How Much Does an iOS App Cost?
The total cost of an app project is the most important short-term metric you need to know. Yet, despite being such a deceptively simple question, the answer is complex, detailed, and not easy to provide. Predicting iOS application development costs is a difficult art that needs vast experience and knowledge within the domain of every app you build.
With so many diverse factors that go into the cost of developing a mobile application, it’s hard to pin down a precise fixed price in the way you would when buying a car or a home. App development is more akin to purchasing a service than a product — requiring customized tailoring, good judgment, and continuously refined estimates before completion.
The single biggest variable in the cost of development is functionality. Customized technologies, bespoke solutions, and unique challenges will undoubtedly cost more to tackle than apps that are similar in form and function to those already on the store.
How you build your app’s services is another major factor that has a significant impact on costs. Choosing between an outsourced iOS app development firm and hiring an in-house mobile app engineering team can influence price, capabilities, and flexibility for the lifetime of your next application.
Break down the details of how you create applications, build a team, and plan for success in the future — we’ve created this guide to help. Here, we’ve broken down the various factors and influences that go into constructing an iOS app that represents your firm and put together everything you need to outline the costs and time that will go into producing your next big mobile application.
iOS App Developer Costs
Mobile applications are products highly tailored to fit each and every project. The features, design, and overall presentation of your app are going to be the defining factors when it comes to development time and ultimately cost.
The median salary for a mobile developer in the United States last year was $120,000—making the average cost of in-house application development a little over $10,000 per developer, per month.
This is a cost that certainly adds up fast, as even relatively simple applications that offer little more than trivial interactions can take between 2-4 months between initial design and full-scale deployment. In comparison, a highly complex application utilizing streaming, gaming, or device connectivity can easily scale to a year or more of development time using a small team of developers.
The areas of development with the biggest impact on iOS app development costs include:
- Application functionality: The most obvious and intuitive factor of what it costs to develop a mobile app. A simple restaurant menu and ordering app will be a lot simpler and faster to produce than an application that utilizes AI and ML capabilities, for example.
- Additional Assets: Visual elements that create the overall look and feel of an application have a large impact on its cost. Custom art styles, animations, and supporting assets help your app stand out from the crowd but add significant costs too.
- Development Route: Choosing between an outsourced development firm and building an in-house team of developers will have a large impact on costs, predictability, and reliability.
- Third Party Integrations: How your app connects and utilizes additional services and resources can play a significant role, not just in development costs but in licensing and fees as well.
- Additional Platforms Supported: Whether an app will extend across iPhone, iOS, and iPad devices is going to have an impact on development time — and therefore costs.
- Testing: Reliability and dependability are key in most users’ minds. An app that is consistently crashing, too bug-filled to use, or doesn’t meet the advertised functionality isn’t going to last long on a user’s device. Significant budget should be reserved for various stages of testing and quality assurance.
When analyzing these costs in relation to your next project, it can be helpful to target a limited and simplified MVP (minimal viable product) first. The MVP can be used to build, release, and market a smaller-scale application on a limited budget before building on its functionality and services in the future.
Creating a scalable and modular MVP is an ideal way to see initial return on investment in application development. It’s also a critical tool in gathering initial feedback to ensure the advanced features of your app are truly targeting user requirements.
Factors of iOS Application Development Cost
With development costs in any software field being difficult to predict, the next best thing we can do is to put rough approximations and estimates against various types of apps and their development. To get us into ballpark figures, we’ve put together estimates of what you might expect to pay in time and financial costs in the U.S development market.
A Placeholder iOS Application Deployed to The Store
Designing, building, and launching the simplest possible application to the app store is the quickest and lowest-cost way to enter the marketplace. A placeholder app might not be much more than an MVP containing basic app functionality or a web view directing users to the existing web page.
- Time: 2-4 weeks (design, development, and testing)
- Cost: $10,000 - 20,000
Simple Application and Back-End Functionality
An app that connects to a database or uses a third-party API to provide information to extend functionality and use
- Time 1- 3 months
- Cost: $10,000 - 40,000
Advanced and Fully Featured Enterprise Application
The kind of app you’d expect to be launched by retail and tech giants leaning on large teams. Features in these apps might include computer vision, AI and ML technologies, and hardware connections that communicate with IoT devices.
- Time: 3-9 months
- Cost: $50,000 - 200,000
Ranging from exceptionally complex multi-player online first-person shooters to exceptionally simple side-scrolling 2D apps, games have the broadest range of development costs and technologies but potentially the highest profitability of iOS apps today.
