estimating mobile app development

Estimating Mobile App Development: Requirements and Steps (Infographic)

Read on to find out how to develop a proper estimate for mobile app development, what you can do in advance, and the common price models used by developers with infographic.

Once you decide to develop a mobile app, you should take time to assess your project. What will be the costs? How long will it take to develop? The proper estimation will give you the perfect answers to these questions. Read on to find out how to develop a proper estimate for mobile app development, what you can do in advance, and the common price models used by developers.

estimating-mobile-app-development-infographic by derektime

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What Affects the Cost?

App development costs mainly depend on its functionality and the salaries of the developers. Several features take time to program, and the more complex an application is, the higher the cost of its development will be and also maintenance after release.


Different features on an application have their fixed price, which could be more or less. This depends on the programming period required. Complex features are more expensive.

For example:

  • Push notifications containing links to the screens of specific applications may cost between $1000 to $1500, with a development time of 25 to 30 hours.
  • Media sharing and a text messenger may cost somewhere between $6500 to $7000, with a development time of between 160 to 170 hours.
  • Integration with Google Pay or Apple Pay may cost somewhere between $1000 to $3200 with a development time of 25 to 80 hours.

The number of screens is not proportional to the success of the app. Moreover, there is no rule concerning the optimal number of screens to develop. The screens, just like a simple button, must have a purpose. Adding a screen means adding extra effort and integrating more UI / UX and therefore more hours of work and possibly more staff, hence the impact on the cost.

Therefore, you need to ensure that the functions you want to display on the screens are relevant enough and that the screens are well optimized.


Apps require regular updates to maintain their compatibility with new operating systems, devices and also fixing bugs. These expenses can cover about 15% of the initial development cost annually.

Most applications store your data, so you have to rent secure cloud storage or server. The annual cost of renting this space starts from $1500 and may depend on the number of users and data.

Size of the Development Team

The number of people to develop your app can be determined by the complexity of the project. A standard setup may consist of:

  • Two developers (Android and iOS or cross-platform
  • UX/UI designer to create a user-friendly interface for your application.
  • Project manager- They manage the whole development process and stay in touch with the client.
  • Back-end Developer- Oversees the storage of data, the logic of app operation, and payment systems.
  • Quality Assurance Engineer- Reviews all the requirements and technical documents and sets up or plans all testing activities.

Before launching a collaboration, your development team will estimate the time needed to implement your specifications. This step is a crucial point in the preparation of your project. The major factors that influence the development costs are the application’s functionalities, the adaptability to platforms (android, apple …), the design and the personalized effects, the complexity of the back-end, and API development.

The complexity of the functionalities to be implemented in the application project is the primary factor influencing the total cost. This represents the amount of business logic needed to translate into the application software, the number of screens, buttons, and services to use.

Team’s Location

The price of a developer is strongly impacted by his environment, his language, and his skills. On a large scale, an Asian developer will be nearly five times less than a European developer. North American developers usually charge an hourly rate of $100, while those from Western Europe offering the same service charge half the price. You can consider an offshore development company or freelancers for your project.

License and Copyright

Another crucial aspect to consider is the licensing of mobile applications and copyright. Ultimately, it’s your idea and your mobile app. So it is better that you take care of it.

In many cases, users tend to copy items from other mobile apps. Therefore, to avoid any conflict, it is always better to apply for the copyright of your app, which would slightly increase the cost of developing your mobile app.

Also, before you publish your app, you must request a license for it. The application license grants you the right to entry. You also have to consider the cost of registering the app in the stores.

App Specification

Before estimating the cost of developing a mobile application, you must evaluate all your ideas and convert them into a summarized technical specification. If you have a detailed project, you will have an easy time analyzing the costs. The specifications usually include:


This section explains the application’s idea. Here, you have to develop a detailed list of all the application features and types of users, not forgetting their classes and roles. This part also includes hardware and software requirement information, design and implementation shortcomings, and other documents to be released.

Functional Requirements

A detailed description of all the features of a specific application is contained in this section. This includes how a feature works, its purpose, implementation priority, and use cases.

