Mobile apps are now integral parts of life and Singapore reports the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 90%. This multi-billion-dollar industry is clearly here to stay and it is a no brainer that everyone intends on riding the mobile wave.
However, because of the differences in functionality and structure in most app ideas, it is often extremely difficult for most people to figure out how much to budget for their mobile app development, making predicting mobile app development costs a huge frustration for many companies.
Note: If you are seeking a mobile app development firm, you can save time and get up to 5 quotes from trusted local mobile app developers on the ThunderQuote platform for free.
The cost of developing a mobile app depends on factors which may include:
- Type of App
- Design & Prototyping
- Complexity of front-end
- Complexity of back-end
- Number of platforms you want it on
- Quality and speed of development
- Amount of customization that goes into the app
- Developer’s rate
Unsure of what type of mobile application or features you’re looking to develop? We will now list the various type of apps available for easier reference.
Please note that the prices vary between minimum products and full products, as well as firms with good track records for which you should budget about 80-100% more than listed.
Also note that the examples of apps such as ‘Uber, Carousell etc.’ are for your understanding of the app functionality only and are the highest tier versions of the app-type, typically running into multi-millions in mobile app development costs.
- Simple Information App (e.g. SG Buses App, Discount App)
They present information to a user who can in turn select from available options and be redirected to additional materials in the topic. In general, apps with fixed information will cost approximately $10,000 – $28,000. For information that requires constant updating, extracting data from a public API and having it’s own database, it will cost $14,000 to $41,000.
- Sale of Products & Services App (e.g. Apple Store, McDelivery App)
If you’re selling your own (single merchant) products, digital goods or services through your app, be sure to enable the ability to have user database, gallery and ecommerce functions, as well as payment functions where possible- often you would have to direct users out of system to use certain payment functions.
Be warned that transacting directing through iTunes and Play Stores can incur commission costs of up to 30% of revenue, so it’s worth investing in outside infrastructure, which can increase costs.
An app like this will usually cost $15,000 to $48,000 if it does not have geolocation functions and is a simple ecommerce store on an app (your alternative is to just use Shopify), but if it does have anything special it would be easily $19,000- $65,000 or more. Examples of these applications include location-based store maps, m-commerce applications, reservation systems and so on.
- Marketplace App (e.g. Carousell, Uber, Food Panda)
Mobile platform apps allow businesses to deliver unique features and functionalities to end users wherever they are and have a significant place in the market. What defines a marketplace app is that it connects two or more distinct groups with demand and supply roles. These applications are very complex and require extensive development. Often, market forces also require you to make changes to the system.
These apps will cost approximately $25,000 to $85,000 at market rates, more if you have special tracking / matching, geolocation or other analytical functions.
- Multi User Platform App (e.g. Telegram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Yelp)
Multi-user apps have the capability to engage users together instantaneously. They have built-in functions for submission of listings and reviews, sharing information with each other and communication between users. These apps typically range from $42,000 to $96,000 or more.
- Game Apps (e.g. Flappy Bird, Fun Run, Pokemon Go)
Game applications might seem to be all fun and light-hearted, but are actually the most expensive of all mobile applications. Most game apps usually have some complex systems to incorporate the 3D effects and some other features, and the mobile app development teams for game apps require talents ranging from:
- Game designers / balancers
- Sound effects
- Concept Artists
Game mobile app development costs range from $80,000 to $160,000, depending on the complexity of built-in features – multiple users, 2D or 3D visuals, cross-platform for multiple devices, API integration etc. A social game application like Farmville costs $150,000 to $450,000+.
- User Productivity / Content Creation App (e.g Dropbox, Evernote)
Applications are typically targeted at workflow improvements in the office or organisation are usually called User Productivity applications, and there are two types of these applications.
Dropbox is a networked Software as a Service (SaaS) application. SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. Such applications which harness office workflows between multiple users have much more complex databases and protocols due to the need to interface between multiple parties, and typically cost approximately $20,000-$30,000 and up.
Next, we have standalone applications, which are apps that improve workflow, but work with a single user with minimal interaction with other users or software. These may vary in pricing, but at the minimum will cost $15,000. A stand-alone application deploys services locally, uses the services, and terminates the services when they are no longer needed. An example would be photo editing software on your phone.
Business process automation is being used by businesses to reduce the cost in time and money carrying out common business processes. Even complex business processes can be easily automated, streamlined, and simplified with apps for any department, any role, and any size of business.
It typically costs about $18,000-$60,000 for Manpower Coordination, Logistics, CRM, HRMS and $18,000 – $45,000 for Document Management, Finance/Accounts Records and other single module functions. Things which require full ERP implementation (ie. comprehensive multi-module functions) would be in the $50,000 to $150,000 range for simple workflows, advanced workflows going up much higher. For comparison, an SAP Ariba procurement system costs in excess of $1,000,000.
I should extend a word of caution for using mobile applications as business process automation, because often enterprise level processes and systems are very complicated, it is often unsuitable to have core database functionality on a mobile application. This is because making changes and editing mobile apps is extremely costly.
Often, it is better to build a cloud enterprise system (web-application), and then have that communicate with a mobile app with specific, specialised functionality instead.
The only sure way to find out what it will cost to get your app idea developed is to get some quotes from experienced app developers. They can discuss the details of your idea with you and give you a pretty good idea of what it will cost. Getting multiple quotes is helpful to give you an idea if a quote is too high (or too low, which can be of lower quality).
Mobile App Vendor Checklist
A handy vendor checklist to use for evaluating an app development firm is:
- How many years of development experience do they have? (Aim for at least 3 years)
- Are they coding in native (ideal) or are they using a combined development framework like Phonegap (cheaper but poor performance)
- Have they developed a mobile app that is at least 70% similar in terms of functions before, and can they show you the portfolio proof? Web applications and websites do not count.
- What is the main language in which they are used to coding in? (For mobile applications, it would be Swift & Java)
- Do they have a dedicated project manager who is willing to show you the proper timelines and buildout for each of the phases, as well as contingency plans which would be activated in case of overruns and delays in reaching specific milestones?
- Do they try to understand your business model and target audience when setting out the scope of work (ideal), or do they simply ‘take orders’ from you about every detail?
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