$150,000 USD — that’s the average cost of building an app in 2023. In practice, however, an app development project can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $500,000. The actual cost depends on a variety of factors — from the experience and skillset of the developer to the complexity of the project in question.
With so many factors to take into account, landing on the right budget estimate can be tough. But without a proper understanding of how much it would cost to develop your app, you’ll be flying blind into a project and burning through your resources long before project completion.
Fret not, though. It’s why we created this guide. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a clear idea of just how much it would cost to build your app based on factors like complexity, type, functionality, and industry.
Are you a bootstrapped startup or small business that doesn’t have the budget for an expensive development team? No problem. We’ll also share a few proven strategies to help you reduce your mobile app development costs with the right tools for the job.
Why Build a Mobile App?
Why do businesses spend several hundred thousand dollars on something like a mobile app? As a brick-and-mortar business, do you even need one?
Consider this: there were more than 6.3 billion mobile users in 2021. Whether you’re a local coffee shop or a boutique fashion retailer, having a mobile or web app can supercharge your awareness campaign, improve customer satisfaction across the board, and open up new ways to expand your business.
Apps aren’t just for your customers, either. They can also be used to streamline the way you conduct business — from optimizing single workflows to managing entire companies. At Glide, our user community has applied our no-code app building platform to create everything from employee databases to accounting software.
Still not convinced? Here are some ways mobile and web applications can be helpful to businesses across different industries:
Generating Awareness: Given the vast number of smartphone users around the world, mobile apps are a great way to generate awareness about your brand and product.
Providing Support: Providing good customer support at scale is a breeze, thanks to the in-app messaging technology offered by apps.
Improving Retention: Business apps can create a stickiness effect that improves your customer retention rates and builds loyalty among your users.
Collecting Data: Apps are an excellent way to collect data on customer behavior as well as really valuable product feedback.
Improving Sales: Apps make your brand more accessible and provide alternate avenues for sales with ecommerce.
Increasing Profitability: As awareness, retention, and sales increase across the board, it also helps further your bottom line and improves yearly profits.
How Much Does it Cost to Build an App?
Different app development companies offer vastly different estimates for how much it costs to build a mobile or web app. The main reason behind this vast discrepancy is the large number of factors that can impact the app development process, from the size of the project to the release platform for the app.
Here are three key factors that can have a major impact on your app development costs:
Most app development projects are iterative, meaning that prices can also vary depending on which stage of the project you are in, from discovery and wireframing to quality assurance and app maintenance.
Let’s take a look at how these different factors can affect your app development budget and how much it would cost to build an app under each scenario.
App Development Costs by Project Complexity
Project complexity is determined by many things — from the number of app features to the nature of the development platform. Some programming languages are harder than others, whereas implementing advanced security features can take up more time and resources.
There can also be other factors. If you’re trying to build a cross-platform app for both Android and iOS, for example, that would definitely raise your app development prices. Similarly, the more revisions you make to your app design and functionality across different iterations, the more developmental hours it will take.
Based on complexity alone, app development projects can be divided into three main types:
Simple apps are light but functional applications with basic features like letting people set up user profiles to access personalized content. They also feature a simple backend that helps you access usage statistics and view top-level data.
Complex apps come with a more well-developed user experience as well as more new features like in-app communication, activity feeds, and ecommerce solutions. The majority of apps in the world fall into this category.
Advanced apps come with all the functionalities of a simple or complex app and also feature cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and geolocation tracking. They’re built with data collection and aggressive personalization in mind.
Project complexity determines the number of working hours it takes to complete development, thus impacting the total cost of building the app. According to a recent survey by Goodfirms, here’s the cost estimate for completing an app development project at an hourly rate of $100:
Simple app: $38,200 - $91,000
Complex app: $55,550 - $131,000
Advanced app: $91,550 - $211,000
However, project complexity isn’t the only thing affecting development costs. Hourly rates differ significantly by geographical location. They can also vary depending on the experience level of the developer in question.
App Development Costs by Geographical Location
The cost of building an app also depends on where the app development team is based. Some of the most popular countries for development services include the USA, Canada, Brazil, Ukraine, India, and South Africa. Each of these countries features different economic conditions that influence the overall cost of app development. Let’s take a look at each of them now:
USA: The US is one of the most expensive countries with developers charging between $100 to $150 an hour for app development. California, being the primary hub for tech companies and software startups, boasts the highest rates of all the states in the US.
