Disclosed: How Much Does It Cost to Make an App Like Instagram?

Updated 11 Aug 2022

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You may have noticed how users have recently become increasingly interested in sharing photos and short videos. This explains the growing popularity of social networks supporting these features. And, of course, Instagram stands out the most, representing an illustration of such applications' success.

The application started as a platform for quick photo sharing with friends and has become a giant in social networks. In many ways, this popularity is the achievement of Meta (formerly Facebook), which bought Instagram in 2012 and put a lot of effort into its development and improvement.

Looking at such a stunning success, more and more entrepreneurs are considering creating apps with similar features. This is an excellent idea for business development, as according to current trends, the popularity of Instagram, and therefore apps like it, will only increase.

The success of the application is enough reason to think about running such a product. But to turn an idea into a profitable result, you need to clearly define the features list and the cost of developing an app like Instagram. Our article will help you with this.

The year-over-year Instagram popularity growth

Pre-calculations of Instagram users from 2020 to 2025 (Source: Statista)

The Evolution of Instagram

Successful digital products never stop evolving. The main highlight of 2021 was that Facebook, which owns Instagram, has changed its corporate name to Meta to reflect the virtual world that the tech giant sees as the future of the Internet. For Instagram and similar applications, the role of VR functionality will increase in the forthcoming years. In recent years, Instagram has been actively updated.

First of all, Instagram has undergone significant design changes. The user experience is substantial for driving new clients and retaining the existing ones. Nowadays, good-looking UI/UX design is just one more component that helps to stay competitive by delivering an excellent experience to users. Looking at apps like Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, you notice that their technically complicated features are wrapped into an easy-to-use sheath due to their harmony with the style.

Thus, if you desire to create an application like Instagram, you have to be ready for the investments in the product’s technical side and design.

New fascinating Instagram features

So let’s check new or considerably updated 2019-2022 features:

New Instagram features

New Instagram features

  • Instagram Reels — one of the most recent updates, a feature inspired by TikTok. The popularity of Reels in 2022 is constantly increasing, as they can reach more people than just your subscribers, getting in the recommendation feed.
  • Checkout on Instagram — a feature that allows users to purchase directly via Instagram. The selling becomes cheaper and faster.
  • Live sales — the update to online shopping allows businesses and creators to add up to 30 items from their shop to live broadcast.
  • Unique QR Codes — now, a particular account or a product from the Instagram shop can be opened by scanning the QR code.
  • Facebook Pay is a payment method that makes buying directly from Instagram even easier.
  • Premium-subscribe — monthly fee for viewing exclusive content marked with a unique purple ring.
  • Stories Highlights — a section to import users' ongoing and past stories so that others can see them constantly. They have become even more convenient to manage and navigate.
  • Instagram TV merges IGTV and standard Instagram videos into one feed.

This is far from the checklist of attributes that arrived for this period. So, if you want to create an app like Instagram, it is necessary to constantly improve it so that it will compete with other big players.

Instagram Technology Stack

Even if you don't want to go deep into IT specifics, knowing some of the fundamental technologies used for your app creation will make it easier for you to understand all business processes. This section defines the technology stack used for Instagram-like app development.

iOS application

  • Language — Swift
  • Networking — Alamofire

Android application

  • Language — Kotlin
  • Networking — OkHttp 3, Retrofit 2

Back-end development

  • Language — Node.js (JavaScript)
  • Framework — Express 4
  • Database — MySQL
  • Messaging — Socket.io
  • API documentation — Swagger

Third-party services

  • Push notifications — FCM
  • Geolocation — Google Maps
  • Storage — Amazon S3
  • Emails — Elastic Email

Clarify features your app needs

Our tech experts and business analysts will provide detailed advice on Instagram-like app features

Creating Instagram App: Basic Features and Their Development Time

It's time to move on to the discussion of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) basic functions: it is reasonable to start with them, saving time to market. You can add new features later, developing your app in the future.

The most essential features to build Instagram clone MVP

Must-have features to make an app like Instagram

Building an Instagram clone app with all the platform's features can take hundreds of thousands of dollars in your budget and months (if not years) of development.

It's quite challenging to state the cost of creating an app like Instagram, but we can give you numbers to analyze. The charge may vary from $50,000 to even $50,000,000-$60,000,000. Initial funding for Instagram's first version was $500,000. For today, the project has $57,500,000. So now you can understand better how much it costs to build Instagram.

