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App Development Costs in 2024: How Much Does It Cost to Make an App?

Cost of Making an App

Creating an app is exciting, but if you’ve never done it before, the cost breakdown of mobile app development can be confusing. The total price tag for app development ultimately depends on the type of app you have in mind and how you choose to bring it to life.

Some sources estimate that having an app professionally developed can cost anywhere from $40,000 to half a million dollars. The cost of mobile app development is based on many different factors including the app’s complexity and features.

On the other hand, creating an app yourself through DIY methods can be budget-friendly at only $600 per year. No-code app builder platforms like Shoutem let you learn how to develop an app yourself. Even with zero coding skills, you’ll still be able to make an app for significantly less than what it would typically cost.

In this guide, we’ll explore the expenses involved in each step of the app development process, so you can make an informed decision about how to bring your app to life. 

Costs by App Development Process

When looking into costs to hire an app developer, you have choices— and your decision will directly affect your app’s development expenses. Options include in-house developers, development agencies or freelancers, and no-code builders like Shoutem. 

In-house developers offer high customization but come with higher average costs, while agencies and freelancers strike a balance. No-code builders are budget-friendly and ideal for cost-conscious app creators. Let’s dive into the differences:

Costs of Hiring an In-House Developer

Bringing an in-house developer into your mobile app project is a significant financial commitment. On top of the developer’s annual salary, which can range from $80,000 to $120,000 or more, there are additional costs to consider. 

Some of these additional expenses include benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave, which can collectively amount to 30-40% of the base salary. Investing in employee training and skill development adds to the overall expenses.

It’s also important to note that the average cost of hiring an in-house mobile app developer increases significantly with their expertise. Highly skilled developers with extensive experience often expect higher salaries. 

While the expense may seem daunting, opting for an in-house team does afford you a deeper level of oversight and control over your project. This hands-on approach enables direct management and real-time collaboration, which are especially important when the complexity of your mobile application requires precision and customized solutions. 

Weighing the advantages of having an in-house employee against the substantial financial investment is crucial to making an informed decision for your mobile app development.

Costs of Hiring a Development Agency or Freelancer

When you hire a mobile app development agency or freelancer to build an app from the ground up, the costs can vary widely. On average, freelance app developers charge about $59 per hour. However, the most experienced contracted app developers can easily charge $100 or more, and mobile app development agencies typically bill between $100 and $250 per hour.

While freelancers and agencies may offer cost savings in the short term, it’s important to consider long-term cost estimates. Although you may not have to worry about paying for employee benefits, the higher hourly rates charged by freelancers and app development teams can add up significantly over extended project durations. 

Additionally, contractors often offer a less hands-on approach, potentially leading to longer development times, which is a cost in itself. Future updates and maintenance also depend on the availability and continuity of the freelancer or agency, which may result in additional expenses. In the event that your app needs updates or maintenance and the agency or freelancer is no longer available,  seeking a new team takes time and money, along with the need to explain the project all over again. 

While it may offer cost savings to hire a mobile app development company or freelancer for shorter-term project management and simple app projects, the expenses can add up quickly for longer projects. 

Costs of Using a No-Code App Builder

When it comes to using a no-code app builder, the upfront costs are notably budget-friendly.  Shoutem pricing, for instance, starts at just $49 per month when billed annually, and there’s a 14-day free trial to get new users started. 

One of the most significant advantages of utilizing a no-code app builder is the speed it brings to the development process. With pre-built and pre-tested templates, your app can take shape in record time, significantly reducing the timeline to get it into the hands of your audience. 

No-code app-building platforms are incredibly user-friendly, requiring no coding or technical expertise. This accessibility levels the playing field, allowing individuals and businesses to engage in mobile app development without the need for advanced skills, and without a huge financial commitment.

Using a no-code app builder eliminates expenses associated with hiring developers skilled in programming languages like Flutter, Swift, or React Native, as these platforms bypass the need for such expertise. Updates and maintenance are also simplified and often included in the subscription, which reduces ongoing costs. 

