Mobile app development costs are anything but one-size-fits-all. From labor expenses to hosting and maintenance, the financial investment of hiring app developers in 2024 is as diverse and dynamic as apps themselves. But one thing is clear: the consumer demand for mobile apps has never been greater.
In fact, it’s predicted that the total revenue in the mobile application market will grow to more than $600 billion by 2025 – 2026. To put it simply, if you’re on the fence about building an app for your brand, the time has never been better to make the leap. But, with so many options available for mobile app and software development, it can be hard to discern which path for mobile app development is right for you.
In this article, we’ll help you understand your options by covering the various costs for developing a mobile application, the pros and cons of using a mobile app development agency vs. in-house mobile developer vs. no-code mobile app builder, and how to develop an app using a no-code solution … for those opting to take this route.
Cost of Hiring a Full-Time In-House Developer
Let’s dive into the details of hiring a full-time dev onto your team.
Average Salary Ranges: Full-Time App Developer
Talent.com states that in 2023 the average salary range for an in-house app developer in the USA is $90,000 to $156,000 annually, and the median annual salary is around $115,000.
However, the average salary ranges for full-time app developers can vary significantly based on their level of experience and their proficiency in specific programming languages and frameworks.
- For entry-level developers, with one to three years of experience, the annual salary typically falls in the $90,000 range.
- Intermediate developers, with around four to seven years of experience, often expect salaries ranging from $90,000 to $120,000.
- Full-stack developers with extensive expertise and specializations in in-demand technologies like Java, Objective-C, Kotlin, Xcode, or Flutter, can command salaries that reach upwards of $150,000 or more.
These huge salaries reflect the growing demand for skilled app developers. Highly experienced professionals are particularly sought after and well-compensated in the competitive tech job market.
Additional Costs of Employment
When you calculate the total cost of hiring an in-house Android or iOS developer, it’s essential to account for not only their base salary, but also added expenses, which can significantly impact your budget.
Some reports suggest that the average cost of training one new full-time employee exceeds $1200. And, that doesn’t even account for the turnover cost if your app developer decides to leave the company.
Some companies also offer equity or stock options as part of a developer’s compensation package. This can be a valuable incentive to attract top talent but might dilute ownership.
Additional costs to consider include employee benefits, office equipment, and continuing education. These expenses should be factored in when determining the total compensation offered to full-time employees to ensure you don’t exceed your budget.
Pros & Cons of Hiring an In-House Developer
When it comes to hiring an in-house developer, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
- Dedicated Resource. They’re a dedicated resource with an in-depth understanding of your code base.
- Cost Savings. It’s a more cost-effective option compared to agencies, which have higher hourly rates.
- Company Culture. An in-house developer will work in close alignment with your company’s culture and objectives.
- Scaling Constraints. There’s limited flexibility because it’s difficult to scale their workload up or down.
- In-House Demands. Employing an in-house developer demands resources for recruitment, onboarding, and management, which can be time-consuming and costly.
- Tunnel Vision. In-house developers may be exclusively focused on your projects, but this exclusivity can lead to tunnel vision, potentially missing out on external industry innovations and trends.
- Overhead Costs. Alongside the base salary, offering employee benefits and handling overhead costs (office space, equipment, utilities) can add a significant financial burden.
- Project Disruptions. Relying on a single in-house developer poses a risk if they decide to leave or face unexpected circumstances, potentially causing project disruptions.
As you evaluate the pros and cons of hiring an in-house developer, it’s essential to align these factors with your project’s demands and your long-term business goals. The decision to go in-house or explore alternative solutions should be a deliberate one that serves your project’s best interests.
Cost of Hiring a Freelance Developer or Mobile App Development Company
According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance Android Developer salary in 2023 is around $122,000 annually. Mobile app agency costs are harder to peg down, as they vary so widely based on the scope of the project. However, variables like experience, expertise, and tech stack knowledge can influence the average cost to hire a mobile app development company. Here’s the breakdown:
Average Hourly Rates of Freelancers/Development Companies
While agencies and freelance developers will almost always be more expensive than in-house developers for long term projects, they can be a more cost-effective solution for outsourcing short term app development projects. However, this does not factor in the cost of ongoing app maintenance, which is billed separately.
Similar to hiring in-house talent, the hourly rates for freelancers and development agencies will vary greatly depending on experience, areas of expertise, and tech stack knowledge.
Years of Experience:
- Beginner (0-2 years): Hourly rates for novice developers typically range from $25 to $50, reflecting their limited experience.
- Intermediate (3-5 years): Freelancers and agencies with a few years under their belt may charge between $50 and $100 per hour, showcasing a balance of experience and affordability.
- Expert (6+ years): Highly experienced developers can command hourly rates ranging from $100 to $200 or more, often due to their specialized skills and proven track record.
Area of Expertise:
- Generalist: Developers with a broad skill set may charge between $50 and $100 per hour, offering versatility in various areas.
- Specialist: Those with deep expertise in specific domains may command rates between $100 and $150 per hour.
