The True Costs of Building a Mobile App

Have you seen the astronomical success of some recent mobile apps? It’s startling, really.

From the addictive Flappy Birds mobile game that was downloaded millions of times and earned $50,000 a day from in-app advertisements, to the popular Snapchat app, which was recently valued at $10 billion—the sky’s the limit with mobile apps.

A great app can accelerate your business. With a consumer-facing app, you can increase customer engagement, boost your brand and mobile traffic, acquire more users, and add to the bottom line.

With an internal app, you can increase employee engagement, connect departments like engineering and HR, and help your business run more efficiently.

There are many benefits of building a mobile app for your business. But if you’ve never built a mobile app before, the process can seem daunting.

The first question on your mind is probably, “What are the costs?”

And that’s a common question. The thing is, it’s a bit more complicated than a concrete number. It’s similar to asking how much it costs to build a house or buy a car—of course, it depends on what kind of house you’re building or type of car you’re buying.

The minivan costs less than the fancy sports car, and an average house in the Midwest costs less than an average house in Los Angeles. However, while it’s difficult to provide concrete numbers, we’ll give you some rough guidelines on mobile app costs.

First, we’ll start with some different types of mobile apps you can build, and then dive into the cost factors that go into developing and maintaining a mobile app.

Types of Mobile Apps

Basic Apps—These are the apps that are easiest to build. They have basic functionality and are the least expensive. You can think of these apps like a hierarchy. The opening screen usually has big topics, and you can click on one to reveal a new set of lists to click on. If you want a simple app for your business that displays very basic information, and you have a low budget, this could be your best option.

Business Apps—Business apps are a bit more complex than basic apps. They deal with database management systems, and require a lot of content management. The development is more complex and, as a result, more expensive. If you have a ton of content you want to utilize, you’ll need this type of app with database driven functionality.

Game Apps—These apps have a large range of complexity. You can have a simple game with the functionality of PONG (you know, that game we all used to be obsessed with!), all the way up to a 3D physics engine that does high speed air racing. Game apps can also use built-in phone mechanisms and allow users to physically move their devices (i.e. shaking and turning) to affect gameplay.

Apps That Enhance Device Software/Hardware—Have you ever used an app that improved certain features of your phone, such as your alarm, camera, or flash? For example, my iPhone doesn’t allow me to take flash pictures when I’m facing the screen. But when I’m using Snapchat, I can take a flash picture both when I’m facing the screen and when it’s turned away. That’s what we mean with this type of app. For this app, the costs depend on the types of features you want to incorporate.

Costs of Mobile Apps

Here are the cost factors to consider when developing a mobile app:


What functionalities do you want your app to include? What kind of app will it be, and what audience will it cater to? As we mentioned before, basic apps don’t cost much, but they also don’t give you much ROI (Return on Investment). While more complex apps require a larger investment, they can also grant you significantly more returns. The amount of functionality will be the first step to determining the rest of your mobile app costs.

App Design

If you’re running a business, odds are, you don’t have the proper skills (or time available) to design the app yourself. Unlike websites which can usually be designed by just one person, mobile apps often require a team of people to complete. Design is crucial for an app. It’s a huge determinant of the user experience. If the design is not intuitive, the app will likely not gain any traction. When it comes to design, you should have a great icon, splash screens, and tab icons, as well as several other design features that need to be tied together.


Expect several weeks to months to write the app’s code. Most developers charge by the hour—so it’s ideal if you can find a development team with at least a few offshore employees—this will lower the rates. If the entire development team is based in the USA, the coding process can be quite expensive.


You don’t want to have loads of bad reviews after you release your app. That can destroy an app’s chances for success from the outset. That’s why testing is crucial. It allows you to identify bugs and discover where things could go wrong—before you release the app to the public. This process usually takes a few days to a couple of weeks.


Mobile apps present a huge opportunity for businesses. When done right, a mobile app can accelerate your business, improve efficiency, and bring you more customers.

There are several different types of mobile apps, and each has different costs. From basic apps to apps that enhance the mobile device software/hardware, you have a wide variety of options. Still, it’s difficult to determine a concrete number for the cost of a mobile app.

But if you’re thinking of building a mobile app, you can start the process today, for free. Simply reach out to development firms and agencies and get at least three different quotes for your mobile app idea.

In fact, you can get the process started right now. Here at Caffeine, we offer free quotes for mobile app development! Simply click the link below to discuss your project and receive your quote!

Request your quote now >>