Are app development costs decreasing?

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Juergen BerkesselLast Updated: June 23rd, 2016: Like most developers, I often get asked how much it costs to build an app.  For many clients it is not apparent that this is a little like asking how much it costs to build a house or buy a car. It is a difficult question to answer, and often requires quite a bit of work to nail down requirements, choose development platforms that are suitable to the client’s requirements and decide on back-end integration strategies.

Updated July 2016
  • Addition of the Kinvey App Cost Estimator and the Ionic App Estimator. Please note Kinvey works on desktops only, not support for mobile devices yet.
  • Please also note that we have added some resources on our app design and app development pages since this article was originally written.

We’ve had quite a few reactions to this post since it was originally published, and in 2014 and 2015 most people still thought that the cost of developing an app would rapidly decline. Perhaps this was anticipating that app development tools would become easier to use and cheap programmers would become ubiquitous. Perhaps this is driven by the fact that the cost of buying apps are “racing to the bottom”. But apps being cheaper to buy in the app store do not translate into the app development costs being any lower. If anything, user expectations about features, social sign-in, and ease of use have increased at the same time that expectations around prices are that they should be lower.

So no, app development costs have not really come down y much, in my opinion.

App Cost Calculators  Can Help Figure Out The Cost To Develop An App

One of the best ways to estimate what an app will likely cost is to consider advice from multiple sources. There are now several app cost calculators out there, and by plugging in assumptions and required features, you should be able to get a consensus opinion about what the ballpark cost will be. Keep in mind that  it is important to configure assumptions about what functionality is needed, especially related to cross platform requirements and needing a back-end and database connectivity as well as social features, required for many app concepts out there…

So here are four calculators I’ve found particularly useful:

Kinvey
App Cost Estimator

Kinvey Cost To Develop An App Estimator

Kinvey App Cost Estimator

Otreva
App Cost Calculator

Otreva cost to develop an app calculator

Otreva App Cost Calculator

Crew
App Cost Calculator

Crew app cost calculator for the cost to develop an app

Crew – App Cost Calculator

Ionic
App Cost Calculator

Ionic App Cost Estimator

Ionic App Cost Estimator


High End vs. Low End

Since 2011/2012 tablets have become mainstay computing platforms, and in 2015 people’s expectations around App User Experiences for both smartphone and tablet platforms have been raised by many of the great efforts out there.

High end apps like FlipBoard, Zite, Pulse as well as the many great games, entertainment and utility apps published during the last years have served to inspire developers and clients alike.

Consider that for games and high end apps it is a matter of having a champagne budget to accompany the champagne taste: Such apps cost hundreds of thousands dollars to develop, and projects like  FlipBoard raised 10.5M of first round funding, and have just gone back for round two for an eye popping 200 million. The iPad News reader Zite was sold to CNN for over $20 million.

On the low end there are automatic app creation services like The App Builder, Good Barber, and Appery.io which offer very low cost alternatives. However for such template driven apps in general the consensus among clients (and developers) seems to be that one gets what one pays for, and that such platforms will not serve brands to differentiate themselves from the pack.[/one_half]

Do You Really Need An App?

Digital Strategy RoadmapOften clients come to me with a concept for an app. By the time they are talking to developers, they of course are thinking they really need this app, for whatever reason. But often when I start digging into their business, assets, website, email lists etc., I wind up gently discouraging them from building an app when other fundamental aspects of their digital presence and strategy are missing or need to be built before an app project could ever bear fruit. 2012 was one thing, but in 2015 the app market is extremely saturated and only truly stand out ideas, with the requisite funding to develop and market them, have any chance at visibility. So for me, there may be truly ROI effective alternative ways to build up a digital strategy, before even considering developing an app.

Top Down vs. Bottom Up

But assuming a client is committed to develop one, one approach is to start with a top down budget figure, and then decide how many of the desired features can be accommodated within that budget. However very often clients do no wish to communicate such an up-front number.
The other approach is to start by gathering requirements from the bottom up and estimating the project costs. But depending on previous experience and “mobile readiness” of a client, this can be either a short or very long process; some of our clients did not even own a tablet computer at the outset of a project, and the familiarization process can take a long time.

