“How much does it cost to build my app?,” is the most common question we received from prospective clients. It depends on a lot of things.
- The costs of an app is determined by features, complexity, and platform, and deadlines
- Apps with backend services and API integrations cost more.
- Simple apps for one target platform will start around $25,000.
- Very complex apps cost six figures and up..
- Costs will also vary based on who builds it
Factors to Consider When Budgeting For Your App
The cost of an app varies significantly. The big three reasons are Talent, Features, and Time.
Talent. There’s a big difference in cost between hiring a one-man freelancer, offshore development team, or a team like BrandLogic.
Features. A basic app is very different from an app that needs custom back-end server or relies on third-party service features (often called “API integrations”).
Time. A simple mobile app can go to market in a short period of time. As the app’s Features become more complex, it takes longer to complete. If the client has deadlines to meet and requires the app on a shorter deadline, this can increase costs dramatically.
App Development Costs for Startups
Many startup companies today use apps as their product or preferred commerce channel. Unfortunately, start-up entrepreneurs consistently underestimate the costs of turning their great idea into an app.
Starting from nothing, a modest complexity app scheduled for a v.1.0 release within 4-6 months is expected to cost approximately $25,000-$35,000 per month. This means you can expect to pay between $100,000 and $210,000 for your first release.
Yet, many start-up investors think they can bootstrap their app on a $10,000 budget. This is unreasonable and leads to some choices. It is not uncommon for an entrepreneur on a $10,000 shoestring budget to try to “outsource” their app development to an offshore developer. We have worked with developers on every continent, so we don’t mean to insult non-Americans. But, you do get what you pay for (Yes, we fix broken apps, too). And there is always the risk that your off-shore developer will take your money and run.
What Did Instagram Cost?
Yes, we can make an application just like Instagram. A week probably doesn’t go by where someone has the “next Instagram” idea with a $5,000 budget. How much do you think Instagram’s app cost?
We can tell you: about $500,000. That’s how much venture capital funding Instagram disclosed they spent to develop their iOS app (no Android!) and back-end servers.
Instagram is a great example of an app isn’t just an app. The product consists of a whole lot of background services you’ve probably never thought about. (Ask yourself: where do those photos actually go when you upload them to Instagram?) What was the cost to develop Uber? $1.5 million. Sometimes an app isn’t just an app!
Building backend services from scratch can cost a lot of money, but many types of business don’t have to worry about that cost as much. For example, a hotel chain with existing databases or sales platforms? Having those IT resources available that we can integrate with directly saves a lot of money on an app budget.
There is no hard and fast rule for how complex backend services affect app prices, but you can easily expect that custom backend services will at least double the price.
Comparing App Development Cost: Small Shops vs. Agencies vs. Holding Companies
Some of the largest app-focused firms, owned by holding companies, won’t give you the time of day if your budget is not at least $500,000. I’ve heard prospects tell me they were given quotes for $900,000 or more and those were just ballpark estimates provided within a quick, 15-minute discovery call.
A common budget at Brand Logical for a v1.0 app is between $100,000 to $200,000. For large businesses needing complex systems, the spend is typically above the $250,000 level. This price increases because these large businesses have larger, more complex requirements.
So, with this last category completed, we have yet another answer:
- Apps built by the largest app holding companies, the “big boys,” cost anywhere between $500,000 to $1,000,000.
- Apps built by agencies like Brand Logical cost anywhere between $25,000 to $500,000.
- Apps built by smaller shops, possibly with only 2-3 people, likely cost anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000.
Considering the Cost of Simple Apps
Even apps without any server component or API integration can be complex and challenging. We’ve built standalone apps for six figures. We’ve also built apps that integrate with an API for five figures.
It really comes down to the specific feature set of the app. As a rule of thumb though, you can probably take some of the numbers above and cut them in half to understand the cost of apps without a server or API component being involved. To get a quality app with any professional developer, you’re still starting around $25,000.
It’s Not All About The App
For some companies, the app is the product. For others, the app serves a larger business purpose. This is where we ask: how does the app actually fit your needs?
Making a successful app takes a variety of skills and resources. The app costs are much more than the planning, design, and coding. The smart business plans ahead and budgets for ongoing updates, fixes, and upgrades.