of different elements.

So, as you can see, “How much does it cost to create an app?” has a complex answer. Estimates of the costs of developing technology are hard to make because the field is constantly changing. Right now, the average cost is somewhere around $38,500 for a quality app made by a small business. So what goes into determining that number?

Development Cost = Hourly Rate x Development Time

To start out Research, research, research! Find out the costs of creating an app from looking at popular and successful apps already out there.  This is not exactly public data, but there is a pretty basic formula to sort out how much does an app cost to develop: hourly rate x (features x time) = cost.

This will provide you with a decent, if rough estimate, of the cost of an app’s development. Take the time to understand the variables in hourly rate before you calculate the total cost to develop an app.

What You Need to Think About When Pricing Development of an App

Costs can vary dramatically. Utilizing freelancers, offshore development teams, and development agencies all have very different costs associated with them. Requiring the creation of a back-end server has a cost difference compared to having an entirely standalone one.

The major factors you should look at are many.

First of all, you should look at what the smartest venture capitalists consider the necessary amount of money that should be invested in a new venture. Since a lot of modern startups are either entirely or almost entirely focused on apps, this is a good starting point.

Next, learn what you can about the known costs associated with well-known apps or their developing companies. It can be very helpful to learn what their actual funding was, as well. Seeing what it takes to create an app like Snapchat can be very helpful, giving you a good idea of what you will be dealing with in terms of costs of app development.

How Much Does It Cost to Make an App?

You have a few different options here:

Pay a software company or development agency to create the app

This is the most expensive option on the table. These companies have their own teams of professionals, with project managers, designers, and developers. These experts will work with you to take your app from concept to polished final product to live launch. They charge from between $150 to $200 an hour. It’s only an option you should consider fi you have a lot of money to spend.

Most of the polished apps you see on the App Store or the Play Store were made by these sorts of agencies. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but with these companies, you almost have a guarantee of real quality. If you have the money to spend, this is probably the best choice for developing your app.

If you’re looking to go this route, do some research on the development of successful apps. Learn what company developed them, then contact them and inquire about their rate. Don’t be surprised at the costs, but you’re going to get what you pay for with these companies.

Contract a freelancer to develop the app

This can still net you a quality app that matches your original concept. Why? Because those software companies are usually charging a rate that is marked up from what they’re paying their employees so they can make a profit. As such, you can find some good app developers for about $50 an hour.

There are some risks associated with utilizing freelancers. They have no project manager to ensure your project meets deadlines and come in within the software development budget, as well as coordinate between team members. It’s quite likely you’ll end up with a team of strangers working for you, which can being about miscommunications. You might well end up contracting someone who is unreliable, lazy, and asks for unforeseen costs.

Also, unlike good software firms, freelancers usually need a really clear idea of you want. They will build what you tell them to build. The established software companies work with you throughout the process to tease out the idea for your app. They usually have employees dedicated to this alone.Freelancers will require more communication from you about your ideas.

All this said, freelance site rate freelances and allow you and other employers to review their performances. You’ll be able to see who you’re contracting and their past projects quite easily. If you’re looking to hire a freelancer, sites like Upwork and Toptal make it easy to find good freelancers for every stage of your project.

Buy an App Template and Hire A Freelancer to Customize It

If you’re looking to create an app very much alike to others you’ve seen, you may want to try buying an app starter kit or template. Someone has probably created a close on the popular app. The source code usually runs between $50 and $150 per license, more if you want to publish it more than once. Once you have that, you can hire a freelancer to customize it with new graphic assets (or do it yourself, if that’s your talent) or change anything about its functionality. This is still a fairly cheap option.

App templates are pretty bare bones. If there are any bugs in the source code, you’ll be getting them with the rest. These two factors can raise the costs quite a bit, as the freelancer will be making alterations to a cade he or she did not write. It takes time and effort, which always drives up the rate. You should also research what’s already been built off this template, as you may be creating something that is already available.

If you want to do this, go hunting through source code market places or search the web for “app source code”.

You could also….

Buy an App Template and Customize it Yourself

This can be hard, as learning how to code is a challenge unto itself (more on this later). It’s doable, however, if you only want to make a few simple changes and you’re working off a very tight budget.

All you may have to do, besides pay for the app start kit, is search the web for bit of help with coding. Again, the risk here is you’re working with code you did not write. There may be bugs you don’t know how to deal with, or the changes you’re looking to make may be more complex than you’re bargaining for.

Use an App Maker

You can find online versions of app makers well as app maker software.  They charge from between $10 a month to an outright purchase of $5000. There are also a few free ones, but remember that you do get what you pay for. These platforms tend to be very rigid, without allowing for a lot of customization, but it could be all you need.

Some of the more expensive ones offer a lot of customization options, however. The learning curves tend not to be terribly steep for these programs, and it’s a good way to go if you’re working on a fairly moderate but not large budget.

Learn Mobile App Development

This is the cheapest and most flexible option on this list- if you have the patience. All relevant information is on the web. You can look up tutorials just about anywhere. If you want a more systemic approach, you can spend $99 to take a coding course.

If you take the time to learn how to develop your own app, you can customize it to your needs. It is a serious challenge. If you’re going down this route, make sure you’re dedicated and persistent. If you can get past the basic rudiments of coding, you might be surprised how far you can go with your new skills. You’ll be able to customize your app just the way you want, provided you can learn and figure out how to do so.

Remember, creating an app yourself is going to be the real learning process if you go this route. It’s not going to be easy. You will get frustrated to the point of quitting on many occasions. It will require a serious investment of time and energy.

Split Profits with a Partner Developer

This can be hard to pull off. A lot of developers will not want to partner up with a total stranger. If you know someone who is a programmer, however, this could be an excellent option if you can convince them it’s a worthwhile partnership. Make sure you bring something to the project, and be prepared to compromise, just like with any other group project.


So, what do you think is the answer to ‘how much does it cost to make an app?’ As you’ve read above, that depends on how you go about developing an app. It depends on how much time and money you want to spend, as well as the risks you’re will to take.

Undeniably, of all the options, the most expensive is contracting a development company and the cheapest is coding and developing it yourself. Using the services of a development agency can run from $10,000 to $60,000 in total. The range is so large because the variances in the complexity of the app. Learning to code yourself costs the price of your learning material, whether you’re learning for free from net or going to a pricy coding bootcamp.

So, how much does it cost to create an app? That is going to be up to you.

Funny thing is that after you create the app, you have to start promoting it. The first step would be to create a website for your mobile app with a great looking design and maybe even some neat animations to make it pleasant for the visitors, then push it on various online communities, and invest in PPC or simply insist with cold calling and cold emailing.

So, in the end, the costs of an app project will be even higher when you take into account that there isn’t just the software development cost in the project.

About the Author

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Bogdan Sandu

Bogdan is a designer and editor at DesignYourWay. He's reading design books the same way a hamster eats carrots, and talks all the time about trends, best practices and design principles.