How much does it cost to make an iPhone or Android App is a question that we get asked quite frequently. Our team has built mobile apps for startups, Fortune 500’s and everything in between, mobile apps that have been featured in app stores and sat in the recommended section for a few weeks.

So when someone asks us how much will it cost to build an app. The only honest answer we can give is “it depends”. Pricing an app is next to impossible without a full scope breakdown, but a good guideline to go by is that an app will cost as much as a car. Whether you opt in to buy a Kia or a Ferrari is entirely up to you. 

Good rule of thumbs is: a mobile app will cost as much as a car. 

But let’s take the car analogy a little bit further. You can pay for a Kia, it’ll work, but may break down on you more often than a BMW, it won’t have the same driving experience as a Porsche and it won’t be as sleek looking as a Maserati. Will it do it’s job. Probably. Will it do it well. Depends what you want it to do.

If you just want an app that pulls info out of a database and displays it on a phone a Kia will probably be sufficient. But as soon as you start adding in more complex functions expect the cost to go up. Things like database design, geolocation, machine learning, pattern recognition, and social networking functionality will push the cost up. While it may not cost you as much as Ferrari, expect to buy a mid range BMW.

For an app that you would consider market ready, you’re looking at 200k +/- 20k, and some will even go into the seven figure range depending on scope and what your mobile app needs, there's also a big difference whether you're building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a scalable iteration, or an enterprise app which can often run in the 500k and up range.Whenever we tell people this they usually get sticker shock, but look at it this way:

Let's break down app design and development costs

To develop your own application in-house you will need two developers at (120k/year) working full time, you will need a designer who knows and understands user experience design, information architecture, and visual design (that's another 120k/year) and someone to manage the process.

This could be you, but the question is, how familiar are you with digital products, and how well can you do code review and validate good user experience design? (So for the sake of argument, let's add another 120k/year.)This is excluding a digital strategist and creative director - two very important roles for successful apps.

Keeping all this in mind, your human resource costs are now $480/k annually. A more feature rich app will take approximately 3-6 months to create, meaning you're looking to spend $120k-240k on talent alone to build it and then have to consider the cost of maintenance and future updates, whereas with an agency, you get a full, tested, team. 

A few additional rules of thumb to go by.

Unless you're a developer don't offshore. With offshoring, you're going to run into problems unless you know how to vet an offshore team. This means looking at their code and likewise design. Design in particular is very much cultural and what works here the states may not work in Spain, Russia, or India and vice versa. Prices can run anywhere from $5k in developing markets to $50k in Central Europe and up

Freelancers are a good option if you can verify their quality. When you're making an app you've got to understand that it takes a team. You'll need a IA / UX designer, you'll need a visual designer (sometimes these come as one person), you'll need an iOS developer and a back end person (sometimes iOS and backend will be one person as well), but at the end of the day working with these freelancers, while possible, will be hard. As for your cost? A "good" freelancer in NYC will cost $150/hr(ish), get into the $50-75/hr range and you'll be seriously compromising on code or design quality. App wise you're looking for $15k to $100k and up. 

App development companies are good and bad. There are many companies that make apps, and we're one of them. On the cheaper side, some can charge as little as 30k for one, and others will charge 300k for the same. At the end of the day there are many factors that come into play. But as a rule of thumb, it's going to cost you the same as a decent automobile, the benefit of going with a company that makes apps is they have oversight, and methods in place which freelancers and a lot of overseas shops lack. The drawbacks, some may not have designa and just build anything and everything, others may offshore their development to sub par emerging markets dev shops to drive margins.

Stay away from these, ask about the company's processes, where they do their development., ask to see samples of design work and why certain decisions were made, and remember, quality is expensive.  Shoot for 185k and up for a basic-ish app, about $200-250k for a solid MVP, and 300k+ for anything more robust / enterprise grade. Before you buy, test your idea. In any case, one thing we often get here is people who just have an idea for an app. While that's great and entrepreneurship is wonderful, if you're at a very early stage, we always recommend to test and validate your ideas before buying any service.Hope that helps, and please feel free to get in touch, we'd love to talk.

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