Another phenomenon we’ve noticed that often apps are perceived by clients as an independent stand alone entities, even when they serve data from a network; the concept that an app may require a back-end content management system came as a surprise to some. App promotion costs are equally easy to overlook at the beginning of a project, we we stress the importance of budgeting for this up-front.

As part of our agile app delivery model we often recommend starting with a mobile requirements definition and design engagement, which has the added benefit of ensuring that the app development effort fits into the overall strategy of the brand, and considers User Experience and persona development dimensions. In the next section we will list industry examples and the full Polymash Agile App Delivery Model. The full Polymash Agile Delivery Model is available here:

 

 

Some Industry Examples

A few years ago I came across a couple of excellent articles that are still relevant and do an great job of breaking down the dimensions that contribute to tablet (and smartphone) development costs:

The Cost of Building an iPad App | PadGadget

The Cost of Building an iPad App | PadGadget
Regardless of who actually develops the app, let’s look at what it takes to build it. An iPhone or iPad app typically takes anywhere between 2 weeks to several months to build, depending on the complexity. Building an app is not just about coding, as it requires:

Design:
Unless you have the proper skills to do the design yourself, design will cost you money, especially for more advanced apps. Expect weeks of work to build all the app screens, and this job cannot be off-shored. At $50 to $150 an hour, U.S. based designers will likely bill you anywhere between a couple thousands of dollars for a basic app, to several dozens of thousands of dollars if you’re building a higher-end app that requires many screens to be designed.

Coding:
Similarly, writing the app’s code will usually take several weeks to several months of work. This work can be off-shored, and several outlets in Europe and Asia do this job for a living. If you decide to off-shore, you will likely save some money, however, keep in mind that off-shoring requires a lot of coordination, as you will have to manage teams that may not speak the same language, work different hours, and have hundreds of customers like you to deal with. A U.S. based team will likely cost you more, but these teams are local and are usually a lot easier to deal with.

Testing:
Nobody wants bad reviews in the App Store. In other words, you will need to spend days playing with your app, trying to identify bugs and find out what could go wrong. Again, depending on the complexity of the app, this job could take one person a couple days, or five people two weeks. Expect a lot of “back and forth” between the testing and development teams, in order to get rid of all bugs identified within the app.

Infrastructure:
Unless your app does not require any interaction with external servers, keep in mind that server development and infrastructure is critical for the app to succeed, as a slow server response and/or overloaded server will likely lead to bad reviews and poor sales, even if the app is great. Don’t be shy and expect to invest a lot of money on the server side of the equation, especially if you expect your app to be wildly successful. Good infrastructures do not come cheap, and keep in mind that recurring monthly fees will have a direct impact on your revenue.

Validation:
When you are ready to launch, the last gate is the validation. Passing the validation could take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks, depending on the app and depending on the number of Apple guidelines your app may be infringing.
Project Management: The more third parties involved, the bigger your headache!

For a nice but simple app, the design work will likely take a designer about a week, which will cost you about $6,000. The server side will likely require a developer about 2 weeks of work, or about $12,000. Similarly, the app could be written in about 2 weeks as well, another $12,000. Add $5,000 for project management, hosting fees for a year, debugging, unforeseen delays, and your total budget is around $35,000.

For a nice high end app, like a high-end game, numbers are usually much higher. Design will likely cost you $30,000 alone. Development will be in the $150,000+ range. Hosting fees and extras will cost another $30,000. At the end of the day, your app will likely cost you at least $200,000.

read the complete article here…

How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mobile App? | Appmuse

Appmuse Article – How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mobile App?

Alex Ahlund, former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps, and later an advisor to Appolicious, wrote a guest blog article about app sales on TechCrunch.  According to that article, a survey of 96 mobile app developers showed the average cost to develop an app was $6,453.  An article on OS X Daily about iPhone Development Costs reported that the development cost range for “small apps” is $3,000 to $8,000 and that “more complex or recognized brand apps” can cost $50,000 to $150,000.

