Augmented reality (AR) apps literally change the way that you see day-to-day life, and the demand for more is on the rise. In 2019, they had a market revenue of $3.99B, which is estimated to go up to $21.02B by 2024!
Moreover, in the U.S. alone, AR has been used by 83.1M consumers on a monthly basis across 2020. 71% of consumers also say that they’d shop more regularly if AR functions were supported by the retailer.
So, bottom line: how much does it cost to create an augmented reality mobile app? Let’s learn in this guide.
A Quick Guide to Understanding Augmented Reality App Development Cost
Your augmented reality app development cost is going to depend on the scope of your project. While AR is always the same concept, there are many different types of apps that can make use of it. You could be looking at:
- Simple demo/Minimum Viable Product (wireframes, programming basic functions, 3D models, publishing) — $25,000+ for at least 1 month of development
- Advanced app with extra features (user account, product catalog, shopping cart, analytics, APIs, sharing, etc) — $250,000+ for at least 2 – 4 months of development
- Custom enterprise-level app with complex features (AI learning and recommendations, refined markers, location or odometry recognition, content management system, further 3D model integrations, etc) — $500,000+ for 5+ months of development
These costs are a general ballpark since each project is different and complications or unforeseen circumstances can always arise during development.
The Tech Behind Augmented Reality
This might surprise you, but the idea of AR is nothing new. The notion dates back to the ‘90s, but there was no available tech to take it further than an idea then. However, computers are now at a point where AR apps can be developed for companies and end users alike.
How Does it Work?
Augmented reality uses your mobile device’s camera(s) to deploy a computer generated image (CGI) over objects in the real world. This CGI, or virtual image, combines itself with the real world to create the new “augmented” reality, in a process called superimposition.
The result of the superimposition is that you, as an end-user, can see a combination of real and CGI elements on your tablet or smartphone. The AR imagery can also be transmitted to connected and compatible devices, such as some TVs.
- Footage of the real world is produced/recorded in real time by a mobile device’s camera.
- Depending on the type of AR application that uses the camera, an AI then computes where to add in the CGI objects.
- The processed image is then shown to the user on the screen.
Is AR The Same as Virtual Reality?
This is a common misconception, and the answer is no.
Augmented reality apps create 2D or 3D graphical elements that are placed in a real-word context captured by a mobile device’s camera. The position and orientation also depends completely on the mobile device.
The motion sensors of the device, combined with complex algorithms of the app itself determine the camera’s orientation. The CGI can then be placed accurately in the environment, and its “existence” in the augmented reality is made constant. Users can walk around with their device in hand, and examine the CGI from different angles.
Depending on the scope of the app, the AR can also be interacted with, such as feeding an AR pet, examining historical artifacts, playing a board game, browsing shopping catalogs, etc.
Virtual reality (VR) creates a completely artificial world, where the users become part of the simulated environment themselves. The user wears a pair of specialized goggles, and are given some form of controllers that are to be held in each hand.
The environment can be explored by simple movements of the head, the graphics changing and adapting to the user’s actions. The purpose of VR is to create complete immersion. Its uses vary from video games, to education, to medical or military training. It is most useful when a user has to “become a part” of the environment they’re seeing or analyzing.
Note: While only VR requires goggles for end-users, both VR and AR software can require specialized equipment for the developers.
How to Predict Your Augmented Reality App Development Cost
Your app’s development cost will vary depending on 3 key factors, as well as the category (type of app) that it fits into. Let’s delve into more details.
The 3 Key Factors
Whatever app you’re looking to make, you must take into account the following:
- Overall objective – complexity of the app, what features it must have, development, QA, project management & team coordination, bug fixes, specific functionalities, launching on app stores, further updates, etc.
- Timeframe – an MVP (minimum viable product) will always cost you less than other options; however, if you want an advanced or complex app done in a shorter timeline, your costs will go up proportionately.
- Hourly rate – the almost universal payment model for development agencies or freelancers is an hourly rate; if your project will need higher trained personnel or exceptional expertise, the cost goes up.