With MVP, everything becomes more accessible. You spend far less money building an Instagram-like app skeleton and deploying it. Then you just track user reactions, analyze them, and make informed decisions concerning the further development steps with ROI.

Explained: This is how all parties benefit from a Minimum Valuable Product (MVP). Read the full article or watch our short video on this topic below

Taking these into account, we focus on basic features to give you the understanding of how to make a social media app like Instagram.

Note: The period of time required to implement a part of the functionality is measured in man-hours. The estimates we list below are based on the following development formula: user interface engineering + business logic (these two form a mobile development section) and back-end development. Each table contains the estimate for one mobile platform. If you want to get the estimate covering both platforms (iOS + Android) - multiply those numbers by two.

Why Should You Start Your Business from MVP?

Authorization

This is a common option for almost every user-oriented application and if your goal is to create Instagram-like app, you should offer your users at least two ways of authorization:

  • Create a new account using a phone number or email.
  • Sign in with existing social media account (Facebook). 

In addition, there is an option allowing users to reset the lost password via email, phone or their account in the social media.

Amount of time required to implement authorization features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Authorization via email

9 hours

6 hours

Authorization via phone number

9 hours

6 hours

Sign in/sign out

7 hours

6 hours

Social media sign in/sign out

8 hours

6 hours

57 hours in total

Profile editings

Give your users some room for adding, customizing, and changing their profile information (e.g. bio, profile picture, etc.) Customization options are always a good idea.

Amount of time required to implement profile-related features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Add/change personal data: name, gender, phone number, website

34 hours

40 hours

User profile screen

16 hours

15 hours

105 hours in total

Messaging

A real-time messaging is the answer to question how to build app like Instagram and the proven way to give users what they want. Don't forget that push notifications are the main component for this as they notify about all incoming messages.

Amount of time required to implement a real-time messaging

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Send and receive messages in a real-time mode

75 hours

95 hours

Send photos/videos

26 hours

30 hours

Push notifications

15 hours

20 hours

261 hours in total

Adjust settings

If you build an app like Instagram, it's important to think through setting options to enhance the overall user experience. Give users an opportunity to adjust the app's features: enable and disable push notifications, use different modes (e.g. private posts on Instagram), and so on.

Amount of time required to implement setting-related features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Set language

20 hours

Depends on a language: e.g. Arabic and German take more time.

Enable/disable push notifications

12 hours

10 hours

Set account as private

5 hours

10 hours

57+ hours in total

Uploading photos & videos

How to create Instagram app clone? Enable users to easily share their photos and videos to the feed and other places. Also, ensure that sharing facilities are well-designed so they could successfully rival with other photo sharing apps.

Amount of time required to implement features related to photo and video upload

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Photo and video upload

12 hours

15 hours

Additional options (tags, comments, etc.)

42 hours

25 hours

Feed screen

12 hours

10 hours

Post details screen

39 hours

28 hours

183 hours in total

Photo editing capabilities

Whether you want to build Instagram app clone or custom photo sharing application, you have to work on the photo editing capabilities in order to attract users and withstand competition. For example, if your goal is to build Instagram-like app, you should add filters, rotation, straightening, and other editing capabilities.

Amount of time required to implement photo editing features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Using filters

320 hours

Client-side only

Cropping/rotating

40 hours

Client-side only

Setting up perspective

Already included

Client-side only

Straightening

Already included

Client-side only

360 hours in total

Linking with social networks

You should carefully examine the publishing mechanics of the original app to understand how to develop an app like Instagram. For example, Instagram doesn't restrict the spreading of user content to other social networks. Users can easily link their Instagram profile with other social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, etc. The linking enables them to choose whether to repost their publication to other social networks or post it on Instagram only.

Amount of time required to implement linking with other social networks

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Share photo and video on different social media (Facebook)

12 hours

10 hours

Choose accounts to be connected with your app

6 hours

5 hours

33 hours in total

Geolocation

Geolocation is a must-have feature in case you want to build app like Instagram. Users should have an option for indicating where one or another photo was taken. Besides, other users should be able to see that place not only tagged on the photo but on a world map too.

Amount of time required to implement geolocation features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Track the place where photo or video was taken

12 hours

10 hours

Add post to the world map

12 hours

10 hours

44 hours in total

You should also take care of search feature to make an app like Instagram. It should be convenient and useful so that users could find anything they need.

