Anytime you want to work on an App idea, it’s important to know the cost you can expect to turn your idea into reality. There are currently three million apps in various app stores, and they all have been developed with different budgets. If you call several app development companies to figure out the cost of a given project, you can expect to get very different answers. It may be impossible for you to know which number is most appropriate. It takes time and effort for both the Idea Owner and the App Developers to come up with the most appropriate cost.

But, what if there was a way to know the formula and process used by Developers to estimate the cost of an app? If you can know and understand the formula used by Developers, you can have a sense of the appropriate cost and then compare it with estimates provided.

Simpalm’s team has used  its seven years of experience to come up with a Universal Formula that anyone can use to estimate the cost of an app.

Here it is:


App Making Cost = (UI/UX Design Hours + iOS App Hours + Android App Hours + Backend Server Hours) X Developer’s Hourly Rate


The hours required to build a mobile app depends upon a variety of factors including the size of the app, complexity, design requirements, the development process, backend server, maintenance, and several other related factors. A developer’s hourly rates depend upon the location and experience of the developer. An offshore vendor can charge between $15 and $25 per hour, a full onshore company can charge $70 to $150 per hour and a company with Onshore/Offshore resources may charge between $30 and $50/hour. To make it easy for you to understand how much your app may cost, let’s look at apps of three different sizes:

  • Small app (6-10 Screens),
  • Mid-sized app (20-25 screens) and
  • Large app (40-45 screens)


and demonstrate how the cost can be estimated for these apps. I hope after reading this article, you will be more aware of the cost of building mobile apps. The sections below describe how you can estimate hours and cost for the various components of the Universal Formula:

Cost Factor 1: Estimate the Design Cost of an App

It is very important to create a thoughtful UI/UX for the application. Whether your app is small or big, this is the most crucial step of app development. It takes time and money to do UI/UX well, however, it will save you cost and time in the long run.  By having well-defined UI/UX requirements for the app, you can avoid cost escalation during development of the project. The design process generally involves three key tasks:

  • Gather and understand the requirements in a Word document.
  • Create the layout and flow of the app using a wireframe tool.
  • Show the UI Design of the app using Photoshop, and selected themes, colors and fonts.

Requirement gathering and wireframing are generally executed together. The graphical design is done once wireframe and requirements have been defined.   Developers will use a wireframing tool like Balsamiq or Proto I/O to create the flow and screens of the app.  Here are my estimated hours for the design of an app in three different sizes. The table also shows the cost by different types of vendor. You can use this table to estimate the design cost of the project.


Cost to develop a mobile app

Total hours Required to Design a Mobile App

mobile app design & development cost

Mobile app design cost in USA

Cost Factor 2: Cost of an App without a Backend

If your app does not need a backend server, it will cost you less to get the app developed. These apps are relatively cheaper, because you don’t need additional developers to build the backend. If your app does not need a backend, you can use this Table to calculate the estimated time and cost to develop the app for one platform (iOS or Android). If you want to estimate cost for both iOS and Android, just multiply the costs in this table by two.


How much it cost to develop an app

Development Cost of an App without a Back-end

Cost Factor 3:  Cost of an App with a Backend

Many applications these days do require a backend, typically to be able to save data on a backend server, and to be able to fetch it again for later use. Any app thatneeds to allow one user to access another user’s data, will need a backend server. Building backend adds cost to the App Development. I recommend using Amazon AWS or Azure, a cloud-based backend, so that the cost of development is less and maintenance will be easier. You can use the following table to estimate the cost of an app with a backend.  Here is a table that gives estimates on app and backend server development:

These estimates also include testing and project management hours and cost.

Total Hours Required to Build an App with a Backend

Total Hours Required to Build an App with a Backend

How much it will cost to develop an app

Development cost of an app with a back-end



Cost Factor 4:  One Platform Vs Two Platforms

If you want to build the app for both the iOS and Android platforms, then it will cost you almost double that of building app for one platform. As a startup, you just want to start with one of the platforms, and launch it to capture the market reaction. iOS is the most preferred platform in the U.S. when launching app for only one mobile platform.  Remember Instagram? They initially came out with an iOS app only, yet started with millions of users.  If your app is done right, you will gain a market just with one platform and will then be able to replicate your success on other platforms.


Cost of App for Two Mobile Platforms = 2 X (Cost of App for one Mobile Platform)

Cost Factor 5: Native Vs Cross-Platform Approach

You can build mobile apps using a cross-platform framework such as React Native, Titanium, Xamarin, PhoneGap, or JavaScript. These frameworks allow you to build iOS and Android apps using a single source code.  Generally, it costs less to build iOS and Android apps using the cross-platform approach, compared to the native app development approach. You save money, but you may have to sacrifice on scalability and design. If it is a simple informational app, you can build it using a cross-platform approach. However, if you will have complex functionality, very advanced design, animation or integration with an external device, you should use a native approach. You can get pricing for both approaches and get opinions from different vendors on the pros and cons of a cross-platform approach for your project, to help you make a  smarter final decision.


Cost of Cross Platform iOS+Android App < Cost of Native iOS+ Android App.


Cost Factor 6: Cost after launching the app

Once you launch the apps on stores, you may incur several additional costs. For example:

  • Cost to maintain the app in stores. If, for example, iOS or Android comes up with an update causes your app to dysfunction, you’ll need to address that. Typically, OS updates do not affect all apps, but statistically they do affect 2-5% of apps.
  • Cost to add more features to your app. You may come up with additional features that need to be added to your app.
  • Cost to market the app. This is not related to development, but still you will want to know this number.

I hope this has helped you understand how developers estimate the cost of an app project. But, if you still have questions or need a more detailed quote for your app idea, please contact us at [email protected].


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