The Complete Guide to Mobile App Development Timelines

For a software developing startup creating customer-facing products, building a mobile application is one of the mandatory tasks. Today nobody questions the importance of mobile apps and sometimes they are even given a higher priority than web applications. You've probably seen dozens of studies and analytical findings showing that the number of mobile app downloads grows with each passing year. Here we'll share one of such studies predicting about 350 billion mobile app downloads in 2021.


[Image credit: Statista]

Naturally, each startup that is about to begin its application development project asks the same question – how long does it take to build a mobile app? The answer to the question is important because it gives the idea of when a team can finally present the product to users and start getting feedback.

In this respect, the internet community is unanimous – app development cycle lasts for about 4-5 months. Let's reverse-engineer the mobile application development timeline to see the stages it includes and find out how long each of them takes to complete.

Marketing Analysis

This is going to sound disappointing, but the overall time required to build a mobile app, from idea to release, is even longer. Before actual app development starts, a thorough marketing analysis needs to be done. In short, the result of the marketing analysis is to answer the following three questions:

  1. Does my solution solve a real issue?
  2. Is there a market for it?
  3. How does my solution differ from those of my competitors?

Getting answers to these questions is important for determining the application functionality and the marketing and monetization strategies, so throw in about 6 weeks to do a marketing research.

Project Estimation

No, we are not ready to start the development flow just yet. The fact is that before the actual development can start, the project scope has to be outlined and the project estimate has to be calculated. This is where the results of your marketing research will come in handy.

Based on your analysis, you can put together the set of features you are going to include in your app scope and thus get a general idea of the time and cost your solution is going to take. You can start with an MVP offering just a minimum set of features and market it to gauge the customers' response. On the other hand, if the estimation seems to be too high both in terms of cost and time, you can still strip off minor features to design a minimum product which can be marketed.


On the average, project estimation is going to add about 2 weeks to your app development time.

Project Planning

This is another preliminary stage, which is often referred to as Sprint Zero within the Scrum methodology. It is basically about laying the ground for the actual development experience. At the project planning stage, the following steps are taken:

  • Development team selection. The specifics of each project determine the skills and expertise of web or mobile developers to be engaged in the product delivery process. The selection process includes interviews with the developers and project manager appointment.
  • Creation of user stories. User stories are a great way of explaining what is expected of a certain function or feature. When a feature is represented in the “as the user, I want to...” format, it clearly shows the goals of the feature development, both for the customer and for the developers.
  • UI/UX discussion. At this stage, customer's requirements to the overall app lay-out are clarified and adjusted, if necessary. A decision on the supported devices and/or operating systems should be made. This is a critical point in project planning, as it heavily influences further development process and affects general project timeline. If the decision is made to develop an app both for iOS and Android, this is going to increase the overall time.
  • Technology selection. At this stage, the team decides on the programming language to be used, on the development platforms and frameworks to be applied, on the third-party components and libraries to be involved, on the APIs to be included

In most cases, the project planning stage can take about 3 to 5 weeks, but it is needed to help your project get off to a good start.

Design and Development

This is when your team becomes actively engaged in the development flow. Typically, the creation of a mobile application involves two teams – front-end and back-end. Let's quickly look at what they do at this stage of the typical app development timeline.

Back-End Development

Back-end development, true to its name, is about the deep logic of the application, the data processing mechanisms, component integration and performance, and so on. Basically, back-end includes the following tasks:

  • Data storage setup including the configuration of databases serving the application
  • User management defining the methods of user authentication and access, as well as the security measures to be implemented in the app
  • Server-side logic representing the flows executed by the application server and the procedures for handling user's requests sent from the UI
  • Data integration enabling data exchange between different resources including third-party ones
  • Push notifications — functionality allowing the server to send notifications to the UI
  • Versioning, the mechanism allowing back-end developers to work on the next version of the application without breaking the current one

As the result, you will have a complete backend architecture capable of serving the application functionality.