Amount of time required to implement search features

FeaturesMobile developmentBack-end development

Mark posts with hashtags

14 hours

10 hours

Filter liked posts and tagged photos

12 hours

10 hours

Search data per various parameters

16 hours

18 hours

80 hours in total

Additional Costs to Build App Like Instagram

In order to understand how to make a social media app like Instagram, you should be aware of all the additional expenses you may face throughout the development.

We would like to remind you that the aforementioned estimates are calculated for one platform. They also don't include preparational development steps like project setup and database architecture that typically take up to 150 hours. The cloud computing expenses also should be calculated separately, but you can check the Amazon AWS pricing here.

Other expenses we haven't mentioned previously are UI/UX app design and admin panel development. They are both obligatory for every app.

Design & admin panel development approximate cost

Type of workOptimisticPessimistic

Design for one platform

108 hours

130 hours

Basic admin panel development

155 hours

215 hours

Finally, some software development companies charge for testing services additionally. So you should clarify this aspect beforehand with your software development partner or hire a qualified QA engineer to your in-house Instagram app development team.

In Cleveroad, Quality Assurance services are included in the project cost (i.e. they are free for you).

Cost of Making an App Like Instagram

Now, when you already know how to build an Instagram app, it's high time to calculate its MVP development cost. Remember, this estimate includes only basic features, which are a good start for any photo-sharing app.

The average cost to develop an app like Instagram is between $55,000 and $65,000. Wondering what the Instagram app development cost will be, do not forget that the most important factors are the functions of the future application and the time spent on their implementation.

To add up all the aforementioned features, you will get around 1,180 hours of development for each platform. To transfer man-hours into dollars and count how much it costs to make an app like Instagram, you should multiply this figure by the hourly rate of your employees or software development agency rates.

Time and cost for each development stage

Total time and cost for each development stage

This way, if we take $50 as an hourly rate, an average rate of Estonian developers, and by 1,180 hours, we'll get $59,000 in total for each application. Regarding North America, you should multiply this figure by $150-200; the final cost of one application will range between $177,000-236,000+. Of course, this price is without design services and admin panel development. If you prefer a more affordable option, there is a sense to building a social media website. This will allow you to establish a solid online presence and reach a broader audience.

But if you are determined to develop a mobile application, you should learn more about how to choose your IT partner.

First of all, notice their experience, market coverage, and projects. Most likely, the services of a large corporation from North America will cost you more, but this does not mean that the application will be of high quality. Conversely, an inexpensive freelancer will not be the best choice due to the potential quality risks. It is worth paying attention to outsourcing middle-sized agencies that successfully combine a competent approach and optimal costs for you.

While selecting such a company, note the presence of all necessary development team members. Basic team composition is the following:

  • Mobile developers
  • Backend developers
  • UI/UX designer
  • QA engineers
  • Project manager
  • Business analysts
  • Solution architect
  • DevOps

Underneath, we've presented step-by-step mini guidance on how to create a social media app like Instagram. We hope these simple steps will help you start the Instagram app development.

How to Create an App Like Instagram

When developing such a complex application, it is necessary to determine in advance not only all the required functions but also its architecture. An example of the architecture of a program similar to Instagram is shown in the diagram below.

The critical point of this system is the presence of two sides - the one that the user sees (frontend) and the one that the server works with (backend). The interaction between the backend and frontend occurs in a circle:

  1. The frontend sends user information to the backend
  2. The information is processed on the server
  3. The information is returned, taking a form understandable to the user

Our development team will help you build all application components quickly and efficiently.

The architecture of an app like Instagram

The architecture of an app like Instagram

Follow these simple steps to build your alternative to Instagram:

Step 1. Research the market and learn about your competitors. It helps to understand the situation in a particular area. You can peek at the good decisions of rivals and identify their mistakes to improve your application.

Step 2. Define your target audience and features they might like. This is necessary to address customers adequately and competently build communications. In addition, knowledge of the target audience helps to choose the proper channels for promotion and rationally use the budget.

Step 3. Consult a reliable specialist or company. To choose reliable partners, pay attention to well-known platforms such as Clutch and GoodFirms: there you can see the portfolio of vendors and read the reviews of their customers.

