How much does it cost to develop and app
Mobile App Insights > Strategy

How Much Does It Cost To Develop An App

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This article on app development costs highlights several key factors:

  1. Cost Influencing Factors: The cost to develop an app varies based on complexity, platform choice, backend development, third-party integrations, data encryption, user account management, localisation, offline mode, custom UI/UX design, testing, and post-launch expenses​.
  2. Cost Estimation: Estimating app development costs involves considering these factors. Standard pricing models include fixed price and time-and-materials​.
  3. Cost Reduction Strategies: Starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) and considering cross-platform mobile apps can help reduce costs​.
  4. Typical Starting Costs: Based on Ronins’ experience, typical starting costs for various apps are provided, such as £5,000+ VAT for a creative prototype in Figma and up to £90,000+ VAT for native mobile apps with a new backend​​.


As someone deeply experienced in app development, I’ve come to appreciate the complexities and nuances that make app development a vibrant and dynamic arena. One aspect that consistently piques the interest of budding and seasoned entrepreneurs is the cost of making an app. It’s a topic that often eludes clear-cut answers, but exploring it in-depth is crucial.

how much does it cost to develop an app

Developing an app is more than just writing lines of code or designing user interfaces. It’s an intricate process where innovation, technical prowess, and strategic planning converge. Every app starts as a spark of an idea, a solution to a problem, or a way to entertain and engage. However, bringing this idea to fruition requires creativity, technical skills and a substantial investment of resources, most notably financial.

In my experience, many aspiring app developers and entrepreneurs enter app development with a vision but are often taken aback by the financial commitments it entails. There’s a common misconception that app development is a straightforward, one-size-fits-all process. However, the reality is far from it. The cost of developing an app can vary widely based on several factors, each contributing its own layer of complexity to the overall equation.

Why is it important to understand these costs, you ask? Having a clear picture of the potential expenses helps in several ways. For starters, it aids in realistic budgeting, ensuring that your project doesn’t stall midway due to financial constraints. It also allows for more informed decision-making when choosing features, platforms, and design elements. After all, an app’s success is not just measured by its functionality and user experience but also by its financial viability.

In this comprehensive guide, I’m setting out to demystify the costs associated with app development. I’ll cover various topics, from the initial stages of conceptualisation to the final touches of deployment. We’ll explore the differences in costs between building a simple app with basic functionality and a complex one with advanced features. I’ll take you through the implications of choosing different platforms – iOS, Android, or cross-platform solutions – and how these choices impact your budget.

Design and user experience are not just about aesthetics; they play a pivotal role in user engagement and, consequently, in the cost structure of app development. We’ll delve into design and user interface elements, unravelling how these can make or break both your app and your budget.

Backend infrastructure, often the unsung hero of app functionality, also commands a significant portion of the development budget. Whether it’s about managing user data, integrating third-party services, or ensuring seamless performance, we’ll look at how backend choices influence costs.

Furthermore, geographical factors can’t be overlooked. The cost of developing an app can vary significantly across different regions. I’ll share insights on how the choice between local development and outsourcing can affect your budget, along with the pros and cons of each option.

Lastly, additional costs often go unnoticed but are integral to the app’s success. We’re discussing maintenance, updates, marketing, legal fees, etc. These are not just post-development considerations but are aspects that should be factored into the initial budgeting process.

Through this article, I aim to equip you with a thorough understanding of the various elements contributing to app development costs. Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a vision, a business looking to expand into the digital world, or a curious mind wanting to understand the mechanics behind app development, this guide promises to shed light on the financial intricacies of bringing an app to life. So, let’s set sail on this informative journey, shall we?

• • •

Understanding App Development

Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of what app development entails. It’s a phrase tossed around quite a bit, but what does it involve? As someone who has built mobile apps for over a decade, I’d like to share my insights and experiences.

The Essence of App Development

At its core, app development is the process of creating software applications that run on a mobile device, and it’s a process that has transformed significantly over the years. It’s a multi-step journey that involves conceptualising, designing, building, and launching a digital solution.

But it’s more than just coding and design; it involves understanding user needs and market trends and creating a seamless, intuitive experience for the end-user. The goal is to solve a problem or provide a service in a functional but also engaging and user-friendly way.

Types of Apps – Choosing Your Path

You can take several paths in app development, each with its own set of considerations and costs. Let’s break down the three main types:

native hybrid and web apps explained

Native Apps

These are developed for specific platforms like iOS or Android, using platform-specific programming languages. For instance, you’d use Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android. The key advantage? High performance and a user experience that’s in line with the specific operating system. However, developing native apps means creating separate codebases for each platform, which can double the effort and cost.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are, in essence, a blend. They are developed using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and then wrapped in a native container, which allows them to operate on multiple platforms. This approach can be more cost-effective as you build one app that functions across various platforms. The trade-off? Sometimes, they might not offer the same level of performance or smooth user experience as native apps.