 

For some additional resources and recent app cost calculators, see the following links:

KinveyKinvey’s App Cost Estimatorhttp://www.kinvey.com/app-cost-estimator
John RaineyHow much does it cost to develop an app?http://www.accella.net/how-much-will-my-mobile-app-cost-to-create/
Carter, Bluecloud SolutionsHow Much Will my Mobile App Cost to Create?http://www.bluecloudsolutions.com/blog/cost-develop-app/
By Aaron Maxwell, MashableIs Developing a Mobile App Worth the Cost?http://mashable.com/2011/02/24/mobile-app-dev-cost/

In Pounds Sterling:

This post provided some very detailed estimates by the CTO of 5App and his conclusion:

It’s safe to assume that using traditional development techniques to create a cross-platform enterprise app won’t come in under £100K.


Study finds Germans and Canadians Biggest App Users

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I’m motivated to share some valuable findings from a study about consumers’ behaviors as they relate to the use of mobile devices and apps.  The study, The Pulse of the Consumer: Global Trends in Mobile Communications was presented by Deloitte Dbriefs as part of their technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) series.

The study included the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey.

Survey Findings

Device awareness and usage

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  • The average monthly spend on smartphone contracts was $60, ranging from less than $20 per month at the low end to more than $170 per month at the high end.
  • When it came to choosing their current smartphone, the top seven most important features listed by respondants were: design, touchscreen, brand, operating system, reliability, camera and applications.

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Tablets have changed consumer behavior.

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At the time of the survey, May 2012:

  • 18% of tablet owners hardly use their laptops any more.
  • 23% use their laptops less often.
  • We know from other research (Forrestor and Gartner) that it’s anticipated that in less than two years – by mid 2014 –  more consumers will be accessing the web on their mobile devices than on their desktops.

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App user awareness and downloads

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When it comes to app awareness and downloads on smartphones and on tablets, Japan pips the post, with US not far behind.

As far as age demographic globally, among app users:

  • 18 – 34 year olds scored  the highest number of downloads in the 70- 80% range
  • 34 – 44 year olds download around 60%
  • 45-54 age group hovering on 50%
  • 55 years and older, 30% of them download apps.

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The Canadians and Germans are greater app users, downloading more apps and spending more money

German and Canadian App UsersWhile, globally, 73% of those surveyed download 1 – 4 apps per month, and 58% spend zero dollars per month, 21% of Canadians spend more that $5 per month and 29% download more than 5 apps per month. The Germans appear to be the heaviest downloaders with 30% downloading more than 5 apps per month and 14% spending more than $5.  These statistics apply to smartphones.

Germany and Canada came out on top as app users when it came to tablets. 41% of Germans tablet owners download more that 5 apps per month, and 17% more than 10 downloads. As far as spend, 31% of German tablet owners spend more than $5 per month.  Among the Canadian tablet owners, 37% download more than 5 apps per month and 28% of them spend more than $5 per month.

Least appreciated smartphone capability

NFC - app userThe most misunderstood and undervalued smartphone capability is near field communications NFC, especially for m-commerce. 49% of the respondents indicated that would not want NFC capability at all.  Only 3% replied they would only want a phone with such capability.  Despite having responded that way, around 50% of respondents indicated they would use the activities that NFC enables, implying NFC functionality is not yet fully understood or appreciated.  See the graph below.

Deloitte Webinar - App user NFC SlideIf you are interested to learn more, you can download the PDF of the full set of slides of Deloitte’s presentation: The Pulse of the Consumer: Global Trends in Mobile Communications

Tablet Wars 2012: It’s the Apps, Stupid!

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The Apple and Samsung patent trial is expected to come to a close this week. Samsung is accused of infringing on iPhone and iPad patents in the design of their own devices. The outcome, be it either a win for Samsung or Apple, will likely influence the direction of how tablets will be designed and marketed worldwide.

In an Article in the NY Times, Nick Wingfield reports:

“But the effects of the case are likely to be felt far beyond these two companies. If Apple prevails, experts believe Samsung and other rivals in the market will have a much stronger incentive to distinguish their smartphone and tablet products with unique features and designs to avoid further legal tangles.”
read the article…

And this will be good news, because if the case goes Samsung’s way, then tablet features and design will continue to emulate the iPad and iOS experience, and I for one would look forward to seeing more innovation from Apple’s competitors both on the hardware and software side.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

tablet wars 2012 What was interesting for me as an app designer was that attention to detail Samsung paid in copying software features of what they clearly perceived to be a superior product. An internal 132 page Samsung report complained about the fact that Samsung’s design fell short of Apple’s example in key areas, and did so through a comparison of the two devices in the minutest detail; for example a discussion about the pixel width of the separator line between numbers displayed in the of the built in calculator.

