How much does it cost to make a mobile app in Singapore?
- Best way – get actual quotes from mobile app developers
- Try some online cost estimators for a super quick estimate
- We provide a heavily-caveated quick and dirty rule of thumb estimator (Total estimated costs = ((Number of Platforms + 1) * (Number of Screens) * 3 * Per manday fee) * 1.3)
- Manage costs by a) Getting several quotes (b) Reducing iterations (c) Starting with a Minimum Viable Product (d) Retaining the option to switch developers
- Cost is not the be-all and end-all. Please consider quality and development risk as well!
There are lots of articles on the internet about this topic, but not much that specifically address the question in relation to Singapore. Each of these resources try to address the question in a slightly different way
- Savvyapps has a nice readable article which addresses main cost factors
- Formotus gets range estimates from other companies (and they are not cheap!)
- I like this one by CodewithChris that explores the various options available to a mobile app buyer and consequently the cost associated with each option. We also explore such options in our mobile app buyers’ guide (a great read for anyone who wants to create a mobile app!)
As you can see, the short answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is “it depends…”
Mobile apps, after all, are not standardized products. Each mobile app is different, and so it makes sense that simple apps should be cheaper than complex apps.
The Best Way
The best way to find out the cost of build your mobile app is simply to get actual quotes from developers. Simply google “Mobile app development Singapore” and contact a few development houses to get quotes. Ask us too! J
To get good quotes, you should prepare your mobile app specifications. Detailed specifications would be appreciated since it would allow more accurate quote estimates. However, if you are not familiar with producing detailed specifications, any of these would help
- A feature list with the main purpose and features of your mobile app
- Find apps that are similar to what you have in mind (if there are) and add or take away features from these apps
- A wireframe (you can use these tools – moqups, balsamiq,fluidui and invision) showing each screen of your envisioned app
Importantly, decide whether you would want to start with iOS, Android or both. We discuss this issue in the mobile app buyers’ guide.
Although getting quote estimates is the best way to gauge costs – one word of caution – don’t be fooled by low-ball quotes. After you sign up, time costs start racking up and you end up paying a lot more than estimated.
We would argue the key number to pay attention to is not the overall estimated cost, but the Per manday fee.
Per manday fee ranges from about S$250/- to S$800/- in Singapore.
Total estimated costs = Total estimated mandays * Per manday fee
Total estimated mandays should not differ too much from one development house to another.
If one development house promises an unusually low number of estimated mandays, it is probably wise to ignore it.
If you do not have the time to get actual quotes, there are some online mobile app cost estimators. These online cost estimators ask you some questions and spit out a result. These are nice and fun, but tend to over-estimate costs in our view.
- https://www.otreva.com/calculator/ has a list of 7 platforms and 43 features and you choose the platforms and features you require. You can see how much each feature costs as you select them.
- http://howmuchtomakeanapp.com/ made by Crew has a nice interface and asks 8 questions before giving you a cost estimate.
Orteva’s calculator is probably the best we have seen around in its level of detail and estimation methodology. Unfortunately, it is not relevant in the Singapore context.
The main drawback of online estimators is that they cannot possibly cover every feature you might be thinking of. There are thousands of possible features, and each feature may have sub-features.
Ultimately, these estimators can only provide you with a very high level feel of the cost.
How do you estimate costs then?
At this point you may be wondering how we actually make estimates for mobile app costs. No magic. We simply use the formula above
Total estimated costs = Total estimated mandays * per manday fee
And we try to allocate an estimated number of man days for each feature. Some features are easy and we have made them many times (e.g. login), so these tend to be quicker and we can be more precise on the number of man days that we need. Some features may be new to us. We may need to do some research and read up on new API documentation. We will budget more time for these.
Is there any rule of thumb?
For those fans of the quick and dirty and would like a quick rule of thumb to estimate costs, we can offer the following
Total estimated costs = ((Number of Platforms + 1) * (Number of Screens) * 3 * Per manday fee) * 1.3
As you can see, we have simply broken down Total estimated mandays into a calculation based on the number of screens. Note that we assume only one feature per screen here (no cheating! E.g. A login screen should have only login and no other features). So the estimate assumes that it takes on average 3 mandays per feature.
You also notice that there is a +1 to the number of platforms to factor in backend work that is always needed.
The factor of 1.3 at the end of the equation is a rough estimate of project management, design and wire-framing costs.
A quick worked example.
You want to build a 2 screen app on iOS and Android. The first is the login screen. The second screen is a map showing where you are, so that’s 2 features. You find a development house which charges S$350/- per day. Your estimated cost is
((2 + 1) * 2 * 3 * S$350/-) * 1.3 = S$8190/-
There are some recurring costs to consider as well. It is really difficult to estimate these costs without specifications, but suffice to say that the following are recurring cost components:
- New features, tweaks, OS upgrade compatibility – The wonderful thing about mobile apps is that there is so much you can do and the sky is the limit in terms of new features you may want to add and tweaks you want to make. Ask the development house for their policy on on-going maintenance and upgrades.
- Hosting fees – In our view, the best development houses will simply pass through these costs. Be careful if the development house is not transparent on where they are hosting your data and your app. It may mean that they are trying to mark-up these hosting costs. Ideally, you should sign up for the service with your account and pay directly for these costs. They are not expensive, and you should be able to get by initially on less than S$100/-. Once you app starts to get serious numbers of downloads, then you may have to scale up the hosting service, but that is a really good problem to have! J
- API fees – Depending on the features you have, some APIs would require a recurrent fee.
Managing your costs
This is probably the most important part of the article.
Let us offer 4 ways to manage your costs
- Get several quotes – As much as RobustTechHouse would like to be your only solutions provider, we cannot in good conscience recommend that you only get 1 quote. It is undoubtedly good to compare a few quotes. Beware of suspiciously low quotes as mentioned earlier though.
- Reduce iterations – Iterations cost time and money. So try to minimize the need for rework or changes in specifications especially after development begins. Work out detailed specifications (or at least a wireframe) prior to getting started on development.
- Start with a Minimum Viable Product – You may have 50 features in mind for your mobile app but consider which are really needed for your initial product. Which 10 features, say, would be sufficient to distinguish your app from the rest? Start with these and you can always incrementally add other features after the initial launch.
- Retain the option to switch developers – This is the real insider tip. You want to avoid being “locked-in” to any particular development house. Being “locked-in” reduces your bargaining power and therefore your development house could start increasing its fees! To avoid being locked in:- Make sure you (a) Own the source codes legally and are physically able to access the source codes at all points during development (b) Use an agile development house so you can track progress (c) Own the data hosting and code repository accounts – set these up yourself (d) Use native iOS and Android (rather than hybrid) development platforms – the community is much larger for native development. For a fuller description of how to avoid mobile app development nightmares, check out this article.
Cost is Not Everything
Although this article is about cost, we feel the need to emphasize that you should not make any selection decision solely based on cost. Scouring the globe for the lowest cost developer will almost guarantee failure. Using a bad developer is time and money down the drain. There is little chance that any part of that bad code base can be “built upon”.
We have come across too many mobile app buyers who had issues with their current developers. Trust is not an easy thing to assess, but do take into consideration the reviews and current portfolio of the developer. Ask for reference clients that you can speak to if needed.
Consider the developer’s mobile app design capability, their level of transparency and whether the developer is able to provide value-adding ideas to your concept.
Hope this helps !
Also published on Medium.