In: Mobile App Development

Building mobile applications involves a lot of effort, the right talents with the right skill sets, the right management, and other external factors which come in between a development project. 

Sketching an idea on a paper, brainstorming over the idea, requirements, and specifications writing, finding a mobile app development vendor.

More and more companies prefer to create custom mobile app compared to using off-the-shelf templates or scripts. These templates often need businesses to adapt their processes to conform to the applications, the customized app is instead tailored to the business’s unique needs.

This is not a guide on building a development team. This is not a guide on the resources needed to develop an app.

By reading this article, you will have an idea on the costs involved in building an app.

Mobile App Development Cost in 2024

How is App Development Cost Estimated?

The features of the app are the main factor that determines the cost of a mobile app development project. This is because a simple feature like posting an image can be done in a smaller amount of time compared to an ordering feature of a food delivery app or e-commerce.

Let’s take Uber as an example. Whenever a user makes a booking, the User app is taking the pick-up location pointed by the user to find a nearby available driver where the driver now will receive a notification to his Driver app notifying him of the incoming job. The driver has to accept the job and then the user can track the location of the driver.

Can you see the complexity of the booking of an e-hailing service? It contains 2 apps to run the whole process and it only works with the help of Google Maps API integration. This is the type of feature that needs to be worked on by a team of more experienced developers.

Food delivery app development is more complex where there are 3 apps involved for the User (the customer), the Merchant (who sell the food), and Rider (who delivers the food).

The formula used to calculate app development cost is as follows:

(Time x Team) + Other Costs = Rough Development Cost

Cost to Develop an App: Understanding the Basics

Project Complexity

Planning the requirements of the project is a very crucial stage in every custom software project development. US Organizations and Companies waste USD30B annually on unused software features. Sometimes, it might seem nice to have features but in reality, some features might not even fit with your existing process or users’ needs.

Approaching the development process with a clear understanding of your business priorities will cut down the development time.

Having complex features will also increase the development time and require more experienced and skilled developers to work on the project which in turn drives up the costs.  

UI designs that is more complex or beautiful will also takes longer time for the app developer to work on it.

Team (Hiring)

Building a team to develop the project is the hardest and most expensive part of all. Before we go into the development team, let’s talk about the problems in hiring developers. Choosing the right tech stack is extremely important not only for the scalability of the app but also for building the team. We at SegWitz regularly run studies on the development job market to understand the supply and demand. React Native and Flutter are very high in demand for hybrid development than the supply of good developers is lower than demand. The same goes for NodeJS developers where the supply is lower than demand. Crazy salaries are being paid by companies to attract good talents. This is due to the increased number of startups which is being funded by Venture Capitalists (VCs) which raised huge funds and these startups are offering a very high salary for developers. This leaves us no chance but to increase and adapt to the market. 

This is a very huge driving cost in any app development project. You also might have to mitigate issues of members leaving your team and you must have backup developers who are willing to work with you. Any good development team needs at least one HR Manager who keeps sourcing and interviewing developers out there to keep an eye on opportunities to hire good developers. This point might look irrelevant, but a big part of in-house development fails because of not having enough developers or not having the right developers or developers leaving the team during crucial times. 

Once you have planned the requirements of your projects, you need to identify the type of developers required to work on your project. There are 2 ways you can build a mobile app, native app development, and hybrid app development. 

Hybrid App Development:

You can build the app using a hybrid framework where you build the app once and publish it to AppStore and PlayStore. 

Some Hybrid frameworks are: React Native, Flutter, IONIC, Cordova

Native App Development:

You will need to build the IOS version of the app using Swift and the Android version using Java Kotlin separately.

Source Code and Quality

Maintaining a good and clean code base is very important for the long term of any software. Often time, we will have inquiries from companies who already have web applications or mobile apps built internally or by another outsourced software development vendor and we always audit the source codes of projects before taking over. 80% of the time, we will stumble upon very bad and poorly written codes which will lead us to not being able to take over the project. 

The sad thing is these clients paid hundreds of thousands of ringgit to outsource their development. This is a problem since the clients only see what’s happening in front and not how it is made behind the scene. There was a time we took over a project from another company and the client asked us to add a very simple module that takes less than a day. While doing the works, we encountered a lot of issues on the code where 1-day work ends up taking more than a week. The codes are just so messed up that we cannot actually add on more modules as how our client wanted. We at SegWitz have our own internal code writing guidelines which all our developers are trained on. Therefore, for any piece of software, we develop we make sure the codes are well-written. You must ensure you have a team leader who will ensure the code quality is good.


App Developer 

React Native Developer Salary

1-3 Years Experience RM 2,800 – RM 6,000

3-6 years Experience RM 6,000 – RM 12,000

You can find companies out there who are paying more for these similar positions but it depends on the applicants themselves. If you have a React Native applicant who has 2 years of React Native experience but 6 total years of experience in software development in other languages/frameworks, then you might need to pay more than RM7,000 in this case. If you have an applicant who has 2 years of React Native experience since he starts on React Native right after college, then this person’s salary might be lower than the applicant above. 

A lot of app projects nowadays consist of 2 or 3 apps. For example, if you are going to build a food delivery app, you will need to build a useful app for users to order food, a merchant app for the seller to list their food and sell, and a rider app for riders to get jobs and deliver food. This kind of project will require a minimum of at least 2 app developers. 

