How much does it cost to make an app like Waze?
Feature set + scale + hourly rate = total development cost. This equation serves as a high-level overview of the factors that influence the cost of developing an app. All of these variables are influenced by time.
The more features an app has, the more time it takes to plan, design, and build. The larger the apps scale, the more time is spent building and testing networks and servers. The higher the hourly rate, the more valuable your time becomes.
This is what makes giving an exact estimate in regards to the question “how much does it cost to develop x app?” impossible – depending on who makes it, and the scale of the app being made, your development costs can vary drastically. If Waze were only available in a single city, the shift in scale would equal a huge reduction in operating costs – but so too would the app’s revenue tank.
Speaking of revenue, let’s go over where Waze stands right now, and how it got there:
The second most popular mapping app in the US
Waze is a real-time navigation app that provides directions based on real-time data provided by its users. In 2013, Waze boasted over 36 million users, and was bought out by Google in the same year for about one billion dollars. Currently, Waze is home to more than 110 million monthly active users, and makes an annual revenue estimated at $37.7 million.
The digital navigation market is big, and growing: the industry is expected to produce over $34 billion in revenue by the year 2021. Navigation apps stand to make a lot of money in the coming years, especially with the rise in proximity marketing campaigns being utilized by local businesses.
What makes Waze go?
Waze, as we stated above, makes use of crowdsourced, user-fed information to provide navigation and directions that avoid road hazards like traffic, construction, speed traps, and other things on the road that can lead to a delay in travel.
There’s a lot more that the app does. Let’s go through the entire feature set:
Register / Log in
It may seem like an unnecessary step for a navigation app, but Waze smartly added gamification to their app. Users can travel to certain locations to pick up candy, which gives them points. As users gain points, they level up, and as they level up, they gain access to new features that improve their experience within the app. None of these features are critical to the function of the app itself, but provide little bonuses. In order for the app to keep track of a user’s level and points, they must be able to create an account, which would then connect to a data table hosted on a remote server.
GPS / Mapping / Navigation / Turn-by-turn voice directions
Waze uses its own SDK to provide GPS mapping and navigation services, and integrates with voice to provide users with audio-based directions.
Waze integrates with the device’s native camera functionality as well as the photo storage folder, so users can take and upload photos of current traffic conditions.
Real-time updating and machine learning
As the app collects users’ information about current road conditions, the app will send out alerts via in-app messaging to warn users in the same area about the road hazards. The app then uses machine learning to suggest the fastest, most optimal route based on their current location and destination.
Waze allows its users to connect their Facebook and Instagram to their Waze profile. Via this social integration, users can interact via DMs sent through Waze to either Facebook or Instagram. Through this social media integration, Waze users are able to find their friends in order to give them a ride without leaving the app.
User ratings and reviews
Users are able to rate and review businesses and locations they visited on their road trip, therefore providing other Waze users with useful information in the future. These ratings and reviews would need to be stored in a data table located on a remote server that is accessible to all users.
Waze does utilize ridesharing, but it does it differently when compared to apps like Uber or Lyft. By utilizing machine learning, this service, dubbed Waze Rider, learns a user’s most frequent routes, and then matches them up with other Waze users, creating a carpool.
Users are able to plan out a drive in advance by entering in their departure and destination, as well as their travel dates. Waze, using machine learning, will then give the user a pre-planned route based on the dates given and time of day. This helps users plan ahead while being sure that the conditions they are planning for will be the ones they actually face.
Google Calendar Synchronization
Waze can sync with a user’s google calendar, automatically creating a list with the user’s appointments for their drive.
Waze users can integrate their Spotify account so they can listen to music while receiving directions, and can receive directions while listening to music.
All in all, to develop the features listed above into one cohesive app, your total cost would range from $250,000 to $500,000 – this high cost is mainly due to the features that rely on machine learning – AI isn’t cheap. While the development and implementation of an AI enhanced machine learning feature can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000, the other features Waze makes use of still account for a significant portion of the app’s development cost.
It all comes down to maintenance
The true cost of an app like Waze comes after development ends – providing maintenance and updates to your app is a continuous task – and for an app that relies so heavily on real-time updating, server maintenance and optimization will be an ever-growing addition to your budget. These costs are necessary to the longevity of your app, and without updates, your app will soon begin to dwindle.