Canada: HackerRank’s recent study ranked this country’s developers 21st in the entire world. Moreover, according to official sources, 18.6% of working-age Canadians have STEM degrees. With development fees ranging between $90 to $130 an hour, Canada costs slightly less than the US for app development but is still fairly expensive.
Brazil: While relatively young in the app development game, Brazil boasts a largely young working population with ever-increasing tech literacy. With development costs averaging between $30 to $50 an hour, it’s also a lot more economically feasible than North America.
Ukraine: Ukraine is also home to the most C++ programmers in the world. With a time zone with significant overlaps with the US, it’s a popular destination among those looking to outsource software development. Developers there charge $30 to $35 on average per hour, making it one of the most affordable locations in this regard.
India: The third-largest startup ecosystem in the world after the US and China, India’s tech prowess has been growing at a pace that’s hard to ignore. At $20 to $30 an hour, India also has some of the lowest average app development costs worldwide.
South Africa: There were 20.4 million smartphone users in South Africa in 2018, making it another fast-growing ecosystem for mobile applications. With the average hourly cost of app development between $40 to $80, it’s a bit more expensive than markets like India and Ukraine, but still reasonably affordable.
When it comes to picking the right location for outsourcing your app, it’s important to remember that price doesn’t always equal quality. It all comes down to choosing the right freelancer or team to lead your project at a budget that makes sense to you.
App Development Costs by Release Platform
Right now, there are two release platforms to choose from for mobile application development: Android and iOS. Each platform has its own target audience as well as advantages and disadvantages. You can also commission a mobile app development company to build a cross-platform or hybrid app that runs well on both platforms, though it will cost you more.
Let’s review the release platforms below and see how much it costs to build an app for each:
Developed by Google.
Accounts for 87% of the mobile market share, according to Statista.
Popular in Central America, South America, India, Africa, China, the Middle East, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
Apps must follow Google’s Material Design Guidelines for UI and UX.
Open-source platform that allows smartphone manufacturers to alter its core operating system functionalities.
Different device hardware specifications results in more flexibility but an inconsistent user experience.
Fully automated testing and easier approval process at the Google Play Store.
Android app development costs range from $5 to $200 an hour, according to Goodfirms.
Developed by Apple.
Accounts for just 13% of the mobile market share.
Very popular among users based in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Western Europe.
Developers are suggested to follow Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for UX design.
Closed-ended system that doesn’t allow modifications to its source code, resulting in a more consistent user experience.
Uniform hardware specifications, as every device is manufactured by Apple.
Manual testing and a harder approval process at the Apple App Store.
iOS app development costs range from $7 to $250 an hour per Goodfirms.
On the other hand, if you cater mainly to desktop audiences, you can also opt for a web app. These applications run inside your web browser and can be accessed using any device connected to the internet, be it mobile, tablet, laptop, or desktop. It’s worth noting, however, that the experience may not be as intuitive on mobile devices as a native app for that platform.
App Development Costs: Breakdown by Project Stage
When estimating app development costs, it’s helpful to break down the entire process into different stages. Here’s a list of common stages that apps usually go through across the entire product lifecycle along with a complete cost breakdown for each stage:
Planning and Estimation
Design (UI and UX)
Coding and Development
Maintenance and Support
Planning and Estimation: Planning is the most crucial stage of project management and a must for any software major development undertaking. It’s that point where the development team sits down with the project stakeholders across multiple sessions to perform various fundamental functions, from validating the app idea to conducting market research to providing cost estimates.
The planning phase can continue for anywhere between 30 to 250 hours, depending on the type of app and project complexity. At an average hourly rate of $65, Goodfirms claims it can cost anywhere between $1,950 to $16,250. Of course, this is entirely dependent on the size of the development team and the scope of the project.
Design (UI and UX): Design is more than just aesthetics. It can play a functional role in the end-user experience by affecting essential things like accessibility and navigation.
For most development agencies, the design process involves building an information hierarchy, followed by creating a basic wireframe, and turning it into an interactive prototype of the final user interface. It may also include brand design — creating reusable assets like logos and color palettes for the entire brand.
The app design process can take between 40 to 409 hours and cost up to $26,585, according to Goodfirms.
