Survey: Key Factors of Mobile App Development Cost

When it comes to the world of mobile applications, one of the main questions that any business asks is “How much does it cost to develop a mobile application?” The cost of developing a mobile app varies widely as per requirements and audience. GoodFirms undertook interview with 12 leading mobile app development companies to analyse the drivers that regulate the mobile app development cost.

The participants included Myplanet , OnGraph Technologies LLC , Clavax Technologies LLC , Appus Studio , The Better Bunch , Intersog, Inc. , Touch Instinct , Blue Label Labs , Redmadrobot, AppInventiv Technologies , AppSquadz Technologies Private Limited , and SayOne Technologies

DEMOGRAPHICS

Mobile development organizations focus on certain parameters to determine the final cost of the app. To gain an insight on these key points, the research study attracted multiple respondents from different locations. Respondent organizations include both single country companies and multinational companies.

Geography

Survey participants represent six countries namely United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russia, India and Canada. 50% of the respondents are headquartered in India and United States. A little over 65% of them have multiple global presences.

Market Outreach & Company Size

75% of the respondents have been in business for more than five years, majority of them having experience of serving clients for about a decade. The typical respondent representing 40% of the organizations surveyed had between 201 and 500 employees and 50% of responders had employee strength between 51 and 200 employees, mainly businesses with a foot hold in the market for an average of six years.

Hourly Rates

Nearly half of the survey responders charge anything between $25 and $49 for each hour of work they do. The highest hourly rates were mainly charged by companies having major of their operations in the United States and Canada. Mobile application developers in Europe and Asia keep their hourly charges to a maximum of $100.

DRIVERS THAT REGULATE COST

Building a mobile application asks for a gigantic monetary investment. Each mobile application whether consumer oriented or business oriented is unique and focuses on certain core functionality. A process goes into creating a successful mobile app and it does not come for free. App development is an expensive activity and this survey highlights the key determinants of mobile app development cost so that you’ll be able to deliver the best return on investment.

Understanding the Scope, Features and Functionality of the App

More than half of the respondents mentioned the functionality and features needed for the app as the key factor that drives the cost of an app. The discovery phase of the app involves understanding the business flow, the goal and purpose of the app, and how the app will improve current business processes. It’s at this initial point that the development team gains an understanding of what functionality and features are required. The functionalities and features of an app will play a major role in the overall cost. Creating a unique, attractive yet user friendly app design also has great weightage when finalising the price of an app.

How complex is the mobile application? The business logic of the mobile application to be implemented forms the building block of any mobile app, defining the features and the complexity of the features. Thus the cost range of a mobile application varies based on the business logic. Let’s take a beauty information website as an example. One version of the mobile app can be simple where users read based on categories like skincare and DIY beauty treatments, or the other version which is complex and collects data about customer’s preferences and then make recommendations accordingly. The latter has more complex business logic and would definitely be more expensive to build.

The type of app to be built is also a key factor to be taken into consideration when determining app development cost. Gaming app require lots of graphics including 3D effects and make use of other built-in mobile mechanisms whereas a business app deals with content, database management systems and high security features. Designing all these different categories of apps requires different focus areas and thus multifaceted features are worked upon thus defining varied price points for diverse mobile applications.

"We evaluate the complexity of the design requirements, number of distinct user groups, geographic considerations, and complexity of the subject matter. From a product adoption perspective, we look into the amount of effort that goes into the testing and planning to make sure we get the right adoption experience. We also consider as to whether we are doing a full native or a hybrid approach because that makes a huge difference. Then from a development perspective, the business logic, the number of features and integrations, and testing requirements also influence the cost."

Platforms and Devices

Different platform (native or hybrid) plays an important factor in deciding the cost of a mobile application. Different devices or different platforms mean different charges. Some platform options are more expensive than others. In case of developing a native app for both iOS and Android, different teams would be working for both development requirements which doubles the development cost. Unlike Android, where both versions of the app can be developed by a single team, getting double output for less cost is more favourable.

Similarly, defining the type of devices for which the app is being developed is also a critical factor in determining the cost of the app. Building an app for devices (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry or iPad) is different as all will have different sets of integration. Different platforms mean different costs. Supporting different generations of the same device can also be an added factor that increases the price.

Having to build versions of the app in landscape and portrait orientation also has impact on the overall cost. Augmenting for both portrait and landscape for a phone app will increase the complexity of displaying information to users and thus the cost of handling it because of the smaller screen size of the mobile phones. For tablets with larger screen size, adjusting the interface is comparatively easier and both orientations can be supported at little lower prices.