Front-End Development

During front-end development, the application components related to the user interface and user experience are created. Typically, front-end development has the following scope:

  • Caching setup including the creation of a temporary data storage referred to as the cache. The application content is stored in the cache which makes its loading faster by eliminating the need to request the server
  • Data synchronization, the functionality enabling offline operation of the application. The data synchronization mechanism tracks the versions of data created online and offline to store the most recent data sets
  • Wireframing is a set of screen images showing the total structure of the user interface. At the same point, a so-called storyboard for the interrelations between individual screens is also built. A storyboard helps to see whether all interface elements have been planned and whether all connections are clear and logical
  • UI design when actual UI screens are created in the form of mockups. The mockups are prototypes of the application UI and will be used in the further UI programming
  • UI development when the code corresponding to the UI design is written
  • Internal testing used to verify that the application components have the approved appearance and that they are functioning properly

On the average, a mobile app development process timeline spans about 18 weeks (remember we've mentioned “from 4 to 5 months required to develop an app”? Here's what that figure comes from) – 10 weeks for the back-end development and 8 weeks for the front-end. The disappointing factor is that, although back-end and front-end are created by two different teams, most often, they cannot work simultaneously. The back-end engineers should start first with the front-end developers following. The largest part of the code is written by the back-end team and that is the foundation supporting the interface. If the client-side part is developed simultaneously with the server-side part, non-functioning back-end code may result in the need to redo some front-end components. In any case, communication between the two teams during the development stage is of utmost importance.

The diagram below shows the basic timeline for mobile app development:


[Image credit: Syndicode]

Multi-Platform Development

If your application is to be supported both on iOS and Android, this is going to make the development process longer, because, in fact, you are to build two versions of the application. Mobile development for iOS and Android platforms differs in technology, programming languages, and programming tools, thus you'll also need to engage developers with the corresponding skills. The average development time for iOS apps is generally shorter, as Android is running on a much wider variety of devices, thus requiring more extensive optimization effort. In general, for an Android app you'll need about 20-30% more time than for an iOS app.

As to the development environment, for Android, the application needs to be written in Java, while iOS requires Swift or Objective-C. This immediately calls for creating two very different app versions, one for each platform.

Alternatively, you can choose the cross-platform approach and develop both app versions at the same time. One of the recommended frameworks for cross-platform development is React Native allowing to build native mobile applications both for iOS and Android. This way, you will achieve the necessary consistency between the two versions of the app.


Testing is an integral part of any mobile app development process timeline, as it verifies that the application is free of errors and performs as expected. Usually, the testing stage includes the following steps:


  • Functional testing — examining the output of the functional components and comparing it to the specifications. The purpose of functional testing is to assure that the developed product conform to the initial specifications
  • Integration testing — where individual components of the software are tested together to see whether they are integrated properly and whether the data is shared as expected
  • Unit testing — verifying the performance of the smallest software units. During unit testing, the performance of each unit is checked and validated
  • Bug fixing — when errors and issues found during the testing steps are fixed and then verified by the re-testing

The testing procedure described above is the so-called alpha-testing, which only the development and testing teams are involved in. The alpha-testing approach is based on the expected app performance and allows detecting major errors in the code. The alpha-testing stage usually runs together with the application development.

At the same time, you can also run beta-testing where your app is tested by actual users trying to make your product do the things it is supposed to do. Beta-testing is great in identifying the software failures and drawbacks you never even thought of. At this stage, the overall app usability is also put to test. There are lots of beta-testing platforms out there, for example, Reddit offers the possibility to invite users to beta-test a new application.

In general, beta-testing should not take longer than 3 to 4 weeks.


If everything is done right in the previous stages, deployment should not take long. Just publish your complete product on App Store and Google Play – and you are basically done. Your customers will do the rest by downloading and installing your application on their mobile devices.

So, How Long Does It Take, After All?

A picture is worth a thousand words, so we have summarized what we have been talking about in an infographic displaying the common mobile application development timeline:


As you can see, the total app creation process on the average can take about 8-9 months. Of course, each application is unique and, depending on their size, complexity and the functionality set, the timelines may be different in each particular case.
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