A Comprehensive Look Into the Cost of Building an App

The global mobile app market is unstoppable. In 2021, it was valued at $187.58, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 13.4 percent through 2030. Not that this is surprising – apps offer many undeniable benefits. They simplify transactions, personalize user experiences, boost branding and marketing, and more.

However, a mobile app is not a plug-and-play solution that can be left to work independently. No matter how great your app idea is, it requires careful planning, especially regarding funding. While app development is not the most expensive tech job in the world, it does require significant financial resources.

If you plan to incorporate mobile app technology into your overall business strategy, you're looking in the right direction. But to get off to a great start, you must understand the costs involved. This way, you'll be more prepared to embark on the project.

Key Takeaways

  • Many factors play a role in the cost of app development.
  • Analyzing each stage of app development offers a valuable perspective in understanding the total cost of the process.
  • An app's level of complexity is often a good benchmark in determining the total cost of its development. .

Factors Affecting Mobile App Development Cost

Most people think app development costs are only affected by time and professional fees. In reality, a whole world of factors is at play, and it pays to analyze them thoroughly. Let's take a look at each one.

Business model

Your business model is often the most important factor when estimating the cost of building your mobile application. The more sophisticated it is, the more time it takes to meet its every need.

The longer your developer works on your app, the bigger your costs grow. That goes for a freelancer or anyone from your chosen mobile app development company. When analyzing your needs based on your business model, they will focus on the following:

Let's say you're an online retailer. Your app may require many third-party integrations or application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable various shopping features. These include product searches, online chat platforms like WhatsApp, payment gateways, and the rest. Generally, the more native app features, integrations, and APIs you need, the higher your costs.

On the other hand, if you're a manufacturer only looking to streamline your internal operations, that simplifies the scenario. Your app will need much fewer capabilities and cost much less.

An engaging UI or front-end design is necessary for a good user experience. However, you need back-end infrastructure to make it work. That way, your app can be functional, meeting both your users' requirements and yours. Some apps are given to complex back-end demands, while others have much simpler needs.

For example, a hospital often requires a complex app with a mainframe computer for large-scale data processing and storage. The system will require a content management system (CMS) and large databases for patient records, payroll, user profile data, etc. Compare this to an app for a home-based business selling pasta sauces, ice cream, and whatnot.

The home-based entrepreneur will still need a backend developer to maintain their infrastructure needs. But their memory and processing requirements will be far less than a hospital's. Instead, they can rely on a basic server to perform simple app functions like accepting orders and payments. Between the two, it's easy to guess which app is more expensive.

Mobile apps carry and exchange data every day, and the slightest vulnerability can lead to disastrous consequences. How much risk you face with your app depends on many issues. But again, it mostly boils down to the nature of your business.

Suppose you own a car wash company that uses an app mainly for customer scheduling purposes. Assuming this will not require sensitive information from your users, renting appropriate servers will be smarter. You're choosing the cheaper route without compromising anything essential to your business.

Suppose you own an e-commerce site that handles customers' financial information daily. That changes the entire picture. Setting up dedicated servers with advanced features for security then becomes a must. It's way more expensive than renting, but it's a necessary investment in building and maintaining your customers' trust.

  • Features and functionality
  • Back-end infrastructure
  • Hosting and security

Level of UI/UX customization

Any element that affects an app's aesthetics is part of its user interface (UI) design. User experience (UX) impacts the user's experience while interacting with the app. As you can tell, UI and UX affect a user's overall satisfaction with an app, and customization is key.

Unsurprisingly, more customization for your target audience also means more costs. It's easy to design an interface specific to your users' needs. But it takes work to maintain a generality to the app that makes it work together as a unit.

This is why many companies invest a significant sum to create highly customized UI/UX designs. Some will even include app animations for entertainment. They know that a happy user is likelier to give them a sale. A generally average app can feel superb if it's easy for users to navigate.

Target platform

One thing to consider when allocating a budget for app development is the target mobile device platform. Depending on your users, it can be iOS, Android, or even both. Your app developer will usually make recommendations based on the results of various studies.

