Updated: February 24, 2023
In 2023, the average cost to develop an app in Australia is $45,000 to $240,000. The exact cost will depend on factors such as the type of app, features, platforms supported, level of polish and the location of the development team.
As sweeping a statement as that is, you can break down the cost of developing a mobile app further when you take into consideration the size or complexity of your app concept. For example:
- A simple proof-of-concept app can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 to develop.
- A small app will cost around $50,000 to $125,000 .
- Medium sized apps will cost in the region of $125,000-$200,000 to build.
- Bigger and more feature-rich apps will cost $200,000 or more.
Large corporations can easily spend millions of dollars per year employing large mobile teams to develop and maintain their mobile apps.
Factors that can impact the cost of developing an app
1. Type of App
The app type is probably the biggest factor impacting the development cost. Developing a simple QR code scanner app, for example, will cost much less than developing a comprehensive social network.
The number of screens, user types, server architecture and third-party services, will all largely depend on the app type.
Higher Cost Apps
Generally, apps like social networks, marketplaces, artificial intelligence, music production, ride-sharing and security-heavy apps like banking apps, are more expensive to develop.
Lower Cost Apps
Simpler apps like calculators, QR scanners, static content apps, educational resources, directories and note taking apps are generally cheaper to develop.
The number and complexity of features is another major factor that impacts development cost. Complex features like social feed algorithms, iOT device synchronisation or augmented reality will cost more than a simple file upload or a form.
3. Platforms Supported
iOS and Android apps are written in different programming languages. Building an app that supports both platforms will be more work than building for just one and will therefor cost more. If your app developer codes natively, they will need to build the front end of the app twice (in Java and in Swift/Objective C) to support Android and iOS . The back end will likely be shared between the two, so it only needs to be written once.
A cost-effective alternative to developing the front end twice is to use a cross-platform framework like React Native. This enables your programmers to write the code once and export it as a native app for each platform. effectively halving the front end app development cost.
To learn about the differences between front end and back end development, read ‘How to make an app’ .
4. Level of Polish
Polish can be applied to every aspect of an app and will greatly impact the price of development. The user interface (UI) design, server architecture, animations and interactions and tablet optimisation are all common levers. The more polish you add, the higher the cost will be.
Apps will typically go through various lifecycles with more polish added in each phase. Rarely will the first version of an app released to the public be fully-featured and highly polished.
For most startups, the first release will be a simple proof-of-concept app. This is a basic, lower cost version of the app that is used to validate the idea. This way a startup can make sure there is a market for their app before spending more money on developing it further.
These are some typical app lifecycles, or phases. The development cost will get progressively higher as you move through the phases:
- Design prototype
- Scalable V2
- Fully-featured app
5. Location of App Development Team
Where your app development is done can also have a significant impact on the cost. Being that app development is labor-intensive, the cost of that labor has a direct impact on the overall cost.
In Australia, the cost of labor is relatively high compared to other countries. While you might be tempted to send your project offshore to a country with lower labor costs, like India or the Philipines, this approach does come with its own additional costs and risks.
For a full comparison, read ‘Offshore VS Local App Development’ .
What is the average cost of app development?
On average, the cost of developing an app to MVP stage is $102,000 .
The median cost of developing a basic proof-of-concept app is $30,000 .
The cost of designing an app prototype is around $12,000.
These figures are based on 30 fairly typical projects delivered by DreamWalk between 2021 and 2023.
How much money do you need to develop an app?
The design and programming costs are not the only costs you’ll incurr when developing an app. It’s also important to factor in other costs like server fees, Apple and Google developer account subscriptions, ongoing maintenance costs, marketing expenses and third-party services.
Typically an app startup might expect to spend the following:
1. Server fees
Servers could cost anywhere from $10 to $10,000 per month, depending on the number of users you have, the amount of data being being sent and recieved and the types of services you have running.
Hosting companies like Amazon AWS and Heroku offer free hosting tiers to get you started. A free tier may be sufficient for some apps, at least while they are new. Others will be more server-intensive or gain users more quickly, in which case a free tier won’t cut it for long.
2. Developer Accounts
You’ll need to subscribe to the Apple and/or Android developer programs to be able to release your app on their app stores. Google charges a once-off, $20 fee to become an Android developer while Apple charges an annual $100 subscription fee to be a part of their developer program .
3. Ongoing Maintenance
Expect to spend at least $2,200 annually on basic app maintenance in order to keep it live and up-to-date. In the case of a major operating system update by Apple or Google, deprecation or major updates to third-party services or big framework updates, the cost could be considerably higher.
On top of the basic maintenance cost, you may also want to make changes to your app based on user feedback and usage data. The development cost will depend entirely on the changes you wish to make. We suggest allocating at least 10% of your total budget to post-launch iterations and additions.
You can spend as much or as little as you want on marketing for your app. Your marketing strategy will depend on your industry, target audience, budget and desired outcome.
Some apps have spent $0 on marketing and have gone on to be huge successes while others have spent millions. The most important thing to remember is that apps do require marketing of some kind. Whether its paid ads or social influencer-driven, a marketing strategy is crucial to your app’s success and you should allocate a budget to it accordingly.
Jam App Launch Marketing Case Study
5. Third-party Services
Here are some common third-party services you might include in your app and the relevant pricing:
Mailgun – Sending system emails
$35-$90 p/m with a free option
Twilio – Sending SMS
Forest Admin – App Administration
$24 – $48 p/m with a free option
Getstream.io – Chat
How much does android app development cost?
The cost of Android app development is very similar iOS development with prices typically in the range of $40,000 to $240,000 . When developing offshore, Android is usually slightly cheaper due to the lower barrier to entry.
How much does it cost to develop an iOS app?
The cost of iOS app development is very similar Android development with prices typically in the range of $40,000 to $240,000 . When developing offshore, iOS development is usually slightly more expensive due to the higher barrier to entry.
Why is app development so expensive?
The high cost of app development mostly comes down to the high cost of labor. In Australia and around the world, employees with specialist design and programming skills can command relatively high salaries.
An app is a piece of software, usually developed by a specialist team over a relatively long period of time. The process involves extensive planning, design, programming, testing, debugging and deployment, all by experts in their given fields. Like any piece of software, it takes time to plan, design, build and test an app. The longer it takes to develop the app, the higher the development cost.
Can you build an app without any money?
There are ways to develop an app without any money, but it’s certainly not easy. Your options include building it yourself using a no-code platform, raising startup capital from investors or finding a technical co-founder, among others.
For a more detailed look at building an app with limited resources, read my post ‘Making an app with no money’ from the DreamWalk blog.
How much does it cost to hire an app developer?
If you choose to design your app, manage the project and do all testing yourself, you will likely be able to hire a freelance app developer in Australia for $75-$100 per hour .
Hiring an app development company to take care of everything will cost approximately $100-$200 per hour but your personal time commitment to the project will be a lot lower. Having professionals design your app and manage the project for you will likely also save you money. They’ve done it before and know how to design an app and manage a project on a budget.
There are various way to engage a developer to build your app and the cost will depend on the engagement model. App development agencies typically offer three models – Fixed price, time and materials or a flat-fee agile engagement.
How can you reduce app development costs?
There are various ways to reduce development costs. These include using a cross-platform framework, avoiding lowball quotes, workshopping your app idea with a professional app strategist and by reducing scope. Read more about in my post ‘How to Develop Apps Faster and Cheaper’ .
About the Author
Joseph Russell is an award-winning app designer, app strategist and founder of DreamWalk . Over his 11 year career, Joseph has helped hundreds of businesses and startup founders plan, design, develop and launch successful apps.
Artwork by David Liceaga
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