How much does it cost to develop an iPhone application?
How much can a developer charge for an iPhone app like Twitterrific?
I want to know this because I need such an application with the same functionality for a new community website. I can do Ruby but have no experience with Objective-C. So it would be interesting for me if I should start reading books about iPhone programming or outsource the work to a iPhone programmer.
I'm one of the developers for Twitterrific and to be honest, I can't tell you how many hours have gone into the product. I can tell you everyone who upvoted the estimate of 160 hours for development and 40 hours for design is fricken' high. (I'd use another phrase, but this is my first post on Stack Overflow, so I'm being good.)
Twitterrific has had 4 major releases beginning with the iOS 1.0 (Jailbreak.) That's a lot of code, much of which is in the bit bucket (we refactor a lot with each major release.)
One thing that would be interesting to look at is the amount of time that we had to work on the iPad version. Apple set a product release date that gave us 60 days to do the development. (That was later extended by a week.)
We started the iPad development from scratch, but a lot of our underlying code (mostly models) was re-used. The development was done by two experienced iOS developers. One of them has even written a book: http://appdevmanual.com :-)
With such a short schedule, we worked some pretty long hours. Let's be conservative and say it's 10 hours per day for 6 days a week. That 60 hours for 9 weeks gives us 540 hours. With two developers, that's pretty close to 1,100 hours. Our rate for clients is $150 per hour giving $165,000 just for new code. Remember also that we were reusing a bunch existing code: I'm going to lowball the value of that code at $35,000 giving a total development cost of $200,000.
Anyone who's done serious iPhone development can tell you there's a lot of design work involved with any project. We had two designers working on that aspect of the product. They worked their asses off dealing with completely new interaction mechanics. Don't forget they didn't have any hardware to touch, either (LOTS of printouts!) Combined they spent at least 25 hours per week on the project. So 225 hours at $150/hr is about $34,000.
There are also other costs that many developer neglect to take into account: project management, testing, equipment. Again, if we lowball that figure at $16,000 we're at $250,000. This number falls in line with Jonathan Wight's (@schwa) $50-150K estimate with the 22 day Obama app.
Take another hit, dude.
Now if you want to build backend services for your app, that number's going to go up even more. Everyone seems surprised that Instagram chewed through $500K in venture funding to build a new frontend and backend. I'm not.
The Barack Obama app took 22 days to develop from first code to release. Three developers (although not all of them were full time). 10 people total. Figure 500-1000 man hours. Contracting rates are $100-150/hr. Figure $50000-$150000. Compare your app to Obama.app and scale accordingly.
Answer by schwa
There are ways of paying less to get an application, developed than paying the going rate, but very often you get what you pay for - inexperienced developers who leave you with a mess of spaghetti code that's impossible to maintain, or experienced developers with whom you have to communicate across a cultural and language gap.
Developing an app like Twitterific is not easy. It's an extraordinarily polished app with a lot of attention to detail that most people - indeed many developers - would fail to notice or realize the effort behind. You may be able to get a Twitter iPhone client written for $3500 or $5000 by going offshore or by being willing to "work with inexperienced developers", but you're not going to get Twitterific for that, and it's doubtful you'd get even a halfway decent application for that amount.
And you likely will end up spending a lot of time managing the process, going back and forth on requirements, and fighting to get what you really want instead of what they want to give you.
There's also a risk with "cut-rate" development, whether it's offshore or just using inexperienced developers - you may very well end up with something you can't use, or something that gets 1 star ratings because it crashes or behaves erratically. You might find the occasional underpriced gem of a developer, but they won't stay underpriced for long given the sheer demand in this market right now.
By virtue of my books and blog, people often reach out to me when they need help with their iPhone applications. I get, on average, 4 or 5 inquiries a month from people asking for help fixing applications they had developed either over-seas or by inexperienced developers here in the States. In most cases, I end up having to tell them they'd be better off throwing their code out and starting over with a developer who knows what they're doing rather than trying to fix the code they bought on the cheap. If they insist on trying to "fix" what they have, I decline the work.
Answer by Jeff LaMarche
I am a very good iPhone app developer, and I charge over $150 per hour for my services. I have a ton of experience building iPhone apps and their server side components. I have also been called in on several occasions to fix offshore developed apps. Here's my take.
- Design costs money, good design costs lots of money. Expect several designer weeks of work per app screen. Offshore teams do not do design.
- Server development and infrastructure is critical if the app is to succeed. A slow server response, or an overloaded server will hamper your app, and crimp sales and satisfaction. The server side of the equation will cost the most and take the most time to develop. Those who offshore their server development will find that quality and uptime are both terrible, in my experience.
