It is often the case that after an initial and very short conversation with a prospective client on the functionality of a desired app, I always get “what will this cost?”

The actual cost of a custom mobile app will likely be between $20,000 and $1,500,000 depending on the complexity of the app. I hope that helps in terms of a monetary range. Now for the much more detailed answer.

I have listed below some custom app pricing guidelines, but first let’s discuss a few important concepts. All these are costs of software development even before our developers create the project in their development tools. These actions all take time and energy of our development team.

Actions we take before we begin a development effort:

  1. I can’t possibly give you a meaningful price for a custom mobile native app without first going through a discovery process that results in a wireframe document. There is a fee for this process. 
  2. If you don’t have an Apple iTunesConnect account or a Google Play account, it takes time and money to set one up for you. To give you “ad hoc” builds, (alpha builds) requires setting up a test account in iTunes Conenct.
  3. A project manager begins the planning effort with our client and our development team.
  4. I have to bring my app developer(s) up to speed with the concept, and put the “stories” into our agile development system so we can build it as fast as possible and as correctly as possible for our clients.
  5. We have our QA specialist become involved as we create the stories in our agile tool so all the details of the app are understood prior to seeing the first iteration build of the app to test.
  6. We create a Git source code control repository so we can track the changes of the code during development and ensure the code is protected from loss.

App Development Cost Estimates

Software development may be the most expensive part of a mobile app system project, but success only happens with expert help from the other disciplines including, graphic design, project management and quality assurance. When reviewing the items below keep in mind, all those efforts are included in the price.

  • Discover and Wireframes, $5,000 - $25,000.  The range depends upon if it is a simple app or needs cloud services.
  • App UI/UX design. $5,000 - $40,000. If you want your app to have a UI/UX that is tops in the market, it has to be designed with fonts, color, animation and depth.
  • Simple app that doesn’t talk to any servers and a simple design, $20,000.  If you don’t understand why, re-read the first section again.
  • A simple app with a fantastic UI/UX experience, $25,000 - $45,000. Getting color, fonts, layout and animations to be perfect takes massive engineering and design hours, with many alpha builds for our client. This adds up to time, energy, and money.
  • An app that connects with your servers using your APIs,  $45,000 - $95,000.  Whenever we work with existing server APIs it takes many hours of coordination just to get it working.  We have to test on your test servers and then we have to test on your production servers.
  • An app with a companion cloud service both built from scratch  $85,000 - $250,000. This a very common project for both our enterprise clients and our startup clients. 
  • If you want an entire mobile app system created. This means a complex app, with fantastic UI/UX and a custom cloud implementation that manages user accounts, and other features of the system via a web interface. It usually includes a web portal for your customers and your management team. It often includes its own marketing website as well.  It will also include iPhone, iPad and Android apps. As you can see, this involves a lot of work and man hours to produce.  Price tag?  $300,000 to $1,500,000 depending upon what the app actually does. Yes,1.5 million dollars.

What is the cost of NOT doing a mobile app for your business?

I don’t have a specific answer to that question. I do have a series of questions for the leadership of a business to understand what is really at stake.

Have you assessed the marketplace to understand what mobile is doing to your business?  
What are your primary competitors doing with mobile and how is it impacting your business? 
What are your secondary competitors doing with mobile and how is it impacting your business?  
What are your tertiary competitors doing with mobile and what impact is it having on your customers?