How much does it cost to build an app in 2020? (Let’s talk numbers)

NOTE: If you want to skip the reasoning and see the numbers, go directly to the end of the article at the PRICE section. However, considering the investment you are about to make, I do recommend you take a minute and read all the other implications no one tells you about. 

Ok, so first of all, your question should actually be “How much does it cost to build a FIRST RELEASE VERSION, PROFESSIONAL, NATIVE app in 2020?”

FIRST RELEASE VERSION = That’s because app development does not stop once the app is ready for the App Store and Google Play. 

This is especially if your app is a successful one (and this is a problem I’m sure you want to have). After release, you will at least need maintenance: software updates, small changes, etc. This is usually handled through a monthly number of maintenance hours subscription with the development company. But more important than this, this is the time when you hear your users through reviews and feedbacks, you see what they do in the app through analytics and you pivot your product to meet their desires, your conversions and your business objectives, which will require further development. This can go indefinitely while your business grows. So clearly this cannot be estimated.

There’s a difference between how much Instagram/Facebook/Whatsapp/Snapchat/you name it, first release cost with development was and how much it is now after many years and teams of hundreds of developers.

 And this is why an app development company has a tough time answering a question such as: ‘How much does it cost to build an app similar to Facebook?”. Well, something like its initial version having just the social core features (authentication, add friend, post, wall, search, settings, notifications) may be in the range of $100.000 – $200.000. And in the state it is now, well, probably tens or hundreds of millions. Needless to say, here at Adonis Software, we’re not very popular when we have to give our potential clients an answer such as this one. 

So because of the above, in this article we’re going to refer to the FIRST RELEASE APP COSTS only. 

PROFESSIONAL = Make sure that product quality and team expertise are among your selection criteria 

Sure price is extremely important in choosing the agency you work with, but don’t make this your only criteria. All teams are going to say about themselves that they are the ‘best’ and build ‘the best apps’. Do your research! The best way to go is to check out their other apps and see the quality in them. Watch for UX, UI, business results of the app, ask them about their processes, about their after release development policies, etc. You can read more on how to choose the best supplier here

NATIVE = Have the apps built natively in Swift (for iOS) and Kotlin (for Android) 

In short, if you want a high quality app you have to go with native. Don’t fool yourself that you’re going to pay less with hybrid. You’ll end up paying the same or more for a poorer quality app. The only exception I would recommend hybrid for, are simple apps with content such as articles (news apps for examples) and not many other features. Otherwise, if you want your app not to feel like a website in a mobile browser, go native. Here’s more on why not to choose hybrid technologies


Ok, so you talk to some agencies, you do your homework on their portfolio and team and they give you their ‘per hour costs’. Is that enough info to help you make your decision? HELL NO! The per hour cost is relevant indeed, but not enough to create a full picture regarding the budget that you’re going to spend. Here’s why: The total budget of the project will depend on: 

  1. Hourly rates per resource
  2. Team (number of resources)
  3. Time (the number of hours per resource until the end of development)

And let’s see what this is actually about: 


On average, no quality app takes less than 2.5 months to develop and rarely goes over 4.5 months for the FIRST RELEASE VERSION. Yes, you can even build a first version of Whatsapp, Skype, Snapchat, Instagram with quality core features in less than 6 months. 


Usually app development needs at least a 7 people team:

  1. Business Software Analyst /Product Manager – this is probably the guy that will bring you the most value as he is responsible with transforming your business idea into an app optimized for user experience, conversions and achieving your business goals. He will create the solution, architecture, specs + wireframes based on discussions with you and consulting his team. 
  2. Project Manager – sometimes the same person as above, but top mobile app development companies have dedicated business software analysts. 
  3. Designer 
  4. Tester
  5. iOS Developer
  6. Android Developer
  7. Backend Developer (almost all apps need a backend server development) 

The last 3 on the list are the only ones that will work full time on the project and they are responsible for about 80% of the budget. 


Hourly rates vary between geographical zones and economies. But they usually average on something like this: 

  • South East Asia: $15 – $30/h (unfortunately quality is not very good usually, there are a few exceptions of course, but they might not have these rates). 
  • Eastern Europe: $30 – $50/h (good quality/price ratio, but double check on the quality aspect).  
  • Western Europe: $50 – $100/h (good quality, a bit expensive) 
  • North America: $90 – $150/h  (good quality, expensive -> if you get way lower prices from North America ask them where they do their development, even if the company is registered in the US) 


That being said, to build a first release version, professional native app in 2020 it will cost you on average: 

  • $15.000 – $40.000 in South East Asia  (usually low quality) 
  • $50.000 – $130.000 in Eastern Europe (good quality/price ratio) 
  • $100.000 – $250.000 in Western Europe and North America (good quality, high price)

My name is Ancu Radu, Founder at Adonis Software, we’ve been building highly successful mobile apps with millions of downloads for the past decade.

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