"The platform whether it’s going to be iOS or android, the screens like is it just for mobiles or for tablets or both, the orientation - portrait or landscape, how much security does it require, is it a standalone app or does it require back-end integration, is it an MVP or is it a refined product."
"We look into the in-app features, hardware traction, if it needs to be native or responsive, the kind of features it is going to have and the level of complexity."
"The first one is – what platform should be supported. Of course, it will take twice more to develop an app for Android and iOS rather than to support iOS only. Then, we ask client if he needs an Admin panel, to control content in the app. Then, it's important to discuss supported devices – I mean support of tablets and/or phones. Finally, evaluation process starts and technical specialist generates estimate considering app’s size and complexity."
"The app’s functions is the key factor in deciding its cost, as planning and developing these functions represents the lion’s share of the entire app development process. Once we know these functions, our designers can determine the number of screens necessary, and our programmers can calculate the efforts necessary to realize the functions. The number of screens serves as a good rule of thumb to estimate overall cost, but functions which require significant back-end work are best estimated based on past experience."

Backend Integration & Testing

An important component that can reduce or increase the costs is the integration of a third-party service to enable a certain feature in the mobile app. App often pulls data from Web-based APIs. In case of online shopping, while purchasing a product, payment vendor integrates with the API to verify the payment without the user having to leave the app. Depending on the complexity of the app, the APIs need to be developed which determines the cost of mobile app.

In scenarios, where no proper documentation of the API is available, it becomes extremely time consuming and costly to determine the right path to inject a certain piece of information in the already existing app. This is more common when developing business or enterprise apps which requires access to patent APIs and the cost estimate in the initial stages is a pain. Also, managing the backend of any API is not an easy task, pushing new content and managing multiple users is always a costly procedure.

One of the other key steps of developing an app is testing the app for any bugs and system errors. Testing is a figurative constituent in determining the cost. It is ultimately important to conduct an extensive testing before the launch of the app. At times, multiple testing activities needs to be conducted to keep the app running or making amendments as per feedback, which comes at an additional cost which is unavoidable as it determines the success rate of the app.

"Overall complexity of features (e,g,. implementing a voice recognition solution or iris verification method will definitely add up to the cost), native vs hybrid development, number of required functions, back-end integrations. That being said, the more features you want to see in your app, the more you’ll have to pay for it."

App Security

Mobile apps widely and easily available through various app stores always bring about the concern of being secure and protected from hackers. Building a secure application involves looking for tools that help identify vulnerabilities and secure apps. Security of a mobile app is critical while developing an enterprise app. The cost of securing such data is high thus impacting the overall cost of mobile app.

Access to enterprise data, documents and unstructured information stored on the device, financial transactions records, user location are pieces of stats that are extremely sensitive and rather than taking on the risk of losing this, it is wise to invest in a good mobile app security tool and save your business from malicious hackers.

"We do pre-analytics. We have a conversation or two with the client making sure that we understand what they want. Then we move on to the personal side of things since the context behind the development are usually different: some clients have pressing deadlines (say, they have to put together an MVP before their next board meeting or their next grand proposal); some clients have a very strict budget and want to stick to the price, but care less about the duration."
"A thorough drilled-down analysis helps in deciding the cost of the project. After having the discussions and conversations with the client, we ensure that we understand what they exactly want. Then we move ahead towards time and resources required in the development of an app. As every client is usually different - some strictly wants to stick to deadlines, while some have budget constraints and they want to stick to the price. So every project is different and cost totally depends on the client’s requirements, timelines and efforts required."

Others

The survey respondents also mentioned the hourly rates, number of employees, number of hours as factors that affect the overall cost of mobile application. For many the core criterion of determining the cost of a mobile application revolved about the number of hours their team works on a particular requirement. They added that factors like app design and features were imperative but second to the hourly rates.

"Cost is determined by the complexity of the design, development, and the number of hours to solve that problem or that goes behind each feature. Number of devices (e.g., mobile, tablet, watch or TV) and number of operating systems (e.g., iOS or Android) also drive price."
"The final price of app development, currently, the number of hours going in the development is the only accountable factor."
"We work on hourly basis. At times where there are a lot of complex features in the app, it’s really impossible to give estimation at the beginning of the project."
"We do brainstorming of entire requirements and technical feasibility of the Application Project. Once our dedicated team of Business Analysts understands the entire requirements of the clients, we send out price quotation"

Conclusion

Mobile app development is a growing market and GoodFirms continues to assess the market dynamics to provide valuable and detailed insights to the readers. While today we are seeing people talking about the functions and complex features as major drivers in deciding the cost of a mobile application; there is no assurance as to how long developers see these as most imperative. It is hard to predict how these dynamics would change with time, depending on the varying hourly rates in different locations and the way app developers and consumers interact presently.Read more about what affects the time of mobile app development.

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