Put simply, no-code app builders offer not only substantial cost savings but also exceptional speed, user-friendliness, and accessibility in your mobile app development journey.

Factors Affecting Application Development Costs

Deciding how to build an app isn’t the only cost consideration in app development. The cost to design an app also depends on a number of other factors including app type, app complexity, overall design, and development location. Understanding how each of these factors can impact your budget is important to your bottom line. 

App Type

Deciding which type of app you’re developing will have a huge impact on the overall development cost.  First, you’ll need to decide if you want to build an iOS app, android app, hybrid app, or cross-platform app, as your cost breakdown may vary depending on the operating system you choose for the app.

On average, creating a native Android app tends to be slightly cheaper than the cost of building an iOS app. This may be because Android apps are compatible with a broader range of devices and have a more relaxed publishing process. 

Building cross-platform apps, which work across both Android and iOS, can also offer cost savings by reducing the need for separate development teams. Cross-platform native apps also offer a wider reach for a single development effort. On average, building a cross-platform app ranges from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on the app’s complexity. 

Industry-specific factors also impact app development costs. For example, the costs of developing a restaurant or food ordering app tend to be lower than other industries, as these apps typically have straightforward functionalities, such as menu displays and order processing. 

Social media, video or audio streaming apps, on the other hand, often include more extensive features and, consequently, higher costs. Similarly, e-commerce apps require intricate shopping cart systems and secure payment gateways, which drive development costs up. 

In order to budget your app development price accurately, it’s important to consider the type of app you want to build, as well as the industry you’re in. 

App Complexity

The complexity of your app impacts development costs. Simple apps, with basic features and a limited number of screens, typically have lower development expenses. These apps serve straightforward functions and often lack advanced features like in-app purchases, real-time notifications, or custom integrations.

By contrast, complex apps with intricate features, such as user profiles, messaging, social networking, or animations, tend to be more expensive to develop. These features require extensive backend work, custom APIs, and integration of payment gateways. Providing functionalities like real-time push notifications, SMS services, or dynamic user interactions demands more development time and resources. 

App complexity directly affects costs, so align your budget with the features you need.

App Design

App design is another consideration when it comes to the total development cost. Custom and complex user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designs are associated with higher expenses that may total $100,000 or more. When conceptualizing your app layout & design, keep in mind that creating unique UI elements, crafting tailored UX interactions, and incorporating new features demand more time and resources, which equate to a higher price point. 

Pre-built templates, like the ones offered by Shoutem, offer a cost-effective alternative, totaling around $600 annually. These templates come with predefined UI and UX elements, simplifying the design process. While they might be less customizable than custom designs, they significantly reduce design costs, making them an attractive option for individuals and brands who want to develop a basic app without intricate design requirements. 

Choosing the right design approach for your mobile app should align with both your project’s specific needs and financial considerations.

App Creation Location

Where you choose to create your app can significantly impact the total development cost. Outsourcing app development to regions such as India or Eastern Europe often leads to cost savings. These regions offer skilled app development teams at a fraction of the cost you might incur in higher-cost regions like the United States or the United Kingdom.

Here’s a list of average app development costs in various regions around the world:

  • India: Known for its cost-effective development services, India typically offers some of the most budget-friendly rates. The average rates for developers typically range between $15 and $50 per hour. 
  • Eastern Europe: Countries in this region, such as Ukraine and Poland, provide a balance between cost and quality. The average rate for an app developer is around $40 per hour. 
  • Australia and the United States: App development in Australia and the US can be on the higher side due to the relatively high labor and operating costs. Hourly rates for mobile app developers typically range from $90 to $150 per hour. 

Balancing your budget constraints alongside the quality and expertise of the development team is the key to deciding where to have your app developed geographically. 