As with most things, wanting a bespoke augmented reality application is going to cost you more than going for a formulaic solution. Here a few considerations:
|Simple, standard app||Complicated, customized app|
|Lower baseline cost||Higher baseline cost|
|Predefined solutions that fit a patterned approach||In-house APIs and a specific AR content management system|
|Standard code and other resources||Custom code and specific functionalities|
|Off-the-shelf design and UI||Branded design and UI|
|Preset features that fit a variety of AR apps||Bespoke features that are made for your app|
Like we’ve mentioned previously, you can opt for 3 types of AR mobile apps:
- Proof of concept
- Advanced app
- Enterprise-level app
However, there are also 3 additional categories that either one of these apps can fit into.
The 3 AR App Categories
Aside from the app development cost and the complexity of the project, AR applications fit into one of three groups, according to their core technology.
Marker-based AR mobile applications work by launching their CGI when your device comes in contact with certain triggers. These triggers can be placed anywhere in the real world, and can consist of QR codes, images, icons, the like.
The AR portion of the app starts when a user scans this trigger. Think of scanning a famous painting, and then the user gets an AR persona of the person in the painting generated on their screen, retelling their history.
Marker-based apps are a great fit for historical figures and landmarks in this regard.
Location-based AR mobile applications are all about GPS data. They determine where a user is located within the world, and provide complementary AR elements and objects. For example, you could make a “collectathon” type of AR game.
Various treasure chests, gold coins, tiny animals or any other type of reward can be “hidden” in specific places around a city. The app then uses the user’s mobile device’s GPS and compass to guide them towards these collectibles.
Odometry-based AR mobile applications are built around complicated algorithms, with data being received and processed from a number of sensors. The device’s camera captures the image, and in tandem with other information sources, the device’s location is determined continuously.
Visual odometry itself refers to figuring out the device’s location and orientation based on the captured images.
What happens after that depends on the AR app, as multiple actions can be achieved. For example, you could have a virtual pet follow you around, and you could feed them and play with them. Or, you could simulate a moving toy car, which would change trajectory or how it’s driven depending on the environment.
You could also determine the sun’s trajectory over the sky, or you could be shown the constellations via outlining when you point the camera at them.
Bottom-line: an AR application can fit into any of the 3 categories, regardless if it’s a simple, advanced, or complex type of app. You can create an odometry demo, or a marker-based app that’s very in-depth. The scope of the project is up to you. The app development cost then depends on the type of app you want to get created.
1. MVP/Demo AR Apps Proof of Concept
Minimum viable products are made for a broad range of users. The UI is made to be very friendly, and the UX is intuitive. Thanks to the simple structure, even children or seniors should face no issues using them.
The purpose of MVPs are to demonstrate a proof of concept. Generally, there are up to 5 AR elements that can be interacted with, and 1 core feature. Interaction with the 3D elements include viewing, rotating, screenshotting.
Branding elements are very rarely included, the design working around pre-existing templates. However, demos should be treated as “testing grounds”. You create an MVP to see if there’s significant growth potential in that direction; if your audience responds well to the idea.
All in all, you’re looking at a minimum of 175+ hours of work:
A few examples from the process:
- Wireframes – 20+ hours
- Development – 50+ hours
- 3D models integration – 1 to 3 hours
- Publishing – approx. 4 hours for Android, approx. 7 – 8 hours for iOS
2. Advanced AR Apps
If you’re looking for more custom features, this option is for you. You’ll get an UI that’s customized to your brand, and the final goal of the project is satisfying your user’s wants from your business.
“IKEA Place” is a great example of this, allowing its customers to easily test how furniture will look in any room, and even if it’s actually going to fit. Check it out below!
You could also create an advanced app for your clothing store, with which users could:
- Sign in to their account
- Browse your entire catalog
- View every item’s colors and sizes
- Try on clothes
- Take a snapshot
- Share it with friends and family
- Add to cart and purchase
There are also options for your admin account to have access to analytics about user behavior. A lot of API integrations are available as well, depending on your preferences. If you want to be able to freely modify your catalog without developer involvement, there’s a framework for that. If you want 3D models to download faster to your user’s device, there’s a framework for that.
It all depends on your budget. With an advanced AR app, you’re looking at a minimum of 600+ hours of work with a higher app development cost.
