How Much Does it Cost to Make An App in 2019? [Infographic]
With over 3 billion smartphone users around the world, $92.1 billion was spent on apps last year. 76% of that, $69.9 billion, were spent on mobile games alone. According to Newzoo, that number will be $106.4 billion in 2 years.
If you’ve ever thought about making your own app, then you’ve probably wondered, “ How much does it cost to make an app? “
In this post, we’ll take a look at the app development cost to make a clone for some of the top 12 apps, including Facebook, TikTok, and Spotify. We’ll also cover other cost-related factors like app complexity, who will build your app (freelancer vs. agency), and on what platform (iOS vs. Android) towards the end of this post. Click here to jump to the infographic.
Top Mobile Apps
According to SensorTower’s report, the apps shown in the chart above were the most popular apps last year by global app downloads.
If you want to make an app, whether it’s for mobile or web, it might be useful to consider these types of apps to provide you with a framework. Since these apps contain certain features that are common to a wide range of apps, understanding the costs of these features is crucial to developing your own app.
The next section will cover how to calculate app costs, before going into more details on actual costs.
How Much Does it Cost to Create an App?
App Cost=Development Time∗Hourly Rate
A good way to investigate how much an app might cost is to start by looking at the costs of some of the most popular mobile apps in the world. Even though there isn’t a Kelley’s Blue Book for the costs of developing apps, estimating the costs of developing an app similar to the app that you want to build can help you set the right budget.
The common and straightforward way to estimate app cost is simply:
(Features * Time) * Hourly Rate = Cost
As hourly rate is needed to calculate the total app development cost, it’s important to know the variations in hourly rates for app developers.
How Much Do App Developers Charge?
Experienced iOS app developers in North America charge an average of $121/hr to $140/hour, while a junior iOS developer in Eastern Europe charges an average of $41/hr to $60/hour. The cost of your app will vary depending on the experience level and location of the app developer you hire.
You can find the most up-to-date rates below:
How Much Does it Cost to Make WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a real-time messaging application with a robust architecture and comprehensive features. Here’s a summary of WhatsApp’s basic features and their development time (in hours):
Note: The setting adjustments may vary depending on the content of the “Settings” menu. This estimation includes profile settings, account settings, chat settings, notifications settings, and data usage settings.
Other costs include UI/UX design, project management, quality assurance, and DevOps. All factors combined will take somewhere between 390–495 hours.
In total, it will take somewhere around 1,157–1,484 hours to clone WhatsApp. At a rate of $130/hour (North America), WhatsApp will cost $150,410 — $192,920 to make.
How Much Does it Cost to Make Facebook?
Without diving into operational storage costs, Ben Schippers says it’d take $500,000 and nine months of development and design time.
The key feature of the Facebook app includes:
- Registration and login procedures
- Automatic contact synchronization
- Text/photos/videos sharing
- Messaging service, and
- Other features such as Groups and Pages.
Facebook’s diverse features makes it significantly harder to predict its cost. However, it is still possible to come up with an estimation for the front-end and back-end development. The most time consuming features to create are:
Even though chat and video calls have officially been separated to the Messenger app, the estimated cost below includes features from both apps.
According to Indeema, the feed alone could take up to 450 hours. Why? The freedom of customization. Imagine a Facebook post on your feed — you’re presented with the person who posted it, the time it was posted, interactions with the post, and the type of content. If you like the post, you can choose to save it and/or turn on your notifications for this post. If you don’t like what you see, you can choose to hide the post, report it, and even unfollow whoever posted it.
The chat and the video features can amount to a development time of around 500 hours. In summary, the back-end development of both the Facebook app and the Messenger app can take anywhere from 1,500 hours to 1,700 hours, while the front-end development can take around 1,300–1,400.
In total, Facebook would take 2,800–3,100 hours to create. If we multiply that by $130/hr, the total mobile app development cost of a Facebook clone amounts to $364,000 — $403,000.
How Much Does it Cost to Make Instagram?
If you want to build an app like Instagram, keep in mind that it’s actually a rather complicated application to build due to image-filtering features and back-end image loads. Some of Instagram’s key features include:
- Account authorization
- Creating/editing profile
- Settings adjustment
- Photos customization
- Social media integration
- Geolocation, and
- Advanced search.
According to Henrik Wedelin, co-founder of Barkbox, it would cost somewhere between $100,000 to $300,000 to build an Instagram-like product over a three-to-six month period. Here’s an estimation of how much time it might take to develop an Instagram clone:
According to this estimation, Instagram would cost somewhere between $84,500-$128,050 to build. This estimation does not include the development time for features like an admin dashboard — which could take 60–80 hours — and other UI/UX design — which could take anywhere from 150–200 hours to develop.