App Development Costs by Stage

Knowing the costs at each app development stage is vital for smart budgeting. Each stage, from planning and development to testing, deployment, and ongoing maintenance, plays a crucial role in ensuring the success and reliability of your app. 

While it might be tempting to cut corners to save costs, compromising on any of these stages can lead to long-term issues and ultimately higher expenses.

Planning Costs & Timelines

Creating in-House or Via Contractor

  • 5-10% of your app development budget
  • 2-4 weeks average timeline

Creating with Shoutem:

  • 5-10% of your app development budget
  • 1-4 weeks – Use pre-existing templates

The planning stage lays the foundation for app development. It involves defining your project’s scope, objectives, and key features. During this phase, you’ll also identify your target audience and create a roadmap for your app’s development.

The planning stage is important because it sets the direction for the entire project, ensuring that you build an app that aligns with your goals and resonates with your users. 

Regardless of how you have your app built, this essential phase usually takes around 2 to 4 weeks, and planning costs should account for approximately 5-10% of your total app development budget. Allocating the right resources to planning is vital for a smooth and successful app development journey.

Design Costs & Timelines

Creating in-House or Via Contractor

  • 10-15% of your app development budget
  • 4-8 weeks average timeline

Creating with Shoutem:

  • 0% of your app development budget
  • 1-2 weeks – Use pre-existing templates

The design stage involves crafting the visual and interactive elements of your app. This includes both user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. This stage is essential to creating an appealing and user-friendly app that resonates with your target audience.

Typically, this stage takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the complexity of your app. On average, design costs account for around 10-15% of your overall app development budget. However, if you’re using a no-code app builder like Shoutem, you can use pre-built templates and save both time and money on design costs. 

Design is a critical component of app development because it directly impacts user engagement and satisfaction.

Development Costs & Timelines

Creating in-House or Via Contractor

  • 50-70% of your app development budget
  • 12-24 weeks average timeline

Creating with Shoutem:

  • 0% of your app development budget
  • 0 weeks – Use pre-built app features

The development stage of mobile app development is crucial because it brings your app idea to life. The complexity and features of your app significantly influence costs, with more intricate functionalities demanding more resources and time.

Typically, this phase takes between 12 to 24 weeks, depending on the app’s complexity. Development costs generally account for the largest chunk of your app development budget, approximately 50-70%.

However, if you choose a no-code builder like Shoutem as your development platform, you can efficiently streamline the process by using pre-built templates and features, significantly reducing development time and costs.

Testing/QA Costs & Timelines

Creating in-House or Via Contractor

  • 10-15% of your app development budget
  • 4-8 weeks average timeline

Creating with Shoutem:

  • 5-10% of your app development budget
  • 1-2 weeks – Use integrated app preview tool

The testing & QA phase of developing a mobile app involves thoroughly assessing your app for functionality, performance, and user experience. Testing is important because it ensures that your app works flawlessly and meets user expectations.

During this phase, you can uncover and rectify potential issues, ensuring a bug-free and user-friendly app. This stage typically takes 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the app’s complexity. Testing and QA costs should account for about 10-15% of your app development budget.

If you choose Shoutem as your development platform, you can take advantage of the integrated app viewing tool to view and test your changes as you go. Shoutem’s pre-built templates are rigorously tested for functionality and user experience, reducing the likelihood of encountering issue when using existing templates and app features, and making the testing and QA process more streamlined and cost-effective.

Deployment Costs & Timelines

Creating in-House or Via Contractor

  • 5-10% of your app development budget
  • 2-4 weeks average timeline

Creating with Shoutem:

  • ~80% of your app development budget (based entirely on your low monthly subscription rate and any Android/iOS developer account fees)
  • 1-2 weeks – Managed by Shoutem Support Team

The deployment stage is the final step before your app reaches its intended audience. It involves preparing your app for release to app stores, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and making sure it complies with their guidelines. 