- Time: 1-12 months
- Cost: $5,000 - 300,000
Stage by Stage Breakdown of App Development Costs
Where do these costs go when applied to application development? Each stage in the development cycle has an associated budget tailored to the unique requirements of every app. How these costs break down and the time and money that goes into every stage will vary slightly from one firm to another.
Here, we’ve provided a rough estimate by looking at previous iOS app projects and coming up with an average case that broadly applies to most apps.
Average iOS Development App Costs
- Research and Discovery: 10% of a project’s cost is likely to be taken up in the research and discovery phase of development. This includes coming up with an initial app concept, verifying that there’s a market for it, verifying there’s technology and tools capable of supplying it, and deciding how your organization is going to develop it.
- Design and Architecture: Another 10% of the project is dedicated to creating a UI and app design that will meet your requirements. This includes the structure of the code, any backend services that will be required and finalizing the frontend design to be built.
- Development: 50% of a project’s budget is going to be dedicated towards physically building the app. This includes any resources and assets the app needs to support the front-end, and writing the app itself to produce something that can be published to the app store.
- Testing: 25% of the budget should be dedicated to testing. Ensuring quality for users and eliminating bugs before release is one of the best ways of guaranteeing success on launch day and beyond. Including user testing, unit testing, and quality assurance gives your project the best chance of success.
- Deployment: 5% of the budget should be reserved for deploying to the app store and any other channels you target. This should see the resources developed for effective placement, and any issues with verification and acceptance resolved with ease.
iOS Development Costs
The costs involved in reaching the app store are often high. When compared to web development, for example, the time and money involved is notably larger. In return for that investment, however, you gain access to the fastest growing and most highly appreciated platform for users to interact with online services.
In addition, the hardware capabilities of modern devices provide abundant opportunities to add value to services and enhance user interactions. The result of continually evolving hardware is that today’s devices are so much more than just a way to access the web.
The mobile app marketplace can now deliver larger audiences, better experiences, and additional services and accessibility that would have been difficult to imagine 5-10 years ago.
Figuring out the budget, time, and resources you need to create your apps is simply about figuring out the services you want to provide and how you want to deploy them.
Q1. Is iOS development expensive?
The costs to get into iOS application development can be prohibitive, particularly for novice and student developers. A developer license, required to publish to the app store, is a $99 per year subscription. In addition to the license, Apple is somewhat restrictive on devices used for development and hardware used to build code.
Most developers will need an Apple smartphone or tablet device, likely to exceed $500 and a Mac computer upwards of $800. Getting to the app store with your first app is likely to cost upwards of $1,400 on hardware and licensing alone before factoring in development time and other associated costs.
In contrast, Google’s Android platform has a one-off development cost and is much more open in terms of the devices and hardware that can be used for development. The largest difference between the two platforms, however, is likely to be the income you can generate with each. iOS app store users spend almost twice as much on mobile apps and games in comparison to Android users.
Q2. How much does it cost to have an app developed?
The price of having an app developed is heavily influenced by a large number of factors with the total cost of a mobile ranging wildly from $5,000 to $10,000 as a minimum and taking 2-4 weeks to build.
As applications grow in scale and complexity, costs can begin to grow rapidly too. The median salary for a mobile developer in the United States last year was $110,000, making developer costs the largest contributing factor to iOS app costs by far. Apps with heavy graphics capabilities, AI, and ML functionality, or computer vision features are likely to need increasingly large teams and increasingly more time and costs to develop. Some of the major tech and retail giants are likely to have apps that would cost $300,000 - $500,000 to build from scratch today.
Q3. Do you have to pay to make an iOS app?
To gain access to Apple’s app store requires developers to enroll in the company’s developer program. In addition, when deploying to the app store, you will also need to run Xcode to sign and ship the app for approval and entry into the store. This is software that will only run on Mac and is prohibited from being used inside a virtual machine.
The lowest-cost way to access the app store is to purchase the developer license and run Xcode on a Mac mini. Even older versions of the computer will run the software without major issues and provide you with a way to get your software into the marketplace.
If access to the app store is not a current concern then you can develop software using the simulator on a Mac and make an iOS app for your own use. This can allow you to develop iOS apps without being concerned about the license fee, but will still require a Mac and potentially physical iPhone or iPad to develop on.
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