Coding and Development: Coding is the meat of the development process. It’s also the most challenging to estimate. It’s entirely dependent on your choice of app features and the functional efficiency of the development team.
Since the number of hours needed to code an app is directly related to the project complexity, here’s an estimate of how much it costs for the average development team to build a simple, complex, or advanced app at $65/hr:
Simple App: 80 to 160 hours, $5,200 to $10,400
Complex App: 100 to 240 hours, $6,500 to $15,600
Advanced App: 160 to 400 hours, $10,400 to $26,000
Product development time can fluctuate widely depending on the workflows and processes adopted by the developer or agency. While most teams provide a time and cost estimate during planning, it’s entirely normal for them to go above or under those estimates because of the complicated nature of the estimation process. In fact, McKinsey says that about 45% of software projects go over the estimated budget.
Quality Assurance: Quality assurance (QA) is a long process involving plenty of checks to ensure that your application meets quality standards. It includes two primary tasks — testing and troubleshooting.
The development team may run several tests to ensure that the final product meets quality standards, including user experience testing, functionality testing, performance testing, security testing, and platform testing.
The hours it takes to complete these tests as well as the troubleshooting and optimization period that follows, depends once again on the project complexity and the number of features included within the app.
Development agencies take somewhere between 48 to 130 hours to complete the quality assurance phase for regular and basic apps. For more complicated and advanced apps, QA can go on for as long as 480 hours, according to Goodfirms.
Final Deployment: Deployment mainly consists of publishing your app to the relevant platform along with any necessary performance optimizations and marketing steps. While that may sound simple at first, there are many platform-specific compliance rules to keep in mind and different optimizations to perform to ensure the app is fit for release.
The Google Play Store for Android has an easier approval process that utilizes automated testing to fast-track your application. Google charges a one-time developer fee of $25 for publishing your app on the store, but it’s not particularly selective about the apps published on the platform.
The Apple App Store for iOS, on the other hand, has a more rigorous approval process that involves manual testing and takes up to 48 hours for more than 90% of apps. It also charges a recurring developer fee of $99 per year.
Web apps are much easier to publish because they don’t require platform approval and can be deployed using any number of web hosting solutions available on the internet. Web hosting solutions differ in pricing, however, depending on the number of users your web app has and the storage space it requires.
On average, it takes 8-50 hours for an app to be deployed. If priced at $65 an hour, that puts your deployment costs at around $520 to $3250.
Maintenance and Support: The role of your development team doesn’t end with deployment. It’s a recurring collaboration involving regular support and updates to keep your app current and well-maintained.
App development is handled in iterations. Each new version brings more enhanced features and regular bug fixes to keep the app relevant and useful. Because of the constantly evolving nature of the process, the development team charges a retainer to justify the cost of upkeep.
So how much does app maintenance cost? It’s a standard practice among agencies and freelancers to charge 25% of the project cost as an annual maintenance fee. This number can vary from developer to developer.
Using No-Code Tools to Reduce App Development Costs
Hiring a freelance developer or development agency to build an app can be a massive drain on your finances. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to create even the most basic application, whereas more complex apps can cost anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000.
Luckily, going the freelance or agency route isn’t the only way to build an app. With a little bit of curiosity and a dash of creative effort, you can create your app from scratch all by yourself, with absolutely no coding required!
No-code development platforms are tools that enable you to build and deploy a mobile or web app with no programming knowledge. All you need is an app idea and some data to serve as your baseline. Then, you can drag and drop items into a graphical interface to build your app just the way you want.
If that sounds brilliant, it’s ‘cause it really is! Whereas no-code tools were created to introduce non-programmers to app development, they’re now used even by professional programmers because of how intuitive and accessible they are.
Glide is a no-code and no-design app development tool that offers a brand new way to create mobile and web apps from scratch — by using spreadsheets. All you have to do is plug in your spreadsheet document from Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or Airtable. Glide automatically turns it into a fully-functional application that can be customized to your liking using various available components.
But that’s not all. The best thing about Glide is our community, which is always coming up with new and interesting ways to improve our product. From community-made app templates to an extremely active user forum, being able to learn from and grow with an ever-expanding developer circle is what makes the experience truly special.
Want to create an app for your business but worried about the cost? Glide is the perfect solution for building internal and external facing apps without breaking the bank. Our pricing plans give you lots of options, and you can even get started for free!
Why not create an account today and see how easy it is to bring your project to life?