Step 4. Define your budget before the development and be ready to attract funding if you exceed it. So you can plan and control the efficiency of using company resources.

Step 5. Hire developers or a dedicated company that knows how to make an MVP app for you. This is a vital decision, as competent developers will give you the best result in the shortest possible time.

Step 6. Make sure your app has something unique to offer its users. You must know that your application is competitive due to its “killer features” and appeals to future consumers properly.

Step 7. Test it to avoid major bugs in the final version. Ensure the quality and smooth operation of the app. To achieve this, your software vendor must test the app before deployment and quickly fix bugs if they occur after the publishing in the stores.

Step 8. Maintain and never stop evolving. A key success factor is to follow trends and constantly update your application, especially in the case of Instagram counterparts.

Instagram gained the worldwide popularity due to it's simple interface, good performance, and interesting features. To make an app like Instagram on your own, you should go through a long trial-and-error path, so be ready for overcoming complicated challenges and studying hard.

Our company has an extensive expertise in developing photo sharing apps. We can help you build an app like Instagram and launch it. Drop us a line to learn details regarding cooperation with us and get a free custom estimate of your idea.

Cleveroad — an Experienced Provider of the Social Media Solutions

Cleveroad is a software development company from Northern Europe, Estonia. We have been working in software development since 2011, which means more than ten years of experience in the IT sphere and hundreds of successful cases. Our specialty is providing a wide range of IT services and custom-created software solutions. We help startups, and small businesses turn their ideas into profitable products.

Here are 5 main benefits you get from choosing Cleveroad for building an Instagram-like app:

  • Custom media software: any complexity, optimal functionality, full tech assistance
  • Experienced business analysts that will provide you with a consultation on your project
  • Fast initial project assessment from our sales managers — without hidden fees and additional commissions
  • All further services for updating and adding new features after the app is deployed
  • A team of specialists of various profiles to make your final product seamless

We have 10+ years of experience in Media and Entertainment software development: a social network, content streaming services, educational platforms, VR/AR solutions, etc. One such example of a successful multi-functional educational platform is the case named Crossfader.

Our customer is a UK-based growing project which develops the DJ community and sells DJ training courses and merch. They desired to expand their audience and improve interaction with existing users.

Tasks set to Cleveroad: improve the platform's functionality while maintaining the existing user base. Add premium subscription and improve the admin panel.

Solutions we've created:

  • iOS app that gives you access to your user profile and purchased courses. A subscription provides extra features such as the DJ Hub and premium lessons (articles and videos). Classes could be added to favorites to get offline access to them.
  • Improved Web application with authorized access. Features are almost similar to the iOS app. Users can also subscribe monthly or annually and buy courses online.
  • A new custom Admin panel will make creating courses, lessons, and Premium articles easy. Admins can also manage users, comments, notifications, payments, sales, and discount coupons.

The result for the customer is a quality and timely product that meets all requirements. In addition, we retained all existing customers and attracted new ones, simplified the web application management and expanded its capabilities, and created a native iOS application from scratch.

App for DJs' media community

Crossfader: Cleveroad app for DJs' media community

Make social media app with us

We take into account your business goals, and provide full support after the release

Frequently Asked Questions

An Instagram-like app with basic features will take 1,180 hours of development time. With a $50/hour rate, the whole project will cost you $59,000.

It will take approximately 1,180 hours of development time to build an MVP version of an Instagram-like app with basic features.

Follow these simple steps to build your own alternative to Instagram:

  • Step 1. Research the market and learn your competitors.
  • Step 2. Define your target audience and features they might like.
  • Step 3. Consult with a reliable specialist or company.
  • Step 4. Define your budget prior to the development and be ready to attract funding if you exceed it.
  • Step 5. Hire developers or dedicated company to build an MVP for you.
  • Step 6. Make sure your app has something unique to offer it's users.
  • Step 7. Test it to avoid major bugs in the final version.
  • Step 8. Maintain and never stop evolving.

Our engineers use Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android during the development of an Instagram-like app.

During the back end development out engineers use Express framework. We also use Socket.io for messaging.

For a solo developer, this task is almost impossible. To build an Instagram-like app, you have to be experienced in front end and back end tools. Besides, the app requires an outstanding design to attract users. That's why you should also have a special kind of taste and proficiency in tools design tools. However, software development companies can build an app much faster. They already have a full team that will split the responsibilities.

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