How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App in 2022?

Last updated: May 5, 2023 ·

‘How much does it cost to create an app?’

It’s one of the most common questions that businesses ask (and developers receive), but of course, there’s no easy answer. The price can vary from $2,000 to more than $250,000 depending on the scope of the project, development team and a variety of other factors.

Let’s take a look at the different factors that influence the cost of an app and how to minimize costs (without sacrificing quality) by choosing the right team.

The cost of an app varies considerably depending on the scope of the project, technology selection, development team and other factors. Click To Tweet

What Kind of App Are You Building?

The term ‘app’ means different things to different people, including mobile, web, desktop and even internet of things (IoT) applications. In addition, there are many different ways to build apps for each platform that impact the final cost.

The three most common types of apps are:

  • Mobile: Mobile apps are designed to run on iOS or Android. While the app design and functionality are constrained by the operating system, many data-driven apps require external web services, databases or other requirements.
  • Web: Web apps are designed to run in desktop or mobile browsers. These apps use web standards that make them easier to develop in many ways, but the wide range of options can significantly increase the scope.
  • Desktop: Desktop apps are designed to run natively on MacOS, Windows, Linux or other desktop operating systems. These apps tend to be less common than web or mobile apps, but they have greater access to desktop computer resources.

There are also two ways to develop these apps:

  • Native: Native apps are developed using the operating systems preferred technology, such as XCode for MacOS and iOS and Java for Android. While native apps tend to perform the best, they can be more costly to develop and you may need to develop multiple versions of the same application for different platforms.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid apps are developed using a single technology, such as JavaScript or Ruby, and run across multiple platforms. Since they are not native, they tend to have worse performance, but businesses only have to worry about a single code base. These apps tend to be cheaper to develop than native apps as a result.

What Features Do You Need?

The biggest driver of app development costs isn’t the platform—it’s the scope. After all, the cost of an app is simply the development time multiplied by the hourly rate. Smaller apps take fewer hours to develop and therefore cost less money to build.

Download our free Checklist of Popular App Frameworks for Web & Mobile to discover the most popular options for your project.
App Development Costs

Example of User Stories on Jira - Source: TrackPlus

A typical cost estimation works like this:

  1. Concept: A development team works with you to iron out the user flows and functionality of the app and decide on the best platform and technologies to use.
  2. User Stories: Developers write a user story for each user flow. For instance, user registration may be the topic of a single user story.
  3. Point Estimation: Developers assign points to stories that represent their difficulty and the time it would take to develop it.

A minimum viable product, or MVP, should have as few user stories or job stories as possible to complete an experiment to test a business hypothesis. That said, a simple concept can be very complex behind the scenes, which influences the cost of the project. User authentication is relatively simple but authenticating with a user’s bank account may not be as easy.

When the cost of a software project spirals out of control, the reason is often scope creep or the tendency of businesses to tack on new features or functionality over time that go above and beyond the original concept. It’s also possible that developers didn’t fully think through a project and discover some other requirements that are added along the way. Creating a roadmap and reviewing it regularly will greatly help with managing prirorities and keeping your project on track.

What Developers Are You Hiring?

The final piece of the puzzle is the development team that you hire. Not surprisingly, hiring an iOS engineer in the U.S. may cost $220,000 per year while outsourcing to a freelancer in Indonesia may cost only $12 per hour—a stark contrast.

Don’t forget to download our free Checklist of Popular App Frameworks for Web & Mobile to discover the most popular options for your project.
App Development Costs

Average Costs and Timelines for Development - Source: BuildFire

The rise of Upwork and other platforms has made it easier to outsource development overseas where labor costs are lower. While these platforms are compelling for cost reasons, businesses will face time zone challenges and a lack of control compared to North American employees that can work with you face-to-face to solve problems.

There are also quality differences to consider across both employees and outsourced developers. While novice developers are certainly cheaper to hire, the code that they produce may have suboptimal performance, security holes and other issues. Poor quality code also tends to result in technical debt that must be repaid down the road with interest.

Some important questions to ask when hiring developers include:

  • Business Expertise: Does the development team have business expertise? Have they worked on projects like yours in the past?
  • Technical Expertise: Can the development team provide any code samples? What best practices do they use? Do they contribute to open source?
  • References: Can the development team provide references? Have these references had success with their apps over the long-term?

Sharkbyte provides a happy medium between hiring full-time employees and saving money with contractors with our Team Augmentation services. Our team augmentation services provide you with access to senior level engineers on a contract basis that work just like an employee on your team—it’s the best of both worlds. Contact us today to learn more.

The Bottom Line

The cost to develop an app varies considerably depending on the project scope, technology selection, development team and other considerations. By keeping these factors in mind, you can come to the table with a more realistic idea of the considerations and work with developers to fine-tune the concept into a reasonable estimate.

If you want impartial help estimating costs, Sharkbyte provides project estimation services designed for businesses that wish to understand cost before engaging with a development team. We will help you build a fully-scoped project and estimate the costs, so you know what to expect when shopping around for the right development team.

Contact us today to learn more about our project estimation or team augmentation services.


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