Web Apps

These responsive websites resemble native apps in appearance and functionality but are accessed through a web browser on the device. They don’t need to be downloaded from app stores and are platform-independent. While they’re easier and usually cheaper to develop, they require internet connectivity and may not offer the full capabilities of native apps.

The app development landscape is always evolving, and staying on top of trends is crucial. Recently, we’ve seen a surge in the demand for apps with AI and machine learning capabilities.

Chatbots, personalised experiences, and predictive analytics are becoming increasingly popular. Another trend is integrating augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), offering users immersive experiences.

There’s also a growing emphasis on privacy and security in app development, especially with increasing awareness and regulations like GDPR.

In addition, the rise of low-code and no-code platforms is democratising app development, making it more accessible to people without traditional coding skills. These platforms offer drag-and-drop interfaces to create apps, although they might not be suitable for highly complex projects.

Cloud-based app development is another trend gaining traction. It enables developers to create scalable, reliable, and accessible applications from anywhere. The cloud offers flexibility and a collaborative environment, which is particularly advantageous for remote teams.

Lastly, the push towards more sustainable and eco-friendly apps is noteworthy. Developers are increasingly considering the environmental impact of their apps, focusing on energy efficiency and reduced data usage.

• • •

Key Factors Influencing App Development Costs

One quickly realises that the cost isn’t just a number you can pluck from thin air. It’s a multifaceted equation influenced by several key factors. Let me walk you through these critical elements that play a significant role in shaping the budget of your app development project.

Complexity and Type of App: From Simple to Complex

The complexity and type of the app you envision are paramount in determining the cost. Think of it as building a house; a simple one-bedroom flat is less costly than a sprawling mansion with multiple rooms and amenities.

Simple Apps: These are the one-bedroom flats of the app world. They typically have limited features, such as a basic user interface, minimal custom graphics, and straightforward functionality (think calculator or flashlight apps). The development time is shorter, and the cost is comparatively lower.

Moderate Complexity Apps: We’re moving into a more complex territory. These apps might include custom UI/UX designs, payment integration, API integration, or a basic backend server. Imagine apps for online booking or food delivery services. The development time and costs are higher due to the added complexities.

Complex Apps: These are the equivalents of architectural masterpieces in app development. Complex apps might include advanced functionalities like real-time user interactions, custom animations, complex backend, cloud integration, and more (like social media platforms or extensive eCommerce apps). The development time is considerably longer, and the costs are significantly higher.

Platform Choice: iOS, Android, or Cross-platform

The choice of platform has a substantial impact on development costs. Each platform, iOS (Apple) and Android (Google), has its unique development environment, guidelines, and complexities.

iOS Apps

Developing for iOS often involves strict adherence to Apple’s design guidelines. The development can be faster due to fewer devices and screen sizes. However, the cost of publishing on the App Store and maintaining the app can add up.

Android Apps

Android development caters to a broader range of devices and screen sizes, which can add to the complexity and testing phase. The development costs might be higher due to this diversity, but the Google Play Store’s policies are generally more lenient.

Cross-platform Development

Tools like React Native or Flutter allow for developing apps that work on iOS and Android from a single codebase. This approach can significantly reduce costs and development time, but it may not always suit highly complex apps requiring platform-specific functionalities.

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Solutions

Custom development means building an app tailored to specific needs and preferences from scratch. It’s like getting a bespoke suit – it fits perfectly but comes at a higher cost. On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions are like ready-to-wear clothes; they’re more affordable but might not precisely fit all your needs.

Design Elements and User Experience

An app’s design isn’t just about aesthetics but the user experience. Custom graphics, animations, and a user-friendly interface require skilled designers and more development time, thus increasing the cost. Remember, a well-designed app can significantly enhance user engagement, which can be critical for the app’s success.

Backend Infrastructure and App Administration

The backend is where all the magic happens – data storage, user management, server-side logic, and more. The complexity of your backend infrastructure (like databases, server logic, and APIs) directly impacts the cost. Additionally, the need for an administration panel to manage the app, monitor analytics, and maintain content can add to the overall budget.

• • •

The Development Process and Its Impact on Cost

Starting your app development project is like beginning a significant journey; each step is vital to the outcome. Understanding how each phase affects the total cost is key to your project’s success. As we explore these stages together, we’ll also focus on the important role of project management, ensuring your project is guided effectively and efficiently, much like a captain steering a ship.

5 stages of the mobile app development process

Stages of App Development: From Concept to Launch

01 Conceptualisation

Every great app starts with an idea, a spark. This initial stage involves brainstorming, defining the app’s purpose, and conducting market research. It’s where the foundation is laid. The cost includes time spent on research, consultations, and perhaps initial sketches or prototypes. It’s relatively low in monetary terms but invaluable in shaping the app’s direction.

