What Differentiates a $10,000 Mobile App From a $100,000 Mobile App?

Sudeep Srivastava May 6, 2022

In our in-depth mobile app development cost guide and the ways to reduce mobile app development cost article, we detailed the different factors that affect the app development cost and the ways to bring the number down. But what we didn’t look into exclusively was the understanding of the app development costs difference and what separates a $10,000 mobile app from a $100,000 app.

Even though the mobile app industry has grown to a massive extent, there is still a looming doubt on how does the cost range varies so greatly between one app to another or between one agency to another.

The intent of this article is to end the doubt and answer what differentiates the app development cost falling on the two ends of the spectrums and to lay down the elements that make possible the comparison between app development costs.

Note: The article does not hint that the quality applications cost $100,000 and above. We are simply using the difference in numbers to highlight the factors which affect the costing and why the amount varies from one mobile app development agency to another. 

Table of Content:

  1. Type of the Application
  2. Size of the Application
  3. Number of Stakeholders Interacting with the Application
  4. Complexity of The Application
  5. The Technology Stack
  6. Location of the Agency
  7. Internationalization of the Application
  8. The Impact of Partnered Mobile App Development Agency on the Cost

Type of the Application

Deciding the app budget by app type is the first thing that a mobile app development agency does. Now while there can be n number of categories that can emerge when we talk about deciding the app budget by app type, the most prominent ones are:

Native Apps: These apps are ones which are developed for specific platforms. Meaning, the developers would have to make two separate apps, one for Android and one for iOS. And thus, the cost to hire a developer would increase by manifold.

Hybrid Apps: These apps are one whose codes are written only once and are run on multiple operating systems. When we look into the cost difference between native vs hybrid app, the amount would be much lower in case of Hybrid, compared to Native apps.

Data Driven Apps: Falling in the complex app category, these apps need massive data for their operation, which have to be saved directly on the device memory and the web server.

Basic Functionality Apps: These apps are ones which have very little functionalities, like a calculator application. The cost of less complex app development as these are very low.

Apps That Rely on the Device: The biggest app development costs difference is seen in case of application that heavily rely on the device’s functionalities like Camera or GPS etc.

Gaming Apps: These are some of the most costly apps operative in the stores in the present time. Because they make need multiple app bundles to function, the cost naturally increase compared to the pricing of different types of apps.

Size of the Application 

The size of the application is the first differentiator between expensive vs inexpensive app development cost. More often than not, high download size of an app implies great inclusion of features and functionalities.

Of all the mobile apps presently published on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the usual Android app file size is around 11.5MB, while the average iOS app size is 34.3MB. The average download count also varies greatly on the basis of the app categories. While a gaming app will be much heavier, because of large bundle size, the size of a newsstand app will be lesser. This difference in file size also carries an impact in the cost of development between different apps.

Now although the right development efforts of a mobile app development agency can optimize the app size and bring it down, the general rule of thumb remains the same nonetheless.

Number of Stakeholders Interacting with the Application

The count of people who would interact with an application would also carry a massive impact on the comparison between app development costs and whether it would fall in the $10,000 range or in the $100,000 cost quote.

As opposed to what is generally believed, the stakeholders of any application are not just its users. Stakeholders are everyone who interacts with an application, irrespective of the extent. Let me explain this better with an example.

When you install a BMI calculator application, you are asked to put in details like your name, age, height, and weight. Upon the entry of these information, calculations happen on the basis of the algorithms feeded in the backend and you are given your BMI count.

Holistically, the number of people interacting with the application at any given point in time is just you. Because it is a simple calculation app which does not store data, there is no need for an admin to manage the application.

Now let’s look at an application like Uber. There are three evident stakeholders: You – the one booking a ride, The driver – providing the service to you, Customer care staff – who keep tabs on the ride and manage discrepancies.

Behind the curtains, there would be an admin who looks over certain parts of the application like how it is performing, the crash reports, the details of payments, etc. Then, there would be an investigator who verifies the drivers associated with the brand. Lastly, there would be a Super admin who would look over everything on the application in an easy to digest format.

Now as you must have observed, the application which is in your hand will be very different from the one present on your drivers’ screens. In the back drop too, every stakeholder will have their respective versions of the application – all falling under the same parent company.

So naturally, when you are comparing app development cost, the cost of a BMI calculator application which only interact with will be much lower than the cost of Uber like application which six people interact with at any given point in time.

Complexity of The Application

Complexity of an application – one of the main factors to consider when pricing app development – is decided upon a number of factors – the number of entities who would be interacting with it in real time, the feature set that would be added in the application, the app category it belongs to, and the incorporation of the technology within the application.

Let’s talk about the features set that decide how complex your application would be. Ones which define the breakdown of costs by app complexity.

Features of the Application: 

The features present in the application tends to play a massive role in the expensive vs inexpensive app development cost comparison.

Although the list of features that should be present in a mobile app varies from one app type to another, there are some that are present in almost all the applications, irrespective of the category the app belongs to.

Users Login

The functionality is one using which a user enters the applications either through a sign in option or through sign up. While registering through phone number or email address is a very common option given to the users, enabling social media login or sign-up makes the process easy by a great extent.

