First, remember – building the app and the tech behind it is just one of the many steps towards a successful app business. A basic proof-of-concept for a mobile app can be built in most cases for 20-50k$ in a professional digital agency. To get it production-ready, depending on the complexity, you will probably need 50-200k$.
As an alternative, you can try to build the app with your own team.
However, there are much more costs that you have to consider:
- Legal – setting up the company and writing the contracts for your iOS or Android developers still costs – even if you hire just one person
- HR – unless you have your own IT network, you need to somehow hire your mobile developer. If you use an HR agency, that’s another couple k.
- Marketing – you can’t launch a successful mobile app without marketing, even if you’re a top mobile developer. The first weeks after the start are critical and you need a marketing budget to make sure you reach enough people to reach critical mass.
- Equipment and software – at very least, if you plan on developing the app yourself or having somebody in-house, you need a usable laptop, which will cost around 1500$.
- iOS: to develop for iOS you need a Mac. You will also need a device for testing, which might be more expensive than an Android device. Developer registration fee is 99$ yearly.
- Android: the development environment is free, as well as Java and Android. However, to publish your apps, you need to pay a Google Play registration fee for 25$. As an alternative – the Amazon marketplace registration is free
- Windows: a PC with Windows 8 and – in case you don’t have one – a phone with the Windows Phone operating system. Similiar to the iOS ecosystem, developer registration costs 99$.
All the above goes into thousands of $, with lots of development and technical risk involved – if you’re not an IT person the risk of hiring the wrong programmer or making wrong product decisions is very high and can cost you months, or even years of your time.
Launching a prototype
Sometimes it’s good to use some advice from somebody who’s already been there. Digital agencies have experience in developing mobile apps and can help you make critical product decisions. If you have a mobile app startup idea, sometimes it’s better to concentrate on that business idea and hire a company which will give you a guarantee of getting the job done on the first stages.
Mobile app development is hard and it takes much more than a mobile startup idea to make an application happen. Usually, launching your own company and developing even an alpha version of the app takes much more than 20k$ – you need graphics, mockups, programming, and on top of that there is a lot of bug fixing and feature planning that can take a lot of your time. Usually, it’s a wise idea to get the prototype ready as soon as possible – and mobile development agencies can help you get it right.
If you’re on a really tight budget however, there are plenty of resources online to learn iOS app development or Android programming by yourself. Just always remember – if you have a mobile app business idea, all the time that you spend making technical decisions could be commited to building a business case and convincing the investors that you have the next billion-dollar idea.