02 Design

This is where the idea starts taking a visual form. Design encompasses user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design, creating wireframes, and designing app screens. The complexity of design directly impacts the cost – a simple, intuitive design may be less costly than a complex, graphic-intensive one. This stage is crucial, as a well-designed app can significantly enhance user engagement.

03 Development

Now, the actual building of the app takes place. This phase involves coding, setting up servers, integrating databases, and implementing functionalities. It’s usually the most resource-intensive stage and, consequently, the most costly. The development phase can vary greatly in duration and cost, depending on the app’s complexity and the chosen technology stack.

04 Testing

Testing is an integral part of the development process. It involves checking the app for bugs and usability issues and ensuring it meets all requirements. This stage can reveal crucial improvements, impacting the time cost and potential reworks. Thorough testing is crucial for the app’s success, as launching a bug-ridden app can harm its acceptance in the market.

05 Deployment

The final stage is launching the app on the respective app stores and making it available to users. Costs here include app store fees, any launch marketing initiatives, and setting up support channels. While not as hefty as development costs, deployment requires careful budgeting, especially if a significant launch campaign is planned.

The Role of Project Management in App Development

Project management in app development is not just a role; it’s a critical success factor. A project manager (PM) is a liaison between the development team and stakeholders, ensuring the project stays on track, within budget, and aligned with the initial goals. The PM oversees all stages of development, from conceptualisation to deployment.

Effective project management can significantly impact the cost in several ways:

  • Efficiency and Timeliness: A good PM ensures the project adheres to timelines, preventing costly overruns.
  • Resource Allocation: Proper management of resources, both human and technical, ensures that the project doesn’t incur unnecessary expenses.
  • Quality Control: Regular quality checks and balances can prevent costly reworks or revisions.
  • Stakeholder Communication: Keeping all stakeholders informed and involved can prevent misunderstandings or changes that might lead to additional costs.

In essence, project management is the thread that ties all stages of app development together. It’s about ensuring the journey from concept to launch is smooth, cost-effective, and aligned with the vision.

• • •

world map

Geographical Influence on Development Costs

I’ve observed firsthand how geography can play a significant role in shaping the costs of app creation. It’s a fascinating aspect that often surprises many first-time app developers.

Cost Differences by Region

North America

Generally, the cost of app development in North America is among the highest globally. This is primarily due to the high standard of living and the corresponding wage rates. Developers in this region are highly skilled, especially in cutting-edge technologies, which justifies the premium costs.


Europe presents a varied landscape when it comes to development costs. Western European countries like the UK, Germany, and France tend to have higher rates than North America. However, Eastern European countries like Ukraine and Poland offer competitive rates without compromising quality, making them popular outsourcing destinations.


Countries in Asia, particularly India and Southeast Asia, are known for offering the most cost-effective app development services. While the lower costs are attractive, it’s essential to carefully consider the expertise and communication aspects to ensure the final product meets your expectations.

Outsourcing vs. Local Development: Pros and Cons

Outsourcing app development can be cost-effective, especially if you’re operating in a high-cost region. However, it’s not without its challenges.

Pros of Outsourcing:
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Typically, outsourcing to regions with lower development costs can significantly reduce overall expenses.
  • Access to a Broad Talent Pool: Outsourcing opens up opportunities to work with diverse talents and skills that might be scarce or too expensive locally.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Outsourcing provides the flexibility to scale your development team up or down based on project requirements.

Cons of Outsourcing:
  • Time Zone Differences: Managing teams across different time zones can be challenging and may affect communication and productivity.
  • Cultural and Language Barriers: These can lead to misunderstandings and discrepancies in the final product.
  • Quality Concerns: There may be concerns about the quality of work, necessitating thorough vetting and continuous oversight.

• • •

Additional Costs to Consider

Besides the direct costs of developing the app, there are several other expenses that you need to factor into your budget.

  • Maintenance and Updates: Post-launch, your app will require regular updates and maintenance to fix bugs, update content, and improve features. This is a recurring cost that’s vital for the app’s longevity.
  • Marketing and Launch Strategy: Investing in marketing and a robust launch strategy is crucial to ensure your app reaches its target audience and stands out in the crowded marketplace. This might include social media marketing, search engine optimisation, email campaigns, etc.
  • Legal and Administrative Costs: These include costs for licensing, compliance with regulations (like GDPR), and any legal counsel required during development. Ensuring your app complies with legal requirements is essential to avoid costly legal issues down the line.

• • •

Estimating Your App Development Budget

App development requires a creative and technical compass and a keen eye for budgeting. As someone who’s been through this process, I understand that setting a realistic budget is both an art and a science.

