A comprehensive guide to mobile app development cost for SMEs in 2021

Nowadays, mobile app development is becoming a business strategy that most users and SMEs approach in every country. According to Statistics, there are more than 3.8 billion active mobile users in 2021 across the globe. People spend much time on their mobile devices for a wide range of reasons, which could be personal or professional. With the increasing use of these devices, mobile app development has become more important than ever.

Mobile devices are the largest source of entertainment for the modern-day consumers. Consequently, these devices have become an integral part of our day-to-day life, and they continue to influence how we interact with each other and our businesses. This makes determining mobile app development costs an important topic for almost everyone.

Average Mobile Development Cost

Typically, costs to build an app of good quality ranges from $60,000 to $ 230,000+. Several factors influence mobile app development; app type, number, and complexity of functionality and design; IT vendors influence the app price. Most Developers work at $40 per hour.

  • The cost of developing a simple app is about $60,000 (one platform).
  • Basic app price- is between $60,000 and $120,000 per platform.
  • Complex, custom app cost – start from $230,000

Some mobile app industry studies explain the cost range included in the set guides to help you understand the app development formation through analysis. By paying attention to the cost of mobile app development upfront and reducing app costs, you can manage your app development budget effectively. Your app idea goes in handy with business, and functional necessities influence the app development cost.

The following are some of the key factors that influence the final cost of building a successful app:

  • Vendor type and location
  • Complexity and the number of app features
  • Back-end infrastructure and connected APIs
  • The complexity of UX/UI design
  • Inclusion of additional branded visual elements
  • Development approach (native, mobile web, hybrid, etc.)
  • Number of  target platforms (Android, iOS, web, and much more)

The Cost to Develop an App: Understanding the Basics

The following are basics that should help you understand the app development cost to influence the different price ranges and set your project’s budget.

Native vs. hybrid app

Native app refers to a mobile application that is designed to suit the requirements of a given operating system. Therefore, it is possible to create a native app for different operating systems separately. As you would expect, the cost of app development is directly proportional to the number of platforms that you wish to target.

On the other hand, a cross-platform or hybrid app is designed to work in multiple operating systems. This allows you to save money and time, since you do not need to build a mobile application for each operating system to meet your business needs. However, most app developers recommend this approach due to the performance and the technical superiority that comes with native apps.

Android vs. iOS app

With the latest technology development, iOS and Android apps have almost the same mobile app development timeline. Therefore, if you wish your software product to work on both platforms, the mobile applications can be developed simultaneously, which allows them to be launched together to save time and money.

Misconceptions about the mobile app development process

Some of the common delusions in the field of mobile app development include:

1. You expect create a successful app business instantly

Majority of digital startups expect good outcome right away. Most of the requests that customers give sound like: “develop an app like Instagram” or “I would to have an app like Uber.”

However, it is clear that most app-based companies have developed over time to achieve what they have done. You would entirely agree that these app-based companies have evolved over the years. Besides, you should also understand that successful app-based businesses like Instagram became successful after a large amount was invested in them. 

For instance, about $57.5M was invested in Instagram for the application development process to achieve the desired results. So, if you want another Uber or Instagram – you should be ready to pay for it!

2. You can succeed without proper market research

It is highly recommended that you evaluate the market and complete the pre-planning stage for your app concept to stand out. Please do your homework carefully: study the market and find the pain points that your app’s idea can solve.

Why do most people tend to devalue software?

This happens due to the following factors:

Apps are intangible

As opposed to hardware, software products can’t be touched. Therefore, it is difficult to show all the hard work in the background of the development process. According to Kick starter campaigns analysis, hardware projects receive more funding as opposed to software ideas since hardware remains noticeable while the software is out of sight.

The immeasurable intellectual capital value

It is hard to measure the thoughtfulness and creativity that is involved in ideation and the initial stages of the software project. Usually, a cross-disciplinary team is involved to ensure all the app details and procedures are covered. Customers do not see the impacts of this work since it does not result in tangible deliverables, it’s just an app concept. Therefore, the final mobile app price tag confuses many customers.

The non-obvious benefits

Some consider elegant, simple, and intuitive products, while others search for more power and speed in their apps. However, you can compare it to Mac users and those who have never understood the importance provided by Apple’s mobile devices.


The discovery stage in mobile app development ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 with a timeline of 2-4 weeks. These costs and timeline relate to an average app project of a duration between 3-5 months. The subsequent app development stages use the deliverables derived from the various discovery phases. Depending on the job, the team may continue directly with the app coding phase while finalizing the app design.

Note: The above app development costs help to build a common understanding. Some app types may have similar functionality. However, it is important to remember that every project is unique since no one has the same requirements, business context, technologies, and developers during the app development process.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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