Mobile App Development Blog

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Building a Mobile App.

Ian Blair

App Development Costs: $1,000 App vs. $10,000 App vs $100,000 App (What’s The Difference?)

There’s not a fixed price for building a mobile application.

Think about some of the most recent products or services that you’ve bought. Whether it’s a car, cell phone, or cleaning service, there are different price points depending on certain elements.

The same goes for your mobile app. The price is going to depend on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. You can’t expect to build an amazing app for just a few dollars. But at the same time, spending a ton doesn’t automatically translate to success.

Here’s an analogy that you can probably relate to.

Spending a fortune on kitchen supplies won’t make you a professional chef if you don’t know how to cook. You’ve got to know what you’re doing to be successful.

So just because you want to spend as much money as possible to develop your app, won’t make it an automatic hit if you don’t know how to run a business.

You’ve got to take quite a bit into consideration when you’re looking at different price tiers for app development.

Here are a few of the main factors that affect the cost:

  • who builds your app
  • how your app gets built
  • what you need your app to do

Each of these points will impact how much you’re going to pay. I’ll discuss these factors in greater detail throughout this guide.

You can use this article as a reference to help determine the major differences between spending $1,000, $100,000, or somewhere in the middle for your new mobile application.

Here’s what you need to know.

Identify what type of app you’re building

Different types of apps are priced at varying levels.

types of apps

If you just need to build something basic, you can get it done for a few thousand dollars.

Some examples of these device or functionality apps may be pre-installed on devices. I’m referring to apps with functions like a calculator, stopwatch, or timer.

It’s really easy to develop these because there isn’t much to it. You’ve just got to write the basic programs for the functions to work and that’s really it.

In fact, these simple apps are some of the best apps to build for first timers.

But as the complexity increases so does the cost. So if you need your app to do things like process payments, sync with the Internet, use real-time GPS, or link with other app users, it’s going to be more expensive to build.

There’s another reason why complex apps are more expensive to build. Not only is the development more complicated, but there are other factors that come into play as well.

In addition to coding, you’ve got to consider:

  • design costs
  • back end development (which is necessary for certain apps)
  • security
  • architecture
  • testing

The design for a social media or gaming app is going to be much more expensive than the design elements of a calculator or flashlight app.

Later on I’ll go into further detail about other factors associated with development.

Your app should have a clear category. The Apple App Store has you select a primary category for your app based on how it can be described the best.

Some examples of these categories include:

  • music
  • navigation
  • news
  • books
  • education
  • photo & video
  • lifestyle
  • kids
  • health and fitness
  • travel
  • sports
  • social media

According to Statista, these are the most popular apps available in the App Store in terms of availability.

statista popular apps

Once you clearly identify which type of app you’re going to build, you need to stick with it. Otherwise, the costs will quickly rise.

Your $10,000 app could easily turn into something that costs $50,000 if you start adding features that change its category.

So don’t try to come up with a social media app that has games and will also help you file your taxes. That’s way too much going on in one app.

It’s going to be nearly impossible to build, and the costs will be through the roof. Furthermore, it will confuse your audience.

Understand the development process

In order to fully grasp the cost of development between different apps, you’ve got to understand the development process.

Can you write code?

If the answer is no, then you’re going to need help. You’ll have to hire a developer or potentially several developers, depending on the complexity of what you’re building.

This is going to cost you money. Obviously, the more developers you bring on board, the more you’re going to have to pay.

So, how much does it cost to hire a developer? Again, it depends. One of the factors that goes into this cost has to do with the location of your developer.

cost per country

So if you want to build an app in the $1,000 range, your best bet is to outsource development to India.

You could still get away with building an app for a few thousand dollars in the United States. But it would have to something simple, which I talked about earlier.

In the US you could also build a prototype or MVP for less than $10,000, but I’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly.

If you’re going to outsource development overseas, it will definitely be cheaper, but you’ll get what you pay for. There are some risks associated with this approach.

It’s possible that you will have to overcome a language barrier with your developer based on their country of origin.

Working with a developer that’s not local means you won’t be able to keep tabs on them as much to see if they are on track with certain deadlines.

It’s much easier to do this if you can have face-to-face interactions with whoever you hire or can pick up the phone and directly communicate with them.

If the development process isn’t on schedule, the cost can change.

For the most part, the longer it takes to build an app, the more expensive it’s going to be to develop.

the longer it takes

As you can see from the graphic, different types of apps have varying timelines, which ultimately impacts the price.

Who is building your app

Location aside, there are different types of developers as well. You could hire:

  • an independent contractor
  • a small development agency
  • big corporations

Depending on what you decide, the price will change. There are reasons behind the pricing structure of these different development options.

For example, independent contractors could be your least expensive option. If you’re only looking to spend about $10,000 on your app, you could probably find an independent contractor who is willing to take on that job.

However, this developer may not be the best in the business. Developers who have a more proven track record and more experience can charge more money for their services.

There’s some risk with independent contractors as well. Since they work for multiple clients, your app won’t be the only project that they’re focusing on. So you may not get their best effort.

