5 biggest factors that’ll affect your app development costs


Mobile app costs are driven by a variety of details, including platform type, the number and complexity of features and APIs, code type and its cleanness, and the extent of design customization.

In this article, courtesy of our friends from Belitsoft (an offshore app development company) we will recount five major factors that influence final digits for app development paycheck.

Number of supported platforms

Platform choice is one of the major things that affect total costs. Basically, there are two options for any mobile app project: native and cross-platform.

Native development means you need two separate apps for Android and iOS. Such apps allow to leverage each and every platform feature and provide stellar performance. However, in that case, you also need a separate team for each platform. The result is a double cost for an app’s development and, later, maintenance.

This is where the main advantage of cross-platform alternative comes to light.

“Native implementation is great in theory, but practically, we need to think about productivity/code sharing/time-to-market, which is where a cross-platform framework like React Native comes in,” Keertimaan Tenneti, Senior Engineering Manager at Walmart Global eCommerce, said.

For example, React Native, one of the most efficient and popular cross-platform frameworks, allows saving at least 30% in comparison with the development costs of similar native apps. The fewer platform-specific features an app has and the lesser their complexity is, the more you can save. This is possible because of:

  • Code resharing. Up to 90% of the React Native code can be shared across Android and iOS. The same is true for the websites written with React.
  • Less time. Shared code naturally reduces the time of development and maintenance. Updates, bugs fixing and unit tests can be done once and automatically applied across all points.
  • One team. As both React Native and React are Javascript-based, one team of Javascript developers can handle both mobile apps and a website.

Moreover, the performance of React Native apps can be easily compared to native ones.

Pricing model

The right pricing model can make a tangible effect on the project bill. As a rule, the choice depends on the scale of an app and the possibility to write detailed specifications. Sometimes, it also makes sense to use hybrid schemes.

It’s always attractive to choose a fixed price model and know exactly how much you will pay. Yet, most of the time, this plan works only for simple apps with short development terms, where goals are clear from the start and there is a comprehensive task description.

What is more, this model imposes certain risks on development companies, so it is a common practice for them to add around 20-30% to the bill for financial safety.

Projects, where it is not possible to give an exact estimation, are usually developed on a time and material or dedicated team basis.

Time and Material means paying for the exact amount of work done according to the rates per hour. Requirements can be easily changed during the development process without any extra costs.

A dedicated team is the best fit for long-term (12+ months) app development. With a fixed monthly cost, a client pays each team member’s salary plus service fees and the final price still tends to be significantly lower than with other models.


The technical content of an app such as the number of features, their complexity, and novelty, as well as third-party integrations are, perhaps, the major cost drivers of any mobile project.

The functionality of most apps requires the use of web-based third-party APIs. For example, adding PayPal or Stripe payments capabilities into an app means integration with their APIs. Connection to social networks is also enabled this way.

However, API integration may turn out a rather costly procedure. The price depends on whether the required API already exists or needs to be developed, whether it’s a proprietary one,  its complexity as well as how clear and detailed the documentation is.

It may be a good idea to start an app development with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

“A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort,” Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Startup”, said.

Basically, this is an app with the core functionalities, but as simplified as possible. It helps to understand your users’ preferences and invest money the right way during further development stages.

Type of code and its cleanness

Using open source code templates and snippets of existing software is a common practice used by companies to alleviate the financial burden of app development and to save time. This way we can develop a number of UI features and customize them as needed. However, for specific operations like unique functionalities or points integration, it may be needed to write custom code pieces.

For those looking to reduce costs, it may be worthy to consider using third-party ready-made Saas (Software as a Service) and MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service) for a fixed monthly fee.

When an app scales up and more developers with different coding styles are involved, it is likely you will need to refactor your code.

Refactoring is similar to brushing teeth. It is a prophylactic work that should be ongoing if you want to avoid the exorbitant costs when the emergency happens.

This way, you make the code understandable and clean and streamline further scalability. It means new features will be added faster and optimization for new users will be more cost-effective.


The cost of design services usually depends on the number of screens an app has because each screen requires its unique design. Another consideration is the variety of visual elements and their customization.

Modern users are no longer satisfied with ready-made platform design solutions. They want singular apps that act as business extensions. Real-time graphics, animations and complex visual transitions tailored to your brand are going to cost way more than out-of-the-box or minimalistic design.

Key takeaways

  1. Native app development is innately more expensive that cross-platform.
  2. Fixed price model is not always the best choic When app goals and requirements are unclear, consider time and development scheme or hire a dedicated team.
  3. The number and complexity of features, as well as third-party integrations, drive the costs dramatically. Sometimes it is reasonable to start with MVP.
  4. Using open-source code snippets can save a bunch of dollars. Code refactoring does the same and optimizes an app as a side effect.
  5. The more customized and visually rich the design is, the more costly it is.