How Much Does It Really Cost to Build An App?

Clare Bittourna

January 20, 2017

7 min read

Here at Codal, businesses and individuals ask us all the time, “How much does it cost to build an app?” Probably a very common question at any app development agency.

Although the cost of a mobile application depend on a few different things, we came up with some rough estimates to share with you.

Codal estimates that the initial costs of building an app will generally fall between $65,000 and $125,000. But that cost is just the tip of the iceberg: marketing and maintenance will usually end up accounting for over half of the total money spent on an app.

Where Does The Initial Cost Come From?

This image, courtesy of Codal, represents the lifecycle of the user experience design of an app:


The above chart goes over the entire UX process. Some businesses prefer to skip steps, or have their own design team handle some of it. The cost of the UX portion of an app, also depends on how much the business or individual wants to utilize our UX team and tools.

The complete process of developing an app can take anywhere from four months to a year. Apps that take longer to make will generally cost more.

Certain aspects of the app have some sway on how long the app will take to develop. For example, Android app development is generally quicker than iOS development.

The number of test iterations performed is another key factor in the time it takes to develop version 1.0 of the app. Codal manages to perform a high volume of usability tests in a short period of time by testing in an agile environment.

An “agile” environment refers to a development environment where strong communication allows usability testing and user experience modifications to take place simultaneously.This expedites development because reduces the amount of time that developers spend idle.

Marketing Cost

Many times the marketing cost is overlooked during budgeting. Codal estimates that the investment of marketing an app will usually be between 1.5 and 2.5 the cost of developing the app. This is what we recommend to our clients here at Codal in order to have a successful app business.

No matter how well developed your app is, it’s never going to get anywhere if nobody knows about it. To publicize your app, you could work with either a marketing agency or a public relations firm.

Although it would be ideal to be able to employ both a marketing agency and a public relations freelancer, that isn’t a realistic option for most entrepreneurs. So which of the two is the better option?

The divide between marketing and public relations is somewhat of a blurry line. Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising explains the difference:

"Marketing is proactive and supports sales, PR (Public Relations) helps you find and keep high profile customers"

If you don’t have (m)any big-spender clients yet, the services of a marketing agency would likely be more valuable to your company than PR services.

The Maintenance Cycle

It’s a great feeling when you first see your app successfully downloaded. However, even though people are downloading the app, the development and marketing efforts are never complete. Most successful mobile apps release between one and four updates per month, and between 50%-75% of development hours is spent on system maintenance.

In other words, initial development accounts for just one fourth of the time that will be spent developing your app. Think about some of the most successful apps out there, like Snapchat or Instagram; these platforms are constantly making changes and adding new features.

Most updates to an app can be placed into one of three categories.

Perfective updates bring new requirements and functions. These are the updates that may deserve marketing exposure if they improve the user interface.

Adaptive updates don’t necessarily improve the app, but change the app to reflect updated eCommerce laws or for other business reasons.

Corrective updates are the ones that are described as simply “bug fixes” when you see them in the app store. These are meant to speed up the app or correct a defect.

The recurring annual maintenance costs for these updates are usually about 1.5 times the cost of the initial development.


Many entrepreneurs are sold on the idea of having their own mobile app before they understand the complete cost.

Developing an app can take up to a year. Version 1.0 can cost anywhere between $65,000 and $125,000 to develop, depending on how unique the app is.

It is also very important to remember, that every app is different. The cost of an app really depends on the following things:

Features? -iOS or Android or Both? -Does it need a web portion? -Does the app need a marketing website? -Is UX research needed? -Are you using a templated design?

Adequate marketing for your app will cost between 1.5 and 2.5 times the cost of development.

Finally, maintenance on the app can cost around 1.5 times the cost of the initial development. Of course, this depends on how many iterations you’re making, or new features you are adding.

The investment of a mobile application can range, depending on the type of app. If you’are interested in getting a customized quote for the cost to build an app, contact us here.

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