For example, as of 2022, Android has a global market share of 71.45 percent against 27.83 percent for iOS. But other factors are also to be considered, such as geolocation. In the year's second quarter, 57 percent of Canada's smartphone market was composed of iPhone users. iOS may be more dominant in the U.S. and Japan, but it's a 50 percent split in the U.K.

In any case, you'll have three ways to go. You can build an Android app or an iOS app at more or less equal costs. You can also create a cross-platform app that works simultaneously on both platforms. However, this will be pricier.

Your third option is building a single app in two versions – one for iOS and one for Android. While substantially more expensive than the first two choices, platform-specific apps usually perform best, especially in user experience.

Geolocation technology

If your app requires location features, Global Positioning System (GPS) is one of the most common technologies you can use. But there are others, too, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), the latest version of Bluetooth.

Your choice of geotechnology usually impacts your app's total cost. For example, GPS requires no additional infrastructure, but BLE technology does. While praised for its batteries' longevity and low power consumption, BLE requires location markers known as geobeacons to work. You need more of these for better accuracy, which also increases your costs.

Although a battery-powered beacon is cheaper than a wired one, it's still more expensive and even less accurate than GPS. The only advantage offered by BLE is that it works outdoors and indoors. Depending on your operations, your developer will provide suggestions. And sometimes, you will need a hybrid app combining different technologies to meet your needs fully.

Ongoing vs. on-demand maintenance

Regardless of your type of app, you'll always need maintenance. Some business owners think they're good with an app rich in features or offering good UX. But again, the app development process is not a one-shot deal.

Post-launch support is as necessary as the development process because it dictates how long that app will stay relevant. Maintenance can include code optimization, updating third-party integrations to their latest versions, fixing bugs, and many more.

At any rate, app maintenance can either be on-demand or ongoing. The first option is often cheaper and wiser if your app is relatively simple. You spend money only when there's a compelling need, such as a glitch during your business's peak season.

Of course, it's different with more elaborate apps handling massive volumes of data. If that sounds more like your app, you'll want an app development team that works on it round-the-clock. Not only will your maintenance costs become cheaper in the long run. You and your users will be safer as well.

Costs at Every Stage of the Development Process

Python App Development
Source: Unsplash

Knowing the resources you need to build an app is an excellent start to estimating its financial requirements. For a deeper perspective, you can look into this app development cost breakdown based on the stages of project management. You will see how each affects the cost and learn ways to reduce it.

Business Analysis

This development stage begins with your developer's business analyst wanting to know more about you. Hence, expect them to ask many questions even before you receive a quote. Here are the three goals that usually guide developers at this stage of the project.

  • Ensure that your expectations are realistic and well-understood by the coders.
  • Define best app store practices for Google Play Store and App Store.
  • Identify the most efficient and effective technologies that meet your requirements.

In most cases, the business analysis will eat up to 10 percent of the total app development price. But there are ways to minimize this cost.

One is by looking for another app with the same features and functionality you need. You can also create a unified modelling language (UML) or a blueprint that keeps everyone on the same page. You can research and implement proven business analysis best practices that apply to the app you need.

UX/UI and Clickable Prototyping

As soon as the app requirements are properly documented, UX/UI design can begin. This part should be flawless, knowing its tremendous impact on overall user satisfaction. However, don't stop at drawing interfaces. Make them clickable so you get a real-world appreciation of how the app will work for its intended users.

Like business analysis, prototyping will consume 10 percent or even 15 percent of your total mobile app cost. This will depend on the intricacy of the app design. Again, there's always a way to cut costs.

For example, you can use stock UI elements in Google and Apple. You can also search online for UI kits that you can use for your app. The good thing is there are kits for both iOS and Android users. Otherwise, you can draw from the apps you particularly like. However, ensure you're clear about each feature and functionality you want and for what reasons.

Needless to say, click-thru prototyping is critical to app development because it leads to the most expensive part: coding.


As you might imagine, coding is not a job for many. Few will study to write long strings of code. Even if there were more, only a handful have the true talent to thrive. This is why coding is the priciest stage of app development.

