IT Strategy

Developing a Mobile MVP App: Key Factors and Cost Estimation

This blog helps you figure out what it takes to create an MVP app and how to ensure your MVP is worth investing in.

When creating mobile applications, the conventional wisdom has been to build an MVP — a Minimum Viable Product — before investing more time and resources. The idea behind the MVP is that you can quickly bring an app to market and get feedback from the target audience, which will help you make necessary adjustments before going live with the full-blown version.

However, for two reasons, some entrepreneurs are apprehensive about the MVP app cost. First, if choosing the wrong tools and techniques, the cost of developing a mobile MVP may outweigh its benefits. They are also concerned that a poor-quality MVP may damage the brand, which would be counterproductive in the long run.

That said, how much does it cost to develop an MVP mobile app? And perhaps more importantly, how to ensure the MVP cost is worth it?

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In a nutshell, the MVP mobile development process can take from several weeks to several months. App development costs vary from $18,000 to $32,000 on average.

This guide will help you answer these pressing questions.

Let's first start with a fundamental question.

What Is a Mobile MVP?

Unsurprisingly, a mobile MVP is just a stripped-down version of a final product with minimum yet critical features. However, an MVP app is more than just a prototype. The term comes from the venture capital world, where it has become a standard approach to launching startups.

A Minimum Viable Product means a version of your application with just enough features to excite your customers. In addition, it serves as proof of concept, allowing you to test the idea and get user feedback rapidly.

When developing a new product, you must test it thoroughly before launching it fully. This notion is well-known to both startups and established companies.

These days, many of them are following a minimum viable product development approach because of the following benefits:

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  • Minimized development time, fewer resources involved
  • Maximized cost efficiency, faster time to market
  • Instant customer feedback and product insights
  • Secured initial investment, reduced the risk of failure in the first version, which means lesser MVP app cost later.
  • Improved functionality before the launch

What Affects Mobile MVP Cost Estimation

There are three key points to consider when estimating the cost of developing a mobile MVP:

  • Functionality
  • Technology
  • Team

1. Functionality - 30% of the MVP costs

Deciding which features to include in your MVP is the first step. Ensure to include all core features at launch and essential extras that make the difference.

Simply put, don't try to build the entire application in one iteration. As your audience feedback suggests, you may find extra functionality worth adding to or dropping from the app.

After all, you don't want to develop a complex app that requires much time and resources but delivers little value to end users.

2. Technology - 20% of the MVP costs

This factor refers to the choice of programming language, libraries, and frameworks. It means that you should look for a technology stack that is flexible, easy to learn, and integrates well with the business logic of your project.

In general, you will choose between the following app development approaches:

  • Native app development (iOS: Swift, iOS SDK, UIKit, Xcode. Android: Android Studio, Java, Kotlin)
  • Hybrid app development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Cordova, PhoneGap, Ionic)
  • Cross-platform development (Flutter, React Native, Xamarin)

The technology factor takes around 20% of your MVP's budget.

3. Team - 50% of the MVP costs

The development team should reflect your app project's capabilities and embrace the MVP's functionality and technologies equally. This notion means you should hire people from diverse backgrounds with different strengths and skills. In addition, your MVP team should be small enough to be agile and highly motivated.

How you assemble your mobile MVP team is a crucial factor affecting the cost of mobile MVP development.

The team includes the following roles:

  • Product manager, who defines, validates, and articulates the MVP's vision and manages the project.
  • Product marketer, who cares about marketing and networking.
  • 3-4 software engineers
  • 1-2 quality assurance engineers

The payroll is the most significant part of your MVP's development costs, counting 50-60%.

MVP Development Steps

As mentioned earlier, the primary goal of MVP development is to create a basic, launchable version of a mobile application to validate the business idea behind this app and get initial user feedback while using the least resources possible.

To carry out the MVP process, follow these steps: 

1. Research the Market

Like any product, mobile apps must be popular, and people must be willing to use and pay for them. Therefore, the research phase includes a competitor analysis to see what current apps are out there, the number of users they have, and the most popular features of their app.

Besides, you should check the level of competition and the number of competitors, their success stories, and the reasons for their success. This kind of research will help you decide what features you should have in your MVP app.

2. Create an App Concept

After doing the competitor analysis and researching your app's potential users, create a concept of how your product will develop and grow. Incorporate all the research findings into the app concept that may help validate or invalidate your business idea.

Also, start thinking about the product's business model and go-to-market (GTM) strategy, how your business will deal with the competition, and how it will look in 2-3 years. The GTM strategy may differ depending on the market (low-end or high-end) and your app business.

Also, focus on mapping out the user flow - how users will interact with your app and the stages where they will feel the product is more valuable. It will help you understand which features are must-have and which are nice-to-have.

3. Design a Prototype

With your app concept finalized, design a prototype of the MVP according to your app's GTM strategy. The prototype should demonstrate the core functionality of your product and pave the ground for further communications during the development phase.

The prototype is meant to be a dummy app demonstrating how your app will look and feel. So, put much effort and time into making it better than the competitors. The prototype should be flexible and adjustable to adapt the core app idea to meet your business model.

4. Score and Prioritize Features

With your prototype in hand, you should evaluate the product's effectiveness by conducting a survey. Conduct this survey on 100-150 users and score their overall experience with the app. Remember that it is not an MVP but a prototype and is straightforward.