Push Notifications

One of the best app marketing techniques, push notifications functionality is adopted by app makers to send real-time notifications to the end users in order to keep them engaged with the application.

Media Content Incorporation

There are some applications which require videos and images, while there are others which enables users to work around their audio files. Lastly, going by the current trend, there are messaging and social networking applications that requires inclusion of all editing capabilities, filters, effects, emoticons, and smileys, etc.


From service booking apps to dating and even business apps, Geolocation service has become a part of a number of applications, across categories. The cost of incorporating the functionality in the application is dependent on the accuracy of geolocation service and is mainly divided into three parts: the general area, middle range proximity and an accurate location.

In-App Messaging

Addition of in-app messaging functionality has become a norm in the present time. The feature is used in a number of scenarios: For users to connect with the service providers, for users to talk to the customer care. For service providers to connect with the customer care.


In-app advertisement is one of the most opted for mode of earning money from the application. Here, developers give the app makers the option to add advertisements in their application, which the users can then view or click on to complete a transaction.

In-App Purchase 

Integrating in-app purchase in an application has not just become a trend but also the point of comparison between app development costs. The functionality makes it easy for the users to buy a product or order a service without the worry of arranging paper currency. Ideally, you should give your users multiple ways to purchase elements off of the application – Card payment, Digital payment, or simply a cash on delivery option.

Multiple Language Support

With the world becoming one place, the trend of adding multiple language support is now seen as a necessity – one that a company needs to follow to become a global brand. Doing this, not just make them appear more culturally open but also help add likeability points in their favour.

Offline Mode

Dwindling internet connection and high data charges are the issues that almost every user faces, irrespective of what nation or locality they belong to. A way to solve this issue is through providing offline support to users for accessing the content of the application.


Options are a part of almost all applications. Straight from eCommerce apps to video streaming ones and even content centric applications, search functionality is constant across multiple categories. Now, the more advanced you make your search feature, the greater would be the cost of its incorporation inside the application.

Data Encryption 

At a time where hack instances like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics and Uber have become a norm, simply integrating multi-factor authentication systems are not enough. Mobile app testers will have to go above and beyond to ensure that all the data which are shared on the application are encrypted enough to not let hackers breach the system.

A well-devised data encryption will take up time, which in return would increase the cost of its integration.

Generally, the more complex your application is, the greater would be the cost of complex mobile apps. In order for you to gauge whether your app is a $1000 app or a $100,000 worthy application, you will first have to identify which complexity level does your app belongs to.

Here are three tables highlighting the features which are present in a low complexity app and medium complexity apps and ones which are there in high complexity apps – which define the different price tiers for app development. They will help you in estimating the phase to keep your app in when estimating the cost to develop complex app.

The Technology Stack 

The scope of technologies used to develop an application is another primal factor that differentiates a $10,000 application from a $100,000 one.

When we talk about technologies on the app development cost front, we talk about two separate elements:

A. Technologies that are used to develop an application from scratch

There are no two apps which are built on the exact same technology stack. Even if you plan on working in the line of famous apps’ tech stack, it will be nearly impossible to employ the exact same stack.

In order for you to understand what we are talking about when we mention the categorization of mobile app development cost estimate on the basis of the technology stacks, you will first have to understand the constituents of a technology stack.

What is a technology stack?

A technology stack is the summary of programming languages, tools, and frameworks that a developer uses to create an applications’ ecosystem. As the above image depicts, a technology stack is made of users side of the application, frontend, backend, and a database.

Now even among these four technology stacks’ elements, there are some languages and frameworks which are more expensive to employ and deploy compared to others. The reasoning behind this difference can be divided into either of these five parts –

  • Experience of developers
  • Scope of scalability
  • Market adoption
  • Presence of alternatives
  • Ease of development

An example of this can be seen in the cost difference that comes when you use Monolithic backend compared to when you use Microservice backend structure. Monolithic architecture is a lot easier to develop compared to Microservices and is best suited for simple apps which does not include a lot of complex functionalities.

However, because Microservices architecture is more long-term oriented, the cost of incorporation is higher – which, in turn, increases the overall app development cost.

B. Technologies that are used to amplify the application’s purpose

The next type of technology that impacts the decision of whether your application would belong to a $10000 range or a $100,000 price quote is the one used to differentiate the app from others or make it more useful.

Example, the cost of Blockchain or an AI powered application will be much higher than one does not use any fancy technology. But even in terms of technologies, the one that has marked its prominence in the market through mass adoption, like IoT will cost a tad lower compared to those which are still in a nascent state and finding its use case, like Blockchain and AI.

But as a general rule of thumb, the cost of a technologically rich application will any day be greater than the application that doesn’t make use of any disruptive technology.

Location of the Agency 

The difference in mobile app development cost on the basis of the location of the agency is an age-old occurrence.

Everyone who wants to get their idea converted into an application are familiar with the changing cost quotes with changing geographical locations. While the exact reasonings behind this change in price are not known and thus cannot be written in black and white, it is assumed that it has something to do with the purchasing power parity of the nations in question.