How to Approach Budgeting for Your App

  1. Define the Scope: Start with a clear understanding of what your app is supposed to do. Detailing the features, functionalities, and user experience helps create a more accurate budget.
  2. Research and Quotations: Seek quotations from different developers or agencies to understand the market rates. This step is essential to avoid underestimating or overestimating your budget.
  3. Consider All Phases of Development: Include costs for each stage – from conceptualisation and design to development, testing, and deployment.
  4. Factor in Contingency: Always include a contingency fund, usually 10-20% of the total budget, to cover unexpected expenses or changes in scope.

Factors to Include in Your Budget

  • Development Costs: This includes coding, design, and backend setup costs.
  • Testing and Quality Assurance: Budget for thorough testing to ensure your app is bug-free and user-friendly.
  • Maintenance and Updates: Post-launch maintenance and regular updates should be part of your budget planning.
  • Marketing and Launch: Include costs for promoting your app.
  • Legal and Administrative Fees: Don’t forget the costs for licenses, compliance, and any legal consultations.

• • •

Reflecting on the development costs of well-known apps can provide valuable insights and benchmarks for budgeting.

app development costs for instagram, uber and whatsapp
Examples of Well-Known Apps and Their Development Costs
  • WhatsApp: Initially developed with a budget of around $250,000, WhatsApp’s simplicity and functionality hit the right notes.
  • Uber: Uber’s initial development cost was estimated to be between $1M-$1.5M, with ongoing costs for scaling and adding new features.
  • Instagram: With an initial cost of around $500,000 for development and marketing, Instagram is a classic example of high ROI in the app world.
Lessons Learned from These Case Studies
  1. Simplicity Can Be Key: Apps like WhatsApp show that you don’t always need highly complex features to succeed.
  2. Scalability Matters: Uber’s ongoing development costs highlight the importance of planning for scalability in your budget.
  3. Marketing is Integral: Instagram’s success underscores the role of effective marketing in an app’s popularity.

• • •

Saving Costs Without Compromising Quality

Balancing the scales of cost-efficiency and quality is crucial in app development. Here are some tips:

  • MVP Approach: Start with a Minimum Viable Product – launch with essential features and gradually build up based on user feedback.
  • Choose the Right Platform: Depending on your target audience, choose between iOS, Android, or cross-platform development to optimise costs.
  • Outsource Wisely: Consider outsourcing to regions with lower development costs but ensure to vet for quality and communication.
  • Iterative Development: Adopt an iterative development process, allowing adjustments and improvements without significant cost overruns.
  • Open Source Tools: Utilise open-source tools and frameworks to reduce costs.

• • •


I reflect on the myriad of factors that intertwine to shape the financial landscape of creating an app. It’s been a journey of uncovering the complexities, the nuances, and the unexpected twists of developing a mobile application.

Recap of the Main Points Discussed

We started by exploring the essence of app development, understanding that it’s more than just coding – it’s about bringing a vision to life. We delved into the types of apps and how each choice, be it native, hybrid, or web apps, impacts the development cost. Recognising current trends, we navigated through the dynamic waters of the app development world, understanding how they influence both costs and user expectations.

Then, we turned our attention to the key factors that influence app development costs – the complexity of the app, the chosen platform, the decision between custom and off-the-shelf solutions, and the intricacies of design and backend infrastructure. We discussed how each of these elements contributes significantly to the overall budget.

The geographical influence on development costs unveiled the cost variances across different regions and the pros and cons of outsourcing versus local development. We also explored additional costs often overlooked but vital for the app’s success – maintenance, marketing, legal, and administrative costs.

The Importance of Proper Planning and Budgeting

This journey reiterates the importance of proper planning and budgeting in app development. It’s not just about having a groundbreaking idea or cutting-edge technology; it’s about meticulous planning, realistic budgeting, and a deep understanding of the market and the user. An app’s success depends heavily on how well these factors are balanced and executed.

Encouraging a Holistic Approach to App Development

I encourage aspiring app developers, entrepreneurs, and dreamers to consider all these factors in your app development journey. Understand that each decision you make, from the type of app to the development process, has a cost implication that can make or break your project. Embrace the importance of budgeting as a financial exercise and a strategic tool in crafting an app that resonates with users and stands the test of time.

In app development, as in life, a holistic approach, combining creativity with practicality, is often the key to success. May your journey in app development be as rewarding as it is challenging, leading to the creation of something truly remarkable.

Anthony Basker
Article by
Anthony Basker
Anthony Basker is the CEO at Ronins. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, award winning tech founder, author and terrible guitar player, with a wealth of experience in delivering websites, apps and digital platforms for some of the worlds largest global brands.
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