- App development if done right takes time too. A professional developer will ensure all HIG rules are followed, the app is properly structured and contains no known errors, it performs well, and it passes the app store validations. Offshore teams just cut code.
I'm just about to release a shopping app for a client. The design work was done by 2 client in-house designers over 2 weeks, quick because they had all the image assets already. Think 2 people x 10 days x 8 hours = ~$24,000. The server side had to be modified to provide data for the iPhone app. We used their in-house team and in-house platform and in-house API, 2 developers, 4 weeks, or about $50,000 and that's because they already have a web shop and API. Cost them about $400,000 to get there (excluding platform). And I wrote the app side in 3 weeks, given that a lot of my code is duplicated from previous projects, another ~$25,000, the cheapest app I ever did.
Total spent: ~$100,000, and that's insanely cheap!
And they will give this away for free so clients will buy from their store from their iPhones.
For your app, Peter, if you have the servers and the APIs and the design, I'd guess at $30,000 to $60,000 depending on complexity. If you do not have the design, double it. If you do not have the APIs, double again...
Answer by Hiltmon
I am an account exec at a web and mobile development company and hear this question everyday. Unfortunately, iPhone apps are not cheap. You can expect around $100 per hour if you are staying on US soil. I have seen some offshore Indian developers out there for as low as $20 per hour. It all depends on the number and complexity of the functions you wish the app to perform. Simple one function apps are normally around 4-5k. They are so expensive because you are paying a team of people a healthy hourly wage and any type of raw prototyping, development, and coding takes time. Apps can exceed 60-100k pretty easily. Southwest Airlines making an app with a full ecommerce platform that allows you to buy tickets over your phone is an example. All of that porting into their IT is a big job.
And offshoring the project is definitely not always a better option. If you do so you better know who you are dealing with. Do not get me wrong there folks over there who do a bad ass job for a way better deal, but they are not that easy to find. Those guys could fuck around for 5 months on a simple project that would take 6 weeks here, or just not complete it at all and hand it over half finished. I have seen this scenario many times where we finish the work. The project management becomes a challenge. It can be difficult to communicate exactly what you want the app to do.
Answer by Wayne Carter
River of News for the iPad took about 400 hours of development to get to version 1.0 and I don't know how many hours my designer spent (20-50?). At US labor rates that's at least $40,000. But that sort of tight development was only possible because it was a one man operation. There is an enormous amount of overhead added when you separate the person writing the code from the person deciding what the product is going to do.
If you are going to send it offshore you'd better know exactly what you want. With the language and time difference it's very hard to do iterative design where you are exploring what is possible.
Answer by Dylan
Appsamuck iPhone tutorials is aiming for 31 days of tutorials ending in 31 small apps developed for the iPhone all the source code for which is available to download. They also provide a commercial service to build apps!
If you want to know if you can do the coding, well at least you can download the code and see if anything there is helpful for your needs. On the flip side you can also get a quote from them for developing the app for you, so you can try both sides of the coin, outsource and in-house. Of course it all depends on how much time you have too! It's certainly worth a look!
(OK, after my last disastrous attempt to try and post a useful piece of help, I went off hunting around!)
Answer by Paul M
I am the developer for Coupious mobile coupons iPhone app and with the amount of time that I spent on that application (v1.0 - v1.5), it was probably a $15,000 - $20,000 investment. However, to be fair, I do admit that I was the only developer working on it and when I started the project, I had never seen or used Objective-C before. Despite that, three months later, it was released so the numbers are probably a little skewed because there was a fair amount of learning going on as well as coding.
However, iPhone competent developers run in the range of $80-$150 depending on their skill and time with the platform. I would say that for a simple application, an app would probably run 2K-5K, a medium complexity app would run 5K-15K and a fairly complex app running 15K-30K. Game applications could be even more.
The reason it is so high is that the skill is fairly specialized and not everyone is able to do it
Answer by davidstites
I hate to admit how little I've done an iPhone app for, but I can tell you I won't be doing that again. The guy who said that "simple, one function apps can be done .. [by solo developers]... for $5K" is correct; however, that is still lowball, and presumes almost no project design, graphic design or network backend work.
Answer by juggleware
The rates that were quoted above are what you would expect to pay US developers; however, I do know some people who have been able to get their apps built for as little as $4,000 by using offshore developers.
Here is a blog post from a group that did this: http://www.lolerapps.com/why-outsourcing-iphone-apps-was-a-no-brainer-for-us
Also, Carla White wrote a fantastic eBook about the process she used to outsource her app called "Inside Secrets to an iPhone App". She talks about how she got a great deal because she was willing to work with a team that was still learning iPhone app development.
So, there are alternatives to the higher price developers discussed above.
Answer by MattjDrake