Mobile apps have utterly transformed how consumers and businesses operate thanks to the staggering breadth of capabilities they enable. As Apple highlighted in their iconic “There’s an app for that” TV ad campaign in 2009, there are now over 5 million apps across the Apple App Store and Google Play Store combined, with new apps continuously launching daily.
Whatever the need or activity – from shopping to travel, fitness, productivity, social, entertainment, and more – chances are “there’s an app for that” that can fulfill it. This tremendous app growth provides businesses ample opportunities to drive revenue growth, brand engagement, competitive differentiation, and more by strategically developing mobile apps.
For businesses, this shift to mobile presents enormous opportunities to evolve into digital businesses that meet customers where they are. However, companies must also plan for proper app design, development, security, infrastructure, maintenance, and growth costs to maximize value.
Why Mobile Apps Are Exploding and Businesses Need Them
Mobile has become the undisputed primary digital arena. Staggering app usage statistics reveal:
- Over 5 million apps across major app stores like Apple’s and Google’s. Thousands more launch daily as businesses rush to tap into mobile.
- Consumers spend nearly 90% of their time on mobile devices using apps compared to just 10% browsing the web.
- Average US adults spend more than 4.1 hours daily using apps (i.e. messaging, social media, shopping, entertainment, productivity).
- 21% of millennials open apps over 50 times daily. When online shopping, 1 in 5 prefer to use a business’s mobile app to make a purchase.
Given this overwhelming shift to mobile, apps now seem mandatory for businesses to drive their sales, website traffic, brand growth, and loyalty. Mobile apps have been known to create more customized customer experiences (CX) centered around an intuitive user experience (UX). Push notifications, chatbots, loyalty programs, UX personalization, biometric authentication, and more all help apps facilitate deeper consumer relationships.
The reality is your business genuinely cannot afford NOT to have its app. Businesses must strongly consider going “mobile first,” with apps at the heart of consumer engagement. However, excellent app development has actual costs across UX design, engineering, infrastructure, QA testing, security, ongoing maintenance, and more.
While determining the optimal budget and mobile app development partner can be challenging, the costs of missing out on deeper direct mobile customer engagement, sales, and a competitive edge will be far greater over the long term than the investment to build a mobile app the right way.
What Impacts the Cost of an App?
Many interdependent variables impact the costs of successfully developing, launching and running custom mobile apps. While simple apps may cost less than $50,000, powerful enterprise apps can reach $100,000+ in initial development alone, with additional funds needed long-term for enhancements, support, and growth.
Here are some of the key factors that drive app development costs:
Apps with advanced workflows, AI/ML capabilities, security demands, compliance requirements, complex integrations, etc., have much greater budgets than simple database-driven apps. Effective scoping and phasing of features are key to managing costs for more sophisticated apps.
Supporting both iOS and Android platforms costs more than single OS builds, but this type of support can be beneficial in helping businesses reach their full target markets.
The level of branding, animation, and customization desired for the UI and UX carries significant costs. Unique designs will cost more than apps that have been templatized.
Apps leveraging external databases, third-party integrations, authentication systems, APIs, push notifications, and more will need significant backend infrastructure and skills.
Mobile apps that require more advanced features (i.e., galleries, gamification, analytics, chat, etc.) greatly increase engineering timelines and costs. Prioritizing the core MVP(minimum viable product) feature set helps balance capabilities and budget.
The costs do not disappear once an app launches. Post-release apps need constant upgrades, maintenance, UX refinements, infrastructure, help desk support, and more. This substantial ongoing investment must be planned for.
Compressing development timelines requires larger teams working simultaneously at a higher cost. More relaxed timelines allow smaller, more cost-efficient teams.
Balancing these variables against budget realities can be challenging. However, beware of solution providers with rates significantly below market costs, as quality and service usually suffer dramatically. Think long-term value over short-term savings.
What Does App Development Cost in 2023?
Given the many cost drivers involved, what can enterprises expect to reasonably budget in 2023 to build, launch, and run custom mobile apps strategically?
For simpler apps with basic backend infrastructure, initial costs often range from $5,000 to $50,000. These can support more straightforward use cases like:
- Very basic retail mobile commerce
- Small business directories
- Appointment scheduling/booking
- Spinning up simple promotional games
- Spreading brand awareness
$5,000 to $50,000 may sound expensive for “simple” apps, but this reflects all the design, engineering, QA, project management, and launch support required to deliver a polished, bug-free experience.
