app development cost / 8 min read

How much does it cost to build a mobile app in 2021?

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By Marion / October 13, 2021

In this blog I’ll discuss the factors which determine the cost of building a mobile progressive web app (iOS and Android simultaneously) and why it’s not so easy to give an exact price as it comes down to things like complexity, functionality, maintenance and specific needs.

The cost to build a mobile progressive web app depends on

And, many app development projects require UI/UX design, prototyping, user testing, graphics design and expert input (if it’s a scientific product, for example).

Of course, it also depends on who is going to develop it (a prominent agency will charge more) and the geographic region matters too (see also Four steps to speed up your app design and development process).

Let’s investigate the details as business requirements are different. The cost of app development depend on who is going to build your app. We’ll differentiate between:

  1. Learn how to build it yourself
  2. Commission a developer to build it for you
  3. Use a white-label app and customise it

1. Learn how to build it yourself

If the app is central to your business success it makes sense to build it in-house. It is a capital investment, and your business-plan will need to include not only the cost of the build, but also the development team to support, upgrade and maintain it.

To establish the costs, let me list a few of the issues to consider: employees have holidays, get sick and leave their jobs – so you need a minimum viable team to even start (and don’t forget that they also tend to specialise and do either Android or iOS).

Hence, you arguably need a minimum of one developer for each platform, plus someone to cover when they are away.

Apps should not be confused with websites. You cannot build them, put them on a server and call it a day. As any iOS and Android phone user knows, you are always being plagued to install and update to a new software release.

Many of these updates have implications for the app developers, so its a bit of a never-ending story keeping apps current with the iOS and Android platform changes (see also What is the best platform to develop Android and iOS apps in 2021)

But, provided you are happy with the costs and human overhead, building it yourself puts you directly in control of your app.

Assuming each developer costs you £50,000 a year, with heat, light, power, desk space, recruitment, HR, licences, technical infrastructure, machines and ancillaries the starter cost of your app is probably around £200,000 a year.

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2. Commission a developer to build it for you

It depends which developer you approach but one thing they have in common: you can negotiate a fixed-price contract with an outsourced development house. You are much more likely to get your app for the budget you planned close to a timescale you set.

There are some good outsourcing companies and some ‘not so good’ ones. You need to check and ask before you give the commission who is doing the work as many sub-contract their work, so you don’t know who is actually writing the code.

You also need to budget for support, upgrading and the maintenance for your mobile app once the ‘builders’ have been paid and left.

A note of caution: if support is not carried out by the same team which built the app you can expect that your maintenance developers will never tire of telling you what a bunch of monkeys built it in the first place and that their job is impossible with all the wrong and complex code they have inherited…

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3. Use a white-label app and customise it

If you work in a sector where companies have similar business models (like publishing, accountancy, law, or HR), it’s likely there will be software houses who have ready-built platform solutions. These will offer ‘out-of-the-box’ or white-label solutions in return for a licence fee.

Benefits of a white-label app or solution of a ready-built platform 

Cost-efficiency is already a great bonus if you use a white label platform, but what’s even better is that there is NO development process you need to be involved in.

With a white-label app all you need to do is: put your logo on it, brand the home screen, customise the colours and add your content. It can be done within a few days, depending on your content. This reduces time to market manifolds.

As mentioned above, using a white label platform enables you to build a custom app five-times cheaper than the equivalent app built through a development agency.

If you buy a white-label app, the seller usually hosts the app on their own servers. The buyer gets a fully functioning app and it includes hosting, support and maintenance, so you have no IT overheads or surprise bills. All iOS and Android upgrades are included.

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Read on: Benefits of white label apps over custom apps (see also ‘Why modular apps make sense’ and ‘DIY or outsource when building an app?’) 

Successful white label apps at Page Lizard

We at Reptile are continuously looking for ways to improve things using technology. As such, we’ve built many apps that we’re proud of, and if you are interested, here is a link to a few of our recent achievements we’d like to share with you.

 

 

 

 

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