Category Archives: Cost

How Much Does A Mobile App Cost?

Lots of Apps

This is the number one question we get from CEOs and entrepreneurs. I typed it into Google, and up popped a domain– yes, a domain- someone has made because everybody asks this question. It’s a good idea, and a good question. The wizard leads you through a myriad of choices. The app I defined in this wizard cost $23,000. Of course, it’s free because I know how to make apps, but an interesting way to lead you through the process. I’d actually estimate the cost at $8,000. How did I come up with that? Below, I will list below the ingredients to the cost of an app, and then options on how to make it (consulting, services, etc.)

Here are some apps, and what they cost:

Angry Birds $140k (Wired)
Instagram $144K – 500K (Quora)
Twitterific  $250,000 (StackOverflow)
Obama App  $50 – $150K (StackOverflow)
Average Corporate App (in my experience) $200K

(If all this seems expensive & daunting, consider doing a prototype!)

Main Cost Factors

1. The type of app

Consumer: more expensive, graphics, etc. have to be top notch, testing, wider base, more user-experience work has to go into it
Business-to-business – can be less expensive, though will probably interact with legacy backend systems.
Internal tool – much less expensive, can iterate and start off more rough than public apps.

2. Number and complexity of features

This is the largest issue, really. So, any way you can drill it down to a simple feature set will save you money. Logins, messaging, crafty algorithms, interacting with other systems and API’s, animation, large structured databases, etc.

3. The level of design

The most awesome, most beautiful app will cost more. A good-looking app is cheaper, a functional app is cheapest. If you come with iconography, logo, branding in hand, it’s cheaper. If you have a style guide already made, it is wonderfully cheap. There is still work involved making the assets work in different environments.

4. The amount of work you have done, as product manager

Here is a checklist of work you, business person, can do to make this cheaper for you:

  • Competitive research
  • Explanation of all features
  • Wireframe screens – photos of whiteboard mocks, mock-up tools, etc. are good 
  • All user cases (Are they logged in? Are they a recurring user? etc.)
  • Marketing paragraphs for store, branding, etc. done

Note: just because some code has been done by a previous consultant does not mean it’s x% done, and thus cheaper. Legacy code, especially done by a junior developer or very buggy for various reasons, can actually be more time-consuming than starting from scratch. The business and product definition work, though, is always very valuable to making a project faster/cheaper.

5. And lastly… the platform

People think this is the #1 determinant, but I’d say the above are more important. I can write in all 3- mobile web, Android and iOS, and while some are faster than the others, the factors above all contribute to the ramp-up time before coding actually starts.

Cheapest: Mobile web
Cheaper: Android
Least Cheap: iOS

But, for the success of your app, go with the platform that your future (or present) customers use. Mobile web is nice for new projects, on a limited budget, to determine product features and get customer feedback. Native is the way to go for great responsiveness and use.

Cost of Services

Individual contractor: Good developers are $100-$200/hour; Junior devs $50-$100, based on experience and skill in the language. Multiply that times duration (complexity of features).

Depending on your skill as a project manager, these can run wildly over-budget or under-budget.

Contracting Services Firms
I put service companies into three buckets:

$10K -$50K: The small fries. They make little games and/or are just starting out. You may find a diamond in the rough or a fly-by-night venture. You might end up spending more on poor-quality code, or you can luck out with a great relationship with a freelancer who wants to maintain it ongoing for free. Can go many directions, more risk, but more reward.

$50- $100K: Either part of a larger firm with other expertise, or have established themselves with more clients, apps, talks at conferences, etc. They can pick and choose more.

$100K +: They are used to building 6-month or more long, more comprehensive apps for larger firms with bigger budgets.

They will ask the questions above to determine, right away on a phone call or email, whether you can afford their services and/or your app is something they do. They will be better at communicating with you, managing their staff, and delivering solid projects. One caveat to these services, it’s not in their interest to help you define a product that is cheaper.

 “Make an App” tools on some platforms (PhoneGap, Appcelerator, Corona, etc.). These are great for making prototypes, to show investors. You may not be able to move that code to something more real later on, as some of these are written in languages that don’t port well to native code. If you do get the technical chops to build one of these, you can see above, hiring a consultant, to manage their work a little better.