How much does it cost to build an iOS app?

Today, smartphones are ubiquitous devices that help us complete all manner of daily tasks. From staying informed to managing money to booking restaurant reservations, there’s an app for everything.

In 2022, there were more than 142.6 billion app downloads worldwide. Forty-nine percent of people use an app 11 or more times every day, and users in the U.S. spend 70 percent of their digital media time on mobile applications. The reach that mobile apps allow companies to have is huge and is only growing.

Let’s say your business wants to reach more customers more efficiently, and after doing your research and examining the competition, you have decided that developing an app will help achieve this goal. Let’s look at what it takes to expand your business’s reach with an iOS app for Apple devices.

iOS app development cost calculator

How much it costs to develop an app for the iPhone or iPad involves a number of factors, but there is a formula that can give you a good idea. It adds the number of hours required for user interaction/user experience development, development hours, and backend server hours, then multiplies that quantity by hourly rate for app developers:

(UI/UX design hours + platform app development hours + backend server hours) x hourly rate of developers = cost of development

Factors that influence development costs

Within this formula are many factors that can influence the cost of app development. Each of them can have a significant impact on your development budget, so you should consider them all carefully.

Size

This is probably the most obvious factor. The more features, screens, and functionality and app has, the larger its size. This means more development time, and, as a result, higher cost.

Determine how large your app should be by analyzing the market the app is intended to serve, and looking at your app’s viability within that market. Then you can refine the list of features and take steps toward developing a prototype.

Here’s a general idea of costs from Appinventiv:

App sizeTime to developAverage cost
SmallUp to 4 months$8,000–$25,000
Medium4 to 8 months$25,000–$50,000
Large8 or more months$50,000 and up
Source: Appinventiv

Complexity

Complexity can mean many things. It can describe the number of features an app has. It can describe the number of external integrations it needs to be fully functional. It can indicate the number of animations, video formats, or image-rendering types required. It can also mean any combination of these and other factors.

There are numerous components and features of an app that are behind the scenes, invisible to the user, that can also add to an app’s complexity.

Here’s an overview of some of these features and their cost from Agicent:

ComplexityFeaturesCost
SimpleBasic UI requirements and functionalityA templated backendOut-of-the box analytics features$25,000–$50,000
Mid-levelCustom user interfaceAPI integration A middle-ground backendDatabase relationships$50,000–$100,000
ComplexAnimationsMedia processing Real-time environmentA strong backend $100,000+
Source: Agicent

Location of your development team

How much you’re paying the people who actually write the code for your app is a major budget line item. But you should consider more than just cost when deciding where your dev team is going to operate.

Sure, outsourcing the work to an overseas development team sounds cost-effective. But due to time zone considerations, it could actually take longer to deploy your app, unless someone changes their work hours to make communication more timely. It’s also important to see examples of an overseas team’s work prior to engaging them for your app, as the quality of work may vary.

Here are some examples of developer rates from VLink:

Country/regionDevelopment cost
U.S.$80–$170/hour
Ukraine$30–$100/hour
India$20–$40/hour
Australia$80–$200/hour
Source: vlinkinfo

Category

The category of your app determines what features it may require. For example, a banking app or an app handling healthcare data requires significantly more in the way of security and regulatory compliance than, say, a game app. Each app category comes with its own set of functionality expectations, security criteria, and compliance requirements.

In the field of health and wellness, healthcare apps have to comply with HIPAA’s strict security requirements. Social networking apps have large amounts of data traffic going back and forth between large databases and their users. Some gaming apps have to comply with gambling regulations, which vary by state.

Here’s a breakdown of some costs associated with developing different types of apps from Couchbase:

CategoryDevelopment timeCost
Social media6–12 months$50,000–$500,000
E-commerce4–12 months$30,000–$500,000
Gaming2–12 months or more$10,000–$500,000 or more
Education3–6 months$25,000–$250,000
Health and fitness4–6 months$50,000–$250,000
Travel and hospitality3-8 months$25,000-$300,000
Source: Couchbase

Comparative analysis of iOS and Android app development cost

Developing for iOS versus Android devices showcases some significant differences in writing code for these operating systems. Android uses Java as its primary development platform, which is a class-based development environment. Apple uses Swift, which is more protocol-based. These are technical terms that basically say both languages have different approaches to achieving the same ends.

Android has more market share simply because more phone manufacturers make Android phones (Motorola, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, Lenovo, etc.) whereas only Apple makes the iPhone. Development complexity favors Apple because Swift requires fewer lines of code than Java to achieve the development objectives of the app. More lines of code drives development costs higher.

CategoryiOSAndroid
Development platformSwiftJava
Market shareLowerHigher
Development complexityLowerHigher
Development costLowerHigher

Ways to optimize development costs

With all of these factors driving development costs higher, there are things you can do to get costs under control and get the most out of your development dollar. The following strategies can help you contain costs without compromising quality.

1. Prioritize core features

Everybody wants a feature-rich app. But features take time and cost money to add. Since you’re paying the same rate to your developers no matter what part of the app they are developing, it’s important to prioritize the features that are most important to your users.

By focusing on the features users want instead of the features that are nice to have, you can get a viable first version out to your users as quickly as possible. This can also aid in a critical step in the development process: creating an MVP.

2. Create a minimum viable product (MVP)

The advantage of being in the initial stages of product development is that you have tremendous flexibility. Getting a minimum viable product (MVP) out to users to test means you can make sure your core functionality works as expected, and you can collect valuable user feedback to further refine your app’s user experience.

Maybe there was a feature you thought was a “nice to have” that turns out to be a feature your users really wish was in the first version. Maybe there was a function that worked great in internal testing that didn’t operate at scale.

3. Leverage pre-built components and no-code tools

The beauty of pre-built components is that they are components you don’t have to develop. Any part of your app that comes already put together may be a cash outlay, but that is often more than offset by the savings in development time.

Jotform is a great example of how you can leverage pre-built components to quickly develop an app. It offers over 700 free, fully customizable app templates across dozens of categories that give you a head start in getting your application development off the ground.

Jotform Apps are shareable by direct link, email, QR codes, or social media. Apps can also have advanced permission settings to regulate access. They can also be downloaded to smartphones, tablets, or computers.

Jotform’s project management templates can even help you manage the development of your app. There are templates useful for tracking expenses, creating budget allocations, and financial workflows, planning sprints, and logging issues throughout the development process.

Building a cost-effective app

There’s no question that building an app involves some expense. But with proper planning, you can get the most bang for your app development dollar.

Prioritizing features, carefully building your team, and leveraging no-code development options can simplify app development, reduce costs, and give you a deployable finished product in less time.

Photo by Los Muertos Crew

AUTHOR
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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