What does it cost to build an app?​​

Let’s start with the answers already out there…there’s a lot of them.
A quick Google search yields numerous articles and blog posts like this one with a wide range of answers. Go read them. To be helpful, at the end of this article, we’ve summarized of some of the better posts we’ve found.
Even with all these other answers already out there, we still gets asked this question constantly… maybe 50–75% of inbound emails are simply looking for a quick answer to this question. So now we’re joining the party…

The short answer: There is no short answer.
We’ll say $5 — $5,000,000+.
Not too helpful, eh? If you’re shopping for apps like you’d shop for a TV, then to be honest, you probably shouldn’t be shopping for an app.

The long answer: It depends
Without knowing the exact requirements, feature set, desired user experience, fully-rendered visual design, and detailed implementation spec, it’s impossible to give an actual cost. And of course defining any of the above exactly is in and of itself impossible (or the app would already be done).

But we can get at least close. If the question is instead: “What does it cost to build my very specific app based on some very specific requirements?”, then now we’re getting somewhere.
Second, it all depends on what you need.
The cost to build an app always boils down to time. It takes actual human beings to create designs, write code, and manage the development process. Those humans are spending their precious time on this planet, and their time is equivalent to money. There are three levers that influence time in a project plan.

Lever 1: Types of Effort.

What types of effort does the project need? The more distinct types of efforts that are required, the more distinct types of people will be required, and ultimately the more time we need to buy.

  • Strategy / concept development?
  • UX/wireframe design?
  • Visual / UI design?
  • iOS development?
  • Android Development?
  • iOS and Android development in parallel?
  • Server-side API development? (e.g., to get the apps talking to a database)?
  • Third-party service / social integration?
  • Analytics?
  • QA / testing process?

Level 2: Robustness of Effort.

What does this product need to do? How many screens, features, and interactions does it have? Is this a legit MVP or is this a true version 1.0? Are some bugs acceptable or must it be perfect? More features = more time/money. More complicated features = more time/money. More perfect features = more time/money.

The amount and complexity of features is directly proportional to the time and cost of the project. The easiest way to reduce the cost of an app development effort is to reduce the app’s scope. At Bdesign, we generally feel simpler apps are more likely to gain traction anyway.

But, if the app has a ton of features, lots of states, social components, real-time data, whizbang design elements, crazy motion effects, etc., then it’s obviously going to cost more than something that can afford to be a bit rougher around the edges.


Lever 3: Quality of the Effort

What kind of people do you want making your product? Do you want experts in their field? Do you want to be able to discuss things in person, or is it ok if you never directly interact with your developer? Do you want someone who will just do what the functional spec says, or someone that will challenge the concept and push to make the ideal product? Do you want a partner or just an outsourcer?

It’s up to you to decide what type of quality you are looking for.

​​
Ok, Fine. The BDesign answer: $10k-$100k


Again, there is huge variance here, and this is not a quote and basically meaningless vapor. But if you want to put a gun to our head and force us to throw out numbers, then this is how we tell people to think it through…

Think of each “piece” of a project as a unique effort, and then apply a cost to each effort.

Do you need a design effort? That’s 1 piece. Do you need server-side development? That’s 1 piece. Do you need iOS development? Another piece. Android development? You get the idea…

For each piece, we typically say you should account for a minimum of 1–2 months time and a minimum of $10k.

For example, if you have a fully realized visual design, and just need us to build a basic API server and a decent iOS app, you’re looking at $10k + 10k = $20k minimum (and I can’t stress the word “*minimum*” enough).
Let’s say you have an idea in your head and nothing else, but you know you need to launch both iOS and Android? Ok, so we need to do: concepting/UX + design + server-side + iOS + Android. Now, your minimum outlay is going to be more like $30k.

The time and budget goes up from there depending on the types of effort and the robustness of the effort as outlined above. We typically scope out what needs to be done and share our cost sheet with you so you can see the drivers of time / cost on a per-feature basis.

Bdesign weighs in on an often asked question.

Our quick summaries of other posts exactly like this:


Clutch

The median cost range is between $17,913 and $111,450, but could climb up to $200,000 or higher.

An app that extracts data from a database and displays it in a simple list can be expected to take 4–8 weeks to create at a cost of $16,000 on a single platform.

An app with more complex server-side integration and offline data caching will probably take 8–12 weeks and cost $31,000 to develop for two platforms.


A full-scale enterprise automation app with integration to business processes will take anything from 3–6 months and may cost over $60,000 to develop on three platforms.

Forbes

You should expect to involve a team of six to ten people for about six months or more.

Moreover, a high-quality, enterprise-class mobile app will involve not tens, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. Again, it’s essential to be guided by the idea that you get what you pay for.

Fueled

Matzner says “you’re likely looking at around $50k to do that. So if you break it down, it’s basically 120 hours of work per week, times an average of 8 or 10 weeks. You have two developers working full time (that’s 80 hours), and then you have a designer and art director working half-time (that’s about 20 hours), and then you have a product manager and an account manager coordinating. And that’s the another 20 hours. And so that’s where you get 120 hours from.”

The Next Web
  • Cost to rebuild Twitter: $20,000 to $250,000
  • Cost to rebuild Instagram: $40,000 to $300,000
  • Cost to rebuild Facebook: $300,000
  • Cost to rebuild WhatsApp: $150,000
  • Cost to rebuild Uber: $150,000 to $1.5 million
  • Cost to rebuild Vine: $125,000 and $175,000

SFCD

The cost of the simple notes application would range between $10,000-$50,000.

The total cost of [a] larger, more complex application would fall somewhere between $27,600-$194,000

Crew

$10k: “I just want it to work”
$15–34k: “I want something that works well on one platform”
$50–100k: “I want something that works across multiple platforms”
$250k: “I want to build the next Facebook.”

Swarm

Unless you’re a developer don’t offshore. Prices can run anywhere from $5k in developing markets to $50k in Central Europe and up.

Freelancers are a good option if you can verify their quality. App wise you’re looking for $15k to $100k and up.
App development companies are good and bad. Shoot for 70k and up for a basic-ish app, about $120–140k for a solid social app.

You get the idea.