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App Development Cost – What Does it Cost?

app development costs

app development costsThe all important question everyone has to ask is: how much will it cost? App development cost varies based on several factors and can range widely.

App Development Cost

Of course the requirements of the app drive the app development cost. However, that’s not very clear since some requirements are easy/cheap and some are very much not.


One way to measure it is how many frameworks will it include. Frameworks include things like maps, in-app purchase, audio/video, address book access, etc. If you’re not a developer, you may not know what does and doesn’t include a framework, but it gives you an idea.


Another key aspect affecting app development cost is user accounts. If a user has to create an account, that often implies several other things. It may mean user settings and storing those settings. That can be a key indicator of app development cost.

User accounts often also mean storing account data, account management and user settings on a…


If the app needs to connect a server for user accounts, content or just about anything else, it will affect the app development cost a great deal.

Both for user accounts and server costs, if the app needs to allow users to login via Facebook, Twitter or similar it will increase the cost. Similarly if the app needs to fetch data from sources such as these the app development cost goes up.

User Interface

However an app is implemented, the user interface will be present. That needs to be designed and in many cases will require output from a graphic designer (i.e., images).

But also, exactly how the user interface behaves can vary a great deal – what happens when Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.13.03 PMthe user taps create account instead of login? The UI may need to rework itself to include a ‘confirm password’ field. Based on their settings maybe different items display on the screen. There’s a lot of variation in how the UI can behave.

Using standard widgets for lists, buttons and other UI items is cheaper than custom/unique ones. All of these things affect the app development cost.

And Much, Much More…

App development has evolved a great deal. People are expecting more and more from their devices and there are more and more third party frameworks and options to allow apps to really shine.


What type of developer you hire also affects things. Is it an individual or a team? Is it a freelancer or a company? Is there a dedicated project manager?

You need to find the solution that fits your needs. Do you need coffee? Well, you can buy a $10,000 espresso machine or a $20 coffee maker or something in between. Also, what is your budget? Maybe you start with the coffee maker and determine if that’s enough.

I something point to this site for prices: It’s fairly in line with the types of costs I charge.

There are high end development boutiques such as Fueled, WillowTree and BottleRocket that charge differently. Fueled has a post here discussing their costs: also has a pretty interesting infographic about app development cost.

It’s hard to know exactly what type of development solution you need. It may depend on budget, timeframe, support/maintenance you need after the app is done and similar factors.

In some cases it’s actually better to hire a developer. You may need someone sitting near you and available whenever you need a change. However, you’ll be paying them even when you don’t need changes.


Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 4.16.22 PMApp development cost is also affected by the platform(s) you need. If you do iOS and Android natively, you’ll pretty much double your costs. If you use a cross-platform solution like PhoneGap, your costs will go down. However, depending on your needs, a cross-platform solution may have a non-native feel to the user and it might affect performance being non-native.

Also, if you need changes to it later, you’ll need to be sure to use the same developer/company or find someone that knows the cross-platform solution.

Similarly, server-side development can cost a great deal – often as much or more than the app.

When possible, it can be a great idea to aim for an MVP (Minimally Viable Product) to start. Something to test the waters and get feedback on before you develop the ultimate app that has 50 features and the users only use 10. It’s a good way to keep down app development cost.


App development cost can range pretty dramatically from one app to another based on requirements, user interface and developer/company you use. The key is to find the right solution for your needs.

My suggestion is to ask a developer what they’re “typical” ranges of app development costs are for these types of apps:

  1. Basic Tip Calculator – simple input, simple output, one screen
  2. To Do List – stores the items on the device for subsequent executions (3-5 screens)
  3. Travel Log – app that shows the user a map and allows them to store pictures (photo album/camera) and text for various locations (5-10 screens)
  4. Travel Log 2 – with online user account (including Facebook login), stores pictures/text online and allows for sharing location pictures/text with other members and posts to Facebook/Twitter (8-15 screens)

Anything beyond that gets a bit too nebulous – the range gets too wide to guess especially considering the specific details of the features and user interface. But the idea is that you get a range of some kind of range for the app development cost. Feel free to write and ask me for those numbers too. 🙂