SevenTablets, Inc.

Mobile App Pricing Tiers: How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App?

Read Time: 5 minutes

Building a new mobile app can be a complex and time-consuming process, and it’s not uncommon to find that the development cost is higher than you expected. In fact, this sticker shock is quite common, as many people have no idea what to expect in terms of development cost, as well as what accounts for the differential in the various mobile app pricing tiers. So, let’s examine how much a mobile app costs to develop and how the different price tiers are unique from a development perspective.

Tier 1: Apps Priced Up to $10,000

The apps in the first tier are basic and simplistic. These apps are virtually never built from scratch. Instead, they’re built using an app ‘template.’ As a result, a majority of the actual development is already complete; it’s simply a matter of altering the branding and other basic elements like product listings and contact information.

Tier 1 includes white label apps, which are generic mobile apps outfitted with your company logo, color scheme and custom text/images. This “fill in the blank” type is a good choice for small companies that need a basic mobile app that uses well-established technology. It’s important to keep in mind that while the start-up cost may be $10,000 or less, the actual operating cost may be significantly more if you have several products loaded in your app or have a large number of users enjoying your app each month.

In addition to these basic apps, you may be able to develop a very simple gaming app like Pappy Jump for less than $10,000. Most likely this will be one that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, but not both.

Note: Offshore Development Often Falls into the First Two Tiers

Low prices are always enticing, but as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” This is particularly true with offshore app development services. Some more complex apps land within the first two pricing tiers when the development team is offshore, but this strategy is highly risky.
Our free eBook, 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Developer, outlines several of the pitfalls that come with working with an offshore team, including a lack of quality control, poor communication and limited legal or IP protection.

Tier 2: Apps Priced From $10,000 to $50,000

Apps in the second tier are often built from a template or a proprietary app building platform, which is a time-saving measure that allows developers to flesh out a pre-built framework. Modular app building platforms are also common.

This pricing tier allows for more customization than a Tier 1 app, but it tends to fall into the “moderate” realm. Moderate customization might include a one-of-a-kind look and some functional or architectural modifications. Each project is unique, and moderate customization on one app may translate into significant customization for another app, so there is a fair amount of variation. For this reason, you’ll need to meet with your developer to determine what modifications would be considered “moderate” for your unique project.

This tier also includes apps with more than just a few “pages.” Plus, it’s common to see slightly more complex features, such as some security measures.

It’s important to note that this app tier will not include groundbreaking or complex emerging technologies such as augmented reality, admin or control portals, artificial intelligence and natural language processing or even useful mobile analytics.

Tier 3: Apps Priced From $50,000 to $250,000

Apps in the third tier are often built using a platform such as STAX (an open source app development platform created by SevenTablets that reduces development time and cost) paired with complete customization, bespoke app elements, encrypted messaging platforms such as SevenTablet’s Brigade, in-app purchases with payment processing, administrative portal to manage users and content, mobile analytics and enhanced security.

Apps with a custom “back end” (such as an app maintenance portal or user portal) and a public-facing “front end” may fall into the upper realm of Tier 3 or Tier 4 depending on the app’s complexity and size.

This tier can see the integration of more complex technology, which may be customized to suit the precise app requirements. For instance, you may opt to integrate an existing NLP algorithm which may be altered to suit your exact needs.

You may also be able to address more complex hardware integration issues in this price range. If you wanted an app to work with a unique piece of third-party hardware, then it may fall into the higher end of this pricing tier. This tier also includes apps that require extensive and comprehensive beta testing, whether it’s for user experience, device compatibility or another issue. But it’s important to note that unique and/or complex hardware integration—like connecting your app to a custom piece of hardware such as a robotic vacuum your company invented—will often fall into Tier 4 pricing.

Tier 4: Apps Priced at $250,000+

Any app that uses new technology is typically more costly to develop as a result of the added time and expertise required. So, if you wanted an app with cutting-edge capabilities, it’s likely the development project would fall into Tier 4.

Applications that use highly-sophisticated graphics or innovative technologies like artificial intelligence engines will often end up in the fourth tier. This is also true of apps that use existing technology in new ways like Pokemon GO, which leveraged augmented reality technology in a revolutionary manner.

In addition to complex and high-tech apps, Tier 4 encompasses development projects that require extensive testing. App testing can be time-consuming and tedious, particularly when it comes to device compatibility, because an alteration that allows for compatibility with device A may cause a problem when the app is used on device B. Other variables include operating system version and other apps installed on a device. This may mean developers must try different options and variables before devising a solution. Multiple rounds of mobile app testing are typically required to ensure alterations haven’t caused a problem on another device.

Other Factors Impacting Mobile App Development Cost

A variety of additional factors affect the cost of developing an app, such as developer location. Many companies outsource projects overseas, where the cost of living—and thus, the app development cost—is lower. But overseas development projects often suffer in terms of quality and time frame due to communication challenges and other obstacles. For this reason, it’s often wise to choose a local developer.

It’s also important to consider the experience and reputation of the development team. Some well-established development firms maintain a very exclusive clientele and charge exorbitant rates simply because they can. But really, a client should have no problem finding a top development company with a great reputation, extensive experience and fair pricing. In fact, that’s precisely what you’ll enjoy when you turn to the team at SevenTablets.

Our development team is well-versed in all forms of emerging technology, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, cloud integrations, predictive analytics and blockchain. This experience means we’re well-positioned to integrate cutting-edge technology, giving your business a leg up on the competition.

Based in Dallas, SevenTablets works with clients throughout Texas—including Austin and Houston—and beyond. If you’re ready to discuss your project, contact our team today.


10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Developer

Lacey Williams-McGhee

Lacey Williams-McGhee

Lacey Williams is a marketing professional and Harvard graduate student living in the great state of Texas. When she's not working at the SevenTablets headquarters, she can be found on the next flight to the Bahamas, hanging out with her husband and fluffy golden retriever, or studying! Lacey earned a B.A. in journalism from Baylor University. Sic'em!

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