Red Pepper Blog

It’s 2018. How Much Does It Really Cost To Develop An App?

In the last five years, we at Red Pepper Software have watched mobile technologies and apps flood the markets in nearly all industries. Many, many of us –– small cafe owners to CTOs of Fortune 500 enterprises –– have laid awake asking ourselves, “Should I build it? What would it take? Who could do it?? Can we get a return?” At this point in the technological development of our world, at least considering the development of a custom mobile app for your business is crucial.

Still, after the initial creative process is over, the cost of the application will always rise toward the most-significant part of the discussion. What financial resources are needed to launch a mobile app? Would the cost be justifiable for your business?

That is exactly what we’re here to answer. This article will be your ultimate source as you gather answers to all of the following, essential financial questions as you consider building your own, custom application:

  • What is the cost structure of a mobile app?
  • What is the cost of a mobile app?
  • What kind of functionality should be included?
  • What platform should you choose?
  • What OS do you start with?
  • How to market your app?

Custom App Development – The Basics

There are several unavoidable basics you must consider when calculating the cost of custom app development, including:

  • Quality of your MVP (minimum viable product).
    An MVP is absolutely critical in lending you a clear understanding of your custom application and how it may evolve in the future.
  • Technical requirements and features.  You must truly understand the purpose of your app and the features related to that purpose. Is this an app that requires advanced data management, enablement of e-commerce, integrations with other applications, or any other important feature sets? If so, plan accordingly!
  • Development type.
    Will you be using an in-house team or outsourcing the project? Will your application be an enterprise-level application with many users, or a far more simple application, used in a smaller setting?
  • Development time requirement.  
    How quickly do you need the application completed? How much time will be required to map out the entire project, organize a solid architecture for development, execute on development, test and optimize the app, and implement and/or integrate the app? These are key questions.
  • Application platform.
    You must decide whether you need an Android or iOS app. Now, you can absolutely choose both, but at that point, you’ll need to choose again between two types of development: cross-platform (one app for two platforms) and native (a separate app for each platform).


Cost of Mobile Application – Some Key Factors

The required budget for your MVP will begin to take a much more refined shape after you make a decision relating to the technical requirements of your app, such as your application’s required speed and the potential development labor costs based on whether you’ll be building in-house or outsourcing.

Before starting, you must keep in mind that investing in a mobile app should aim at striking a balance between these three aforementioned factors: technical requirements, application speed, and development labor costs.  Attuning the cost of app development commonly involves some type of  compromise or phased development plan, but it is you who chooses if and where you might make these compromises.


Custom Application Quality – Trust Us, This Matters

The level of quality at which your app performs, once complete, will solely depend on the level of expertise of your development partner. If you need a simple app that won’t be performing any critical functions (really, just for fun), you can turn to relatively young companies, small shops. or use a mobile app maker with ready-made modules to create an app yourself. Here, the price can start in the $2,000- $15,000 range.

However, if quality and/or dependability is important for your app, you must consider the outsourcing of an experienced mobile development team. Psst! As a shameless plug and reminder, ahem… that’s exactly who and what we are, here at Red Pepper Software –– a team of absolute experts who thrive on building what matters to you.


Mobile App Features – How Will They Impact App Development Costs?

An experienced team can help as you look for custom features such as multi-user interfaces, advanced UI/UX design, data management, integrations with other applications or software, user-centric engagement, in-app purchases, location services, push notifications, custom roles and permissions, and many other mobile app feature sets. Now, although these features may sound advanced, they realistically tend to be quite common requirements for a quality application in today’s fast-paced business landscape.

Should you require any of those, or any similar application features, you will find yourself traveling well beyond a “simple application”. In this territory, budgets can vastly fluctuate but tend to start at roughly $25,000 or so. Concurrently, every new feature, technology, and/or additional development will require an increase in budget, simply due to the extreme demand on time and labor.


Simple Apps vs. Enterprise Apps – What To Consider?

As we mentioned earlier, when you find yourself in need of a simple, less-critical app, calculating the cost can be relatively easy. On the other hand, large-scale enterprise software demands a comprehensive approach. There are many factors to consider as you determine what you’ll need, but below we’ve listed just a few key areas of impact.