This surprised me a bit, as Samsung is a device manufacturer, and I would have expected them to be concerned with tablet hardware features and price to differentiate itself from other Android based tablets and smartphones.

But it seems that the 132 page report points to examples of how Samsung tweaked the Android OS software. And thus contributing to one of the biggest issues that keep Android based tablets from winning the tablet wars for now: Device Fragmentation. There are 700 some varieties of Android devices, with 30+ different screen resolutions and countless manufacturer specific OS tweaks, and this is what presents enormous quality and design challenges for cross platform developers like us.

Tablet wars aren’t won by hardware: It’s the Apps, Stupid!

As an app designer and developer I may be biased, but to me the tablet wars in the end will come down to neither device features or price. To mis-quote Bill Clinton: “It’s the apps, stupid”. Having a vibrant app marketplace, and therefore having an enthusiastic developer community is what I think will continue to primarily influence the tablet wars.

Do hardware features matter?

Manufacturers would like you to believe that hardware features and price make a significant difference to consumers, but in the end the iPad tablet is not that deficient on the hardware front. And on the software side? Of course there are great apps available for Android, but on the whole an extra megapixel of camera resolution on a lesser known tablet may simply not make up for the variety, quality and choice of fantastic apps available on the iTunes App Stores.

All Apple has to do to keep pace and marketshare is to announce a slightly less expensive tablet, perhaps with a 7″ screen size…

Quick Poll: What is your opinion?

What do you value in your tablet?

#2 Top Ranked iPad App in Business

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Top Ranked iPad App in the business category!

Our “Embracing Change” app made it to #2 yesterday and holds the position today. We gifted it to the world for Valentine’s day.

top ranked ipad app

So take advantage of a very cool, top ranked iPad app, created with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite that you will help you embrace change whenever you need it.

Find out more on the App’s home page and on the iTunes App Store:

[callout] [three_fourth] Visit the “Embracing Change App’s home site.  The app’s homepage contains cool videos and explain what this self development and coaching app is all about: [/three_fourth] [one_fourth_last][button color=’black’ size=’medium’ link=’http://www.positivematrix.com/embracingchange/’]Embracing Change Home Site[/button][/one_fourth_last] [/callout]

 

iPad App Store

Are We Asking the Right Questions About Apple’s iBooks Push?

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In the last week or so, the news have been full of stores about the impact of Apple’s announcement of iBooks and iBooks authoring software. Fastcompany just posted an interesting article about the many questions Apple’s entry into this space raises. While not providing any answers, sometimes it is more important to ask the right questions:

  • Industry-standard e-book formats or proprietary, protected files?
  • Android or iOS?
  • Cloud-hosted files or local storage?
  • Standalone apps or “Newsstand”?
  • Creator-friendly terms or restrictive EULA?
  • Format integrity or media evolution?

Apple’s iBooks Push Raises 6 Big Questions About The Future Of E-Publishing (via FastCompany)
Last week, Apple made headlines with iBooks 2.0 and iBooks Author, the company’s next big moves into textbooks and self-publishing. When players like Apple go wading into the marketplace with game-changing announcements, there’s a tendency to believe that all the outstanding uncertainties have been resolved.

But in the fast-evolving e-book space, that’s far from true. Apple, Amazon, Google, and the various corporate content owners are huge and influential, but when they are all battling each other over fundamentals of the market, it’s consumers, creators, and publishers who have control.

[button link=”http://www.fastcompany.com/1812673/apple-s-big-epublishing-moves-highlight-uncertainties-in-the-market/” color=”silver”] Read the Full article at fastcompany.com[/button]

Technorati Tags: ipad, iOS, Android, tablets, digital publishing

Get Yourself on the Shelf

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A simple yet powerful innovation in iOS 5 – the introduction of Newsstand – is rapidly changing the way people buy and read magazines and other periodical and subscription based content.

But the opportunity created isn’t just for those with traditional publications.

If you are a content owner of any kind – author, blogger, information product owner, etc. – this may well be your entry point in the app store.