For sophisticated apps with custom designs, complex integrations, machine learning capabilities, multimedia, interactive workflows, and more, costs can exceed $100,000, especially when targeting iOS and Android. For example, for any business aspiring to create a media streaming app with similar capabilities as Netflix, the average development costs often range from $25,000 on the very low end to over $200,000 for advanced apps powerful enough for enterprise-scale usage.
Examples of apps in this bracket include:
- Full-featured mobile commerce engines
- Immersive gaming experiences
- Social media and messaging platforms
- On-demand services like Uber
- Enterprise apps with predictive analytics
- IoT-connected apps
- AR/VR apps
- Apps with substantial security and compliance demands
What Are the Real Costs You Don’t Think/Know About?
While most businesses account for the major upfront investment, the ongoing recurring costs of apps are often overlooked or underestimated. Mobile apps require constant maintenance, enhancements, infrastructure management, and support like any technology.
Here are some of the most significant ongoing mobile app costs that some businesses fail to anticipate and plan budgets for adequately:
There is a $99 annual Apple developer fee and a $25 Google one-time developer fee. However, the actual costs add up for distribution assistance, featuring opportunities, advertising, and more.
As apps increase usage over time, cloud infrastructure and hosting capacities must scale up to maintain performance. Early load testing helps model needs.
Competitiveness demands constant feature enhancements — from new app screens to real-time messaging, social integration, intelligence, and more.
Periodic design refreshes are essential to keep UIs looking sharp, contemporary, and on-brand. Design refreshes vary by scope but can fall from $1,500 to $10,000 for apps with three or four screens.
Optimization based on research, testing, and analytics is required to improve app engagement and conversion rates continually.
Apple and Google regularly release updates, new OS versions, and app requirements that require development work — such as Google releasing devices with 64-bit only support for apps.
Changing regulations like GDPR and CCPA require ongoing app updates to remain compliant as laws change.
Even with extensive QA testing, bugs inevitably surface. Immediate bug fixing and patching cycles are needed to keep apps stable. If the required app update involves significant functional changes or additions to core aspects of the user experience, the development costs may fall in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 or more, depending on scope.
Apps must be continuously monitored for crashes, response times, bottlenecks, and other performance issues.
Ongoing ASO activities, like keyword optimization, custom screenshots, rating prompts, etc., are necessary for sustaining discoverability and conversions.
These costs last for the entire app lifecycle. Changing user expectations also will require new features, and these new features bring ongoing engineering expenses if outsourced per each individual enhancement. A mobile app development partner supporting all the needed changes is far more strategic than project-based development alone. For long-term mobile app success, businesses must see an app as a dynamic platform that requires constant investment — not a one-time project. An app development partner supporting this entire lifecycle is an absolute must.
How to Select the Right Mobile App Development Partner
Choosing the right mobile app development partner is equally, if not more, important than budget alone. Here are a few capabilities and traits that set truly strategic partners apart from vendors:
One-off development engagements deliver apps that quickly become outdated and ineffective. Look for partners who provide ongoing maintenance, feature builds, redesigns, and optimization as part of long-term alignment.
Intuitive, attractive, on-brand design is absolutely crucial for driving adoption and engagement. Find a partner with a solid in-house mobile app development team, like Bryj’s new Strategic Services team, who will deliver custom experiences.
Optimizing app user experiences requires substantial research, testing, analytics, and iteration. Choose a partner with proven UX expertise, like Bryj’s pixel-perfect Paris UX design team.
Look for a partner with full-stack capabilities covering iOS, Android, responsive web, APIs, databases, infrastructure management, QA automation, security, AR/VR, AI/ML, CI/CD, and more.
Evaluate partners based on real ROI delivered for other businesses across revenue, efficiency, productivity, cost reduction, and other KPIs versus theoretical capabilities.
The best partnership will embody shared values like transparency, collaboration, accountability, passion for results, and technology innovation.
Bryj is the End-to-End Solution That Makes Sense
Leveraging these selection criteria helps identify partners who become invaluable extensions of your team for launching breakthrough apps and supporting their evolution. Don’t let app costs scare you away. Take 15 minutes out of your day and see why Bryj is the best option for your business. With our team, you can deliver incredible app experiences that captivate your users, outperform your competitors, and drive tangible ROI year after year.