How much does it cost to develop a mobile app? 5 key factors to consider

10 min read
November 22, 2023

$935 billion – that’s how much revenue mobile apps will generate in 2023.

These numbers prove that developing a mobile app is a good investment.

But, the cost of building one is a common obstacle.

Here, we’ll shine a light on how much mobile app development costs and the factors that influence the cost.

We’ll also share some tips on how you can reduce these costs.

Let’s dive in!

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app on average?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on how much your app will cost to develop.

The best answer is – “it depends.”

Every app is unique, and the cost of development can vary wildly.

A simple utility app like a calculator will be much cheaper to build than a complex fintech app, for example.

But, on average, we can break down the cost like this:

  • A simple app – $40,000-60,000$
  • A medium-complexity app – $60,000-70,000$
  • A complex app – $100,000+

Glide estimates that the average cost of building an app in 2023 is around $150,000.

Keep in mind, these numbers are just the average cost for app development and don’t include other services like product discovery

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So, why is the cost of developing a mobile app so hard to pin down?

That’s because it depends on a number of different factors, the 5 key ones being:

  • Type and complexity of your mobile app
  • Native or cross-platform development
  • UX/UI design
  • The mobile app development team
  • App maintenance and updates

Now, we’ll cover each of these in more detail.

Type and complexity of your mobile app

The type and complexity of your mobile app are major factors that significantly influence the cost of development.

In fact, they’re the main factors influencing your mobile app’s cost.

That’s because all the other factors depend on the type of app you’re building and the complexity of its features.

So, what types of apps can you build?

You can build:

  • Utility apps
  • Gaming apps
  • Educational apps
  • E-commerce apps
  • Lifestyle apps
  • Communication apps
  • Productivity apps
  • Fintech apps

And like we’ve mentioned, a fintech app is significantly costlier to develop than a simple utility app.

Fintech

source: Unit21

That’s because a fintech app requires complex, advanced features like AI-powered fraud detection and real-time data analysis.

And a simple utility app serves one specific function.

But, what exactly influences your app’s complexity?

The key factors are:

  • The number of features – more features usually mean higher development costs
  • Third-party integrations – complex APIs and external databases increase your app’s complexity
  • Advanced technologies – cutting-edge technologies like AI, VR, and blockchain increase complexity and cost

But, the good news is that there are ways you can reduce your costs even if you’re developing a complex app.

How to reduce these costs

Now, here are a few tips on how you can reduce these costs:

  • Build a minimum viable product (MVP) first – focusing on building an MVP will get your app to market faster and reduce development costs.
  • Use off-the-shelf solutions – using pre-existing solutions can be significantly cheaper than custom development
  • Feature prioritization – make sure you add only those features your users will use and which add value to your app

Next, we’ll talk about another major cost factor – if the app you’re developing is a native or cross-platform app.

Native or cross-platform development

The choice of platform is another key cost factor when developing your mobile app.

You can build:

But, how does the choice of platform influence cost?

In general, cross-platform development is cheaper than building 2 separate, native apps.

But, building a cross-platform app is a bit more expensive than building a single native app.

And generally, the cost of developing a native Android or iOS app is very similar.

So, how do you make the right choice of platform for your app?

Building an Android app might seem like the logical choice, since it has a significantly larger global market share compared to iOS.

Global smartphones sales share by operating system

source: Counterpoint Research

But, there are serious regional differences – in the U.S., for example, iOS leads with 57.93% of the market compared to Android’s 41.64%.

And there are other differences, too – iOS users in the U.S., on average, have a significantly higher income than Android users.

So, you’ll need to research and understand your target audience and go from there.

That’s the only way you can make the right choice.

How to reduce these costs

Now, here’s a few tips on how you can reduce costs regardless of the platform you choose:

  • Choose the right development framework – choosing the right framework your team is familiar with will speed up development and reduce your costs
  • Efficiently use native features – if you’re building a native app, take advantage of native features like camera access and push notifications
  • Use third-party tools and services – use third-party APIs and services instead of building them from scratch

Let’s now cover another important cost factor – your app’s design.

UX/UI design

Your app’s user interface (UI) design and the overall user experience (UX) are crucial for its success.

And the stats prove it, too.

For every $1 invested in UX, you get $100 in return – that’s an ROI of 9,900%.

UX return on investment (ROI)

source: UX Collective

So, investing in UX and a good app design is a no-brainer.

There are 3 main design elements you need to pay attention to:

  • The UI – the layout, colors, and graphics of your app’s screens
  • Your app’s user flow – how your users navigate through your app
  • Accessibility – making sure all of your users can use your app without issues

But, good UX/UI design can be costly.

A fully custom design will be more expensive than one using standardized templates.