After that, you choose your prototype's top 2-4 features and add more detail. Again, selecting the most-needed features and tossing away less-essential functionality is a priority.

5. Start Building a Basic MVP

The final stage in MVP development is to start building a basic MVP app. The initial version should be simple, easy to use, and as close to your product's final version as possible. A feature should be integrated as soon as possible if it is unavailable.

The following are some of the characteristics to make your MVP cost-effective:

  • It's a basic, simple, fast-loading app with must-have features that help you validate the business idea.
  • Only basic UI design. The MVP is not the final version, so it should be simple, fast, intuitive, and user-friendly.
  • Minimal viable functionality. The MVP should only have the core functionality of your product and not include unnecessary features.
  • User flow and in-app analytics. Know what your users do and how they interact with the app through in-app analytics. The more information you can get about usage and interests, the better.

How to Estimate Mobile MVP Costs

Even though MVP development is less time-consuming than a full-scale project, it takes some time and monetary resources.

The most accurate way to estimate the cost of MVP development is to count your staff members' salaries and overheads, such as office rent and other administrative expenses.

Then take into consideration the following MVP cost estimation factors:

1. Scope of Work

The scope of work will depend on what features you need to include in your mobile MVP. The more features you want, the higher your cost will be. Think about your competition and market needs, and update your concept accordingly.

In other words, you need to estimate the time and money required for developing must-have features within the scope of your MVP's project.

Here's a quick tip:

  • Ask your project lead for a time estimate (how much time the team will need to build the MVP's core functionality). Alternatively, you can base your assessment on the number of hours required for developing similar projects, if any, in the past.
  • Multiply the total development time by the average hourly rate for the team. This will give you an approximate cost for MVP feature development.

2. MVP Delivery Model: In-House vs. Outsourcing

The choice of MVP delivery model will majorly impact your costs. You have two options to choose from:

  • In-house MVP development
  • Outsourced MVP development

Let's compare the two delivery models and pick one based on the following factors:

In-house MVP Development

It is cost-effective to build your MVP app in-house as you control the whole process from start to finish. However, you need to have a team of skilled developers and designers, plus take care of all the administration and organization work, including:

  • recruiting
  • staff training and retention
  • payroll
  • insurance
  • office rent and equipment
  • paid/sick leaves

In-house MVP development is feasible if you already have all of the above. It also makes sense if you have an experienced team, as they can do all the work without asking for help.

Outsourced MVP Development

Outsourcing mobile MVP development to a remote team is a widely preferred option. You don't need to worry about hiring, retaining, and training your developers, or buying equipment, as the vendor does all of that for you.

Instead, you hire a team of professional app developers ready to work on your product with no hassle. You only have to pay for their working hours and spend more on project management.

MVP development outsourcing is cost-effective, but you must find a suitable vendor with team members who can deliver the product on time without any issues.

So if you're planning to outsource your MVP development, here are a few tips for you:

  • Hire a reputable outsourcing company with a proven track record and strong references.
  • Test their work quality. Look up their past projects and see how they performed.
  • Get estimates. Avoid companies that are aggressive in their pricing and inflexible in the timeframes.
  • Request a 25-minute discovery call with an Intersog representative to discuss your MVP project, business requirements, and budget.

Mobile MVP Costs: App Examples

Below we share sample cost estimates of mobile MVPs across popular app categories, including:

  • eCommerce and marketplaces
  • Wellness, fitness, and lifestyle
  • Social and entertainment
  • Finance
  • Travel

The calculations are based on our team's experience and only cover the client side (front-end development and UX/UI design). The back-end development costs are not included, as the business logic and in-app mechanics differ significantly from app to app.

#Mobile App TypeApprox. Cost
1Fitness / Health app like Asana Rebel, Glo, Yoga Workout$19,000-$23,000
2eCommerce store / Marketplace app like Wish and Flipkart$29,000-$35,000
3Travel app like TripIt and Kayak$23,000-$30,000
4Social / Entertainment app like TikTok and Pinterest$25,000-$32,000
5Expense trackers like Goodbudget and Expensify$18,000-$23,000
6Utility apps like Todoist and Proton VPN$20,000-$24,000
7Crypto wallet like Trust and ZenGo$20,000-$25,000

Key Takeaways:

  • The cost of a mobile MVP depends on its scope, technology stack, team, and delivery model. The price tags for various MVPs range between $18k and $32k.
  • Scope: the more features you build into your basic MVP, the higher the development cost.
  • Tech stack: choose native, cross-platform, or hybrid development approaches to fit your project's scope, budget, and timeline from a technology perspective.
  • Team: you need at least three app developers, two quality assurance specialists, a project manager, and a UX/UI designer for your mobile MVP. Your team should be experienced in mobile product development and have worked with similar tech stacks.
  • Delivery model: in-house development looks faster but is more expensive and time-consuming than outsourcing. You choose to outsource MVP development when you need your product to launch as soon as possible, or you want to augment your team with missing talent fast.
  • Finally, you can integrate Intersog's development services into your MVP process to fill gaps in your team's skills, add expertise, or accelerate project delivery.
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Intersog is a leading IT solutions provider in the United States and other countries. The company has provided agile software engineering and staffing services for Fortune 500 corporations, tech startups, and SaaS businesses for over eighteen years. Why Intersog.