A few elements that will impact your enterprise-level applications:

  • The size of your business and the application use
  • Application use-type (sales app, training app, etc.)
  • Scalability of the app in question
  • Required level of security for the application
  • Integrations of the app with other software as a part of MVP

What if I don’t need enterprise-level? How do I succeed with a more simple application?

As mentioned earlier, the cost to build a quality full-scale app can start at $25,000. If the budget for your current project looks to be less, you can still find fantastic success.

One of the most common methods used to lower the cost and extend the reach of your dollar is building a cross-platform app rather than developing separate apps for each mobile platform (i.e., iOS, Android, etc.). Cross Platform apps simply won’t perform as well as native applications, but they can be built in such a way that delivers consistent, comfortable, and enjoyable user experiences are still possible. As for other ways to compromise, that will most-definitely depend solely on the needed app and its required features. Here, the best advice is to clearly question whether your MVP actually requires certain features or capabilities. Rather than asking yourself, “Can we build it?” ask yourself, “Should we build it?”


Time is Money – Development Hours

Development time becomes a critical component as you work to calculate the cost of developing your app. This cost varies from country to country, company to company, and team to team. Developers based in the North American region can charge up to $350 per hour, while you may find Indian and Indonesian engineers charging lower rates, such as $75 per hour.

Sending your custom software development overseas can significantly reduce the cost of an application, and a lot of companies choose the option! We can’t make the decision for you, but the most important factor in that decision comes down to the quality of the final product.

So are you receiving the same product? We’ll leave that answer up to you. However, we can tell you that if you check any of the boxes below, sending your development overseas may not be your best choice….

  • I don’t care to babysit or send emails back and forth at 3am
  • I am not an experienced QA engineer for a myriad of coding languages
  • I love working with experts who know what to do and when to do it
  • I primarily speak English

The bottom line is time costs money. Results require commitment. If you want a quality product, you will either need to hire the work to those experts on your in-house team or choose to work with a reliable partner who has expert project managers, experienced development teams, and an established track record of project delivery discipline…

…like those incredible folks at Red Pepper Software. ; )


App Operating Platform – A Final, But Key Decision

How much does it cost to make an iPhone app?

If you set out to research the cost of an app by yourself, you will soon notice that one of the most popular questions is  “How much does it cost to make an iPhone app?” The question is not that complex, but we will touch on it briefly.

If we put all the aforementioned general factors aside, iOS development cost is affected by the strict requirements of Apple’s App Store. Their specific requirements include language(s), formatting, the requirements of the iOS mobile app development toolkit, and more. In other words, you should utilize a high level of expertise before submitting anything to them for App Store distribution — it is better to hire a reliable partner with a strong focus on iOS mobile development, than to ‘wing it’ and hope things turn out alright.

How much does it cost to make an Android app?

Yes, you may see iPhones all over your office and only think to care about developing for the Apple operating system, iOS. However, if your application needs a broad appeal, you must consider the more than 2 billion active users currently on Android.

So, “how much does it cost to make an Android app?” In the majority of cases, calculating the cost of Android app development requires you to consider a set of factors similar to that of the Apple App Store, and the answer is nearly the same: you will need solid, all-around Android expertise. This includes the requirements and, most importantly, expertise in working with custom and/or open-source operating systems built utilizing the Android OS.


Mobile App Development Cost – Final Notes

In the end, no digital article or bit of advice will help you calculate the exact cost to develop your custom app. There are simply far too many factors to consider, which leads us to our conclusion.

We’ve seen far too many applications and other custom software projects blow up in people’s faces simply because they were trying to ‘do it themselves’, or ‘save a buck or two’.  The bottom line is you need help –– you need expert help. And we know! We know! That can be expensive! That’s why we do things the way that we do.

Here at Red Pepper Software, we want to get to know you. We want to understand what matters to you and we want to get this right.  So, we offer you a completely custom, all-inclusive consultation… FOR FREE!

It’s simple. We’ll either sit down and meet in person or jump on a supportive conference call to understand your goals, your vision, and your MVP requirements, and then return to you with a comprehensive quote and development game plan for how we’ll help you with what matters to you. Again, FOR FREE!


At Red Pepper Software we build what matters. Give us just 60 minutes, and we’ll prove it to you.