Web Back-End Developer

You will also need a web backend developer to write the Backend and the APIs. 

Here you need to really make a crucial decision since the backend will be the brain of your app. 

You can use many different frameworks/languages to make the web backend, such as PHP Laravel, NodeJS, Java, .Net, etc. Each backend framework/language has its own pros and cons. NodeJS is our choice on the backend framework because of the scalability and reliability it is providing. 

NodeJS Developer Salary

1-3 Years Experience RM 4,000 – RM 8,000

3-6 Years Experience RM 6,000 – RM12,000

7 Years above RM 9,000 and above

You will need a really experienced backend developer for an app project because he must be able to quickly understand the requirements and put them in a logical flow. A good backend developer will think and develop in a way where when a large number of people trying to use your app, there won’t be any issues. 

You also need to ensure your backend developer also knows some DevOps to set up the server and do the deployment. You probably won’t need a DevOps Engineer on your team for the beginning stage. 

Web Frontend Developer

Every app also has a web admin panel that is used for management purposes. Every time user or seller sign up, you can see their information on the panel where you can do changes if you want. You can see all the transactions that took place on the transaction list, all the orders, and who are buying what. You can see whatever going through in the eCommerce in the admin panel with analytics and statistics. 

You will need a front-end developer to build an admin panel. There are many languages/frameworks you can use to build a web front-end. ReactJS, VueJS, Core HTML CSS JS and etc. 

ReactJS/VueJS Developer Salary:

1-2 Years Experience RM 3,000 – RM 4,500

2-4 Years Experience RM 4,000 – RM 6,000

4 years++ RM 6,000 and above

Dev Team Lead

An experienced developer who is able to understand the business requirements and is also very well versed with both app and backend development will really ensure the success of your development. Not having one is a big threat to your development.

At times, there will be some experienced app or backend developer who wants to take up the team lead role. Many times what happens is that this person’s time will be occupied in doing the development works and how is this person going to be able to review codes from other members and guide and execute the development based on the project? The focus will not be on managing the project. This is a cost-saving mechanism a lot of companies with in-house developers do, but it only works for very few.

The team lead also should be someone who must be able to guide the developers in case of any issues in the codes.

Dev Team Lead Salary

6-11 Years Experience RM10,000 – RM 15,000

11 Years++ – RM15,000 and above

UI/UX Designer

You will need to make sure to design the full UI of the entire app before you even start the development. This will make sure the members involved in the development project know how the app will work and the app developer’s works will be easy if the UI is handed over to him in the early stage.

2-4 Years Experience – RM2,500 – RM5,000

4 Years++ – RM 5,000 and above

You probably won’t require a full-time UI designer, you can hire one on a contract basis or outsource which might cost you around RM100-RM200/screen. 

An average app has around 30-40 app, which brings to the cost of RM3000-RM8000. 

Mobile App Development Team Costs:

4 Months Development6 Months Development9 Months Development
Minimum: RM80kMinimum: RM120kMinimum: RM180k

Do You Know?

Over 80% of mobile apps take 3+ months to develop; 40% of apps are developed in 6+ months (Outsystems Survey, 2018-19)

Let’s Calculate How much the Development of an e-Commerce App Cost

e-Commerce App usually consists of:

1. User App: For users to browse items, add to cart, purchase and etc.

2. Seller App: For sellers to add their products, manage their orders and etc.

3. Admin Panel: For management purposes

Costs for Remote Team:

Talents Needed:

1 Team Lead (7 years of exp) – RM 10,000/month

2 React Native Developer (2 years of exp) – RM 4,000/month each – RM 8,000/month total

1 Backend Developer (5 years of exp) – RM 5,000/month

1 UI/UX Designer (contract basis) – RM 3,000 – RM 5,000/one-time

RM 10,000 + RM 8,000 + RM 5,000 = RM23,000/monthly 

Other Costs:

Google Play Developer Account – USD25/one-time 

Apple Developer Account – RM399/year

Server Hosting – Starts from RM1,000/year

SMS Gateway (if applicable) – Starts from RM0.09/SMS

Payment Gateway (if applicable) – Depends on Provider

Google Maps API(if applicable)

Development Timeline 4-5 months:

Team Members Cost 

RM92,000 – RM115,000

Contracted Talent Cost:

RM 3,000 – RM5,000

Other Costs:

RM 2,000 and above 

Total e-Commerce Development Costs starts from RM97,000

These are the costs of a remote development team without taking into account any other costs that might incur at a later stage.

This is assuming that there is a very minimal change from the initial requirements planning during the development stage. Changing of modules or features that have been already developed will incur more timeline than expected which will push the development costs more than the expected budget.

Threats To Your Development Project

  1. Team member leaving, how fast can you hire a new one and get back to the momentum
  2. Always changing specifications during development
  3. How are you going to protect your source codes?

Influencing factors which determine cost of building a mobile app

  1. Number of app features
  2. The complexity level of app features
  3. Backend infrastructure and APIs Complexity
  4. The complexity level of UI Design
  5. Experience of developers working on the project
  6. Development Approach and Tech Stack (native app, hybrid app)
  7. Number of apps and platforms to be developed

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