And complex animations and interactive elements can increase your app’s development time and costs.

You’ll need to strike the right balance between aesthetic appeal and your budget.

How to reduce these costs

Here are several tips for reducing UX/UI design costs:

  • Use templates and open-source resources – using pre-built UI components and templates will save you time and money
  • Simplify your UI – a simple, intuitive UI will be cheaper to create as well as improve your app’s UX
  • Use iterative design – iterative design is a cost-effective way to test out design ideas before committing to a final design

Now, let’s move on to the next cost factor influencing your mobile app’s cost – your mobile app development team.

Mobile app development team

Your mobile app development team is another important cost factor you should consider before building your app.

And it doesn’t just influence your app’s cost, either.

The team you choose has a significant impact on your app’s quality and development timeline, too.

So, what are your options?

The first is hiring an entire in-house team.

This might sound like the most attractive option, but keep in mind that just hiring and onboarding comes with a bunch of added costs.

onboarding costs

source: Scribe

According to SHRM, the average onboarding cost is $4100 per new hire.

And you’d have to hire a full development team.

Another option is hiring a group of freelancers to work on your app.

While this is a much cheaper option, the difficulty of coordinating them and potential quality issues are a significant downside.

And that’s why the best option is hiring a dedicated team.

Dedicated team

A good dedicated team functions just like an in-house team, except they’re formed by a third-party agency or service provider.

And you get not just a team of experts to build your app.

You also gain a long-term development partnership.

It’s the best of both worlds – cheaper than an in-house team and more reliable than freelancers.

And that’s why you should go for it.

How to reduce these costs

Here are a few ways you can reduce your development team costs when building your mobile app:

  • Hire a dedicated team – a dedicated team is cheaper than hiring a full in-house team and more reliable than freelancers, making it the most cost-effective option in the long-term
  • Use Agile methodologies – Agile methodologies like Scrum will help you better manage your team and speed up your app’s development
  • Effective project management – effective project management is essential if you want to reduce your app’s development time and costs

Now, let’s cover the final cost factor when developing a mobile app – app maintenance and updates.

App maintenance and updates

Regular maintenance and updates are key to your mobile app’s long-term success.

And they’re not just about fixing bugs.

They also include compatibility updates with new OS versions and security patches to protect the data in your app.

Regular maintenance and updates will keep your app functional, secure, and relevant in a competitive market.

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But, maintenance and update costs can add up quickly.

As a general rule, you should budget 20% of your initial development cost for maintenance annually.

This might sound like a lot, but you get a lot in return.

The main benefit is an increased user retention rate – 90% of users have stopped using an app due to poor performance.

Regular maintenance is key to preventing that from happening to your app.

And that’s why it’s so important.

How to reduce these costs

Here are several ways you can reduce your app maintenance and update costs:

  • Rigorously test from the start – investing in QA from the start will help you avoid major problems once you launch your app
  • Automate testing – automating testing will reduce your time and labor costs when compared to fully manual testing
  • Continuously monitor your app’s performance – if you continuously monitor your app’s performance, you’ll be able to proactively address any issues your app might have

Now, let’s answer some FAQs we’ve seen pop up about the cost of developing mobile apps.

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app: FAQS

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app on average?

On average, here’s how much developing a mobile app costs:

  • A simple app – $40,000-60,000$
  • A medium-complexity app – $60,000-70,000$
  • A complex app – $100,000+

Which factors influence the cost of developing a mobile app?

The 5 key factors influencing the cost of developing a mobile app are:

  • The type of app you’re building and its complexity
  • Native or cross-platform development
  • UX/UI design
  • The mobile app development team
  • App maintenance and updates

How do my app’s features influence its development cost?

The complexity of your app’s features is one of the key cost factors when developing a mobile app. Complex features take longer to develop and are more costly.

How can I reduce my app’s maintenance costs?

The 2 best ways to reduce your maintenance costs is automating testing and continuously monitoring your app’s performance. If you do, you’ll make maintenance simpler and reduce its cost.

Need a mobile app?

Developing a mobile app is a great idea for your business.

But, you need to do it right.

If you want your app to be successful, you should find the right mobile app development company to partner with.

That’s where we come in.
If you need help building your app, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll help you bring your app idea to life.

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Written by

Vladimir Kolbas

IOS Team Lead

When something unusual happens, Vlado is the man with an explanation. An experienced iOS Team Lead with a PhD in Astrophysics, he has a staggering knowledge of IT. Vlado has a lot of responsibilities, but still has time to help everybody on the team, no matter how big or small the need. His passions include coffee brewing, lengthy sci-fi novels and all things Apple. On nice days, you might find Vlado on a trail run. On rainier days, you’ll probably find him making unique furniture in the garage.

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