Mobile Forms and Applications Blog

How much to build an app

Figuring the costs of custom mobile business app development

(Last updated July 17, 2015. Originally posted July 7, 2012.)

Business App Development Costs

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app for your business? Here’s a compendium of information from around the Web to help you  set some reasonable expectations. We update this post regularly so let us know of any good information that’s missing.

Our top picks

We favor sources that provide specific cost numbers and a methodology for arriving at them. Here are some of the better recent sources we’ve identified on the cost of building an app.

How much for an agency to build your app?

An analysis by Ken Yarmosh of Savvy Apps, an app development agency, provides several interesting data points. First he approaches the question from the point of view of a startup company — how much funding will they need to raise and budget for app development? Apps built by agencies like ours cost anywhere between $150,000 to $450,000 – Ken Yarmosh, Savvy AppsHe cites two different sources who suggest ranges from $90,000 to $210,000.

Yarmosh then addresses costs from the point of view of agencies of different sizes. “Apps built by agencies like savvy apps cost anywhere between $150,000 to $450,000,” he writes. He positions that as an intermediate price point between the “big boys” who charge up to $1M and the “small shops” that can cost as little as $50,000.

How much to develop your app in-house?

What about the cost of in-house mobile app development? A November 2014 Kinvey report based on a survey of CIOs and Mobile Leaders found that mobile application development is “costly, slow and frustrating.” According to this survey:

56 percent of mobile leaders surveyed say it takes from 7 months to more than one year to build one app. 18 percent say they spend from $500,000 to over $1,000,000 per app, with an average of $270,000 per app.

Kinvey survey

Source: Kinvey Survey


App development cost calculators

Calculating the cost of a hypothetical project on iOS and Android

Mobile app and platform companies are now offering calculators that let you specify the features you need and see a ballpark estimate of how much your app will cost. We ran a hypothetical app project through each calculator, answering the questions to represent the kinds of features and complexity we see in our own customers’ high-end mobile solution requirements.

Our example project is for iOS and Android and includes login authentication, complex business logic and UI, offline functionality, and backend connections. Keeping the estimates parallel was an inexact science because they each ask different questions, but we made the effort. Below are the results.

Otreva calculator site: $360,000

 

How much to build an app

Example estimate from howmuchtobuildanapp.com

Tusnua Designs: €215,000

Example Estimate by Tusnua Designs

Example Estimate by Tusnua Designs

imason: $267,000

Note: This calculator that can generate an estimate over a million dollars if you keep adding features. Our first effort to calculate an app with similar features rang up at $473,000, which seemed out of line with the other calculators. A little investigation revealed that a single feature we had selected — workflow — accounted for over over $200K of that total. Our revised estimate without workflow (“a 5-10 step process that involves complex enterprise business logic and decisions”) yielded the more typical estimate of $267,000.

imason app cost calculator

Kinvey: $321,000

Example app cost estimate from Kinvey

Example app cost estimate from Kinvey

This Kinvey estimate was for the price of building the apps yourself. To be fair, Kinvey also calculated the lower cost of $139,000 to build the app using their own BaaS platform. The level of detail available in the report exceeded all other calculators we tried, and we were even able to generate a link so you can see the choices we made that resulted in this estimate. Check out our example estimate >>

Kony: $256,000

Kony calculates the 3-year total cost of ownership. Like Kinvey, Kony also suggests the same app would be substantially less expensive ($133,000) on their own MADP platform.

More on App Development Costs

Click here to see more surveys, analyses and quotes

Mobile Apps are Expensive… Unless You Use Formotus

Continuing costs after development

It would be a mistake to think of app design and development as a one-time cost. As Art Wittmann wrote in Information Week:

The short-term investment in creating those first pristine apps is likely to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of people and capital costs. Whether you’re using internal teams for development or contracting with coding houses (a practice that brings its own set of challenges), you’ll need to make a sober assessment of the short- and long-term costs of supporting the practice.

Forrester estimated in 2012 that the average amount spent on a typical customer mobile app ($50,000 to $150,000) turns out to be just 35% of the true two-year cost.

According to the AnyPresence survey cited above, over 80% reported updating their apps at least twice a year and nearly a third were updating at least once a month.

Update frequency for mobile business apps

Formotus: Cross-platform Mobile App Design Without Codings

What about mobile platform costs?

A lot has changed in this space since we first published this blog post in 2012. Then all the talk was about Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAP). Since then the terminology has changed and the new mobile platforms are called Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADP) and Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS). Also since then Antenna, Sybase and Verivo have gone away.

Pricing is not transparent for most of these solutions, but mobile analyst  Kevin Benedict wrote:

Upfront, getting-started costs are important to understand. I know some mobile platform vendors that want to charge you hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of platform before there are any mobile apps. To me this is difficult to swallow. There is no ROI on a mobile platform without apps. I would rather pay for the platform as part of an app. I want to pay when my ROI starts.

Kony is one company more transparent pricing. As of June 2015 Kony pricing starts at $15/user/month for one ‘multi-channel’ (phone/tablet/desktop) app, or $29/user/month for 5 apps. In both cases a 50-user minimum applies, so $750/mo is the price of entry, not counting development costs.

Historical pricing note: In June 2013 Verivo announced a new MEAP platform called Akula along with some pricing information. A production server for up to 100 mobile users ran $30,000 per year, or $60,000 per year for unlimited users. This appeared to cover server licensing only.

An alternative to app development: Subscription software services

App development and management costs can be avoided by companies whose needs can be met instead with software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. For example, companies needing mobile customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can subscribe to Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics and pay a monthly fee per user rather than developing custom apps. Salesforce’s most popular sales edition is $125 per user per month, Microsoft Dynamics CRM starts at $65 per user per month.

There are subscription options for custom mobile apps too. Salesforce offers its Salesforce1 platform, for example, and Kony offers MobileFabric enterprise apps. Salesforce1 costs $80 per user per month for up to 10 apps, or $150 for unlimited apps. Kony costs $29 per user per month for 5 apps, or an undisclosed amount for unlimited apps.

Better than a subscription: Formotus license-months

The Formotus service starts at $40/user/month and goes down with volume. But this is not a subscription with a set number of users for a set period of time. Instead customers purchase a package of license-months to be used as needed for as long as they last, sort of like prepaid cell phone minutes. For example a package of 100 license-months ($35 each) could last 10 users for 10 months or 50 users for 2 months. Usage is pro-rated to the day so customers can add and remove users at any time without penalty and never pay for ‘ghost users’ that aren’t actually on the system.

This license-month price is all inclusive for as many custom business apps as you want to create, deploy, update and use:

  • No activation or sign up fees
  • No additional charges to create, deploy and use as many forms as you want
  • No additional Formotus software, server or maintenance charges of any kind

For customers who use our code-free tools to create custom mobile solutions, this is the only cost. Even when customers choose to engage Formotus or one of our partners create the solution, that typically amounts to just a small fraction of the cost of coded app development.

Check out Formotus pricing

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