As smartphones become a more integral part of our lives, the mobile software development industry continues to boom. In 2020, mobile app revenues reached $111 billion, a 24% increase from 2019. If you’ve got an idea for an app, there’s plenty of information out there about how to get started.
However, budgeting for an app can be unpredictable as there are many factors to consider. If you want to know how much mobile software development costs in Los Angeles, continue reading for guidance on what you can expect to spend.
How Much Is It to Build an App?
On average, developing a mobile app in Los Angeles costs anywhere from $40,000 – $250,000+, depending on what you want to build. Simple phone apps cost anywhere from $40,000 – $80,000 while those with a basic database cost between $60,000 – $150,000.
Complex apps like game apps or apps with lots of features start at $100,000 and can cost as much as $500,000 or more, depending on the quality and detail.
There are three high-level factors to consider when calculating the cost of developing mobile software: platform, design requirements, and complexity.
Platforms for Mobile Software Development
There are two options to choose from: native and cross-platform.
“Native apps” are built in the same programming language as the platform they’re designed for. Android apps use Java, while iOs uses Swift.
While native apps are typically more expensive to develop, they are also more reliable and efficient. They can access a phone’s features, like its camera and address book. Your UX will generally be better if you develop your app natively.
“Cross-platform” development skips the step of creating an app in the same language as its platform and will allow a mobile app to run on multiple platforms — typically, Android and iOS.
While hybrid apps run on both platforms, they won’t have access to phone features and design can be tricky, as both platforms have different conventions.
When it comes to design, the more customization, the higher the cost. If you can template your design, it will cost less and take less time—though this may limit your creativity.
- Visual design—the first thing a user notices is the look and feel of an app. The visual design of your app is as important as any other part of the app. Ugly mobile apps don’t last long and won’t sell.
- UX design—consider how your user will engage with the app. The experience, or UX, determines how well your app achieves its purpose.
- Icon, logo and branding—investing in branding and creating an eye-catching logo and icon sets up your app for success, especially in the app store. Users download mobile apps with appealing icons. Don’t skimp on this part of the development process.
- Copywriting—from the app store to the app itself, you’ll need compelling copy that draws users to your app and keeps them engaged. It should clearly state the benefits and help users understand the value of using the different features it has.
Cost for the icon, logo and copy ranges from $500 to $2000 each. Visual design and UX are more expensive, running up to $20,000. If you hire a developing company, the design team will usually come with it, making it easy to get it all done in one place.
It’s important to remember that UX design is a continuous process—you always want to be improving your user’s experience. Plan to update your icon design every 2-3 years.
Your app’s features set it apart from competitors, but as your app becomes more complex, it will also require more time and money. Typical mobile software development complexities include information provided by third-parties, in-app purchases, and payments.
Some complexities that factor into the cost of app development are:
- Simple apps—think flashlight, calculator, or timer. Simple apps use 3 to 4 screens max, serve a basic function, and don’t require data storage.
- Database/API apps—storing data ups the complexity of your app. Additionally, if your app requires a sign-in, syncs to other apps, or uses other data from your phone, the development process becomes more complex.
- Multi-featured/Enterprise apps—if your app needs a tailored UI to meet your user’s needs, expect to pay more. Multiple key features make apps more expensive and take more time to develop.
- Games—these will vary depending on complexity and quality, but games tend to be on the higher end of the cost scale. Game app development requires high-quality UX, storyboards, and mechanics that keep the user playing, adding to the total cost.
Many different features affect the cost of developing the software for your mobile app. Things like email login and integrating login to Google or social media can add between $3,000-15,000 to your budget. More advanced features like user profiles, in-app purchases, and geo-location will start at $7,500 and go up from there.
Models for Pricing Apps
There are usually two models for figuring the cost of developing your app: a fixed rate based on established concepts, or pay-as-you-go charge for hourly work.
With a fixed rate model, your developer puts together a quote based on agreed-upon concepts, and the cost only changes when the scope and concepts change.
If you choose to pay as you go, your app developer may give an estimate but will charge an hourly rate for time and materials. If the scope and concepts are still developing, this model can serve to keep the project more open-ended.
Something to remember is that initial estimates often don’t match the final cost. This happens because the scope may change as the project develops, and this makes sense—as you and your team play with creating the app, it becomes more complex.
Your vision expands and the app changes. While this can increase cost, it’s also the fun and exciting part of the development process.
If and when the scope evolves, you have a few options:
- Swap features—perhaps you thought up something cooler than you originally planned. Out with the old, in with the new. Your scope and cost can stay virtually the same.
- Pay extra—sometimes the new ideas are worth it, and your budget changes to allow for it.
- Drop it—if it doesn’t make sense to dole out the extra cash for primo features at the start, remember you can save them for future updates.
Hiring the Right Mobile Software Developer
Some make the mistake of hiring based on cost rather than quality. While it makes good business sense to carefully consider cost, at the end of the day, you want a quality product. Saving $10,000-50,000 in the development process means zilch if your app flops.
On the other hand, if it’s a great success, the extra front-end investment pays off big time. Just ask Instagram: they spent around $250,000 to build their prototype, then sold the app for a billion dollars less than a year later.
Your billion-dollar app idea gets nowhere without top-quality design.
Don’t Forget About Marketing
There’s no way around it: your app won’t be a success if people don’t know it exists. Growing a user base takes money and time, but the investment is worth it. Even the best app technologies flop if they don’t utilize meaningful marketing.
Plan to work with your development team on a marketing strategy that will have users lined up at the app store to download your app. The cost of marketing will vary, but $35,000 is a good baseline for your sales and marketing budget.
Other Costs to Consider
Some additional costs to keep in mind are App Store and Google Play fees, servers and backend support, customer support, accounting and legal costs, office space, and further development costs.
Determining the Final Budget
“How much does mobile software development cost in Los Angeles?” As you can see, many factors affect this number. Depending on the complexity of your design, you’re looking at spending $40,000 – $250,000 or more. The only way to know is to get clear about your vision and scope, and make an analysis.
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