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Is it expensive to create an app?

Even though the ever-so annoying answer “it depends” still stands, we’d like to give you a cost estimate anyway and a typical range depending on a few most crucial factors.

8 June, 2022
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The whole process of creating an app is a tiresome endeavor, even if you’re not the one doing the actual “creating” part. From finding the right app developer to calculating the app development budget - the “to-do” list expands exponentially.

To know exactly how much money you should set aside, it’s important to find out how expensive it is today to create an app. Even though the ever-so annoying answer “it depends” still stands, we’d like to give you a cost estimate anyway and a typical range depending on a few most crucial factors.

For a basic app or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), be ready to spend around $20,000 - $30,000 for 2-3 months of work. A regular app with more decent and diverse functionality and attractive mobile application design will cost from $40,000 to $150,000 and take up to 6 months. Ultra-complicated enterprise-level applications can be as expensive as $250,000 and counting.

Usually, any lower than $15,000 could be a massive red flag. Any higher than $300,000 for a startup app from scratch may also be a waste of money and resources unless it genuinely is a mega-complex application with a high ROI. But what exactly are you paying for?

Want to develop an app that users will rush to download?

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Cost of Making an App: Breakdown

Let’s make a breakdown of each essential element of application development that composes the overall cost of mobile app creation.

App Design

Design is one of those key things that can make or break your app. The design stage usually includes discovery, user research, UX, and UI and can cost roughly from $5,000 - $10,000. For your money, you get:

  • A user experience that considers all the aspects of customer psychology to ensure proper placements, coloring, and patterns
  • An app’s interface ( layout, elements, colors, fonts, etc.), moving from low-fidelity mockups to high-fidelity prototypes
  • UX writing, marketing, branding (logo, icons), etc.

That first impression you get from your app’s design and how well structured and intuitive everything is will determine its success straight from the get-go. It’s only reasonable then to properly focus on this part of the app creation. For further research, you might want to follow up with the best mobile app design tools currently available to be up-to-date with how exactly modern application design is created.

Complexity and Functionality

The complexity level is dictated by the essential features. A simple application would have just the basic functionality with no added benefits. The most common level is somewhere in the middle, where apps possess custom UI and such elements as authentication, payments, numerous screens, notifications, user profiles, real-time messaging, etc.

Each element of functionality has its own cost. For example, user login can be priced at $500 – $1,000, messaging costs approximately $2,000 to $4,000, while the price for integrating everything you might need for app monetization can be up to $5,000.

Complex apps have more advanced features that include real-time synchronization, media processing, and progressive animations. Be aware that such types of functionality as third-party integrations can sometimes be considered hidden costs. Nearly all of them are pretty essential, though - think payment gateways, SMS or push notifications, other services’ APIs, etc.

The Application’s Type

The purpose of your application plays a vital role in determining the costs. The most basic data-driven applications that rely on receiving, analyzing, and sharing information can cost somewhere around $15,000. If you want an app with higher-level user management and data sharing, you’ll have to spare at least $40,000.

Here’s what it would cost to develop the following applications:

How much does it cost to develop an app?
How much does it cost to develop an app?


The platform is another thing that can drastically change the costs. When choosing only one platform, iOS or Android, you can have a so-called native app because it’s native to that platform. Such apps are fast, reliant, and responsive, but you’ll need to make room for two different teams or app development processes if you want to cover both platforms, and the price will certainly rise.

Hybrid or cross-platform applications, on the other hand, have one code for both platforms, which lowers the development costs. There’s also another option - web apps. They are cheaper among these three types, have lower code maintenance, and are available on the web and not hosted in the operating system's app store.

Quality Assurance and Maintenance

Quality assurance involves an engineer performing a series of tests designed to ensure no mistakes, bugs, or security issues make it into a final product. You’re also paying for your app to comply with all necessary regulations, which is another vital QA task.

Maintenance can take up to 20% of the total cost of app development. Don’t forget backend infrastructure as well - that’s where hosting, scaling, data management, and security come into play. Servers are the backbone of your app. Hosting is usually outsourced, and the cost depends on how much and what kind of data you’ll be storing, ranging from $800 up to $7,000 a year.

Maintenance can take up to 20% of the total cost
Maintenance can take up to 20% of the total cost

Other expenses are distributed between image processing tools, a content delivery network for delivering content to your users based on their location, and application monitoring to analyze your app’s performance. Plus, regular updates as part of post-deployment maintenance and even license fees if you’ll have any technologies provided by other vendors.


How Much Does it Cost to Create an App for a Small Business?