The difference in cost on the basis of nations is decided upon the per hour development cost that the nation’s developers charge on an average. The present trend in terms of the nation wise cost difference looks like this:

The rates mentioned above are a sign that the answer to ‘How much does it cost to develop different types of apps?’ Would continue to reduce as you move from the western nations to eastern. So the more you move in the east, the lower would be the app development cost for your project, irrespective of its technical and market complexities.

Internationalization of the Application

The next element which brings about an app development costs difference is app internalization.

There is more to internalization of a mobile app than simply adding translations in the application and following the mobile app localization practices. So, while adding different languages in the application is not a heavy cost-impacting task, following the internalization practices to their exactness is. The factors included in the process to prepare your app for every individual who would interact with your app are:

  • Change in language
  • Change in currency denomination
  • Following rules and regulations specific to a location
  • Changing media content
  • Cross-checking slang’ context and meaning

Ensuring the presence of all these points would require a special skill set that in turn, will come with an attached cost.

The Impact of Partnered Mobile App Development Agency on the Cost

A major deciding factor of whether your mobile app is a $10,000 app or a $100,000 one is the agency you have partnered with.

In addition to the cost difference that is seen between agencies housed in different nations, there is an app development costs difference in agencies based out of a single nation as well. While the size of the organization is a primal factor that increases the development cost, there are other things too which bring in a price difference.

Here are some things that are present in the agencies that charge higher app development cost.

Positive track record  

At the baseline, the work that an agency has done – which can be seen from both their portfolio and the live apps on the stores – validates the quality of their work. It also helps to look into the awards they have received and the third-party ranking they have in the industry in addition to looking into the reviews they have received on their work.

In general, the better the portfolio and the reviews, recognitions, the greater is the amount that they would charge for your app project.

Takeaway: The more recognized and technically, aesthetically sound a company is, the greater would be the app development cost which they would charge.

Skilled Team 

Creation of an application is not a one person job. Even the smallest of the app project need a team of designers, developers, and testers. No matter what app type you end up choosing – Native, Web, or Cross-Platform, you will need a skilled team to take care of the project.

Usually, a basic development team looks like this:

  • Project manager
  • Coders
  • UI/UX designer
  • QA engineer

While an extended team, which is needed to develop amazing apps are made of:

  • 1 project manager
  • 2 to 4 app developers
  • 1 backend developer
  • 1 to 2 UI/UX designers
  • 1 QA engineer
  • 1 system administrator

An extension of the point of difference in app development cost on the basis of the development team is the experience that they carry.

Even if you invest in an extended team, the cost of app development might come out low because of the lack of experience they have. On the other hand, you might find yourself paying more even on a basic development team who is skilled to develop and deploy your app project in the least possible time, cost-efficiently.

Let me explain this point better.

Suppose you want to develop a social media application like Instagram. Now if you follow the exact model as theirs, you will get lost in the crowd of millions of other similar applications. But imagine partnering with a team who consults you to add technologies like AI and Blockchain to not just make your app more innovative but also useful – the end result would be more beneficial, won’t it?

This is the difference which comes when you invest in a low experience and small team agency vis-a-vis a team that has the expertise to build different kinds of apps and resources to take your app miles ahead of the competition, whether it is through Android mobile app development or iPhone.

At Appinventiv, we have a team of Business Analysts who help our clients become big businesses at the back of the insights that they have formed by being active in the industry for a long time.

Takeaway: The more skilled and experienced a mobile app development team is, the higher would be the amount that they would charge to develop your application.

High Experience in App Business

For you to be 100% prepared to enter the app development world, you don’t just need a team that knows the design and development process. You will need a mobile app development agency that knows the trick of trade to convert your application into a complete business.

The app development costs difference will be more in case of an agency who knows the process to get your app featured in stores, understands the requirements to publish the app on stores, know what investors look into when they fund your app, and know the post app launch challenges, compared to agencies that doesn’t.

Takeaway: The agency which would prepare you to rank high on the app stores, increase the download count, and get you funded, will charge higher compared to one that doesn’t.

Clarity in App Development Process

Agencies that have a detailed app development process laid out are able to deliver fast and deliver perfect. They don’t struggle with the creation of steps and approaches before every project starts.

At Appinventiv, we have agile app development method incorporated in our corporate DNA. We are known to follow the rules of DevOps like continuous deployment and integration that make processes more efficient and streamlined.

Takeaway: The agencies which have their process documented know how necessary it is to deliver value fast without robbing off the entrepreneurs of their savings. So, if you invest in an agency like Appinventiv that has clarity in terms of how they conduct their process, you would have to pay more than in case of a company that is just starting with the app development game.

The last question that we have to address now, since we have attended the reasons behind the app development costs difference, is what is worth – a $10,000 application or a $100,000 and if it would make sense to not develop a small app and update later than invest in an expensive application.

The answer varies. But in our experience, we have seen very few cases of failure upon investing in a $100,000 app development project compared to instances where the $10,000 app survived for long with only minimal updates. But in order to save money and not go bankrupt, you should find an agency which belongs to low average hours eastern nation and have the skillset to take your business ahead and far.

Sudeep Srivastava
Co-Founder and Director
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