App development - mobile

How much should you pay to develop an app?

How much does it cost to develop a mobile application? It is a question that many ask, but one that is not easy to answer. Indeed, whether it's an idea for a new app, a tool for your business, or a video game, it is difficult to know what the final cost of the project will be.
By reading this article, you will know why it is complex to estimate the price of a development project and why Agile methods are seen by experts and clients as the ideal solution to control costs.
Whether you are walking in the street, enjoying a dinner on a terrace, or spending time with friends and family, it has become quite common to have your smartphone within reach. Following significant popularity, new applications have seen a marked increase in the past five years.

Developing the basic idea

Before taking any steps, it is crucial to think about your project in detail. You must have a clear and precise idea of your project in order to guide the teams that will accompany you throughout the realization of your project.
This meticulous preparation work will reduce the developers' working costs.
We invite you to consult our article on beginner's tips for creating a mobile application:

What is the front end and the back end?

The front end:
It is all the elements that are visible to users on the application. This corresponds to the UI/Ux user experience which encompasses:
  • the design of the application
  • the visual contents
  • the position of the buttons
  • the type of navigation
  • the backlinks.
The back end:
It is the hidden face of the iceberg including the programming of all the elements in the background that make the application work smoothly. This is what allows users to perform an action on the front end.
The front end and the back end are therefore complementary, as without one or the other, an application will not function.
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Here is a summary of prices for developing a mobile application.

How much does a mobile application cost (Updated in 2023 using Canadian rates)

Differentiating Factor Freelancers Small Development Agencies Large Agencies
Price $50 - $150 $75 - $200 $150 - $500+
Availability Limited Limited (may vary) Most available
Expertise Specialized High degree of expertise Large and diverse teams
Versatility Customizable Customizable More rigid processes
Customer service Personalized Personalized More standardized processes
Scalability Limited Limited Most scalable
Typical project methodology Varied Agile or waterfall Waterfall or agile
Average project size (CAD) $10,000 - $60,000 $50,000 - $150,000 $150,000+

The different programming languages. Which one to choose?

Two types of development methods

The Agile methodology

The Agile methodology is actually a series of innovation methods that focus on transparency, communication, and iteration of processes. The development process is divided into short cycles (sprints) that will be repeated until product satisfaction. In other words, it allows an application to be adapted as it is being developed.
Concretely, before each sprint, a detailed list of tasks and goals is established. Developers work intensively to deliver the expected results. At the end of each sprint, which usually lasts two weeks, a functional version of the product is presented. This is a finished product, but one that is still perfectible.
The client evaluates this version, what they like, what they don't like, what features need to be added or removed, etc. After this evaluation, it is up to the client to decide if they want to proceed with a new iteration and refine the mobile application.
This method allows for several tasks to be performed at the same time and therefore requires excellent teamwork and communication.
*What is a sprint? A sprint is a unit of time (often 2 to 7 days) during which a team of developers focuses on completing several tasks before they are reviewed and corrected as needed.
  • Faster programming due to sprints
  • Functionality tests done as the development progresses making it easier to correct errors
  • Reliable planning
  • Freedom of planning
  • Projects that are more adaptable to new client requirements
  • More frequent communication with the client allowing for visibility on possible changes and better responsiveness
The client determines the priority of tasks to be performed.
  • The client must be available and involved throughout the entire creation process, or the development teams will not have the necessary tools for the project to progress smoothly.
  • Like the client, the teams must also constantly be available to each other to be effective. Communication is key!!!
  • Sprints can sometimes be relatively short when the difficulty of the tasks to be performed is high.

The Cascade Method

The Cascade method is the basic model for development. It is a methodology that divides the entire project into distinct phases. In this method, a phase cannot be started until the previous phase is completed.
Each step of this method requires requirements and decisions to be made before moving on to the next phase.
  • Simple to use and understand method
  • Clear basic planning and visibility of the entire project
  • Easier management of deliverables
  • Requirements are known by all before the start of development, allowing the teams to know what to base their programming on.
  • The client has visibility into the costs that their project will incur.
  • The progress of the project is easier to analyze.
The client is more free as they do not need to be involved in the creation.
  • If the client wants to make changes to a phase that has already been completed, this is often difficult to do without starting over.
  • It can be difficult to make changes to the project schedule.
  • This method can be slow as each phase must be completed before moving on to the next one.

Who is part of the development team?

