This is a question that I hear a lot. And it’s a fair question, for sure. But a very difficult one to answer too.

I feel this question comes from the fact that mobile app development is just a different thing. I wouldn’t know how much it costs to build a bridge or raise a cow. I’m not in those realms, so I would not know and I would have to ask someone.

So, how much does a mobile app cost?

Think of it this way. Or think how you would answer the following scenarios:

How much does it cost for a new car?

  • How big will the car be?
  • How fast will it need to go?
  • How far will it need to go?
  • Does it need to be big enough to transport a refrigerator or couch? That would be a truck then probably.

How much does it cost to build a new house?

  • Where will the house be located? Downtown New York, a beach in Florida, or where?
  • How many rooms does it need?
  • How many bathrooms does it need?
  • Does it need a basement? Because if so, we should build that first, not last.

Do you get the idea? I’m playing and joking, but the analogies can be quite similar to building a mobile app. You really don’t know until you dig into all the requirements. The difference between the house, car and mobile app? It seems like the mobile app is never done because you want to add one more thing. The nice thing about mobile apps is that they can generally be built one, two, or three features at a time. We can do the Q & A to see what you need to get the first version of your app released before working on your next features.

Can you do that with a house? “You know, I want a basement and 5 bedrooms. Let’s start with that, we’ll move in and then begin building the living room and dining room.” No, I don’t think so. That would be difficult.

So, how much does a mobile app cost?

Hmmm, that sounds familiar. Here’s a sample breakdown of costs. These costs vary greatly from app to app though, so don’t quote me on this guess.

  1. Apple and Google Developer License: Apple is $100 (per year) and Google is a $25 one-time fee, that equals $125 for your fist year. This will get you the access to publish your own app under your own name. You can by-pass these fees and the setup if you want your app published by an app development company.
  2. Does your app use cloud data? For beginner or low traffic apps, this cost may be $0 / month. You can get your own virtual private server for $5-$20 / month to host your own data if the traffic increases more. Other cloud computing solutions, especially for high-traffic apps can cost hundreds of dollars per month. But hey, at that point you’re probably bringing in the dough to pay for your cloud data needs.
  3. Design or visual assets. This would be things like a custom logo or images to use within your app. We generally like to hire this out or have you provide your own images/logos. We do the code and put all the pieces together though. Design or logo costs can be $5 to a few hundred or more depending on the quality and the service you use.
  4. Software development costs
    1. Option 1 – Free. You can download the tools and learn how to code it all yourself. It might take longer, or it might not be your cup of tea, but it’s an option.
    2. Option 2 – Online mobile app creators. There are tools out there that will give you a very basic mobile app with a specific set of features. These generally charge by the month I believe.
    3. Option 3 – App Development Company. These can cost from $7 / hour for an offshore firm or up to $200+ / hour for larger firms.
      1. This is where a majority of your costs will come from initially. Let’s say you have an app that will need about 30 hours of coding, testing, and app store setup. For a firm that costs $75 / hour, that becomes about $2,250 for the initial cost. Not sure what features you get in those 30 hours? Neither are we, because apps are all so different.
  5. Marketing
    1. Option 1 – $0. Is this app used by a select group of people that already need it? Then you just need to tell them, like your hobby group or the employees of your company.
    2. Option 2 – Marketing material or low cost. Maybe you just need to add the app store logos to your website or print a brochure for your customers because your app is meant for local customers. These cost will vary.
    3. Option 3 – unknown. Do you have “the killer app” and need to tell a lot of people about it? You will need to market the app through Facebook, Twitter, or in the app stores themselves. This will also increase the development cost a little too. Why? Well, big apps like this would use silent tools within the app to track where your marketing costs are being spent the most efficiently.
  6. I’m sure I forgot something…..

The cost of a data-driven app with a limited set of features might run in the range of $2500 – $5000 for the mobile app itself. If you have cloud data development needs, then this value could be doubled. That gives you a ballpark $2500 – $10,000 for a mobile app. That’s a gut feel though and it’s for a very simple mobile app that may be considered a minimum viable product, prototype, or proof of concept.

Do you want a more accurate idea of how much your mobile app would cost? Ask around. Ask for a 30-minute discussion with a mobile app development company (or three) on the ideas of your app and see if they can give you a ballpark.

Did you get the sense that there is no direct and specific answer to how much a mobile app costs? In some cases there are. In most custom app cases, there is not. Sorry! Remember the car and house questions above?

Sign-up for my newsletter below. I plan to release some case studies, including general information on how much certain apps costs to build. Also more to come on how I’m working toward lowering my “out-of-the-box” mobile apps.

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