How much does smartphone application cost? What do costs depend on?
Our team receives many requests for smartphone app development. Usually, one of the first questions is “how much will this mobile app cost?”
(If you’re more interested in the pricing of a website, read this: How much does a website cost?)
As someone who has been asked this question hundreds of times, I would like to answer it briefly in this blog post. You won’t read clichés or empty phrases, but an authentic, honest answer to the topic. Many of the application development experiences prove my answers. It won’t be short, but if you’re thinking about app development, these 15 minutes of your life won’t be the biggest expense! Read it, it’s worth it! 🙂
A few important factors that affect the cost of a mobile app, and its ongoing cost need to be discussed
Let’s start with the most important one:
1. Do you believe that it’s only worth doing a mobile app properly, or should you just/rather not do it at all?!
If you believe in your idea and think it’s valuable, don’t be satisfied with half solutions! There are no miracles in the field of IT. Knowledge, experience and the consistent and conscious use of tried and tested methods will lead to the success of your mobile application.
What does this have to do with pricing? By the fact that the price of a mobile app is not equal to the price of a few days/weeks/months of work by a mobile app developer. The success will be achieved through a coordinated work of a complex team. It’s very complex to run a successful IT project today, so we need to forget the “one-man superhero” work style. In each area, the right expert should be hired and paid. A reliable quote is a proposal that details the work requirements for these areas of expertise, and the company is reliable if it can provide professionals who meet these criteria.
As an example, a typical mobile development project at Arteries consists of a complex work of the following roles (up to 12 separate professions): business analyst, UX designer, UI designer, software architect, back-end developer, front-end developer, iOS/Android mobile developer, software tester, IT project manager (PO / Scrum master), marketing manager, copywriter, translator.
Do you really think that all of these roles can be filled in a good quality by only one or two developers? We certainly can’t! And we’re not trying to. We think as a team, so pricing can only be arrived at after considering the complex work of such a team.
2. How well developed is your idea? How much does a mobile app development?
If a team of experts has not yet consciously created the features and wireframe of your application, the first item in the price is definitely the cost of a planning phase.
The planning phase consists of the following steps (in most cases):
- Validating the business idea for an application, formulating a value proposition
This is a Business Analyst task; you can do it yourself if you feel up to it. 🙂 You need to define who your target group is. What do they expect, what are their fears, and what is the feature for them that will help them achieve their goals and allay their fears. You need to examine the market and determine what is your advantage (unfair advantage). If you have several target groups, do this analysis for each of them. You can use Lean Canvas as a tool, it is a good template.
- UX research and design
This is a separate profession in itself (we have UX Designers). Let’s talk about it if you need help with this. If you contact us, we’ll be happy to explain the steps of our process. The most important thing is that at the end of this process, you will know what are the solutions that will make your users love your product. What will make them want to use it, why will they enjoy it, and last but not least, will it be clear and usable. The wireframe, navigation, and interaction design of your app will be ready. It’s basically a functional sketch of the operation and design.
- Visual design of the app
This includes designing your brand image, giving shape to your specific visual appearance, style and feelings. Adapting the look and feel of the interfaces designed in the previous step for different devices, platforms and resolutions. At the end of the process, our UI Designers create a UI Kit that developers can use, with software that allows for quick changes and easy adaptation to changing needs.
- Software architecture design
Based on the above, back-end, front-end and mobile software architect colleagues create the building blocks, software and infrastructure components of the mobile application, the server applications, and their interconnections, as well as the scalable server infrastructure, related container technology components and databases, which are suitable for serving the high user load. At the same time, the infrastructure required for development is also designed here: development, testing, staging, production server environments, as well as software components of the deployment (CI/CD, deploy) processes. This is a highly skilled and specialized task, and start-up teams tend to treat it too loosely and put too little emphasis on it.
- Documentation phases
It is useful to put the above plans into a structured document, so that it can be referred to in the development process.
At Arteries, we set up a separate project section for these steps and contract these tasks separately. I am convinced that this planning will determine the success of the overall project. In fact, it is no less important than the subsequent implementation phase!
We develop the application iteratively, with a lot of consultation with the client, so we usually charge by the hourly rate of the experts we invest. We close when everyone is satisfied with the result. As a rule of thumb, in 90% of cases, a mobile app development can range from 1260 USD to 12 600 USD depending on the complexity and can be completed in 2 weeks to 2 months. Of course, there are several examples of more time consuming and costly design processes.