Most successful application development teams consist of the following positions:
UI/UX Designer: This person creates all the visual content that will be coded into your application. This is the front-end part of the development.
Account Manager: This individual acts as a liaison for clients and will have to work directly with product managers, manufacturers, and other team members to coordinate the completion of various tasks. As a client, you may easily take on this role within the project, but without experience in application development, it is not recommended.
Product Manager: The product manager is responsible for executing all functions of a director by supervising the application development process.
Developers: Development is an exceptionally important role as developers understand the ins and outs of optimization for iPhone or Android needs.
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Whom to turn to? Specialized agency or freelancer?

Several options are available to you for the development of your mobile application.

Hiring a freelancer

A freelancer allows you to save on expenses. In fact, their hourly rates are often cheaper than if you turn to an agency (20% to 30% cheaper).
Before hiring a freelancer, it is important to ask the right questions about their skills, as the freelancer will have to take care of the entire structure both front and back end. They must therefore be an expert in all these domains, what we call a full-stack developer.
The freelancer must also have a close knowledge of all platforms and types of applications that can be developed. Be extremely vigilant, as anyone can sell their developer services with little experience and false references to appear better.
Hiring a single freelancer may be in line with your needs if your project is very simple and does not require a tight creation deadline. If this is not the case, you will need to hire several freelancers to work together.
Freelancers must be guided and accompanied permanently to provide good work. This task falls to you. You are the project manager!
Knowing that in programming, communication between developers is the foundation, you must ensure that your team of freelancers is able to communicate easily at any time. It is therefore recommended to hire freelancers located on the same continent to avoid communication-related issues between them.

Hiring an Agency

There are several types of agencies in the market: small, medium, and large.
The advantage of working with an agency is that it already has all the necessary team of professionals for the successful completion of the project. Hiring an agency guarantees a quality result. But do not underestimate the costs that it may incur.
The agency will offer you a turnkey service to make your task easier and make creating the project easier and more enjoyable for everyone. You don't have to take care of anything (well, almost).
If you hire an agency specializing in mobile application development, it will have higher quality requirements to guarantee deliverables within deadlines.

What factors influence prices?

Risk management: As with any project management, challenges and obstacles can arise at different stages during the development of an application. These situations can extend the duration of the project and influence the total price. Since unforeseen events and their consequences are difficult to predict, it is almost impossible to estimate the costs they will incur.
Novelty: Some people sometimes have a brilliant idea, so innovative that there is nothing like it on the application market. In general, these new applications tend to represent a greater challenge for the developer. There is additional complexity: creating new algorithms, ensuring that all processes and systems communicate with each other, etc. In such a context, developing a new application becomes a more difficult project to plan.
Even with a thorough analysis of needs, several changes and unforeseen events can occur during the creation process. The price is therefore more difficult to anticipate, even for an experienced developer.
Subjectivity: A custom-developed application always has a subjective aspect. Since it is customized to the client's taste, it is possible (and even likely) that the client will change their mind during the creation process to reach a perfect final version. Thus, the client will have ergonomic preferences, such as the location of a button, the color of an icon, etc. These changes are impossible to predict at the time of submitting the development of the application, but they still affect the duration and cost of the project.

The type of application

Native application

A native application is an application specifically designed for a specific device such as Android or iOS. These applications are only downloadable via official stores such as Google Play Store or Apple's App Store. The development of a native application requires a good knowledge of the platform's programming language, which increases the price. In addition, this type of application is generally faster and more stable than other types of applications, making it a popular choice among developers.

Cross-platform application

A cross-platform application is an application that can run on multiple platforms such as Android, iOS, and web. The development of a cross-platform application is generally less expensive than a native application. This is because the developer does not need to create a different version for each platform. However, the performance and user experience may be slightly lower

Application web progressive (PWA)

Progressive web applications work on mobile browsers. They are websites that are optimized and designed to perfectly adapt to mobile display. Unlike native applications, progressive web applications do not allow the user to access phone features such as camera, photo gallery or contact list...

Hybrid application

Hybrid applications are a mix between native and progressive web applications. This allows the application to launch on different devices while allowing the user to access their smartphone's features. However, this type of application can sometimes pose performance issues because they are made using a single code.

UI/UX Front End Design

When developing an application, it is important to understand that the user experience is of utmost importance. The design of this interface is therefore crucial in giving the application an attractive appearance.
The programming of this interface is mainly based on layout, clickable elements, color palette, typography, etc.
This step should not be neglected as it is a complex step that requires a lot of creativity and often requires an additional budget investment for your project.

Back End Infrastructure.

