Why mobile development is so expensive

Is developing a mobile app worth the cost? Paying $30-50K for an app might be not a big deal for a big corporation but the same amount of money can constitute a huge part (if not all) of one’s startup capital. Today we’ll try to explain why mobile development is so expensive and why businesses can benefit from having a high-quality app for their clients.

Since mobile apps are quite small (in fact, till 2015 Google limited Google Play app size to 50MB) it might look as if a cost to create a mobile app shouldn’t be too high but in fact there’re reasons why currently mobile app development for Android and iOS is still expensive:

1. App development is not only about the app. If you want something more complex than a calculator or a book reader, you also need a backend part with a server and a database, as well as API used for communicating with them. And even if you indeed require something relatively simple, app and UI design are also a must and are included in the final cost of producing an app.

UI is an important element of every app

Most users would prefer the app on the right since its UI is more clear and informative. Good and usable UI is simply an industry standard and can’t be ignored if you want to be taken seriously and, naturally, it adds up to the total smartphone application development cost.

For mobile app development cost breakdown see our articles on developing Uber, Tinder and Pokémon GO like apps.

2. High demand for mobile developers is another reason why apps are so expensive to develop. 2.6 billion people are using smartphones and 87% of them always have their devices by their side — it’s only natural that many companies want to have access to their screens. Apps are so powerful that they even gave rise to new phenomena:

  • Mobile first for designers, when they start by designing experience for the smallest screens and then go up to tablets and desktops.
  • Startups that launch with merely an app and a landing page but get huge traction since they offer something very relevant to the needs of mobile users.
  • On-demand or “Uber for X” boom with a lot of businesses relying on a model where clients and service suppliers use apps to get in touch.

3. A need to support a lot of platform versions has influence on mobile app development cost. It is mostly a challenge for Android developers since currently the market share for various versions of Android platform looks like this:

Android versions distribution

Data source: Droid Life, September 2016

But iOS users aren’t homogenous in their choice either:

iOS versions distribution

Data source: David Smith, September 2016

It all means that your mobile development team needs to make sure that the app looks and behaves identically on various versions of the platform. It adds up to the app development time and, consequently, cost to build a mobile app.

4. Lack of highly experienced developers. Basic programming skills aren’t that hard to learn but good developers got to be both experienced with developing commercial or enterprise level solutions and up-to-date with a particular technology, framework or language. Not every person is ready to constantly learn and change within the dynamic web and mobile development environment.

Creating an app is like shooting a movie: if you want an award-winning blockbuster and not a student film, you’ve got to hire a skilled mobile development team. Apart from quality issues, the risk with inexperienced developers is that it will take them more time to develop your app. Since mobile development companies bill you based on hourly rates of their developers, you might actually pay more for an app developed by a not so skilled team since it will took them more hours to put your app together.

Stfalcon.com web and mobile development studio worked on both large (MeinFernbus, KeepSnap) and small mobile development and design projects (IsDocIn, thismo, UME). What’s important, we have also developed our own mobile startup UARoads for solving a very specific problem — monitoring road quality. We went through field testing, tweaking our mathematical model back and forth and several redesigns to get it just right.

If you need an Uber clone, there might be a lot of companies that can offer something for you. But if you want something with a complex business logic or a totally unique app built from scratch — it’s not a task for just any mobile development team.

UARoads startup

5. Not having an app is even more expensive! If in order to reach you customers have to type in your website address in their mobile browser while your competitors have instant access to people’s attention with push notifications, app icon on their Home screen and touch to order functions — you’re clearly missing out.

All big non-tech companies have their own apps. To name a few:

  1. New York Times
  2. British Airways
  3. ESPN
  4. Starbucks

Mobile apps of famous brands

And more and more small and midsize businesses of various types realize that mobile development is worth the price and create apps to stay closer to their customers and effectively use mobile as a marketing channel. In fact, 66% of businesses that have experienced customer loyalty decrease in 2015 do not have a mobile app.

All in all, a number of factors contribute to iOS and Android app development cost with high demand for apps and knowledge of constantly evolving tools and high level of engineering skills required being the most important of them. We firmly believe that high-quality product can’t be cheap and thus mobile apps are worth their price. But it is also possible to lower the cost of making an app for your business by starting with only one mobile platform or building an MVP that can be polished on the later stages.

Need MVP development, iOS and Android apps or prototyping? Check out our portfolio and make an order today!

About author

Content Manager
Dasha keeps studio blog and portfolio up-to-date. In her free time she writes about sci-fi and games.

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