- User account – 10+ hours
- Product catalog – 20+ hours
- Various APIs – 15+ hours per API
- Cart feature – about 10 hours
- Analytics – 20 to 30+ hours
3. Enterprise Level AR Apps
While VR offers a greater immersion level and detail than AR can, heavily customized enterprise-level apps come very close. They can be used for a multitude of fields and purposes, such as training, knowledge distribution, team cooperation and coordination, workload optimization, etc.
They’re also perfectly suited to niches such as: e-commerce, medicine, tourism, entertainment, real estate, military, education, heavy industry, agriculture, laboratories, etc.
For example, it can help engineers visualize the exact functions of a piece of machinery, and all components and tools needed for a repair. The inner workings are right at their fingertips, without any effort. Here’s an example of an app being used for car repair purposes:
Important! While you’re still making a mobile-device centric software, its complexity usually requires developers to use highly specialized equipment (such as AR goggles). This can add to the total cost of the app.
With a completely bespoke enterprise solution, a development team would need a minimum of 1,300+ hours of work and higher app developer cost per hour.
To form an idea:
- User account – 10+ hours
- Product catalog – 20+ hours
- AI recommendations – 100+ hours
- AR content management system – 75+ hours
- Sharing feature – 7+ hours
- Recognition system – 55+ hours
Usual Augmented Reality App Development Costs (Rates)
The hourly rate you’ll have to pay depends mainly on the geo-location of the developers. North America is the most expensive, with the price generally (but not always) going down the more you go towards the eastern side of the map.
However, don’t confuse cheap with good. A less expensive product can easily be of a subpar quality. Similarly, take into account the organizational culture and work ethic of the team you’ll collaborate with. If they differ drastically from your business’s work model, it’s going to create problematic situations.
The hourly app development costs below are to be considered only estimations and approximations. The complexity of the work will always trump standard rates. Experienced and quality-driven developers (like those at Five Pack) can also cost you more, but it’s an investment worth making.
- U.S.A and Canada: $140+/hr
- Latin America: $30+/hr
- Western Europe: $65+/hr
- Eastern Europe: $25+/hr
- Asia: $20+/hr
- Australia: $100+/hr
Augmented Reality App Development SDKs
A Software Development Kit is a set of development tools used for creating features of a mobile or web app. SDKs are also crucial for making an app compatible with multiple platforms.
Depending on the scope of the project, a different SDK will be suitable. At Five Pack, we’re flexible about this decision, and open to working together with you to determine which SDK is best for your needs. Generally, the software development kit should fit these criteria:
- The SDK is based on a programming language the developers are experts at
- The SDK supports constant updates and integrations of AR improvements
- The SDK is compatible with specialized equipment (Magic Leap, HoloLens, etc)
- The SDK provides efficient maintenance options for the final product
Here are a few popular SDKs, so you can form a clearer image:
- Apple ARKit – an SDK made by Apple specifically for iPhones and iPads, it provides developers with unparalleled freedom and documentation for iOS apps. It’s also free for holders of an Apple developer account.
- Google ARCore – suitable for both Android and iPhone, the SDK is great for accurate measurements, creating world maps, using QR codes, and other location & tracking specific features.
- Kudan – versatile architecture with modular algorithms and “computer-vision”. Focused on performance across multiple devices, improved tracking and detection, SLAM, etc. Free for indie developers, $1,300 for small and mid sized businesses, custom pricing for enterprises.
- Vuforia – ideal for both marker-based and markerless apps; a great option for AR content creation. High-quality image recognition tools. $499 one time fee, or $99/mo.
- Unity – a generally praised platform that’s transforming into a go-to solution for many types of projects. Thousands of AR products run on Unity. Most companies are eligible to use Unity for free.
Other options (but still not limited to) include:
Let’s Launch Your AR App Together
If you’re in the market for top-of-the-line developers that are eager to get results, you’ve found us! Since 2008, we’ve helped Fortune 500 companies and many entrepreneurs reach new heights.
Our creative and effective solutions are the boost that your company needs to launch a groundbreaking mobile app at a reasonable app development cost.
Get started today, and see which approach is best suited to your needs. We can act as your independent development outsourcer, or as your on-demand augmented staff provider. You choose!
Ready to start the process?