Our very important experience is that spending on planning is NOT a waste of money! Years of experience have taught me that every planning hour wasted pays back many times over in the development process!
3. On which platforms do you want to launch the mobile app? Is the idea feasible using multiplatform development technology?
The cost of the software development phase after the planning process is multiplied by the number of platforms (iOS, Android, Huawei… etc.). Add to this the cost of developing server-side server applications (backend and frontend development work for administration interfaces) (if required for the application – but usually necessary).
Our experts will examine the functionality of the application and suggest native development (each platform has its own unique programming language – e.g. Swift, Kotlin – for the code) or alternative, so-called multiplatform technology (at Arteries, we have often used Google’s Flutter technology in recent years).
If adapted to the project, multi-platform development typically significantly reduces the development costs after the planning phase of the mobile application, and also the testing costs! Unfortunately, in return, we have to accept the potential drawbacks and limitations. All our customers are informed of this fairly, with a specific interpretation for the application in question.
4. What level of quality assurance, testing technology should we think about?
Software testing is one of the most challenging and difficult tasks to understand from the client’s perspective. Some people even think it is a “mandatory” chore for the developer and do not want to pay for it. This is a huge mistake! It is important to understand that testing is not in the developer’s interest, but in the customer’s interest, and depending on the level of technology used, it is primarily about long-term cost savings and user satisfaction.
At Arteries, we have a dedicated QA team and you can choose from 3 different QA packages for your project. These are customized to your needs and the needs of your project. (The lowest level package includes low-cost activities with few long-term benefits. The middle package already includes a significant number of automated tests, which will save you a lot of time when checking new features at launch. In our highest package, we aim to detect all bugs as automatically as possible, and create robots to check all features, which will guard the integrity of the untouched features for us during later modifications.)
The work of test engineers is one of the most complex and demanding tasks in the development process. Their work is usually priced as a percentage of the development work. At Arteries, quality assurance costs between 10-40% of development work, depending on the package.
5. The Project Manager(s), as key player(s) cost
The Project Manager is usually one person, but in some projects more than one expert is needed. In Agile projects, a Product Owner and Scrum Master should be considered.
Here I would also like to dispel a misconception: project management is not an overhead in the project! It can only become overhead if the project manager is not on the top of the situation. 🙂 🙂 A good project manager saves both the client and the project team a lot of time and annoyance with his/her organizational work. He or she organizes the needs, prioritizes the tasks with the client, organizes the daily routine, is a communication hub between the stakeholders, and usually has a big role in keeping the project milestones and deadlines, as well as in sharpening your app, uploading the different versions to the app stores. e In short: very important! 🙂 🙂
At Arteries, we calculate a project management time of 15-25% (again, the baseline is the specific development time required). The rate depends on how complex the functions of the application to be implemented are in terms of organization, communication or documentation.
6. Development of new versions of mobile applications, support, long-term joint work costs
The first version is just the beginning. Operating system version tracking, user needs, feedback, market changes, analytics lessons, new business ideas and opportunities can all be triggers for a new application development cycle.
Arteries is also a partner in the maintenance and support of the mobile app. As a general rule, for a growing, dynamic business, the cost of the first version of the application will be re-invested by the customer every 2-3 years for subsequent features.
Tip on how to calculate in your business plan: An application needs to generate a return on investment in 2 years at the latest to be sustainable in the long term.
The planning phase of a mobile application can be done for 1000 USD to 15 000 USD. This cost is (approximately) 20% of the project. Software development costs another 5000 USD to 45 000 USD on average at our company. This is combined with 10-40% QA cost (500 USD to 18 000 USD.) and 15-25% project management (750 USD to 12 000 USD).
The total project cost for the first version in 90% of our projects is between 7000 USD and 75 000 USD. Of course, we have app development projects that are much more expensive than that (for a major startup product or our banking development), but the average for us is in this range.
It’s important to understand that without a fair planning process, there’s no point in asking for a quotation from anyone, because every quoter will talk about something completely different, and will have a different solution for the same needs. Have the planning done by a team whose expertise you trust, and try to test the market on the basis of a concrete plan if you really want to.
Our team is competent and professional in both smartphone application design, development, quality assurance, project management and support.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you are considering mobile application development.