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In the words of Peter Rojas, Co-Founder of Gizmodo and Engadget, the biggest change that is shaping the mobile world is that most of the Internet usage is carried out on mobile devices. In fact, for most people, the primary way or only way to experience the Internet is via smartphones or other mobile devices.

The use of mobile apps has become more and more prolific over time. Consequently, the development of mobile apps has become a very lucrative business. There are full-time developers as well as freelance mobile app developers. They earn a good amount of money by just creating various types of apps for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

If you look at the trend in the last few years, the average price of paid apps on Android mobile devices is USD 4.86. Whereas, the average price of downloading a paid app from the App Store on Apple devices is USD 4.37. This seems like a marginal difference at first glance. But when you take into consideration the regular updates (paid) that the users will have to download so that the apps work optimally, the Android mobile apps are definitely costlier. Why there is a huge price variation in Ionic, Magneto, and Android apps is because there are many factors that increase the original cost of developing the apps. This cost is ultimately borne by the users.

FACTORS THAT DETERMINE THE COST OF MOBILE APPS

To design great mobile apps, the process requires a good foundation in software development, proper planning, perfect skilled teamwork, and a proper understanding of the purpose of the app. To put it in a nutshell, the cost of development depends on the kind of mobile app you want to create. Some factors that affect the cost (and ultimately the price) are:

Research – How well your app works depends on how much research was involved in creating it. This is a critical stage and involves a lot of manpower and man-hours of work. The research is in the form of data collection so that the developers can understand the pulse of the market and the demand for specific types of apps before designing it. Data collection from primary sources is a costly affair. But it will give you the most accurate inputs before you design your mobile app.

Skill – Human resource in the form of qualified and experienced mobile app developers is another factor that affects the price of mobile apps. Hiring skilled and experienced labor can make a huge difference between the success and failure of your mobile app. Experienced developers will cost more than inexperienced mobile app developers. Also, in-house developers cost less than hiring contractual experts.

Updates – Regular maintenance and updates will require skilled developers on an ongoing basis. This adds to the cost of mobile app development. The mobile apps are being updated at least once a month to make them user-friendly and innovative. This additional maintenance and customer support will also factor into the cost.

Testing – Like other software, mobile apps have to be tested thoroughly before launching them. This process may involve repeated testing till the app works perfectly and produces the desired results in all scenarios. This extensive testing takes time and will naturally affect the budget and pricing of the mobile app.

Integration – For which platform you are developing the mobile app will also affect the price. According to research, the Android mobile apps cost 30% more to design than other apps. iOS-based devices are limited if you go by the type of products. Whereas, Android-based devices range from cheap smartphones to high-end products. So designing an Android mobile app is a more complicated process. It involves more research and planning, which in turn, increases the price of developing the apps.

Complexity – How complicated the mobile app needs to be in order to perform well is another factor that determines the price of the app. An E-Commerce app would cost more to develop because it has multiple functionalities and must provide real-time information accurately. An E-commerce app which has the back-end server support costs more. The stand-alone apps, on the other hand, don’t have such servers and they cost less. An App with the back-end server support takes more manhours to build the app.

Type – A native app for a specific OS is faster and has better speed. A hybrid mobile app can operate in different operating systems. Hence, both types of apps cost more to develop.

WHY ARE ANDROID MOBILE APPS COSTLIER?

Let us look at a few of the popular apps used by smartphone and tablet users. They are:

Mobile Apps                                       Android Price                                     Ionic Price

Weather apps                                                    $1.99                                       $4.99

Password managers                                           $12                                        $2.99 (individual)

$4.99(family)

Notes apps                                                           $3.89                                       Free with OS

The developer’s fee for Android mobile apps is about $25 while the App Store developer fee is around $99. The Android apps take longer to create and the basic development cost is more. The prices are also higher for Android apps. Besides a few exceptions, the average price of paid apps is higher on Android-based mobile devices. The cost incurred is for the development, maintenance, and updates fees of external experts. This term is colloquially termed as the “Android tax”.

To sum up, there are many factors that affect the price of a mobile app. The price variation is due to the fact that they depend on the developer’s fees and time. These two factors are the major deciders when it comes to deciding the cost of the app. The Ionic apps are in-house apps in most cases so the cost for building the app is lower. In fact, there are many mobile apps that become free on iOS devices as users upgrade their smartphones and tablets. Users of Android-based mobile devices do not enjoy this benefit and have to pay for all the upgrades and add-ons for their mobile apps.

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Janani is an engineer turned MBA, currently associated with a 'Big 4' firm. Prior to her MBA in finance and Business Analytics, she was a java developer in an MNC. She developed applications using Java, Struts, Spring and also designed pages using HTML, CSS and Javascript. She continues to believe that programming and technology are inevitable office skills and tries to share her views on blogs and forums.

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