iPad App Development Cost – A Breakdown


iOS is one of the hottest development platforms available today, especially iPad App development. iPad App development cost includes dozens of variables, so I will attempt to outline key factors that affect the out-of-pocket expense in addition to some of the real questions that you should ask before planning your application development.

The iOS developer network has traditionally had a low barrier of entry with free developer kits and the primary cost to play was the purchase of a Mac. Today, the cost to register as a personal developer is still minimal with the $99 Apple Developer Connection (ADC) fee.

This low barrier of entry allows any developer to vie for application development work, regardless of experience or skill. We have seen hourly developer rates can range from $15 – $250/hour. Since iOS development could be performed anywhere, the players come from all walks of life: Overseas ($15-$30), after school projects sourced from any the freelance bidding web sites, after-work as a skunk works hobby, independent architects and developers providing full-time professional services; or a complete development shop that can provide a full range of design, development, and testing lifecycle services on iOS and other platforms. The real question becomes how much risk are you willing to absorb in exchange for a low-cost application?

iOS Applications: Consumer vs. Enterprise

There is a modern-day gold rush for consumer applications – this market can produce at a low cost ($5,000 to $10,000) application and quickly be offered to millions of potential consumers on the open iTunes market for as low as $.99 (or free). Of course, there are significant variances in the creation cost and the purchase prices across the entire iTunes App store, but the point stands that low risk consumer applications can be produced and sold at bargain basement prices.

These cost and time expectations are leaking into the Business Enterprise and creating a perceived value gap. That is that the creation of a $10,000 consumer application is equivalent in complexity and cost as an Enterprise built secure application that connects to internal data stores, etc.

Enterprise Applications begin to introduce many variables beyond the “development cost”, leading us to ten key questions that must be considered as part of the pricing model for a true iPad Enterprise App:

  1. Breadth: Will the iPad application target a department, division, or full enterprise?
  2. Customer Interaction: Will your end-customer be directly engaged (e.g. brand)?
  3. Enterprise Data: Do users need access to read and update enterprise systems?
  4. Security: Which security policies and technology will be needed for new data?
  5. User Profile: Will Enterprise users be in/out of the office with/without wireless?
  6. Governance: Which application and device policies should be created/updated?
  7. Integration: What existing/new integration techniques will be required?
  8. Architecture: How can the existing enterprise architecture extend to the iPad?
  9. Testing: Will existing Q/A processes and tools support the iPad test scenarios?
  10. Ongoing Support: How best leverage existing feedback/remediation channels?

These questions provide a 360-degree view of the application and the dependencies that need to be considered for the Enterprise iPad App development cost model. The primary difference between a Consumer iPad Application and an Enterprise iPad Application relates back to the security, integration, architecture and the governance required to protect corporate assets. Additionally, many of these considerations go beyond just the developer’s hourly rate and begin to incorporate the differentiators that will allow corporations to promote the corporate Brand when employees are using it for customer-facing interactions, User Experience (UX) architecture to ensure the iPad application is engaging and innovative in order to drive new value within the business case, and built to enforce enterprise security standards to protect both the customer and corporate assets.

Cost vs. Risk

As we peel back the layers of iPad App development costs, it becomes practical to discuss the amount of risk that is acceptable within a given business scenario. [pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”]The primary difference between a Consumer iPad Application and an Enterprise iPad Application relates back to the security, integration, architecture and the governance required to protect corporate assets.[/pullquote]Each Enterprise will typically have algorithms and processes for identifying and determining the amount of risk related to a particular project; and in turn relate the risk back to the probability and magnitude of the impact should there be an adverse affect on the business. Beyond the typical analysis, when evaluating the application cost, we should consider the expected lifespan and enterprise footprint of the iPad application.

The footprint of an iPad application will include both the number and types of employees expected to use the application, this will directly affect the risk profile and can be a major factor within the cost calculations. An example could be a departmental application with limited users: Depending on the sophistication of the integration, security policies, and the expected lifespan of the application; for roughly $50k (+/- 20%) a functional application could be designed and developed to support a specific business activity for relatively low risk. By limiting the number of test scenarios, screen complexity, integrations, and user footprint; the enterprise standards could be adopted and value provided to the department.

Conversely, if the candidate application were intended to fulfill the needs of multiple departments, divisions, or a full-scale enterprise use case; then the architecture and application design would need to scale appropriately. As we discussed earlier, there are dozens of variables that factor into the overall application costs, but below are some budgetary tiers for planning purposes:

Basic Consumer iPad App Development Cost:     $10,000 (+/- 20%)
o No integration
o Standard controls
o Minimal Design and project management

Simple Enterprise iPad App Development Cost:     $50,000 (+/- 20%)
o Limited footprint
o Single integration
o Design for architecture, security, and user experience
o Lite screen personalization

Medium Enterprise iPad App Development Cost:     $100,000 (+/- 20%)
o Department / Division footprint
o Branding to support customer-facing interaction
o Integration leverages existing enterprise capabilities
o Enterprise-class Standards, security, and scalability
o Highly tuned user experience

Complex Enterprise iPad App Development Cost:     $150,000 (and up)
o Enterprise footprint
o Highly tuned branding and user experience (include customer-facing)
o Custom Integration (batch and real-time within the Enterprise)
o Enterprise-class Standards, security, and scalability
o Mobile device and application management infrastructure (MDM, MAM)

Managing Budget and iOS Application Cost Expectations

Surprises are great for holidays and birthdays, but not welcome within the project execution and application development process. There are several causes for unwelcomed surprises within the application lifecycle – many can be controlled with early planning and diligence. The iPad is much more about the user interaction than legacy applications; so it is critical to set and manage expectations early in the process. Here are a few tips and tricks that will ensure expectations are well managed:

  1. Success Criteria: What will the app do, and more importantly will “not include”
  2. Design: Invest time for mockups, storyboards, and user experience modeling
  3. Develop: Limit changes to critical gaps or key issues for the first release
  4. Pilot: Garner usability and interaction feedback early (pilot user group)
  5. Performance: Tune integrations to do heavy processing outside of the iPad
  6. Support: Ensure application update processes and tools are in place early

Creating Success

It goes without saying that the best Enterprise applications begin with a full end-to-end strategy. While every enterprise has application experience with hundreds of packaged and custom applications; the iOS and specifically the iPad revolution creates a new dynamic with the business culture. The users’ expectations are extremely high based on their consumer iOS application experiences so the effort to meet (or exceed) their expectations with an Enterprise iOS Application requires special attention. Converting “business as usual” applications to the iPad will fall short. It is imperative to leverage the new and innovative capabilities of the iPad to create new customer value and identify new opportunities for customer growth and satisfaction. The iOS development cost goes beyond dollars – it could be the opportunity cost associated with missing the chance to innovate. Successful innovation within your enterprise will create value for your customers.

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