iPhone Development Costs
Ever since Apple introduced the App Store, there’s been a gold rush of sorts to the iPhone & iOS platform. With the release of the iPod touch and iPad, interest in the devices has only grown, but unfortunately so have development costs. So what is it going to cost you to get that app developed for the iPhone? It depends on a number of factors, so here are some numbers on hourly and project rates to give you an idea. It’s generally not cheap, but there are some solutions for affordable app development.
iPhone Development Costs
It’s no surprise that iPhone developers are short on supply and high on demand, and naturally this means it’s going to cost quite a bit to develop an app. There’s really two routes to go if you’re looking to have an iPhone app developed; you can pay a contractor hourly, or you can pay a flat bid rate from either a company that specializes in app development or to an outsourced agency that pumps out apps.
Contract iPhone Development Hourly Wages
For developers in the USA and the EU zone, it’s not unusual for an iPhone developer to charge well over $100/hour to do contract iOS development, but realistically the hourly range is anywhere from $50/hour to $250/hour, with experience and name recognition usually setting the price. The hourly costs have been this high for going on two years now, and given the limited pool of dev talent it’s no surprise that it’s a developers market. If this is completely out of your price range, read on and you’ll find cheaper solutions thanks to outsourcing to overseas developers.
iPhone Development Project Bids & Rates
Coming along for the iPhone ride are a number of boutique development companies that focus only on mobile app work. If you decide to go with a company that specializes in iOS development you’ll likely be given a flat project rate that covers all the development costs. Depending on which outfit you go through, you can get a decent deal this way or be in for major sticker shock. Here are some examples:
Relatively Simple or Small App: $3000-$8000 – this is based on a sample of data from TechCrunch that polled 124 developers, and found the average development cost was $6,453. This is in line with what LOLerApps paid for the development of their app called Baby Maker, which isn’t terribly complex and cost around $5000 via outsourcing on ELance. After 50 days LOLerApps sold just enough copies of Baby Maker to break even on development costs, which isn’t terrible but who knows what they spent on marketing and advertising the app.
If you’re interested in developing an iPhone app and want a realistic assessment on sales numbers and development costs, LOLerApps is amazingly candid and their blog is well worth a read since they share just about everything.
More Complex or Recognized Brand App: $50,000-$150,000 – it was reported that the official Barack Obama app was developed in 22 days at a rate of $100-$150/hour, with roughly 500-1000 hours put into the app. The Obama app isn’t simple but it isn’t as complex as some of the other apps out there, so I imagine some of the costs here are scaled up based purely on the recognizable brand associated with the app itself.
The bottom line; if you’re looking to develop either a very complicated app, or you’re a large recognized entity and looking to put out an iPhone app, it’s going to cost you some serious cash.
App Development = Expensive: Is it Cost Effective?
The big question remains: Is app development cost effective? This really depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to answer for everyone. Things to consider when you ask this question are: which category of app you fall into, how strongly you feel about the idea, how complex the app is, and what your marketing budget looks like.
A post on O’Reilly Digital Media blog sums up the situation for higher expenditure apps:
a full-time contract iPhone developer costs $5,000/week and it may take four to six weeks for an application to be developed. Sometimes it will take less and sometimes it will take more. Add to development the other costs – project management, design, QA, and marketing, to name a few. It’s not uncommon to spend $30,000 and up on an iPhone development project.
You’ll need to run the numbers yourself and see if it makes sense. It’s obviously not cost effective to spend $150,000 on development and marketing to sell only 2000 apps a year for $1 each. The solution might be to find a cheaper route to get your product to market.
Outsourcing iPhone App Development – the Most Cost Effective?
Before you get totally discouraged with some of the costs and numbers, realize that you can certainly find cheaper app developers, particularly if you outsource the development through a site like ELance or oDesk, where you can get experienced developers in India, Russia, and Ukraine, for as little as $15/hour. Outsourcing has it’s own pros and cons, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s a worthwhile approach for your apps development. The big advantage of going the ELance/ODesk route is obviously price, you set a flat budget and have developers bid proposals for the project, which will save you a lot of money.
Keeping Development Costs Low
Regardless of which approach you take, it’s best to have your idea as fleshed out as possible so there is little question in terms of what you want. The more details you can document and explain the better, a developer can’t read your mind but will certainly charge you while attempting to. Any ambiguity on things like the apps functionality or GUI just leads to longer development time and ultimately more money out of your pocket. Be as specific as possible, sketch out the functionality in something like Visio clone for Mac, and be very clear when communicating your vision.
Developing an iPhone App Yourself
Of course the other option is to just learn Cocoa and Objective C and write an iPhone app yourself. If you decide to go this route, be sure to download and install the iPhone SDK first, and then pick up a good book on the topic, like Beginning iPhone 3 Development: Exploring the iPhone SDK. This certainly isn’t the easiest route, but it may be the cheapest if you are technically inclined.