Deployment is essential because it makes your app available to your target audience, allowing you to start gathering users and generating value. Typically, this phase takes 2 to 4 weeks. Deployment costs should account for approximately 5-10% of your app development budget.

For app developers using Shoutem, deploying your mobile app will require a Shoutem subscription, which starts at $49 per month with annual billing. You’ll also need to create Android and/or iOS developer accounts, which are an additional fee. 

Maintenance/Update Costs & Timelines

Handled in-House or Via Contractor

  • Added Cost beyond your initial app development budget
  • 4-10 weeks average timeline

Handled with Shoutem:

  • 0% of your initial app development budget
  • 0-1 weeks – App updates can be pushed out same day

The post-launch phase of your app is critical to the entire app development project. Maintenance and updates are important to ensure your app’s longevity, to maintain quality assurance, to adapt to changes in technology, and to continue meeting user expectations. The maintenance and update stage typically extends throughout the app’s lifecycle.

This stage doesn’t have a fixed timeframe or set costs; both are ongoing as long as your app is active. According to Clutch, a majority of mobile app development firms (56%) anticipate app maintenance costs to total $5000 or more, with half of those firms expecting app maintenance costs to exceed $10,000.  

If you’re using Shoutem for app development,  the good news is that there are no additional costs beyond the subscription and app store registration. Shoutem simplifies the process of pushing out updates and new versions of your app, allowing you to keep your app up-to-date and responsive to evolving user needs without incurring extra expenses. This can significantly contribute to the long-term cost-effectiveness of your app project.

Hidden Application Development Costs

While the upfront costs of app development are a significant consideration, it’s equally crucial to be aware of the hidden expenses that can accumulate throughout your app’s lifecycle. These often-overlooked costs can impact your budget in the long run, so understanding and accounting for them is essential.

  • Server Expenses: Hosting your app on servers may incur ongoing costs that are often overlooked in initial budgeting. These costs can add up over time.
  • App Maintenance: Regular maintenance is necessary to keep your app running smoothly and meeting user expectations, which may involve expenses beyond the initial development budget.
  • App Marketing: Marketing your app to reach your target audience is an ongoing expense that should be factored in, especially if you aim to grow your user base and drive revenue.
  • Security Measures: Prioritizing your app’s security with measures like regular vulnerability assessments and data protection can require ongoing investments.
  • Customer Support: Providing customer support for user inquiries and issues is an often underestimated ongoing cost of app maintenance. 

Overlooking long-term costs is a common pitfall for many startup founders and entrepreneurs. While focusing on the initial development phase is crucial, understanding the entire financial journey of your app project is key to its success and sustainability.

How to Reduce Your Mobile App Development Costs

Reducing your mobile app development costs without compromising quality is a top priority for many entrepreneurs and startup founders. Here are several strategies to help you achieve this:

  • Leverage Pre-Built Components and Templates: Instead of custom development, consider using pre-built components and templates. These can significantly reduce the time and resources required to create your app. With the right no-code app builder, you can access a wide range of pre-designed features, saving both development time and costs.
  • Minimize App Complexity: Simplify your app’s design and features. Reducing complexity by starting with an MVP version of your app not only streamlines the development process but also makes your app more cost-effective. Focus on core functionalities that align with your app’s purpose, and consider adding advanced features in later versions once your app gains traction.
  • Prioritize Testing: Allocate ample time and budget for testing and quality assurance. Ensuring that your app functions flawlessly reduces the likelihood of encountering issues after launch. Fixing problems during development is more cost-effective than making post-launch corrections.
  • No-Code App Builders: Use a no-code app builder like Shoutem to significantly reduce labor costs and development time. Shoutem offers high-quality templates and a user-friendly interface, enabling you to create professional apps quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional development methods.

Using pre-built templates and no-code solutions like the ones offered with Shoutem, you can create high-quality apps quickly and efficiently, while keeping your costs in check. Learn more about Shoutem today and start a 14-day free trial to experience the ease and cost-efficiency of mobile app development.