Mobile App Development Lifecycle: How Long Does It Take?

By Sara Mehdi on 11st February, 2021
One of the most crucial things to be aware of when you’re building an app is to know how long it takes to build a mobile application. Why? Well… the faster the app develops, the faster it can begin to operate, be used and then eventually bring in revenue, right?
Once you’re aware of how much time is or will required to put together a mobile application, planning the next phases of your project will become easier. If you set unrealistic timelines for each stage of the development cycle like, research, product design, and development, it’s likely to cause delays in the final rollout of the application into the market.
In order to avoid this from happening, you should know exactly how much time is needed for each stage of development and thus allow you to better schedule the timelines for your end client. Once you have all the timelines finalized, only then will you be able to create an end product that can stand out from the massive sea of applications that are currently available in the iOS App and Google Play store.
Not all mobile apps are equal, which is an important thing to remember. The inequality is not only in the platform that the app is developed for… the lowdown of both the iOS application development as well as Android is counted as well when determining the time needed to implement certain features in the app.
A Basic mobile application that features a simple functionality, 7 - 10 unique screens and 10 - 15 unique API calls requires approximately 120-160 hours to develop, which is 3-4 weeks.
An app with a Medium complexity requires 500-600 hours, which is 3-4 months.
A Complex app will also be time-consuming. In most cases, the timeline will exceed 1200 hours, which is more than 8 months. In some cases (depending on the project and certain factors), it can even take up to a year to develop and then launch a mobile app. However, for most companies, you do not want to wait for 8 months to see how your customers will respond so most companies start with a barebones MVP to validate their idea and then keep adding features.
But the question arises…
How should the lifecycle development of a mobile application be carried out? How should these timelines be laid down for each stage of the project? What factors should be kept in mind during each stage of the project?
We’ll get to all of that. Let’s look at some of the factors that effect and influence mobile app development timelines.
Key Factors that Impact the Timelines of Mobile App Development
Whenever estimates are being made for an app development timeline, the following factors should always be kept in mind:
‣ Size of the project
‣ What’s the scope of the project?
‣ Third Party Integrations
‣ Tech Expertise
Project Size
This has two core components: The number of features, screens, components etc. to be developed and the complexity of each component. For example, the app could only have one screen but that one screen has a complex AI algorithm running in the backend to determine what content to show.
Project Scope
The project scope will determine how much work is actually going to be put in? How many screens need to be developed, what are going to be the screen sizes, and how many features will be included? Is the app going to have an MVP? How many platforms will the app be made available on? All these factors will play a role in determining how much time will be needed to finish the application.
Third Party Integrations
Third party integrations and APIs play an ample role in the increased functionality of your application. It helps make usability of your app easier. However, the more integrations there are, the more time it will take. It also varies depending on the integration. Tools like Zapier can help you lower integration costs and time.
Technical Expertise of The Team
You have to make sure you have the right resources, the right technical expertise for a project to be carried out, and all of this has to be aligned with the project timeline. Alfabolt can help you out here ;)
So far… so good?
Now let’s try and understand what are the different phases of a project.
4 Important Phases of an App Development Process
There are different phases in a project and each phase needs its own time to complete effectively. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But not enough emphasis can be given to the way scheduling is handled for each of these phases.
Let’s take a look at all these phases.
Discovery Phase
ETA: 1-15 months
When it comes to the app development industry, about 70% give high importance to the discovery phase.
Why? Because it helps to clarify the scope and make it easier to schedule the project.
But how much time is needed for the discovery phase. In general, the time needed for this phase depends upon the requirements sent over by the client, this includes the range of features that are going to be included in the application and the complexity of the app itself.
Once you have those requirements, as a team you will be required to do a market research for competitors, the assets that are going to be needed and create a prototype to get confirmation from the client.
Once you have all this under the belt, the project can be moved to the design phase.
Product Designing
ETA: 1-6 months
Design phase is an integral part of the mobile app development process too. At this stage, a lot of wire framing will be needed, you will go over several design options and how the end product will interaction with the target customer.
Some key areas that can be addressed at this stage:
- What is the user expecting from the app and how they expect to interact with the application
- Customer journeys, how different set of audiences will go through the application
- Identify the key features of the application
You must also keep in mind that design is an iterative process. The timeline specified mentions the how long the first iteration takes however for most companies, post product launch, companies keep iterating to provide their customers the best possible experience.
Development Phase
ETA – 1-12 months
The development phase of a project focuses on full stack development. In this phase, designers and developers go hand in hand to work together as a team to make sure all user expectations are met.
- Server-side logic which refers to the interaction between the app and the webservers.
- Data storage – how will the app record and store data.
- Data Integration which refers to processing and categorization of data.
While working on the front end, the following factors are kept in mind,
- Caching – which refers to the process of saving a copy of the UI in cache and serving it up upon the user’s request.
- Client-side rendering – relates to actions performed by the user on their devices.
- UI Development – the features of the app that have been designed are analyzed how they will appear in the app.
And so much more but we do not want you to worry about the boring details.
But that’s not the end of it. Once you have the app development, it must pass though testing before being deployed and launched. The process of user advanced testing and deployment of the application may take up to 4-6 weeks.
Now comes the releasing phase.
App Releasing Phase
This is the last stage of the app development process. And you can begin working on the release of your application as soon as you’re done with the previous phases.
For releasing the app, the following steps should be kept in mind.
- Make sure your app is meeting all of the requirements of the Google Play Store and iOS App store.
- All marketing materials are in place to create hype and buzz for your application
Bonus Tip: The privacy policy of your application is supposed to be user focused and should prioritize the protection of user data.
Once you’ve done all of that, you can submit the application for review. Different platforms have a different timespan to review the application. This may prove to be a smooth ride or a frustrating process.
There is no in-between. No kidding.
Typically, a developer from the app store is assigned to review and work with you to get rid of all bugs, all features are tested properly before your application is approved. Which could take time… or not. It depends.
So, there you have it!
How can you reduce the time needed to develop a mobile application?
The time needed to build an application can be reduced in a couple of ways
Create an MVP
This is the minimum viable version of your application. In this step, you develop a smaller version of your application with all the features that the app cannot exist without. Once you have that, you ask users for their feedback.
The following are the key benefits of developing an MVP:
- A/B testing
- Getting to know what the user really wants
- App evaluation based on usability and the functionality of the features
- Applying the product strategy from a renowned app
For this to work, you pick an app in your niche and replicate what they have done. As they say, there is no point in re-inventing the wheel. Use what others have done and use it to your advantage. You can look what features are working and what are not.
Developing a mobile application in no easy process. In fact, it is one of the toughest things to do in the current market. It may take a few attempts but you will get there and knowing how much time each phase requires is genuinely the first step on your way.
Here is another interesting read on how to build an MVP.
Hopefully, you were able to learn a thing or two from this article and will now have a clear idea about how to schedule each phase of your project. For more help regarding a project, book a free consultation today!