How Much Does It Cost to Create An App in 2023?

The mobile app industry is booming, and your business wants in. But how much does it cost to create an app for your business?

The answer depends on a number of factors. It depends on how complex your project is, what operating system(s) you’re building for, how and who you hire for your app development team, what platform you use to build your app, and more.

This article will give you a benchmark figure, to help you get an idea of what a mobile app development budget will look like. We’ll also break it down by different factors, such as complexity and operating system, explain why apps cost as much as they do, and share some hidden app development costs that people often forget to consider.

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How Much Does it Cost to Build an App? (Native App Development)

On average, native mobile apps cost between $20,000 and $300,000 to develop, with the development process taking anywhere from three to nine months.

This is obviously a very wide range. So, shortly, we’ll narrow this down by looking at the average mobile app development costs for different levels of complexity.

These figures are based off various sets of data, including the rates given by mobile app development companies (taken from sites such as GoodFirms and Clutch), the average pay rates (via Indeed) for Android developers and iOS developers, along with hourly rates for app developers found on sites like Upwork.

This is cross-referenced by the estimated time taken to create an app, partly taken from data from app development agencies, as well as our own experiences within the mobile app development industry.

App Development Cost Breakdown by Complexity

Probably the biggest factor in determining how much it costs to develop an app is the complexity of the app.

A simple note-taking app, for example, is going to cost significantly less than a more feature-rich app. The higher the complexity, the more time it will take to develop, hence the more you’ll have to pay for developers.

More complex apps also may require more experienced or knowledgeable mobile app developers, coming at a higher hourly rate.

Here’s a ballpark figure for varying levels of complexity, from simple apps with basic features, to apps with higher levels of functionality.

App ComplexityEst. TimeEst. App Cost
Simple app 2-3 months$20,000 – $60,000
Mid-level app3-6 months$60,000 – $150,000
Complex/enterprise app>9 months>$300,000

Let’s look a little deeper now at the factors that go into the cost of a mobile app development project.

What Contributes to App Development Costs?

Mobile app development is a specialized field. It’s not like coding a website in HTML and CSS, where you could walk down the street and your chances of finding someone capable of doing it are fairly high.

Coding a native app requires expertise in frameworks such as Java or Kotlin, for Android apps, and Objective-C or Swift for iOS apps. Since the talent pool for app development frameworks is relatively shallow, these developers command a higher rate than your average developer.

There are a lot of factors on top of this that influence how much it costs to develop your app. This includes the hourly rate of the people you hire, as well as the total number of billable hours that go into your project.

Here are some of these factors:

  • Developer expertise (are you hiring beginner/novice developers or more experienced talent?)
  • Location (e.g. hiring developers from the US vs Asia or Eastern Europe)
  • Size of team (managing developers yourself, vs hiring a full team to manage the project)
  • Platforms (Android only, iOS only, or both)
  • Size of the app (number of screens, depth of functionality)
  • App functionality (how difficult or time-consuming is it to build?)
  • API connectivity and/or third-party integrations
  • Backend infrastructure
  • Breadth of the QA/testing process
  • Security protocols
  • Urgency (if you need the project done ASAP, be prepared to pay a premium)
  • Hiring freelancers vs an app development agency vs using in-house staff

As you can see, there’s a ton of variance here, hence the wide range in price. Most of this is influenced by the time it takes to develop the app.

More features (or more advanced features) = more time to create the app = more hours billed by your development team = higher overall cost.

Which Phases of App Development Cost the Most?

Let’s take a look at the various steps of an app development project, and which of these steps will take up the majority of your app budget.

Here’s a quick breakdown of an app development cost estimate by phase (read on for a deeper look at each phase):

  • Development & QA: 60%
  • Project Management: 15%
  • Design: UI & UX: 15%
  • Business Analytics: 10%

Development & QA

The bulk of your app costs come from the actual development, and QA (quality assurance) testing.

