It’s no secret that web and mobile apps today are the latest hype! And
maybe you’ve found yourself in a position where you’ve identified a
problem, issue or need which could easily be addressed through an app
making it an easy hit. But before you hit the ground running, you ask the
big question, can I afford it?
As we tackle this issue, it’s important to keep one thing in mind, while
software development is a technical or maybe even scientific in nature, at
the end of the day it’s still a creative endeavor.
Asking how much an application will cost, is like asking an artist how many
hours it’ll take them to paint a copy of the Mona Lisa. Sure they’ll give
you a range from X amount of hours to Y amount of hours, but it’ll never be
a fixed figure; estimating creativity is not realistic.
In essence, estimating an application’s costs comes down to these factors:
geography, team composition, extent of the estimated scope of work and how
pragmatic you’re willing to be.
Software development exists in the digital realm, meaning that building
software doesn’t require an office building, factory, downtown brick &
mortar shop or any specific physical location.
Due to this nuance, app development studios are located all around the
world, serving clients from all around the world, and whether you’re in one
location on the planet and your development studio partner is on the other
side of the world, the distance between you two is irrelevant.
In light of this location insignificance, specific regions around the world
have become software development pioneers, specifically:
North America (USA, Canada)
South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile)
Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria,
South Asia (Pakistan, India, Vietnam)
Why the US and Canada are on the list is not a secret as they were the
original founders and pioneers of the information technology space and
The other regions/countries which joined the club wasn’t by accident but
through a lucky combination of having the right skills at the right time.
The European countries mentioned have a very numerous and strongly focused
engineering institutions; a legacy which they acquired from the Soviet
Union. While India and Pakistan were also always very technically focused.
However due to their weaker economies and cheaper standard of living, this
meant they could offer software development at a much more cost efficient
rate than having it done in the US or Canada.
The table below displays the difference in pricing based on region.
When it comes to the team composition, each development shop has their own
secret sauce to what type of team they need to put together to realize a
Theoretically speaking, the smallest possible team to develop a product is
a five person team.
You need a designer to design all the screens of a mobile app or pages of a
web app. Once all the screens or pages have been designed, they are passed
off to the development team to be programmed or developed.
The development team consists of a Project Manager, Front-end Developer,
Back-end Developer and a Quality Assurance Engineer.
The front-end developer develops the interface which your users will see
and interact with. The back-end developer develops your back-end
infrastructure, server, data-base and the interface which you as the app
owner will interact with to see all of your users, purchases, data,
The quality assurance engineer in parallel would be testing the quality of
code which the two developers are writing to make sure it’s bug-free or
pass the code back to them for bug-fixing.
And finally the project manager to give everyone direction, keep the team
accountable, prioritize their work for them, and keep the client updated on
the project’s progress.
Large corporate software development firms on the other hand have a
tendency to enlarge the development team as a way of adding value to their
client and explaining that it will ensure a higher product success rate if
more input is put into it.
And therefore they start adding roles onto the project that aren’t really
needed such as a Product Manager, Business Analyst, Technical Architect,
Technical Writer or extra developers to speed up production.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the bigger the team, the more
expensive the project is going to be.
The third factor which affects software development costs is what was
estimated in the estimation provided to the client and what was not
Some firms provide estimates that only include the time/cost to purely
develop the product (this means writing code only). However the efforts for
testing, bug-fixing and project management are excluded and usually only
disclosed after the project has begun.
There are several reasons for why some firms do this. One could be is that
the firm truly only has developers and doesn’t have any testers/quality
assurance engineers and project managers or perhaps they make their
estimates be artificially low on purpose, just to win the bid.
Other hidden costs which aren’t usually presented are the use of 3rd party
services which are essential and the app just wouldn’t be able to work
without them. For example: hosting, push notifications service, analytics
and application statistics service, maps service, domain name purchase,
Apple or Android developer account purchases, etc…
The final and most important factor which plays a role in an application’s
cost is, YOU !
Too many times have I heard from clients, “I want Facebook but for a
specific topic because on Facebook you can talk about anything,” or, “I
want Instagram but to only target a specific audience because on Instagram
anyone can post about anything,” or, “I want Youtube but for XYZ,” you get
What they don’t understand is that these companies are multibillion dollar
enterprises which have been evolving their platform’s look, features and
functionality for over a decade. And it isn’t possible to recreate that
with a couple thousand bucks.
Each one of these companies started with an MVP (Most Viable Product). An
MVP is one core feature that will attract users to use it.
For Facebook it was that it was accessible only to Harvard students with a
email@example.com email address to be able to register, so it
positioned itself as an elite internet social club. And for instagram it
was their photo filters.
So when your development partner tells you to go with an MVP and trim all
the bells and whistles features for later, listen to them. Otherwise you’ll
end up spending a fortune on features and functionalities only to realize
that your users not only aren’t using them, but also don’t really need
Now I know what you’re thinking, you’ve read this whole article and made it
all the way to the bottom, and you still don’t have a figure on how much
does it cost to develop a mobile app?!?!
No worries; we got you !
Now these are just ball-park figures, however to design and develop an app
on just one platform i.e. iPhone app or Android app or a Web app, you can
expect the following price ranges in the following regions:
USA or Canada anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000.
South America anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000.
Europe anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000.
South Asia anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.
Are you ready to work with a studio? Drop us a line at Reconnn!