[box] Wired.com reported this statement from a press release by Ryan Marquis, Pixel Mags founder and COO: “We quickly started to realize just how big of an impact Apple Newsstand was having on our business when on the morning after launch, I received a phone call from our server company wondering if we were under attack,” said Ryan Marquis, PixelMags’ founder and COO, in a company’s press release.

With the release of Newsstand came an incredible surge in subscriptions to digital magazines.  Another Wired.com article sites examples from Conde Nast’s surge of  268 percent spike to  PixelMags reported 1,150 percent growth increase in the first week after Newsstand and iOS 5 debuted on Oct. 12th.  The article goes on to say: “Without a doubt, Newsstand increases the visibility of subscription-based magazine and newspaper apps, which often get buried under the onslaught of games, social media and photo apps that tend to dominate the App Store’s charts.”[/box]

And that is exactly why this is a significant development for content owners.

Don’t just think magazine, think about the wonderful content you deliver to your customers on your websites, blogs, and in your information products.  Apps based on great content, not flashy interactivity are a whole new delivery channel.  Combine elegant design with your content and package it as an app and you deliver a superior experience of your content.  Content intensive apps now have a place because they have a context end users can understand. Read more

This week in Hollywood: Adobe Max!

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For us in the Digital Publishing and App development world, this is an
interesting week. Watch out for Adobe MAX announcement about the Adobe Digital
Publishing Suite, and catch the keynote events live. For  those of us not able to attend this week’s Adobe MAX conference in person, below  are resources to follow along in social media, as well as a daily summary of all the action. Visit the paper.li magazine I’ve set up at  “This week in Hollywood: Adobe Max

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[button link=”http://max.adobe.com/online/” color=”silver” newwindow=”yes”] See Keynotes Live[/button]


[button link=”http://max.adobe.com/socialmedia/” color=”silver” newwindow=”yes”] AdobeMAX Social Media[/button]


[button link=”http://twitter.com/search/%23adobemax” color=”silver” newwindow=”yes”] AdobeMAX on Twitter[/button]
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[button link=”http://twitter.com/#!/AdobeDigitalPub” color=”silver” newwindow=”yes”] Adobe Digital Publishing on Twitter[/button]

[button link=”https://max.adobe.com/schedule/by-session/#” color=”silver” newwindow=”yes”] AdobeMAX Sessions[/button]

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New SlideShare with HTML5 plays on any device, plus a mobile App

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SlideShare on IPad and iPhoneI am as big fan of SlideShare, but have been visiting less often over the last year since my primary web browsing device has become the iPad. So I’m happy to hear that SlideShare is now introducing an HTML5 compatible upgrade of their site that will allow slideshows to display on mobile devices, including the iPad. Plus they are launching a mobile App, so Kudos!

So look for some great embedded slide presentations on Polymash.com as well as in our Apps soon, and in the meantime, check out their announcement:

We have been listening to your feedback, reading your tweets and talking with you about the evolution of SlideShare. As our CTO Jon Boutelle explains in his blog post, you want your presentations to load faster, cleaner, and display on any platform including iPads, iPhones and all kinds of mobile devices. Is that too much to ask? Community, your wish has come true. We are pleased to introduce the new HTML5 SlideShare!

read the full article at slideshare.net

Mimi Cross Interview – Author of the Crankamacallit iPad app

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In this interview, Mimi Cross, author of the recently released Crankamacallit iPad app, talks about her experience in creating an interactive children’s story in this new medium.

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  • The interview was designed in an appreciative inquiry format,and conducted by Robyn Stratton.
  • Music by Mimi Cross and Kevin Salem
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    Please note we’ve just posted the Crankamacallit Demo Reel

    [button id =”vid1″ link=”http://polymash.com/crankamacallit”]The Crankamacallit Home Page[/button]

    It’s the Crankamacallit!

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    We’re super excited to announce that our next iPad app has launched! The Crankamacallit is an interactive children’s book chock full of interactive features, discoveries, sounds, animations, 360 degree panoramas, mini games and more. I think it’s a doozie! Part poem, part story, this 3D fantasy was written by Mimi Cross, and wonderfully narrated by Robert Burke Warren (AKA “Uncle Rock”)

    Come visit the Crankamacallit page, see our gallery, or check out the developing posts.