Typically, a small business would need a compact, functional, and not over-the-top application that caters to all its needs without breaking the bank. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s possible to create a more affordable yet still functional app for less than $20,000. However, there are a few things you should consider in the process.

Business Priorities

When it’s a small business, the priorities can somewhat differ from those of a large enterprise. The top five priorities of a smaller company are acquiring new customers, maintaining constant communication with them, increasing sales, improving service, and digitization. The right application can help with all of the above. However, it could be wiser to focus on 2-3 rather than all of them if you have a smaller budget.

Security Features

User data protection should never be overlooked, especially if the company is small and the number of loyal clients is limited. Plus, not everyone has the means to include state-of-the-art data encryption. Requiring users to create a secure password is a must, along with prominent authentication and sign-out, basic encryption, and dedicated servers.

Minimum Viable Product

To test the market and secure your footing while also avoiding unnecessary risks that are more damaging for a smaller company, the great thing you can do is launch your MVP first. You can simultaneously cut costs, test the feedback from your users, and acquire funding from investors before you start building your full-fledged app.

Development Approach

Use your own data and research to determine the approach rather than following trends. Focus on user experience and detailed planning first. Opting for a cross-platform application is an excellent way to cut costs but make sure your product reaches a broader audience. You can also consider no-code app development that’ll allow you to spend less time and money by using pre-built modules and plugins.

App Development Company vs. DIY

Instead of hiring an experienced app development company, you might want to decide to utilize some of the DIY app-building tools that gained popularity in the last few years. To see if it really is a better choice for you, let’s go through the pros and cons of each solution.

Pros and Cons of an App Development Team

This time-tested and proved approach is a great option if you have a decent budget and want reliable results.

Pro: Professionally made with necessary customizations

An experienced team with complementary skills and all the vital resources one might need can better develop an application with top-notch quality plus cater to most of your customization wishes.

Con: Costly

Unfortunately, it can indeed be quite expensive the more functionality and adjustments you might need. But it still is less costly than hiring in-house developers.

Pro: Device compatibility

Your application will already be optimized for needed services and compatible with the target devices. Additionally, your app will more likely be supported by the app store, as opposed to the apps made with some app builders.

Con: Choosing the right company

Choosing and vetting the company can be quite an effort. Still, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and avoid unnecessary expenses if you take your time and properly review potential vendors.

Pro: High-level functionality

You can choose to add any advanced feature (within reason, of course), from secure payments and location tracking to augmented reality and offline support.

Con: Time-consuming

A minimum of 2-3 months is required to create a mobile application from scratch, provided that it’s not very feature-heavy. For more complex ones, opt for 5-9 months. Proper design, coding, testing, and deployment should not be hastily made.

Pros and Cons of DIY App Building

On the other hand, you can build an app on your own if you’re just starting out and need a cheaper and quicker solution.

Pro: Already user-friendly

App-builders might very well be your go-to if you want a simple, user-friendly application. They already have the tested components that will work and are familiar to most customers, and you don’t have to do the user research yourself.

Con: Limited functionality and customization

Functionality is limited to what a particular tool is offering. Each platform and package may differ, but typically it holds down to basic stuff with a few styling options. Granted, the more expensive the tool, the more customization alternatives it offers.

Pro: Fast development and time to market

Since most tools are novice-friendly, creating a functional application doesn’t take much time and effort. You can also quickly determine the time limits and plan for the project’s completion.

Con: Not as budget-friendly as you’d expect

While you can certainly utilize tools that have free plans, for a proper application, you’ll need to have a subscription which after a while can turn into a pretty expensive option. Some tools may even charge up to $400 a month.

Pro: No need for coding skills

No-code development is arguably the handiest feature these app builders have to offer. You don’t need to write a single line of code, hence the name. Some also use the "what you see is what you get" approach that allows you to see each edit after it’s done in a form that looks exactly like the finished product.

Con: Security issues

The pre-coded app made with a third-party tool can be more prone to security oversights and breaches than those made and customized for you by professional developers.

Want to develop an app that users will rush to download?

Merge is here to help.

Learn more

Bottom Line

Considering how many factors influence the process, no app development cost calculator today, even the most advanced, will be able to tell you exactly how much will it truly cost for your app. But neither can we. Not really.

All we can do is give you the estimated price range and explain how and why each element shapes the final sum. Each product is unique and should be treated as such. That’s why you should determine what works for you and you alone.

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CEO and Founder of Merge

My mission is to help startups build software, experiment with new features, and bring their product vision to life.

My mission is to help startups build software, experiment with new features, and bring their product vision to life.

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