Why iOS App Development Is Too Costly For Most Developers

With the number of mobile applications in app stores, one might think that creating an app is easy and almost free to make. Some lackluster apps may even seem as if no money was spent on them. This couldn’t be further from the truth for iOS apps and a lot of developers have said that creating Apple apps are far above their pay grade. Why does it cost so much? Here’s a closer look.

Good design isn’t cheap

mobile app development costA well-designed app doesn’t come cheap. There are a lot of successful mobile applications that made it through a combination of usability and appearance, and it can be said these apps had a sizeable amount of money go into them. Not everyone can have a hit app with 8-bit, like the developer of ‘Flappy Bird’, and will need to invest some cash to make an app worth using. Take a look at Adobe Photoshop Express, Any.do, Asana, or other apps that have made “best of” lists; there will most certainly have been money spent of them.  Newcomers or novices when it comes to apps will most likely be shocked by the numbers involved and at the least, an app will go for $10,000.

Strict standards in app stores

Apple has stringent standards when it comes to submitting apps to iTunes store. The process is long and tedious but doesn’t guarantee approval in any way, even if a developer’s been waiting months. If an app does get approved, Apple states that it will take 30% of all revenue and claim that

“You can increase your income if you enable Apple’s iAD network in your free apps. Apple sells and serves the ads and pays you up to 60% of the advertising revenue from your apps. Apple also allows “in-app purchases” which means you can offer a free app with additional features for sale to the customer after download.” (Simon Lee, Locassa)

Keeping an app up to date is one of the most important parts of application development and when it comes to Apple, an update must go through the approval process all over again before it gets released to the public. There are bound to be security or system updates that will affect mobile applications and by keeping them current, those apps will stand a chance and remain visible to users.

Mastering the tools

Mobile applications for iOS were created using Objective-C. According to Apple, it is

“the primary programming language you use when writing software for OS X and iOS. It’s a superset of the C programming language and provides object-oriented capabilities and a dynamic runtime. Objective-C inherits the syntax, primitive types, and flow control statements of C and adds syntax for defining classes and methods. It also adds language-level support for object graph management and object literals while providing dynamic typing and binding, deferring many responsibilities until runtime.”  (Apple Inc.)

mobile app development toolsThe short of it is that it is related to a programming language called C with derivatives such as C# and C++. It was thought that developers who were familiar with the C family of programming languages would be good to use Objective-C but that is most definitely not the case. First of all, a developer will need to use a computer running iOS since Visual Studio will be of no use. The hub of iOS tools, called Xcode, will have to be mastered by the developer before they even start with Apple’s very own programming language. That’s costly in terms of equipment and learning time.

The cost of equipment and fees

There are a lot of developers who create applications for Android as a leisurely pursuit and aren’t really in it for the fame and fortune. Some get lucky while some get a reasonable amount of success, making them want to continue creating apps. After all, it only costs $25 to get an Android app listed on the marketplace. Because of this low entry cost, a lot of Android developers offer their apps at a very low price, if not free. Some don’t even want to incorporate ads to keep their UI seamless, giving the user the best experience.

mobile app codingThere is some preparation that must be made when wanting to break into the Apple App Store. First, a developer should purchase a Mac since it will be the only platform that will run the tools they need to create an iOS app.  Apple computers aren’t cheap to begin with and once a developer successfully creates an app, they will have to give Apple $99 annually to develop for them. Unlike Android’s $25 one-time fee, iOS developer will have to shell money out every year, dissuading individuals who code or program for the fun of it to get in on the action. Users are also left with very little choice since iOS users can’t get apps anywhere else but the official App Store. Developers are not given the option to install the app straight to their mobile phone, requiring them to pay Apple for the chance to use the app they designed.

Different payment schedules

mobile app payment schedulesOn the other hand, designing for Android is so much easier since most operating systems can be used and developers only have to pay that $25 once. The necessary tools are free, as is the documentation, and Android now has an emulator that allows developers to try their app out without needing an Android device. Getting an app in the Android marketplace needs to lengthy approval process and most anyone can put their creations up for grabs.

Serious developers who specialize in apps for iOS are the Apple App Store’s best, since hobbyists won’t be able to or simply refuse to pay for the fees required. If an app does sell, Apple will send the developer his share of the revenue once a month. The money should be expected no later than 45 days after the end of the month. However, Apple will only send the money if the app earns at least $150. Any amount less than that and a developer will have to wait another month to see if the app revenue meets the minimum requirement.

Checkout the Mobile App Development Guide for more information and resources about Profitability.


  1. Amna

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