This is where you’ll need to pay an expensive mobile app development team, for at minimum a few months of full-time work. It covers coding the apps, as well as testing them for bugs or usability issues, and fixing those issues before releasing your mobile app to the public.

Development only takes up a little over half of your app development budget, though. You’ll also need to take the following into account:

Project Management

You need someone to manage your project, and your development team. Project management is another somewhat specialized field, especially when it comes to project managers with experience managing app development projects.

Your developer(s) will report to the project manager, and it’s the project manager’s responsibility to ensure the project comes in on time and in line with your specifications.

Project management for a mobile app can vary in cost from $1,500 to $45,000, depending on the size of the project (larger projects may require multiple project managers).

UI & UX Design

It’s important to put time and effort into designing your app, before development starts. For this, you’ll want specialized UI and UX designers. These designers will take your app idea and craft it into something that looks good on mobile devices, with a smooth user experience.

Planning your app UI with a wireframe (via Balsamiq)
Plotting out the user experience with a storyboard (via Balsamiq)

This stage starts with creating visual wireframes, as above, and will often involve creating a clickable prototype, so you can get a true feel for what the app will look like, before investing thousands in development costs.

UI and UX design can take up approximately $2,500 to $15,000. The more complex the features, the more expensive this stage becomes.

Business Analytics

This stage involves all of the high-level planning and analysis related to your app.

For example, to develop an app that makes money, you need to:

  • Verify your idea fits a need for your target market
  • Define your target audience and your idea user profile
  • Analyze the competition
  • Create design specifications and all necessary app features
  • Budget the project
  • Execute the project (e.g. hiring development team, additional team members, source investment capital)

This can take somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000 to $12,000. If you’re the business owner, and are taking care of these tasks personally, consider the cost of your time spent doing this, and factor this as part of the overall app development price.

How Much Time Does it Take to Make an App?

On the low end, you’re looking at 2-3 months to create a simple app.

This can go up to 9 months or more for a more complex app development project.

With simple apps, we’re talking very basic functionality. Something like a calendar app, a productivity tracker, a note-taking app, for example.

These apps have few screens to build, and not as many features. Your average mobile app developer should be able to build an app like this without much trouble. Still, it doesn’t happen overnight. The mobile app development process, for even a simple app, will take at least 2-3 months.

Apps with a higher level of complexity include those with features such as payment gateways, in-app purchases, messaging features, location services, push notifications, and integrating with hardware features, like camera or bluetooth. This also includes apps that require API integrations to third-party tools, or to connect with your website’s backend.

Moderate-complexity apps like these are likely to take between 3-6 months to build, depending on the number of advanced features and the depth of the app (i.e. total number of screens).

On the higher end, if you’re building apps for enterprise use, or apps with very advanced functionality, you’re looking at 9+ months to completion.

These apps may require extensive work building in animations or multimedia to the user interface, or building out extensive backend architectures. Also, apps that deal with a lot of sensitive data need more work on security protocols, which adds a significant amount of time to both the development and testing processes.

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain a Mobile App?

The price of the initial app build is not the only thing to consider when it comes to app development costs. You should also factor app maintenance costs into your budget.

It costs roughly 15 to 20% of the initial mobile app development cost each year for updates and maintenance.

Mobile apps require constant work to ensure they continue to run smoothly. For this, you’ll need to retain mobile app developers on staff, hire freelancers, or pay a retainer to a mobile app development company.

Some of the ongoing costs include:

  • Bug fixes
  • Adding new features/improving existing features
  • Code optimizations and performance improvements
  • UI/UX updates
  • Testing & support for new OS updates
  • Testing & support for updates to third-party tool integrations

Here’s what that adds up to, based on the mobile app cost estimates we showed earlier.

App ComplexityEst. Cost (to build)Est. Maintenance Cost
Simple app $20,000 – $60,000$3,000 – $12,000 per year
Mid-level app$60,000 – $150,000$9,000 – $30,00 per year
Complex/enterprise app>$300,000$45,000+ per year

These costs are unavoidable. If you neglect to maintain your app, it risks becoming at best dated, and at worst, unusable due to bugs or conflicts with external tools or platforms.