- Niche Expert: Developers with rare or specialized skills, like augmented reality or blockchain, can ask for hourly rates exceeding $150, sometimes surpassing $200.
Tech Stack Knowledge:
- Specialized in In-Demand Stacks: Experts in high-demand technologies, such as Swift for iOS or Kotlin for Android, typically ask for rates from $100 to $150 per hour.
- Mastery of Advanced Stacks: For those skilled in advanced tech stacks or frameworks like Flutter or machine learning, hourly rates may exceed $200 or more.
Keep in mind that these rates can also vary based on the developer’s location, the app’s complexity, and market demand.
Additional Costs of Hiring Freelancers & Contractors
It’s important to consider the additional expenses of hiring a freelance mobile app developer, above and beyond their hourly rate.
For example, it can take a significant amount of time to onboard new partners or address any potential miscommunications that arise from the freelancer not being fully integrated into your in-house team … this project management and alignment time is billable, of course, though no development work is actually being done.
And while you’re compensating the agency, contractor, or freelancer for their hours in meetings and learning the ropes, don’t forget to account for the cost of your own time spent in these meetings. While the time you spend realigning your contractors is essential for project cohesion, these moments detract from your revenue-generating tasks such as closing sales and signing deals.
Balancing the cost of hiring against the value and expertise your external partners bring to the table is crucial for maintaining the overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your app development project.
Pros and Cons of Hiring Freelance Developers and Agencies
Consider the following pros and cons if you’re considering hiring a freelance mobile app developer or mobile app development agency.
- Flexible Hours: Freelancers offer the flexibility to scale their workload as needed, adapting to your project’s ebbs and flows.
- Faster Hiring: Onboarding a freelancer typically involves a quicker process compared to hiring a full-time employee, enabling faster project initiation.
- International Talent: You can tap into a global talent pool with Europe, North America, and around the world, sourcing development services from countries like Canada, Australia, India, and Poland, offering diverse perspectives and cost advantages.
- Dedicated Development Teams: Development agencies provide dedicated teams capable of managing all aspects of the mobile app development process, from project management to application development. This streamlines the process and potentially cuts down on development time.
- Lack of Availability: In-demand freelancers may not always be readily available when you need their services, potentially causing delays.
- Higher Long-Term Costs: Project costs can accumulate over time, especially for complex projects, or projects that require many updates. Investing in a full-time developer may seem costlier upfront but can save money in the long run.
- Knowledge Transfer Issues: Freelancers may complete their work and move on, which can lead to challenges in documenting or transferring critical knowledge to your in-house team.
- Quality Assurance: Ensuring the quality of work can be challenging when working with external parties, and it might require additional oversight.
- Communication Challenges: Diverse time zones and language barriers can lead to communication difficulties, potentially affecting project clarity and collaboration.
- Limited Cultural Fit: External developers may not fully grasp or align with your company’s culture, potentially impacting the project’s overall cohesion and brand consistency.
Ultimately, the decision to hire a freelance app developer or agency comes down to your unique project needs, objectives, budget, and preferences. While this might be a good fit for some projects, it may not make sense for others.
Cost of Using a No-Code App Builder
No-code app building tools offer an innovative alternative in the world of mobile app development. Platforms like this empower individuals and businesses to create mobile applications without the need for extensive coding skills. Shoutem, for instance, stands out as a highly capable no-code solution for building cross-platform apps.
Because these app-building tools don’t require any special knowledge or experience, anyone can use them … which means you don’t need to hire expensive in-house dev teams or off-site agencies. You or your most trusted employee can quickly become bona fide app design pros, building news, social media, e-commerce or other types of apps all by yourself, in just a few hours.
By eliminating the need for in-house developers or external agencies, no-code solutions help you avoid sky-high developer price tags. For instance, Shoutem pricing ranges from just $49 to $149 per month, and the potential cost savings is clear.
Pros and Cons of Using a No-Code App Builder
When it comes to mobile app development, using a no-code app builder, like Shoutem, introduces a range of advantages that can significantly impact your project’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, it’s important to acknowledge some limitations that come with this approach.
- Faster App Development: No-code app builders enable the visual creation of apps using drag-and-drop components. This streamlined approach results in rapid development, allowing you to go from concept to a functioning app in a matter of days or weeks, as opposed to the months often required for traditional coding.
- Easier MVP Building: No-code tools make it remarkably simple to create a minimum viable product (MVP) that’s already built to high quality user interface (UI) and user experience/UX design standards. This enables you to swiftly validate your app idea and bring it to the market faster, a valuable advantage for startups and early-stage founders seeking a competitive edge.
- Pre-Built App Features: All of the app functionality you’ll need is pre-built for you. This goes beyond simply setting up your app structure (think user profiles, news feed, messaging sections, etc.). Features like live-streaming, push notifications, alerts, and more will keep your app (and brand) top of mind for users.