If you’re going to hire a development agency, the size of the agency will also impact the price.

agency size

Big development shops are able to charge much higher prices for their services. That’s because they have teams of developers working on your project.

These developers are highly qualified and considered top-level talent. So that’s what you’ll get if you’re willing to spend upward of $100,000 on your mobile application.

One of the benefits of working with one of these big companies is that you’ll have easier access to their proven track record.

Take the time to go through apps that this company has built in the past. See how the apps performs and reach out to the owners as a reference.

It’s easier for smaller shops or independent contractors to withhold information about apps they’ve built that didn’t go too smoothly.

That’s why it’s super important for you to take the time to properly investigate any person, agency, or company that you’re considering for hire. Making the effort to do this now will save you lots of headaches down the road.

While you may end up paying more for a well-respected agency to build your app, you’ll need to weigh that cost against an independent contractor who may not complete your app on time or build it to your liking.

Ultimately, you’ve got to make sure that your decision doesn’t waste time and money.

Refer back to what we talked about earlier in terms of clearly defining the type of app you want to build. For example, let’s say you want to build a gaming app.

It makes sense to hire someone who has built similar apps in the past. Don’t be the guinea pig for someone who doesn’t have as much experience.

On the flip side, if you want to build an app in the $1,000 to $10,000 price range, you might have to consider working with a developer who has limited experience.

But as I said before, the complexity of your app will impact the cost, regardless of who builds it.

complexity

If you’re looking for a developer who works for a reputable company with a proven track record and lots of experience to build a complex app, you’ve got to be prepared to spend more than $10,000.

You may also want to consider leveraging technology to build your app. You can use a platform, like BuildFire, to meet your needs as a cost-effective solution.

If you do this, 80% of what you need is already set up. I’m referring to things like basic features, infrastructure, and mBaaS.

Most of the work is already done for you.

You’ve just got to spend money on the other 20% to customize the app based on your preferences and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Make sure you factor in other costs associated with development

So I know the majority of what we’ve discussed so far encompasses different types of developers you can hire at different pricing tiers.

But you can’t spend your entire budget on a developer.

Do you have other skills associated with building an app? If not, then you’re going to need to hire more help as well.

For example, not all developers are necessarily designers. So there’s an additional cost for that service.

cost of design

Depending on the size of your app, you may also need to hire a quality assurance (QA) agent or a project manager as well.

There are also other fees such as server costs, legal fees, and startup fees if you’re going to turn your app into a business.

You’ll also have maintenance costs after development is finished.

These additional fees are often overlooked, but they are very important to keep in mind. The last thing you want to do is run out of money and have your development fall behind or halt completely.

Building an app on a budget

So let’s say you only have a couple thousand dollars to spend, but you really want to build an app.

Can it be done? Yes.

If you don’t have enough money to develop a fully functional app, you could at least get started with your available funds.

Consider developing a minimum viable product (MVP) or proof of concept app. This would have limited functionality, features, and design, but it can get you started in the right direction.

It’s a great option for those of you who have a great idea but don’t have $10,000 or $100,000 at your disposal.

The great thing about an MVP is that it will make it easier for you to secure funding from outside investors if you decide to proceed and fully develop your idea.

Here are some other great tips to keep costs low if you’re on a tight budget.

how to reduce development costs

Simplify your idea. As I said earlier, if you try to make your app do too many different things, it’s going to be expensive.

So just take one component of a more complex concept and run with it. Then you can build something for less than $10,000.

Hybrid vs. native apps

Another decision you’ll have to make is whether or not you’re going to develop a hybrid or native app. These different types of apps are not priced equally.

If you’re going to develop a native app, you’ll have to make another decision right away as well. Are you going to build for iOS or Android?

Since native apps have to follow certain guidelines for specific platforms, they typically enhance the user experience. It’s also easier for native apps to access certain hardware within the user’s device, such as the GPS, camera, or contacts list.

If you’re going to develop a native app, you need to be prepared to spend closer to $100,000 as opposed to $10,000.

Native apps are expensive. On the other hand, hybrid apps are much less expensive to develop.

hybrid

Hybrid apps also allow you to launch on both Android and Apple platforms simultaneously. The development time is faster, which means you get your app to the consumer market quicker as well.

This relates back to what I said earlier about leveraging technology to build your app.

If you use a hybrid platform, this process is going to be much easier and less expensive for you.

Conclusion

So what’s the difference between varying price points for app development?

Lots of different factors impact this cost. It depends on who builds your app, how it gets built, and what you want your app to do.

As you can see from this guide, building an app isn’t cheap. $1,000 can’t get you much.

But if you’ve got $10,000 to spend, you can definitely get started and build something that’s functional.

For those of you who are operating on a limited budget, consider building a minimum viable product or develop a hybrid app.

Having more money at your disposal can definitely make your life easier. But with that said, spending $100,000 on an app does not automatically mean it’s going to be successful.

Now that you know what types of apps can get built based on the price, it will be much easier for you to start your development process.

Are you planning to spend $10,000 or $100,000 to develop your mobile app?

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.