“If we had unlimited time and money, we would probably go for a custom native app, but that is half a million to a million a year to maintain.”

David Cost, VP of Marketing, Rainbow Apparel

Alternatives to Native Development

The mobile app development cost estimates we’ve shared in this post are for developing native Android and iOS apps, in native app development frameworks.

There are some other ways to develop an app, though. You can use cross-platform or hybrid app development frameworks, which cut down the time required for your app development process.

Then there are app builders, which cut out the need to hire developers in the first place. App builders vary wildly in cost and functionality, from simple template-based app builders, to more sophisticated platforms.

Let’s take a look at other ways to approach mobile app development, and the estimated development costs for each.

Cross-Platform & Hybrid Frameworks

Cross-platform or hybrid frameworks allow you to write code once, and reuse it for multiple operating systems.

In contrast, fully native apps require you to code each app (iOS and Android) from the ground up, adding significantly to the mobile app cost and time.

Cross-platform frameworks include React Native and Xamarin. Developers who are competent in these frameworks are more sought-after than your average web developer, however you’ll end up with fewer billable hours than hiring multiple developers to develop apps in multiple frameworks.

Another option is a hybrid framework. Similar to cross-platform development, hybrid frameworks allow you to build apps that work on multiple device types. The difference with hybrid frameworks is that they let you reuse web code, as well as reusing code across Android and iOS operating systems.

This is a big plus if you want to convert a website into a mobile app. These tools, which include Ionic, Flutter and Cordova, cut down the app development time even further than cross-platform frameworks like React Native.

They’ll also reduce your app maintenance costs, as there is less code to update whenever you need to make a change or a fix.

So how much does it cost to make hybrid apps?

Using average salaries found on Glassdoor, we can compare the cost of developers for various frameworks:

FrameworkAverage Developer Salary (per year, United States)
iOS$105,523
Android$116,908
React Native$95,579
Ionic$99,314
Flutter$97,010

As you can see, developers for these frameworks are a little cheaper on average than native app developers, but not by much.

You also still need to account for project managers, UI/UX designers, app testing and all the other support staff involved in the project. So, overall, we could estimate a cross-platform app to cost around 50-75% of the cost of a building two fully native apps (iOS and Android).

If you’re thinking of developing an app with Ionic, Flutter, or a hybrid app builder, check out these hybrid app examples to see what’s possible.

No-Code App Builders

Another alternative to native app development is to use a no-code app builder.

These are tools that offer a visual drag-and-drop builder that lets you build mobile apps without writing code.

Thunkable’s no-code app builder interface.

The plus is that it costs a lot less, and anyone can create an app this way. The downside is that these tools are quite limiting, forcing you into a template that make your app look just like a thousand others.

The majority of no-code app builders work on a subscription basis. You’ll need to keep paying a monthly or annual cost to keep your app live. They have different tiers depending on what kind of features and usage limits you need for your app.

So how much does it cost to create an app with a no-code app builder?

It obviously depends on your needs, and the tool you choose. But here are a few examples.

ToolApp Cost
Glide$99-$799 per month
Thunkablefrom $38 per month
Softr$29-$199 per month

These costs are for the subscription only. You also have to take into account labor costs (building the app with the tool, planning, design, testing).

Even with labor, it’s still significantly cheaper to develop an app with a no-code app builder. But ultimately, we don’t recommend this option, unless the app you need is extremely simple.

It still takes a lot of work to create a professional and functional app with a no-code app builder, and the results are generally going to be below what you could get with fully native mobile apps, or hybrid apps – as we’re going to look at next.

Hybrid App Builders

In the middle of manually coded apps and drag-and-drop app builders, you’ve got hybrid app builders like MobiLoud.

MobiLoud converts your website into a fully-functional mobile app, which offers >90% of the functionality of a fully native mobile app.

MobiLoud seamlessly converts your mobile website to a clean and powerful mobile app.

