How much does an app cost?

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Logan Apps

I frequently get asked how much an app cost. Well, PTO Tracker is $1.99, and Simple Pricebook is $.99. And Quidbit is free. Oh, wait, they’re asking how much it costs to create an app.This is like asking how much it costs to build a house. The answer is going to vary depending on what you want. Here are some things that are going to influence the cost of an app:

Things the app does – Depending on what you’re having the app do is going to directly be related to the development time needed. Want an app that plays podcasts, has a built-in special calculator, a mini-photo editor, and has a fun mini-game to boot? Well, that’s obviously going to take more time. One thing that can keep development cost is to not reinvent the wheel. Is there an app that already does some of what you’re wanting to do? Ask yourself if recreating that functionality is worth it.

Complexity of functionality – Some things are more complex than others.  For example, let’s say you want to “Integrate your app with Facebook.” This can mean many things.  Want people to be able to “Share” something from your app and have it just open the Facebook app for people to post with? Or are you wanting to have the app deeply integrated with Facebook, such as interacting with friends within the app without having to leave the app?  That requires a lot more.

Data sources – If the app is pulling data or storing data to a server, does that server need to be created? Let’s say you want to have a “Message of the Day” type application. Not only does the app need to be able to pull the message from a server, but someone has to enter those messages into the server (and perhaps some scheduling stuff to go along with it).

Design – Do you have graphics or some design elements that you want to be used? A programmer can reuse some of those things for your app. If you don’t, the programmer needs to design those things from scratch. They may also need to subcontract out some graphic work to a designer.

Platforms supported – Is the app just going to be available on iPhone or do you also want to support Android? Leaving out either one and you lose a lot of marketshare. Android has a slightly larger marketshare overall. But I see people choosing one platform for the reason of “that’s what I use.”  If you’re getting an app developed solely for yourself, well…….that’s one way to spend your money. There’s a few things that can only be done on Android (like Screen Blocker). But for other things, try to target both. It will cost more, but you will have a larger customer base.  Adding iPad and tablet support also can increase the costs.

If you’re building a house and want a retractable roof to “bring the outdoors inside”, yes, that’s possible.  But I’ve seen some houses with large sliding exterior walls. While it’s not exactly the same, it’s probably much more economical.  Working with a developer, you can figure out what features might be driving the cost of your up unnecessarily. Now, there are some scenarios where it does make sense to pay a team of developers $50K to work on your app, but that doesn’t apply to everyone.

So yes, the answer is “it varies”, because like other custom built things (like houses), it’s going to depend on what you’re trying to achieve. I’ll try to discuss some other things to look for when working with a developer in future posts.

Do you have any other questions about app development?

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Bryan Logan

About Bryan Logan

I'm Bryan. I like to innovate things. These innovations may materialize as activities with the kids, new/easier/better ways of doing things, smartphone apps, or just funny blog posts. You can find me on Twitter and
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  • http://www.someblogsite.com/ Some Guy

    In that same vein: how long does it take to make an app?

  • http://www.logan.cc/blog/ Bryan

    I’ve had people ask that question, and I respond with “Well, I need the requirements first.” “Yeah, but before I give the requirements, can you just give a ballpark?”

  • http://sameshirtyesterday.net/ Richard Hawthorne

    Bryan This post is helpful for those of us who do not quite understand the process of or the cost involved in programming an app. I recently talked with a company about creating an app for my company and the process was not well explained to me so I did not go any farther with it. This info is helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  • http://www.logan.cc/blog/ Bryan

    I’m surprised a big company didn’t have a more refined “interview” process. Good luck with your app, and if you want some help defining your requirements, let me know.