The cost will vary depending on the details you will integrate into this structure and the parameters. It is important to understand that the back end will allow your application to communicate well with each other and provide the user with a smooth and simple navigation. You should therefore plan a budget accordingly with your quality expectations.

Choice of Platform?

Once you have decided to create a mobile application, you now need to choose the platform on which you want to run it.
You should ask yourself who you want to target? Do users of this application use an iOS or Android system or both? Is it better to start by distributing the application on a single platform?
The reality is that the programming cost of an application for an iOS or Android system is potentially the same. What will increase the price is if you want to use both platforms, as the development team will have to use two different codes, as the programming languages used on the two platforms are not the same.

Features and functionalities

To calculate the budget for creating a mobile application, it is necessary to determine all the features you want to integrate into this application. You will have no choice but to make a precise list of your expectations in order to determine the budget to be allocated, as each feature represents a cost and a more or less important time investment.
The more complex the features, the longer the task will be and the budget will increase. If your budget is tight, you may have to restrict yourself to abandoning some features.
The features that will vary the price can range from simple to complex, including:
  • A secure login system with a password reset option
  • The ability to download files
  • User profile creation and modification
  • Creation of a classic instant messaging system
  • A notification system
  • Integration of a map and geolocation system
  • A secure payment system.

Location of the development team

Developers can be found anywhere in the world. What you need to know is that their skills are sometimes the same. The only thing that changes is the cost of their hiring which will be very different.
If you have a very tight budget and every economy is necessary, then it may be advisable to look into the subject to find less costly agencies around the world.
North America is one of the places in the world where development...
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So, how much does it costs to develop a mobile application?

There are several aspects to consider when working in the mobile app development industry. A good way to start is by examining the different aspects of development. Obtaining details and information about the cost of app development is a good reference point to consider for an initial price estimate.
One of the simplest ways to estimate the cost of app development is to follow this formula: (features x time) x hourly rate = cost
Here's a detailed chart that highlights every price criterias, per type of service provider:
Differentiating Factor Freelancers Small Development Agencies Large Agencies
Price $50 - $150 $75 - $200 $150 - $500+
Availability Limited Limited (may vary) Most available
Expertise Specialized High degree of expertise Large and diverse teams
Versatility Customizable Customizable More rigid processes
Customer service Personalized Personalized More standardized processes
Scalability Limited Limited Most scalable
Typical project methodology Varied Agile or waterfall Waterfall or agile
Average project size (CAD) $10,000 - $60,000 $50,000 - $150,000 $150,000+

Application maintenance

Application maintenance is a crucial factor that can help estimate the cost of the application. According to research conducted by top organizations, application maintenance costs 20% of the overall cost of an application development project. You may be wondering what elements included in application maintenance increase the cost of application development. Let's start with:

Application hosting

Application hosting is a source of data storage on the server. So, you may need to consider the estimated hosting costs, which can range from $800 to $4,000 per year.

Application Analysis

Once you have launched your mobile application, the next step is to track its performance. To do this, you can connect to any analytics platform, but you will not be able to calculate the cost of the service in advance. The reason is that the price varies depending on the number of users of the application.

Application Marketing

The cost of application marketing depends on the tools and platforms you use. An estimate of the app development budget suggests that iOS apps cost $3.6 for each installation, and Android apps cost $1.22

Application Updates

The cost of modification depends on the nature of the change you are adding to your application. Let's say you are fixing a minimum in your application, and that will cost less than adding a feature. Bug fixes cost $2,000, while adding a feature costs over $6,000 in app development.

Salaries of a mobile app development team:

Apart from these factors, the cost of a mobile app development project heavily depends on the cost of hiring a mobile app development team. The team responsible for developing a mobile application for your business may include:
  • UI/UX Developer
  • Project Manager
  • Android or iOS Developer
  • Front-end Developer
  • Back-end Developer
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer
Hiring these experts can help you estimate the cost of an application. App developers work in collaboration with a project manager for overall project management and ensure developing an app with quality assurance.
The time required to create an app is crucial to estimating the software development budget. Here, we will discuss how the duration of an app project directly affects the app budget. Software development of a simple app takes 2 to 4 months. The app development process for the intermediate-level app takes time from 6 to 10 months, and the duration of complex mobile app development takes up to a year. Thus, the scope, personnel, and time of the project can help you estimate the average cost of developing an app.
Furthermore, you can perform a breakdown of app development costs to estimate the app development cost. The reason is that the breakdown of app development costs addresses all factors that impact app development cost.

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