In this sense, it’s similar in a way to the Ionic or Flutter frameworks, which use a technology called webviews to display a live version of your website within your mobile app. With this, it essentially recreates the full experience and functionality of your website in the app.

quora native web
An example showing how webviews work, intertwined with native mobile UI elements.

With MobiLoud, you don’t need to write a line of code. And it doesn’t require you to hire mobile developers with a salary of $100,000 per year, or build a dedicated team to manage the project.

The whole build is done by our team, who also handles updates and maintenance (for much less than you’d pay a mobile app developer or an app development company).

This makes MobiLoud the perfect option for anyone converting an existing site to mobile apps for Android and iOS. It’s cheaper, faster, and the end result is not too far off what you’d get with a fully native app coded from scratch.

How Much Does it Cost to Make an App With MobiLoud?

MobiLoud is much cheaper and much faster than native development. But just how much does it cost to create an app with MobiLoud?

Canvas works on a subscription basis, like other no-code app builders. This cost ranges from $170-$450 per month, depending on what you need from your app, as well as whether you pay annually or month-to-month.

There’s also a setup fee of $500 which covers testing and submitting your apps to the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

Optional fees include $1,350 for the full-service package (covering the entire process from app design and configuration to launching in the app stores), and custom pricing plans for those with advanced feature and integration needs.

“My old colleagues would mention that it would be at least 6 figures to develop an app, and then you have to find the talent, hire developers. Just so many roadblocks that it was not realistic. When I found MobiLoud, it was so wonderful because I was able to deliver exactly what we wanted, and it was affordable.”

Jake Gracia, Train the Mind

Best of all, the MobiLoud subscription covers all maintenance and updates, making it massively cheaper to run your app, after launch.

Let’s compare the app development cost with MobiLoud to the cost of hiring developers to create a moderate-complexity app.

MobiLoudNative App Development
Setup costs$2,540 (first year, plus app store submission fee)$60,000 – $150,000
Ongoing costs$170 per month ($2,040 per year)$9,000 – $30,00 per year

As for the time investment, with MobiLoud your app can be ready to go and live in the app stores in just 2 weeks.

Even if the process ends up taking a little longer, you’re looking at less than half the time it takes to build even a simple mobile app. The difference is even bigger if your app falls into the moderate or high complexity range.

You can get more details on MobiLoud’s pricing here.

If this interests you, get in touch here to arrange a free, personalized demo, and see how MobiLoud will work for your project.

Summing Up: How to Plan Your App Development Budget, Time Investment, Variable Expenses and More

Thinking of making an app? Asking yourself questions, such as “how much does it cost?” and “how long will it take?” Let’s sum it all up for you now.

The cost to make an app (by using native app developers) can range anywhere from $20,000 to $300,000, depending on how big your project is, and how feature-rich you want the app to be.

When planning your budget, ask yourself what features you need (e.g. location services, tablet support, push notifications), what external integrations you need (e.g. linking to your website backend or third-party tools), and how deep your app is (total number of screens).

On the low end, you’re looking at $20,000 to build an app and approximately three months’ development time.

Moderate complexity apps (such as a news app or ecommerce app that syncs with your website) will cost around $80,000-100,000, and take around six months to build.

A complex app, such as a social networking app or an enterprise app, will cost $150,000+ and take upwards of nine months to finish.

To reduce costs, you have several options (ranked from most expensive, to most affordable):

  • Code your apps in a cross-platform framework like React Native
  • Reuse web code with a hybrid framework like Ionic
  • Use MobiLoud to convert your existing website into a hybrid mobile app (recommended)
  • Use a template-based no-code app builder (not recommended, best for creating prototypes or very simple apps)

MobiLoud offers the best intersection of power and affordability. It easily converts your existing website into a mobile app, synced with your website, in less than a month.

Even if you’re thinking of eventually building a custom app, MobiLoud offers a cost-effective way to make an app that people can start using straight away, and that reflects well on your business, while just testing the waters without investing fully into an expensive development process.

Click here to get a free demo and start the process now.