External Interfaces

This part entails all the app’s interface:

  • User Interfaces (Screens). The design and description of each app’s screen.
  • Hardware Interfaces. Technical qualities of how the application blends with the hardware of a specific device. How you can control it using physical controls, the communication protocols used, and disparities depending on the model of a particular device.
  • Software interfaces. Operating systems, API specifications, third-party software, database.
  • Communication Interfaces. Server exchange protocols and the app’s description of communication features (browser, email, messaging). The app’s communication configuration with an external server.
  • Other frameworks and their specifications. Push notifications, geographic data usage, data security, in-app purchases, performance measurement.

Estimation Process

With the technical specification at hand, it’s time to conduct your estimation. For top-level accuracy, the procedure should comprise several stages that clarify the development requirements more.

1. Breakdown

The technical specifications given are broken down into small parts of the app that can be easily estimated. The breakdown is usually done by functions or by screens.

  • By Screens. An analysis is carried out on the wireframe of every screen to look for present functions (record audio, login) and user interface elements (text fields, buttons).
  • By functions. Each of the app’s functions is carefully analyzed: how a specific function works, what screens it is present, and its design in the user interface.

After this, all the screens or features are categorized by priority: serving the application’s key function, low priority items, and the good to have features.

2. Developer Estimation

In this step, developers evaluate the period it will take to program each of the app’s functions and provide the evaluation as a range ( from minimum to maximum) of development hours.

3. Project Manager Estimation

Developers can overestimate the period required to develop, which is quite common. During this stage, the project manager has to determine the balance between quality and price. They will review the estimate given by the development team and include the period needed for design, focus group tests, external and internal communications(client demonstrations, team meetings), bug fixing, and code testing. Processes like code merge among developers, refactoring, and release are considered in this particular stage.

4. Final Estimation

The project manager will confirm his estimates with other team members, do the required corrections, and give you the results.

At times, the application development cost estimate can look like an actual cost and time breakdown.

Other teams also give their cost estimate for such a project in a flexible and detailed way. This helps deal with prolonged client approval for minor changes to the collection of works and allows the team to concentrate on the final result instead of completing several tasks.

Price Models

Two pricing models are commonly used when coming up with an estimate for app development. They include time & material models and fixed prices.

Fixed Price

A fixed price model helps to determine a detailed list of features, their accomplishment, and costs. Any extra work during development will come at an additional fee and need a complete agreement process with a client. This results in a downtime for the development team and an increase in development time and costs. The final cost for a client may not change if any of the planned tasks become unnecessary. The fixed price model will not have flexibility, attract huge time and financial risks, and is only suitable for small and short-term projects.

Time & Material

This is a very flexible model focused on the result but not building the exact list of features. The development process involves monthly reporting, and developers can create extra features without the complete agreement process.

  1. The development team will give out a detailed estimation, which is divided into several phases. The client can agree on the work scale (sprint).
  2. The select team begins developing the application, presenting the completed work to the client once every sprint is over. The client will pay for the job done during the set period.
  3. If possible, the team provides suggestions for extra works required and includes them in the next phase once the client agrees.
  4. The client will finally receive the final product, designed to meet the current market demands and technical requirements. Market demands may change since the first estimation period.

Some minor details like an extra screen button or an uncommon user flow logic can inevitably be neglected because most applications are complex tasks. The time & material model allows developers to make them part of the process quickly and easily. This model also reduces risks such as potential complications that may not be true. The development team will have an easy time, and the client can land more affordable rates.


Estimating the cost of mobile app development is a process that factors all the features of a future project. It is also based on a comprehensive technical specification. This procedure is carried out in multiple stages, starting from the breakdown of the project by screens to developer and project manager estimation.

Even though developers may give a client a detailed cost estimate for a project and deal with the fixed price model, a rough and high-quality estimation includes the time & the material price model has minimal risks for the parties involved. It is also extra flexible in introducing necessary changes after the start of the development process.

We have reviewed the various essential factors to consider in determining the overall development cost of mobile applications. This will give you the best way to select the most suitable mobile development company. These are essential factors that all new businesses and established businesses should consider before developing a mobile app.

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