If the rough estimation of an admin dashboard and UI/UX development time are included as well, the estimated time will be somewhere between 835 and 1220 hours, which drives the cost up to $108,550-$158,600.
How Much Does it Cost to Make TikTok?
The new social video app from China, TikTok, is on the rise with close to 1 billion global monthly users in November 2018. The mobile app lets users record 15 second videos and add cool features like music sync, animations and filters. It’s sort of like a Vine/Snapchat hybrid.
The MVP features of a TikTok clone would be:
- Basic UI
- Basic registration, not including profile setup
- Video creation/playback
- Music library
To build this sort of app MVP, Appventiv estimates somewhere in the region of $80,000 to $100,000 for development costs — but this is probably low balling it. Similar to Spotify (which we’ll cover below), music licensing costs would be a high cost component. You can compare this app to the higher-end of the estimation for an Instagram clone mentioned earlier since it has somewhat similar in function/organization to Tik Tok, which can take 985 hours to 1910 hours of development time. That would mean around $128,050 to $248,300 for a fuller feature set of features.
How Much Does it Cost to Make Spotify?
Spotify is arguably the world’s favorite independent public music player, compilation, and suggestion software. The platform is available across devices — from iOS to Android to desktops and laptops. Intuitive and stylish, the software boasts 207 million monthly active users (as of Q4 2018).
The most basic features of the app include:
- Streaming player
- Search features
Let’s take a look at the number of hours it would take to make a Spotify clone:
For this very basic feature set, at a developer rate of $130/hour, you’d be looking at around $112,190-$177,000 for 863–1180 hours of development work.
This, of course, doesn’t cover the very high cost of hosting all this music and music licensing costs, algorithms to generate music suggestions, advertisements, social sharing, browsing, etc.
In reality, the major costs in building a Spotify-like app involve the music licensing and hosting. If you were planning on building a similar app, it may be more cost effective to go the Soundcloud route, where users upload their own music, which doesn’t need licensing fees.
How Much Does it Cost to Make Uber?
Uber, a 24-hour on-demand service that connects riders and drivers, and is expected to launch their IPO soon. Uber-like services need to create two interfaces, one for the drivers and one for the passengers. Some key features include:
In addition to the features listed, a payment gateway must be integrated as well. Here’s a breakdown of the passengers’ interface and its development time:
The total time required for developing the demand side of the platform is around 421–526 hours.
Note: When we originally published this post, Uber was among the top 10 apps that year. It now ranks #14 for 2018. We decided to keep the numbers for Uber in this post and updated its information.
For the drivers’ interface, these are the features and their development time:
Since there are less features on the drivers’ end, the development time is significantly shorter. The overall development time would be somewhere between 308 and 382 hours.
Considering the outlined features alone, the total time to develop an Uber-like app would be around 729–908 hours. Including the 60–80 hours for admin dashboard and 160–200 hours for UI/UX design, the total development time will be around 949–1,188 hours. The total cost to develop, then, results to around $123,370-$154,400.
All of the above figures are produced and consolidated by experienced teams around the world. Depending on who you ask and what metrics they use to measure the costs, the answer you get may vary a little.
Now that you have an idea of how much a top app costs to build, here are some other budget factors you need to consider when getting your app built:
One of the main reasons why it’s not easy to give a concrete number on how much it costs to make an app is because there are so many different kinds of apps. Though it is virtually impossible to describe all the existing apps on the market, there are three broad categories that outline apps’ complexity:
Apps without web servers
Apps without web servers do not have remote data servers. They often display information on different “lists.” These apps often have dropdown menus (master table) that allow users to select from. Once the user has selected an option, he or she may be presented with a second, more specific list. The user may continue to do so until he or she lands on a page with the desired information.
Some common examples of table functionality apps include diet planners, calendar apps, and email apps. The cost of developing these kinds of apps fall somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 or more. Some possible features that could drive up the costs of such apps include geolocation and third-party app integrations (i.e. social media platforms). The more features, the more expensive.
Apps with web servers
These apps house their data on remote data servers. The data for these apps are relayed between the client side and server side. Furthermore, these apps often allow their users to perform searches and input data to produce the desired results. Since connecting apps to remote web servers requires more sophisticated programming and an API, the costs of these apps are higher and could range anywhere from $8,000 to $50,000 and up.