- Lower Overall Costs: No-code builders generally come at a significantly lower monthly cost compared to hiring a dedicated developer. This makes it an economically viable option, particularly for startups and those looking to optimize their initial investments.
- Cross-Platform Apps: Many no-code builders facilitate the development of cross-platform apps for both Android and iOS without requiring additional effort. This ensures a broader reach and enhanced user experience.
- Limited Abilities for Complex Apps: No-code solutions may offer less control compared to traditional coding, with constraints on custom logic and functions. Building complex apps with intricate requirements can be more challenging.
- Performance Limitations: No-code tools may not offer as much integration capability as manually built platforms. Accessing the back end or integrating with external APIs can be more complex, limiting options for certain integrations and advanced functions.
- Vendor Lock-Ins: If your company is enterprise level, there may come a day when you’d want to migrate the app you build off of the app-builder platform. This can get hairy, and would likely require a rebuild from scratch using custom code. This would rarely be an issue for smaller projects or organizations.
Leveraging the best app building tools, through a no-code app builder, provides a swift, budget-friendly, and user-centric path to mobile app development, particularly for startups and simple app projects.
While there are limitations in customization, performance, and potential vendor lock-ins, these drawbacks are often outweighed by the efficiency and affordability of the no-code development process.
Additional App Development Costs
Building a mobile app involves more than just the development process itself. There are additional costs to consider when budgeting for your app project. Let’s break down these often-overlooked expenses:
App Store Fees and Licensing
Publishing your mobile app and acquiring the necessary licensing can incur costs that are important to factor in:
- App Store Fees: Both Apple and Google Play Stores charge fees for publishing your app, usually on an annual basis. These costs can range from $25 to $99 (one-time fee) for the Google Play Store and $99 to $299 (annual fee) for the Apple App Store.
- Licensing Fees: Depending on your app’s requirements, you may need to obtain licenses for certain libraries, plugins, or software components. These costs can vary widely based on your app’s functionality and the licenses you require.
Marketing and Launching Your App
Getting your app in front of your target audience requires an investment in marketing. Consider the following costs:
- Website Setup: You’ll need to create a website or landing page for your app to engage users and provide information. Costs vary based on the complexity and features you want.
- Paid Advertising: Consider running paid ads on social media platforms or search engines to boost app visibility. Budgets for these campaigns can fluctuate significantly.
- Custom Brand Assets: Design a unique logo and brand assets, such as photos, infographics and media kits to make your app stand out. Costs depend on your branding needs and the level of customization required.
Shoutem provides a valuable advantage to other no-code app builders by helping you get your app published on the Apple App Store and/or Google Play Store free of charge as part of your Shoutem subscription.
App Maintenance and Future Updates
Your app’s journey doesn’t end with its initial release; there are costs associated with ongoing maintenance and updates:
- Bug Fixes: You’ll need to address and resolve issues and bugs that may arise after your app’s launch. Costs can vary based on the complexity of the fixes.
- Feature Additions: You may need to expand your app’s functionality by adding new features or modules over time. These enhancements may incur additional costs when outsourced to an app development agency or freelancer.
The good news is that with Shoutem’s no-code app builder, many of these maintenance and update costs are minimized or even eliminated. You can make updates yourself and relaunch your app with ease, all included in Shoutem’s low monthly subscription fee, making it a cost-effective choice for long-term app development.
Why Shoutem is the Best Choice for Mobile App Creation
The benefits of using a no-code app-building tool, such as Shoutem, are abundantly clear. Here’s why Shoutem stands out as the best no-code app builder, and how it can revolutionize your app development experience:
- Significantly Lower Costs: No-code tools drastically reduce app development costs compared to traditional methods, allowing you to allocate your budget more strategically.
- Effortless Maintenance and Updates: Shoutem simplifies the maintenance and updating process, enabling you to make quick fixes without relying on an external developer or team. This cost-effective approach saves both time and money in the long run.
- Total Customization: Shoutem empowers you with complete control over your app’s look and feel, ensuring your app aligns perfectly with your branding and vision.
- Rapid Development: Starting from tried and tested templates, Shoutem accelerates the app development process. This means your app can get into the hands of potential users faster, contributing to increased brand recognition or revenue generation, depending on your app’s purpose.
- Shortened Testing Timelines: Shoutem templates have been extensively used and tested by thousands of others, offering a high level of reliability and stability. This negates the need for large-scale testing and validation, saving you more time and resources. A quick trial run of your app features in action will usually be enough.
- User-Friendly Platform: Shoutem’s platform is incredibly user-friendly, featuring drag-and-drop functionality and easy app feature integration. Even without coding experience, you can bring your app vision to life effortlessly.
- Low Maintenance Costs: One of Shoutem’s most attractive features is its ongoing low maintenance costs, thanks to easy self-management and updates. With Shoutem, your app remains cost-effective to maintain over time.
Take control of your app development journey and explore the benefits of no-code app building. We encourage you to try Shoutem free for 14 days and experience firsthand how you can build and launch your app independently, without the need to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in an app development company.