Of course, these developers also spend considerable time completing the job. Not to mention they collaborate with other developers and team members too. All these add to your app development costs. How can you save money on coding? Here are five ways to start.

  • Be extremely careful in choosing a developer. Hiring a new one means going through the process repeatedly, including paying for the same app development services.
  • Use software development kits (SDKs) for basic features and functionality, such as customer messaging, social media, and push notifications.
  • App code templates are great, but you still need to make necessary changes according to your needs. If the template provider doesn't work with you on this, forget it. You'll only ask your coders for additional work, causing a considerable dent in your budget.
  • Use multi-platform development frameworks. You could save up to 30 percent of your budget with the right one.
  • Finalize the features and functionality you need for your app before you start coding. Once this stage begins, any new features you add can skew your budget significantly.

Quality Assurance (QA) Testing

A saying goes among developers: testing is expensive, but not testing is even more. In avoiding the cost, some might question why QA testing is necessary when the developer has already said it works.

First off, developers will always be guilty of creator's bias. If an issue seems minor from their perspective, they may not address it, even if it's huge for users. Creators can also hyperfocus on bugs and forget the larger purpose: satisfy users.

These and more are why apps must be tested, not only by creators but also by professional app testers. The testing process is comprehensive, scrutinizing up to 11 areas of the finished product, such as installation, memory, performance, etc. For this reason, testing can consume 10 to 15 percent of your app development budget.

To minimize costs, you can start app testing as soon as possible. The earlier you catch the errors, the more money you can save correcting them. Automation is also beneficial. You'll save development time as well as money.

Lastly, stay open to outsourcing from other countries like India and the Philippines, where testers charge much lower hourly rates. As long as you research, you can hire overseas testers while maintaining high-quality results.

Project Management

A project manager plays an essential role in mobile application development. They hold the reins for the whole process, from start to finish. Hence, they are ultimately responsible for the outcome of the project. No wonder this role is equivalent to up to 15% of the total app budget.

How do you trim the budget for app development project management? You don't. It's the riskiest aspect of app development, and there are no taking chances with it.

Overall Baseline Costs

Abillion Mobile App
Source: Unsplash

It's safe to say that the price you pay to build an app will depend on the project's complexity. The average cost of app development in Canada is CAD45000, but here are the final cost benchmarks according to complexity:

  • Simple – CAD30,000 to CAD40,000
  • Medium – CAD40,000 to CAD90,000
  • Complex – CAD150,000+

Note that the above are mere estimates of the cost of app development. They also don't include a cost estimate for updates, which can depend on the specific version and the update's significance.

Did you know?

Mobile app downloads have been steadily increasing since 2016, breaching the 200 billion mark in 2019. In 2021, users downloaded 230 mobile apps worldwide, a 63 percent jump from 2016.

Let Brain Box Labs Handle Your App Development Needs

An app can make things easier for users to transact with your business. But behind its attractive interface and powerful functionality is a tedious process that comes with a cost. Nonetheless, app development is always worth every penny, especially nowadays. This is especially true when you partner with a reputable mobile application development company like Brain Box Labs.

Reach out to Brain Box Labs today, and we'll help you leverage technology to help your business succeed. Give us a call, and let's get started!


Frequently Asked Questions

Back in the day, building an app was a highly extensive and expensive project. All that has changed today, thanks to advances in software technology. Even a development agency that works with large companies is now more flexible. They have no qualms about working with startups or small businesses.

App development will not give you any direct monetary returns. However, you can recover the cost of your investment through increased customer trust and loyalty. Moreover, you can improve public perception of your brand and get a boost in customer purchase intent.

The answer is yes. Your website can have problems that your app can solve, such as slow-loading pages and hard-to-fill forms. Your app will be faster by a mile and more user-friendly too. Often, this increases your conversion rate through in-app purchases.

Of course, apps offer another channel for mobile marketing through push notifications. It also increases your brand's visibility whenever people see your logo on their home screen. It builds brand recall and helps increase your sales.