As you might expect, there’s a lot of misinformation and mystery surrounding the true cost of building an app. It may actually surprise some would-be app entrepreneurs to discover the time and money that goes into one – and especially what it takes before they’ll see a decent return on their investment.

How much do apps typically cost?

…usually somewhere between $1 and one million dollars.

Alright – that’s a bit of a joke, but it’s also a little bit true. App pricing really is based on a great number of factors that make up the overall experience – and it can vary widely.

Even a simple app can run you upwards of a least a few (read: at multiples of ten) thousand dollars. But sometimes even a seemingly simple idea can be deceptively difficult to execute technologically.

FREE DOWNLOAD: What questions should you ask an app agency before hiring them?

If you’ve already called around and one of your calls was to an offshore development company, you might be familiar with a quote of about $20 – $30K for your MVP. Sounds like a great deal, but we’ve also talked to our fair share of app entrepreneurs who’ve gone this route only to get a little less than what they wanted. Fact is, you could wind up spending a whack more money trying to fix a poorly built app rather than making it awesome from the get go.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. – Red Adair

If you’re working with a competent agency, you can expect to pay up to six figures (usually an average of $100,000 to $200,000 per platform) – or much, much more.

(For a fairly accurate ballpark number to work with, try out this neat app development cost calculator tool to see how much your app idea could run you:

I get lots of phone calls from app makers with the next big ‘Uber of X’ idea, who downright cringe when I suggest if they were to build Uber today, as it exists right now, it easily could cost them in excess of over of $1,000,000.

And that’s not just the one-time cost for the software. Like any good business venture, there’s a lot more than meets the eye (and your wallet) when it comes to launching a successful app. The software itself is just one piece of the puzzle.

I always tell app entrepreneurs that building an app is a lot like building a home.

Would you ask an architect, ‘how much does a home cost?’  Not really. And if you straight up try – they probably couldn’t tell you (not to mention the funny look you’ll get).

Think about it. The cost of a home depends on its size, the building materials, where it’s built etc, etc. Factors in the app world that translate to scope, requirements, the relative cost of the expertise you might need to hire, and so on.

Read about our ‘Blueprint’ process – it’s the steps we take to figure out all of the above for your app before we build it.

Apps aren’t just thousands of lines of code (our most recent app project required a team to write 26,574 lines of code, to be exact). There’s a lot more that goes into creating successful ones.

The best laid plans to a successful launch in the app store should involve a series of well-defined and well-scoped software development phases, starting with product strategy and design, then development of your MVP (minimum viable product), followed by continued improvement, and ongoing maintenance of your app into the foreseeable future.

You should be planning to allocate about two-thirds of your budget to developing and marketing the MVP, and reserve the last third to support and maintain it once it’s live in the store and to start the design process for the enhancements you’re going to make to version 2.0.

Most app agencies worth their salt can give you a ballpark range to help set your expectations, and an understanding of all the factors that will affect price (like platforms, 3rd party integrations, user generated content, server costs for instance),  but in order to develop your specific app for iPhone or Android, you’ll need expert help to dive a bit deeper into your product planning stage to expect a well-defined estimate for your MVP.

And whether you’re doing the coding yourself, contracting an app agency or hiring talent on salary, you can be reasonably assured there will be hours and hours of work ahead to budget for before your app goes live.

Another potentially disparaging realization is that your upfront startup investment isn’t limited to your software. An app is like any other real-world product in that branding and marketing all play a role.

Blame the app market for these woes.

Over the past few years, the number of apps out there for download has exploded. At last count there were 2 million + apps in the App Store (and that number hasn’t showed signs of slowing). Getting on your target audience’s radar is key to being downloaded, used, enjoyed (and hopefully paid for!), and it doesn’t usually happen overnight.

Beautiful branding, careful positioning of your app, ASO (app store optimization), digital influencer outreach and mobile ad campaigns all take time and resources. In April of this year, the mobile marketing company Fiksu reported that acquiring just one loyal user for your app would cost you an average $2.51. Got a goal to get to a million users?

You might start to sweat a little doing the math.

The good news is, the right app agency can help you plan your product roadmap from market fit to MVP to marketing hype – whether you choose to partner with them for any or all of the above or not.

So how much does an app cost? It depends ☺ Reach out to me to find out how we can help you get a much more detailed overview of the cost to build your app.

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