Though these seem somewhat self explanatory, it is the hardest category to put a price tag on. This category covers simple PONG type functionality all the way up to complex virtual reality games. For example, the developer of Flappy Hen, a clone of Flappybird, spent around 40–50 hours creating his app. If you multiply 40–50 by $130, the app would cost $5,200-$6,500. However, a racing game that utilizes a gyroscope can easily cost up to $125,000 to create. A broad estimation of gaming apps would be $6,000 — $250,000.
Some other common features that increase technical complexities and drive up the cost of your app include: third-party integrations, admin dashboard, and use of hardware components such as Bluetooth, GPS, barometers etc. Having a clear idea of your project scope would get you a more accurate cost estimation.
When creating the MVP for your app, you’ll also need to keep your long-term goals in mind. Are you developing a simple prototype that will most likely be rewritten later? Will this app be the backbone of your startup? These are all factors to consider before diving into cost estimation.
Who’s going to make your app?
Here’s how in-house vs. freelance developers compare to each other.
You can definitely consider hiring in-house developers, designers, and product managers to help develop your app! Alternatively, you could also hire a developer who can play all three roles. However, as global competition increases, hiring a full-time, quality, and jack-of-all-trades developer may be an extremely time consuming (not to mention expensive) process. If you plan to expand your app, you will most likely need to hire a few more developers (i.e. iOS, Android, back-end etc.). However, hiring an app team may be a costly commitment.
Should you hire a full-time team for your MVP?
Would it be a suitable decision to spend weeks or months trying to find the all-star developer for your MVP?
The answers to the questions above largely depend on how much funding you have and what your long-term plan looks like. However, if you don’t have as much funding and under time pressure to produce an MVP, there may be other more suitable options.
Paying an app development agency is another common solution. Many startups choose app development agencies because they come in a package. When you hire app agencies, you get a team of designers, developers, and project managers. Furthermore, many app agencies have a significant amount of experience to help them develop mature development procedures to help their clients out.
However, going this route is by far the most expensive option. These development agencies can charge anywhere between $200/hour and $300/hour. If you do not have sufficient funds, this is not a viable option. Additionally, if you decide to take an agency-developed app in-house, you may experience more difficulties following their development logic.
Hiring Freelance Developers or Contractors
Partnering with freelancers online to create your app is another popular option — not only can it be more affordable, but you may be able to find a great developer that can achieve the same level of quality for your ideal app as an app development agency can.
- Poor code quality, which could mean increase costs down the line
- Unqualified developers
- Blown-up projects due to poor project management
- Reposting projects (i.e. after you hire the developer, the developer hires someone on another platform to do the work)
Do keep in mind that when it comes to hiring freelance developers, whether vetted or not, the cost could differ quite drastically depending on where they are located.
iOS vs. Android app
Is it more expensive to develop iOS or Android apps? It’s a topic often debated.
If you’ve decided on iOS, here’s how to find and hire iOS developers.
Ken Yarmosh, the founder and CEO of Savvy Apps, a mobile design and development company in Washington D.C., believes that building Android apps are more expensive — he termed the extra cost for developing Android apps as “the Android Tax.”
However, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Airbnb, and Uber spent less money on developing their Android MVP apps. Do these statistics contradict Yarmosh’s claim? How can the discrepancy in the data be explained?
The truth is, the cost per hour for developing iOS and Android apps are pretty much the same.
However, because there is a wider variety of Android devices and sizes of screen, both the design and the development sides are more complex compared to iOS. What this means is that the time it takes to develop Android apps may be 2 to 3 times longer than that of iOS apps. If we multiply the hourly rate by the time that it takes to develop respective apps, we can conclude that it is indeed more expensive to create Android apps. This is why many companies, including the top 10, choose to develop iOS apps before tackling Android apps.
App Development Costs: An Infographic
There are 4 aspects you should consider when you’re determining the cost to build your app:
- Complexities (type of app, remote data servers integration, third-party integrations etc.)
- Features (planning, design, features, infrastructure, app admin., testing, deployment)
- Human resources (i.e. internal app team, agency, freelancers)
- Platform (iOS vs. Android)
There are also other factors that we haven’t discussed that go beyond the scope of the initial creation of your app. If you’re serious about bringing an app to the market or using it to build a startup, you should also evaluate the cost of support (i.e. hosting), marketing and advertising, human resources, and much more.
We hope this post gives you a better idea of what to expect if you are looking to build a mobile app. Good luck!
Originally published at https://www.codementor.io.