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App Development Cost: This is How Much You Can Expect to Budget to Build A Top-End New App


From design to coding & development, staging to successful roll-out – this is the average app development cost for a high-quality, top-end app for tech startups and corporates

They say it really pays to know the app you want to build, inside-out, way before you start, and that’s doubly true when it comes to actually developing it. Because it has a huge effect on your app development cost.

The good news is that you can benefit from favourable cost savings by having your product built in South Africa, saving upwards of 25% on app development – especially on more complex builds.

Here’s what you need to know about app development costs.

Disclaimer: About these app development cost estimates

We at Specno don’t do “cheap” basement builds. We specialise in top-flight, top-quality apps that are set to send ripples through society. 

So, if you’re a funded startup looking to go unicorn, a forward-looking corporate or business with a clear vision and strategy for advancing in the tech space, then this is your guide to the actual app development costs for building game-changing products.

How much does it cost to develop an app?

The short answer is that it can cost between R1.2mil and R4.3mil to develop and roll out a game-changing new app. The scope, complexity and app development time all impact your development costs – see our breakdown of the complete app development process for more details.

You can almost break it down as the development cost on a simpler app is around R1.2mil (3 months active development), while a complex build goes up to R4.3mil (12 months).

This is based on a mostly South African app design team, which is (compared to top Google results for other regions) up to 25% more cost-effective for complex builds.

App development cost breakdown

We recently detailed our entire app development process and estimated app development time investments, which, along with the fact that we separate the concepts of development and app design, including separate app design costs, should give you a picture of just how specialised and detailed our approach actually is.

So when it comes to app development cost, you know you’re paying for all the right individual components that ensure app success, including;

The right team for your build

Specialist front- and back-end developers, a scrum master, UI design specialists, a product owner to champion your cause and everything you need to roll out a successful product. See what startup support you need to make it big.

In-depth planning and architecture development

Ensuring the entire team fully understands your product goals and needs, and developing an architecture that’s scalable for your future growth and needs.

User-focused feature development

Breaking down the entire scope of work into Stories that are 100% designed around helping users achieve their goals (the gold standard in app development), so you know that every piece of work a developer does is directly designed to create a better user experience.

CI/CD principles

Set up for Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) so your product is always-deployable for rigorous testing and quality control.

Tailormade project management systems

Agile-rooted systems and processes, including scrum methodology and agile processes like Kanban and tools like JIRA and Notion, but specifically designed around the unique scope and needs of your project.

Best-practice quality assurance

Using pull requests and team reviews before merging code into the repository, rigorous testing of all code and features, as well as using the 3 standard environments for building: Dev, Staging and Product.

Product rolled out in stages 

For more accurate testing and to ensure stability before making it public, we use the standard Alpha, Beta and final Release Candidate stages.

Project review and maintenance

Retrospective reviews and reports – not just at the end of the entire project but also during daily and weekly sprints of work.

Calculating the costs

All of the above (and a lot we’ve left out for brevity) happens on every project, with the main differentiators being the time and materials it takes to complete it. With this we can give a rough idea of app development cost based on the estimated time to completion:

  • 3 months of development: R1.2mil*
  • 6 months of development: R2.3mil*
  • 12 months of development: R4.3mil*

* estimates only, each project is different.

App development cost variables

Developers are often wary of making too explicit app delivery timelines and costs. That’s because every product is unique, and therefore comes with its own requirements and challenges. 

Some variables that might impact the price to develop an app are:

The time it takes to complete

With Specno specifically, we price on time and materials. So anything that slows down the process or demands a greater time investment can affect the cost of the final product. To move even faster, discover the benefits of low-code development and the right price with beneficial low code development cost.

Scoping and requirements

It’s much easier and faster to start development on a tested, proven and validated app concept. We at Specno offer a Concept Validation service, where we help you thoroughly research and test any new product concepts before investment.

Discover why it’s a good idea to validate your app idea first and see exactly why you need to test your app idea.

The complexity of the app

Complexity is hard to define, but a simple way to categorise apps is to look at the type and amount of features they will require. The below comparison table showcases potential features and relevant app complexity.

Simple Apps

Mid-Level Apps

Complex Apps

  • A single, straightforward function or purpose

  • A limited number of screens or pages

  • Basic navigation

  • Limited user input

  • Basic data storage

  • Limited integration with external systems or services

  • Basic security features, such as login or authentication.

  • Multiple functions or purposes

  • More advanced navigation, such as nested menus or dynamic navigation

  • More advanced user input

  • More complex data storage

  • More extensive connectivity, such as integration with external APIs or services

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • More complex security features, such as encryption or multi-factor authentication
  • Many functions and navigation

  • Advanced user input, voice and facial recognition

  • Advanced connectivity and real-time data exchange

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • Advanced security features, such as biometric authentication

  • Support for multiple languages and localization

  • Support for various device types and platforms, including wearables and IoT.

The resources needed

Apps with a large number of screens, complex navigation and inter-relatedness might require a bigger team or more time nd resources to complete.

Testing and optimisation

The quality. clarity and brevity of feedback and sign-off from stakeholders will impact turnaround times, which impacts costs. If a key stakeholder is unavailable to sign off, for example, that delays the process. Also see these signs you need a UX audit, see why a UX review is a game changer and the 8 instant business benefits of a UX audit. And learn what to expect during the UX audit process, as well as what goes into a full-scope UX audit and redesign.

Whom you choose to work with

It should go without saying that working with an agency VS a freelance developer is in most cases faster and more preferable. At Specno, for example, we’ve built entire, dedicated development teams, to allow us to deliver work faster and more accurately. Have a look at the facts, figures, pros and cons around outsourcing and insourcing your development.

Also see the steps to validate your mobile app idea.

Note: Cost breakdowns based on Specno quality, skills and times

The cost estimates we show here are based on our internal Specno turnaround and delivery timelines and capability. Our dedicated team of driven developers can turn around finished products at a level that’s ideal for funded startups and corporates.

Naturally, we can’t vouch for anyone else in the industry but ourselves.

Also, see why it's important in our roundup of the impact of digital transformation on South African businesses.

Get us to develop your app for you

There’s a lot that goes into developing an app that actually works the first time, and that’s why we at Specno spent years building one of the best multi-speciality app development teams.

To get your app deployed timeously and successfully, contact Specno now.
(You’ll get a response immediately.) 

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Specno Team